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Solo Female First Time Traveler - Scared to Death

Solo Female First Time Traveler - Scared to Death

Old May 17th, 2013, 09:32 AM
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ok now, here's my best tip for ease in moving around...

PACK LIGHT! Really really light. Doesn't matter you'll be traveling for 2-3 months. Pack like you are going for 1 week. You'll thank me.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 09:36 AM
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Hi Swoosh -welcome to fodors. you've already had some great advice, and even better, you've decided to take it!

<<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>>

are you now cutting your trip down to 7 weeks? i thought that you had 3 months to play with. that really limits your opportunity to do a language course in Italy as for beginners, they will normally only offer 2 weeks. I think that you would probably enjoy doing a course very much, and Florence would be an ideal place to do it as there are loads of schools and lots of young[ish] people doing them. the cheapest option is to do classes in the morning and most schools offer activities in the afternoon. if you could stretch your budget to this, i think that you would find it very worthwhile and a great way of meeting people and possibly making some friends.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 09:43 AM
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I don't know about 2 months, let alone 3 months, for $10k.

Airline ticket alone will be around $2000, maybe more depending on where and when you go.

Unless you go to somewhere where no English-speaking tourists have ever visited, you'll be okay in most of Western Europe.

Of course do research about places to stay, where to avoid, particularly for a single woman, before you go. For instance, some have mentioned don't be around the Termini in Rome at night or off into the side streets of the Rambla in Barcelona.

But the money is the bigger issue, if you really want to stretch it into an extended stay.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 09:49 AM
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. scrb11 the 10,000 dollars does NOT include airfare or accomadation,, read Swooshs third or fourth post down( it would be nice if Fodars numbered posts |)
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Old May 17th, 2013, 10:03 AM
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Suze is right. Is anybody in Europe really gonna have a problem with you wearing that shirt 3 days earlier?

Also you said you're running Android. The Metro app is designed for iPhones but the developer introduced this "lite" version for Android.


Basically what this does is routes the subway stops for you and tells you roughly how long it'll take complete with line changes. For example: say you just got done at the Tower of London and you wanted to get to Piccadilly Circus. You plug both in and hit the little "run" button and it tells you!

-At Tower of London walk to Tower Hill
-Take District Line (direction: Earl's court Westbound)
-change lines at Embankment
-Take Bakerloo Line (direction: queen's park Northbound)
-Get off at Piccadilly Circus

It takes the guesswork out of navigation using the metro. Play around with it before you leave. Hit the menu key to add cities
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Old May 17th, 2013, 10:55 PM
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Paris Hotels and Apartments



Jump to the bottom of the thread and then scroll up to Dec 31,2010. In that section, I have categorized the recommended hotels, by district, and have provided websites.

If you're looking for an apartment, you can try:





Happy Travels!
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Old May 18th, 2013, 08:44 AM
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Welcome, swoosh35. I just saw this thread so can't add much more than what others have said. If what I say is a duplicate, please forgive me.

I haven't travelled abroad since DH died 3 years ago but have flown to Austin TX for a trip and taken auto train twice to Florida and it was fine.

One thing to think about is that only <u>you</u> know that you are traveling alone. Travel light so going to the bathroom with luggage isn't a big deal. Every town has a laundry and it's unlikely that anyone is going to realize you've worn the same outfit 10 times! Wearing a wedding ring might be visual insurance in case you receive unwanted advances.

Even when we spoke some of the language, DH and I signed up for city and area tours. Some tours even picked us up at the hotel.

When I was in a museum of great interest to me but that might not have suited my husband, it occurred that I could stay as long as I wanted and set my own agenda. I did miss sharing amazement with another person--another reason for a tour--you can talk to others in the group.

Please let us know how it goes and where you end up.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 09:33 AM
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Wow, once again I am amazed by the generosity of information from all of you, thank you!!

I booked the Chunnel after 5 days in London heading to Paris (2nd class). I really wanted seat 61 after reading the site but the additional $$$ just didn't seem worth it. Figured I'd use that 2 hour train ride to meet other travelers.

I also booked an apartment in the St Michel area with an incredible view of the Seine for $100/night. This is approx my budget on lodging so hopefully I can find deals like this. I found it on airbnb and with a ton of outstanding reviews, I feel good about it. I thought long and hard about your comments regarding private residences, nytraveler, and I appreciate it tremendously. I made sure it had excellent reviews & if something doesn't feel right the minute I get there, I can cancel & get full refund for the subsequent days reserved.

I originally booked it for 10 days but I may now have to cut it short to 6 or 7 and head to Nice to meet some friends who will be there simultaneously! Exciting, eh!?


Would appreciate your thoughts on this area. Thank you!
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Old May 18th, 2013, 09:45 AM
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That area is GREAT, its super central you will walk to tons of sites..

I have never know an apartment you could cancel and get a refund last minute( are you sure about that ?) , that's interesting.. personally if place has lots of good reviews I wouldn't even worry about it. Which company did you rent through , can you post a link to apartment.

Anyways that area is perfect,i have stayed in the area many times and you are going to love it.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 09:48 AM
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No first-hand experience with that hotel but it looks like a great position. I did notice that Sainte Chapelle is handy. If you miss every other church in the world, try to NOT miss this little jewel. Unless something has changed you will have to go through dept. of justice x-ray type security but it's not a big deal.

