First Time Female Traveler - Do it alone or go on a tour?
Replies: 22 - Last Post: Jan 15, 2013 11:52 PM Last Post By: sprite
Jan 9, 2013 5:14 AM
15Fwoggie: Wow! Just wow!
Me and my girlfriend have both travelled extensively alone and we both agree travelling alone is best. Especially in well travelled places like Europe.
Just jump right in!
Jan 9, 2013 5:43 AM
16If you haven't learnt to cook, learn before you arrive, cos it's a damn sight cheaper to self cater than it is to buy those instant meals, or sandwiches, or eat out. It's not hard to boil some pasta, and mix in an instant sauce jar as an example.
Sunglasses are brilliant for avoiding eye contact with scammers, although this isn't a big problem at all in Europe, but if you graduate .
Jan 9, 2013 5:55 AM
Jan 9, 2013 6:21 AM
18Female view... not dissimilar to the male views above! Definitely take note of all that is discussed above.
I live in London and have travelled alone around Andalucia. It was so, so easy to travel alone around Andalucia, I think you'll be fine, providing you keep your wits about you. Same in London (as in any big city) be careful of pick-pockets, wandering on your own late at night in unfamiliar, quiet areas etc.
If you are somewhere and you don't feel safe, just like you would in your home country, get yourself into a situation where you do feel safe... i.e. find a busy bar / cafe and plonk yourself down whilst you gather your thoughts, or if you're out and about, find another single girl, or "grown ups" (!) strike up a conversation with them - have you got the time, how to I get to the Alhambra etc? Doesn't matter if you need the information or not, it just gives you a purpose (always better to look like you're in control even if you don't feel it!
Another tip - rather than carrying around a map (as mentioned above, this is always a giveaway if you get the map or Lonely Planet guide out at the bus station as you arrive) make sure you have a copy of a streetmap (photocopied from your main guide book) on a piece of paper - and that before you actually get off the bus, you have a plan of action. I usually head for where I think the busy streets are going to be, then find a cafe and sit down and get my bearings (with map if required). This means you can skip off the bus / train, stride purposively off to the street you had in mind, keep your eyes on street signs as you pass them so you can work out where you've come from and if you're headed in the right direction - if you don't end up where you intended, find the nearest cafe, or busy street, check your photocopied map, and off you go!
As a single traveller you're more approachable - you might find that other single travellers ask you for help too! I found this quite a lot when travelling in Andalucia.
Always good to have a few phrases of the local lingo at your fingertips - again on a piece of paper to save getting out a phrase book so you can quickly revise them as you're walking along the road rather than getting the tell tale book out on the street. Please, thank you, hello, where are the toilets, one ticket (single or return) to...
I've usually been quite limited in terms of time, so I do usually plan an itinerary before I go, this also helps if you've got a wish list of things you want to see / places you want to go, to work out if it is in fact feasible - but if you can, do try and build in some slack, so that if you find an amazing place, you can stay another night / week / month!
The main thing is to relax (but not let down your guard) - if you're offended / upset by a comment, then sometimes it's better not to react, to just walk away and chalk it up to experience. If you miss the last bus of the day out of town, have already checked out of your hostel and haven't got anywhere to stay, take a deep breath, go back to your original hostel and work out a plan of action from their reception (i.e. esp. if it's late at night, rather than hanging around an empty bus station).
I have only been very briefly (day-trip from Turkey!) to one Greek island - totally fine, no hassle, the only time I didn't feel safe was when I followed a track up from the village that led up over the hill to the harbour on the other side of the island - I walked far enough up to get an amazing view, but then just felt a little nervous about there being no-one around and decided to head back. I'm sure I would have been fine, but it was more the risk of tripping, breaking my neck and not being found for days that concerned me!!! Nothing to do with being in Greece!
The only caveat I would have re visiting places alone is whether some historical sites are a little off the beaten track. I've travelled with 2 female friends around the Middle East - some of the sites we went to, we were the only visitors there and so I think I would have felt a little vulnerable if I'd been there alone. LP is usually good for giving you tips on which sites are busy / best avoided if you're alone.
Lucky you to have the opportunity to do this - go for it, you'll have an absolute ball and will dine out on the stories for years afterwards. Also,a lot of people (m and f) won't have the guts to go it alone, as you see from above, those of us who've taken the plunge loved it!
Better to regret things you have done than things you haven't....
Jan 9, 2013 9:54 AM
19my first time in andalucia, long story short i was heading for morrocco and couldn't get there. so, a) had no language ready or activity ideas, and b) was packed for 21 degrees Celcius, but december is danged cold in andalucia. got off the train in granada, had no map, couldn't find one, couldn't find a bus, didn't have a destination so couldn't get in a taxi... ended up walking over an hour into the centre, because i could only find signs for cars directing me to the centre, and they follow a ring road. i was some kind of glad to have a tiny 8 kg bag.
in turkey, i was on a tour outside, it was getting hot. noticed a bunch of soldiers staring at me and got really pissy--until i realised that i was in the middle of taking off my rain pants (it had been colder earlier) and they probably thought the crazy tourist was about to do a strip show. i look at pictures now and think, bloody hell, i'd never wear those shorts to a conservative country now!!
Jan 11, 2013 4:29 PM
20Thanks for everyone for their replies and especially to Fwoggie for your intense comments!
I had my mum read this with me so she could see other people's opinions and hopefully get some more reassurance.
All those safety tips were great, I'm a pretty cluey girl so a lot of it was common sense to me. Though the stuff about figuring out where to go and not pulling your map out was a great tip, something I will definitely organise before I go. Did anyone use Google Maps on their smart phone whilst they were there, or am I just asking for a crazy phone bill? I'm planning to get an international sim card with low rates and going to use internet cafes to update my friends. Haha, when I read the comment about don't bring a laptop I just cringed at the idea. I couldn't think of anything worse either!
To fwoggie, I have the recent LP's Europe on a shoestring which is a good send and I also have cooking skills! I went backpacking up the east coast of Australia with some of my American friends and got my first taste of staying in hostels. I think I'm better prepared for the hostel life and I really enjoyed it. I made friends with nearly everyone as it's so easy (best opening line: Where are you from?)
Battersea_Girlies you last line really stuck with me! I definitely think I'm going to do it solo. One of my biggest reasons is that I want for once in my life to truly be independent. I still live at home with my parents where I've never had to worry about anything. The prospect of figuring out everything by myself and dealing with problems both scares and excites me.
And to all of you I totally understand my parents, I'm an only child about to leave for the big wide world and that freaks them out. It doesn't help when my dad has just watched Taken :P
Thanks again everyone, you've been a great help!
P.S. On a side note, should I take my DSLR or a compact camera? Issues like weight vs quality photos?
Jan 12, 2013 2:40 AM
21Compact camera vs DSLR - I'd take the DSLR (consider getting a wide angle lens for cityscape and scenery shots - but not a fish angle, that's excessive). But I wouldn't take said camera out with me for the night when clubbing/whatever. That's when a smart phone is suitable.
Considering you're 21 and an only child and an only daughter, try to make sure you call Dad at least once a week. I get where he's coming from. And try to make sure he doesn't see Taken 2.
Jan 15, 2013 11:52 PM
the week before i left for south korea, the local radio interviewed two girls who'd just come back after less than wonderful experiences, and the asian tigers were at the beginning of an economic crash. i'm amazed my parents didn't develop ulcers.
if you have a smart phone, see if you can get a map app that doesn't require data. often you'll know where you are, so you just want a more portable map, really.
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