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Solo Female First Time Traveler - Scared to Death

Solo Female First Time Traveler - Scared to Death

Old May 16th, 2013, 01:39 PM
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OK, lets set a few things in perspective.

money.. yup , there are pickpockets.. but as you say wearing a moneybelt almost eliminates that issue completely, Wearing a dress makes NO difference at all since you NEVER go into your moneybelt in public. Your money belt is just DEEP STORAGE for excess cash, passport and cards.. you always keep one days spending money in your purse or whatever, no one goes into their moneybelt to buy an ice cream! If you lost one days cash it would not ruin your trip, just your day.

language, well I only speak English and a bit of French and I have been to many other countries, you will be fine, learn a few basic phrases ( my fave " where is the toilets") and you will be fine

transport systems. -I come from a small city with only a crappy bus service that I haven't used in many decades,, I found handling the Tube and Metro pretty easy, most things are picture and numbers, you know colored lines for routes etc.. tell yourself this as a pep talk " if a 11 yr old local child can figure out how to use the transport system by themselves then so can I".. lol

Rape, is least of your issues really, probably its safer in Europe then where you live now.. just don't do the obvious, don't go drinking yourself into a stupor and walking home alone late at night down dark alleys,, pretty straight forward stuff.
Do realize there are some cultural differences too,, in France and Italy if you openly smile and chat with a man he may perceivce you receptive to him coming on to you. no, I don't mean you can't chat to your waiter or the guy in line behind you at the Vatican or Louvre, just saying local girls ignore men more, no eye contact thing.. if you are in any way not hideous to look at you will likely be hit on, just ignore men and go on your way .
Don't leave drinks unattended in bars, etc. All super basic stuff you already know from travelling at home!
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Old May 16th, 2013, 01:44 PM
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swoosh,
Click on my name to find my trip report. (starting w London) My wife and I covered a lot of ground in 18 days. It was our first trip to Europe. There are plenty of blunders and misadventures in there..... My advice though would be to do the research and then wing it yourself. Tours are great but cost $$$ and feel rushed to some people. Folks who have very little time there find them convenient. With 2 to 3 months that's definitely not you
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Old May 16th, 2013, 01:44 PM
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Wearing a money belt under a dress is fine. Keep out one credit card and cash for the day. You don't want to be accessing that money belt all the time or even at all during the day. In an emergency you can find a toilet and retrieve the money belt in privacy.
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Old May 16th, 2013, 01:50 PM
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if you have an iPhone there are a few really neat apps you can download before you leave that work completely offline. The first is called Metro and is free. The other is CityMaps2Go... Best $2 you'll ever spend I promise
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Old May 16th, 2013, 02:03 PM
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There is a huge difference between taking a tour and traveling like a nomad.

I would not reco a tour for someone in your age group - most tours are full of seniors who may be perfectly pleasant but not peple you want to spend all your time with. And tours give you very skewed views of hte country - require early rising and long days on a bus and IMHO are just not enjoyable.

If you are hesitant to go it completely alone you could consult Gate 1 or similar - that will help you put together a package of what you want - which cities, how many nights in each, transfers to hotel and even a half day city tour. Then you have the rest of the time to do what you want.

Having done a lot of travel as a solo woman (often several days attached to a business trip) I would strongly reco against an apt. You should go for a full-service hotel, that has a concierge that can advise you and lounges, a bar and breakfast room where you will have the chance to meet other congenial travelers. I often encounter someone (usually avoid single men for obvious reasons, but frequently another solo female or a couple of men or women who I end up having a meal with or doing a day tour or specific event with). Have enjoyed meeting and spending time with other people from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Argentina and several other places.

As for fear, europe is much less violent than the US with much lower crime rates. It's true that their are pickpockets in major tourist areas - just as in the US - but they are easy to avoid if you are just aware of your surroundings and hang onto your belongings - and exercise normal caution (don't walk down dark alleys at 2 am, or drink too much in a bar).

English is fine for most major cities, although you should always learn the basic polite phrases in each language. And a menu reader is always good to have - as long as it details some of the ingredients or recipes - not just saying "chicken whatever".

But you need to be aware that europe in general is more expensive than the US for everything - more than NYC and often way more than a smaller town. Esp Switzerland and Scandinavia prices are double or triple the US.

So I would have a look online at what things cost - major sights and local transit - to get a picture of how much money you will need. My then 19 year old spend about 6 weeks summer before last living quite modestly and it cost almost $8K, including trains etc.
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Old May 16th, 2013, 03:43 PM
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You guys are incredible! Thank you for all the tips & knowledge!

I have an Android phone but I will certainly check out those apps. Please share any others you found useful, this is so helpful. I will certainly read the trip report with your wife.

See, I was going to use the money belt in place of a purse & was already devising a plan on how to get cash without flashing folks! lol I am such a novice.

I am starting to get a good idea of what I would like to visit based on some research and personal interests.

London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome then end it in Sorrento where I can do some day trips to Positano & Capri. A week in each city and a couple in Paris. Since I won't have a car, I'll just plan to stay in the big cities versus driving out to the countryside as there are plenty to see as it is. I love living close to the Pacific so breaking up the water towns in the middle (Venice) and the end (Positano) sounds ideal. Unless of course you guys suggest otherwise? A plane ticket out of Naples is slightly more expensive but considering I don't have to backtrack, it might be worth it. My transportation issue is how to get to and around Sorrento. Is bus the primary mode of transpo?
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Old May 16th, 2013, 03:47 PM
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Hi there-you might also want to check our Servas: http://servas.org//content/blogcategory/40/75/

Don't let their old fashioned website put you off I initially heard about them in a book by a woman solo traveler and while I haven't been a traveled with them, my husband and I have hosted a few travelers coming through Los Angeles.

They are much more structured than couchsurfing.org or even some of the home shares on airbnb, but the advantage of that is that it may give you a bit more confidence to stay with strangers who are part of a more "formal" hosting organization. And if you are currently in the US then you can connect with your local chapter to understand more about them and meet some folks who have hosted locally to get a better feel for the experience and see if it is for you to be a traveler staying with hosts for 1-2 days.

We really enjoyed hosting. My husband and I are dual French nationals and are currently serving in the Peace Corps in Mexico and are looking forward to hosting again when we are back in the US and Europe. For travelers it allows them to save money while traveling and meet some folks with local inside knowledge and learn more about the place where they are visiting. Anyway, a great organization and kind of "midway" choice between couchsurfing and an organized tour that would also allow you to save some of those precious travel $$.
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Old May 16th, 2013, 03:47 PM
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That's the spirit! Your sense of humor will serve you well!!

Think of the money belt as a portable safe... not a purse! Don't plan to get into it during the day. What you need to have access to, you carry in your pocketbook, tote bag, or pocket. The entire idea of the money belt is to have your valuables hidden.
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Old May 16th, 2013, 05:40 PM
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nytraveler I think budget constraints make the idea of getting a "full service hotel with a concierge" a bit amusing don't you,,, I have never seen such a person in a budget hotel ,and at very best in moderate hotels you may have an agreeable and helpful desk clerk.
I guess we know you haven't done budget travel before, lol
I do agree staying in apartment can be isolating though, which is why I too suggest a hostel may be a compromise.
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Old May 16th, 2013, 06:08 PM
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>>>justineparis on May 16, 13 at 4:37pm
Kybourbon,, many people , thousands and thousands every month take tours( not just RS but the hundreds that are out there ) , they must see some point in it even if we do not.<<<

You weren't suggesting a tour, you were suggesting hiring RS to work as a travel agent to book a bus and hotels, not tours. Why pay a 3rd party to do that?

>>>A week in each city and a couple in Paris. Since I won't have a car, I'll just plan to stay in the big cities versus driving out to the countryside as there are plenty to see as it is. <<<

You don't need a car to get out into the countryside in Tuscany. Some towns can be reached by train and others quite easily by bus. I would look at staying a few nights in hill towns or at least a smaller town such as Siena with good bus access to surrounding towns. From Siena, you can day trip to Montalcino, San Gimignano and several other hill towns. You could also stay a few nights somewhere live Orvieto which is on the train line between Florence/Rome. I think you would enjoy some small towns after spending so much time in cities. Here's the bus map for southern Tuscany.

http://www.sienamobilita.it/mappe/Mappa_EXT.pdf

You might also consider a language school in one of the smaller towns such as Il Sasso in Montepulciano. They arrange budget apartments (private or share with other students) or homestays. Tuition isn't very expensive for group classes and apartments are usually around 50€ per night (private).

http://www.ilsasso.com/eng/

There are lots of other language schools, some on the coast which might be nice in summer. This school has excursions/activities along with school.

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...in-tuscany.cfm
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Old May 16th, 2013, 06:50 PM
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I realize those points was just suggesting that if OP was truly as nervous that taking a tour, ( but not a fully guided one ) may give her some self confidence to start off with.. RS tours are a bit different in that they use the public transportation system in towns, and teach travel skills with an eye to people eventually travelling independently. Not needed for everyone for sure, but as I said, the OP initially stated she was "scared to death" so I was just suggesting if she chose to try a tour , that one was one of the type that wasn't fully escorted , sort of a "training wheels " type tour.
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Old May 16th, 2013, 08:21 PM
  #32  
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Many of us are women who are fully committed to solo travel. I, for one, find it to be a complete self-indulgence and I intend to keep traveling solo. For a smattering of our experiences, check out:
http://www.fodors.com/community/trav...collection.cfm

FWIW, I've been to all the countries you are considering visiting solo and I had wonderful experiences in all of them.

I would seriously encourage you to get either a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet guidebook (or both!) - MUCH more comprehensive than Rick Steves's guidebooks and with better info about transportation options and better maps (IME), and more useful for travel than the lovely, but very heavy, DK guides.

Enjoy!
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Old May 16th, 2013, 09:36 PM
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I used a Kindle on my 7 weeks' solo trip to Europe in 2009. Maps don't look good but otherwise it's a terrific way to carry as many guidebooks as you want. Buy your maps separately. Or find an internet cafe and print out maps as you need them. The Kindle Paperwhite costs $109 and would be really easy to carry in a purse--it's almost as light as an Iphone. Rick Steves has most of his books on Kindle format and even in 2009, the first year they were available, they were great for touring the Uffizi Gallery, for example. I think some of the other books are available on Kindle now. You can download samples of first chapters to see if they look ok. Or get the Kindle app for your mobile phone. Great for using as a guide in a museum.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 12:07 AM
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I'm so proud of you and of all the great women who take their lives in their hands and decide what to do with without waiting for anyone. Brava! You have all my support. Of course, it must be said that we must be more careful than when you are in the company, but this is a rule in every situation, even when you are close at home, isn'it? Even in the city where I live I'm very careful when I go out alone at night. Once that said, enjoy the sun at the tables of outdoor cafe, left an empty time just to listen to the new city and always smile. Italians are always ready to make conversation and show their 'good' english! I suggest you just to find accommodations that allow you to still have an exchange with people, hostels or hotels, but not private rooms. This way you can be sure always have a point of reference to understand how to better explore the city. Go Go Go!
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Old May 17th, 2013, 01:00 AM
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If I were you, I'd do what you feel most comfortable doing. If you feel comfortable taking a tour, then take one. I'm not into the tour thing and have been out traveling overseas solo, almost annually, since I was 17/18 and I'm mid 50s now and have hit all of the continents. I prefer traveling alone.

There have been several threads about women traveling alone. Below are a few.

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...m#last-comment

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...l-to-paris.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...m#last-comment

Happy Travels!
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Old May 17th, 2013, 08:54 AM
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You guys are the BEST!!! Thank you for being so experienced & full of insight.

I only have an ipad2 and have downloaded a couple of Rick Steves books for cheap. I will look for more guide books that you guys have suggested (ie. RG & LP). Hopefully, I can download those too as I like the idea of lugging just that.

I loved reading the links of other women traveling solo. Thank you for sending me those links, what an inspiration!

I was so pumped that I booked my ticket to London for Sept 3rd! Yay!! I'm really going now!
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Old May 17th, 2013, 08:58 AM
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Ok, now get cracking on booking something for Paris, Paris is very busy in September, its not just tourists but its trade show and fashion show season and the good cheap places are snapped up fast.. Its not easy to get your first choice for accomadation for September now.. but you will find something.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 08:59 AM
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Also note booking train tickets, the cheapest ones sell out first,, so book those as soon as you have your dates nailed down, walk up tickets are never the cheapest, and for Eurostar they are hugely expensive, you need to book those first to get a good price.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 09:13 AM
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Here is some info about traveling by train in France:

To buy train tickets and check schedules and prices you can use www.voyages-sncf.com (in French). If you use the English language version of this website you may have to enter Great Britain or Antarctic as your ticket collection country to avoid being redirected to the RailEurope. Other countries may also work but just try to find a country that doesn't get you redirected to RailEurope. The RailEurope website often doesn't show all the trains and generally has higher prices but you can check just to compare. For trains that require reservations you can buy tickets up to 3 months or more in advance and the earlier you buy them the cheaper they will be. The discounted tickets are known as PREM tickets but these are non-refundable and can't be exchanged.

Here is a website that will tell you how to navigate the SNCF website:

http://www.nickbooth.id.au/Tips/FrenchTrain.htm

An excellent website to learn all about train travel in Europe is www.seat61.com.

I know some people have trouble paying with their credit cards if they don't have the chip and PIN technology, even when they've notified their credit card companies. But many report an American Express card works just fine and some also report that a Capital One card and PayPal work as well.

I will also mention that the German rail site www.bahn.de is one of the best sites for checking rail schedules all over Europe. You can't get prices or buy tickets from this website but it is a great reference site. Often it will come up with rail connections that you won't get on the SNCF website.

There are two new ticket websites you can also check which some people say are easier to use than the SNCF and TGV sites, but one is in French only. Here they are:

http://loco2.com/

http://www.capitainetrain.com/

If you have problems buying from the SNCF site, www.capitainetrain.com is a private website which links directly to the SNCF ticketing system. It is only in French, but translate.google.com would probably allow you to follow it. www.loco2.com is a UK site, so there is a small conversion cost from € to £, but it is in English and has French prices.

Here is info about getting around Paris by public transport:

To learn how to get around Paris by métro/bus/RER use www.ratp.fr. Here is a link to a route planner:

http://www.ratp.fr/itineraires/en/ra...herche-avancee

Here is an interactive map of the system:

http://www.ratp.fr/plan-interactif/carteidf.php?lang=uk

Since parts of this website are only in French you can also use www.transilien.com or www.vianavigo.com. Via Navigo probably has the most complete English website. A good website to learn how to use public transport in Paris is www.parisbytrain.com.

Here is the tourist office website for Paris:

http://en.parisinfo.com/

While you're in Paris there are loads of places you could visit outside the city as day trips that are easily accessible by train and/or bus (Versailles, Monet's house and gardens in Giverny, Chartres etc.).

Have a look at this thread for a list of the most popular day trips from Paris:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic....html#49476627
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Old May 17th, 2013, 09:29 AM
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Many 3* hotels are available at fairly modest prices - and even if they don;t have a concierge the desk clerk will serve the same purpose. Frequently even good quality 2* will do so.

And since I have been traveling to europe since I was 19 I have stayed at all price points. My first trip to paris the hotel was $6 - but I did insist we check out the next day and slept in my rain coat on top of the covers. (The toilet was on the floor below with a locked door and when it was finally open there was drug paraphernalia in it.) My love of visiting europe lasted - but the boyfriend fell by the wayside (that hotel being part of the reason.) But the same trip we also stayed in a couple of charming budget gasthauses and a couple of hotels in Spain that were dirt cheap and pleasant, although simple.

IMHO, as a single woman I would never put myself in the hands of an apartment resident - professionally run hostel OK - private residence - no way.
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