Paris has very good bus and metro service. We bought a book of bus routes from one of the magazine/newspaper kiosks and it was handy. I liked being able to see where we were on the bus.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 10:06 AM
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I booked it with Airbnb & have communicated with the owner several times before booking it. This particular apt has a flexible cancellation policy that reads this:

"If the guest arrives and decides to leave early, the nights not spent 24 hours after the official cancellation are 100% refunded."

I really like the idea of taking a walking tour the 1st or 2nd days upon arriving so I can get a quick idea of places I'd like to revisit the following days.

Yes, I will pack as light as I can! I'll have to be extra diligent with this as I can easily get carried packing my whole apt with me! Will. Pack. Light.

TDudette, my heart just stopped after googling Sainte Chapelle. I can't wait to see it in person!!
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Old May 18th, 2013, 02:24 PM
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Might consider a Paris Museum Pass, if you want to see a lot of museums and are willing to see nothing but museums over a 2 or 3 day period.

Pretty sure Saint Chappelle is included in the pass.

You have to figure out the break even point, by seeing how many of the museums and other attractions covered by the pass you're willing to see. If you find that the admission fees for those that you want to see exceed the cost of the pass (which depends on how many days pass you want), then it could be worth it.

Some museums are free certain days of the month, something like the first SUnday or something like that.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 03:01 PM
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Fantastic - you will have a great time! My daughter was in Europe alone for 2 months this winter (Portugal, Spain & Italy.) I met up with her in Italy at the end of her trip. She's 30 and stayed in a mix of hotels and apartments (where she could do laundry). She describes her Nook as her armor - if she ever felt uncomfortable eating alone, she pulled it out to read.

There are some great packing light images on pinterest, where people photograph their outfits. Traveling solo, it is much easier to just have a carry-on bag and a handbag. And you should definitely try hard to pare down your items so that you can travel that way.

If you fly out of Naples, be sure to visit Naples too. We love it. It's a very fun city.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 03:52 PM
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No need to be afraid. Traveling in Europe is safer than traveling solo in most U.S. cities.

There are certain discomforts to travelling alone, at least in the beginning. It takes a while to get comfortable with yourself, by yourself. As someone said very early in this thread, the most difficult part is dining on your own.

As to the concern about losing your money, a friend of mine has found her own solution to this. She has opened a dedicated bank account just for travel. Before each trip, she puts enough money in it so that she can draw on it at an ATM, which are plentiful in Europe. This way she doesn't have to carry a lot of cash on her and all of her funds (other than her travel money) cannot be drained from her account from unscrupulous merchants or other scoundrels, who might get hold of her PIN number. She carries a debit card for that account.

My solution is to carry a dedicated "ATM card". It is like a debit card (and actually says debit card on the front), but I have arranged with my bank to have it usable only at ATM's and with a PIN number. I make sure that I don't have an excessive amount in that account before I leave on my trips by moving money to other accounts.

You need to make copies of your passport and visa and keep it separate from the real things, just in case they are lost. By the way, you need to have your passport with you when you travel on trains, even on day trips, as conductors occasionally ask for them.

I would encourage you to take some tours on your trip, especially if you are in one place for a short time. A city tour can give you a historical perspective and quick overview, and is an efficient way to see a lot in a short period of time.

Many cities, like Paris and London, have guided walking tours. They are generally not very expensive and the groups are relatively small. This will allow you to meet people as well.

Don't be discouraged if you occasionally feel lonely on this trip. Getting to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses is part of the adventure. And the bonus is that you'll get to see the world without having to wait on anyone else.

Enjoy your adventure!
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Old May 18th, 2013, 04:55 PM
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Since you are going to Paris, I highly recommend you take a tour with ParisWalks of a neighborhood of Paris. We took the Montmartre district of Paris and spent two hours walking through and uphill a most charming neighborhood. www.pariswalks.com. I think they also have a chocolate walk which sounds like heaven.

As for taking money, I usually just carry an across-the-shoulder purse by LeSportsac. It has room for a umbrella and a small wallet as well as pockets and zippers. Perhaps it's the way I'm dressed by I've never had any problems with pickpockets and it's easier to keep a hand on it when I'm in a crowd.

Since you have an iPad, I'd strongly recommend you keep a blog both for yourself and family and friends back home. I had many complements on my blog and my folks were able to "come along for the ride" so to speak. I still enjoy reading my first impressions of solo travel years later.

I will also say that if you ever feel vulnerable in a place, follow your instincts and leave. There's been a couple of times where I've had to cross the street and walk on a busy street at night.

Also, please don't feel ashamed if you feel sad or lonely during part of your trip. Although I've had fantastic times during my solo journey-I'd be lying if I said I never felt homesick or out of place. But as another poster said, the advantage is being able to do what you want. One day, I spent a whole morning in bed watching British breakfast programs and I had a ball.

Once you go, you'll wonder why you didn't travel earlier and September is a beautiful time in England and France.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 05:22 PM
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Probably everyone else has already covered all your concerns. I'll just add a few of the things I told myself back on my first solo trips when I was "scared to death"

1 Options. For me it was go solo or don't go at all.

2 Compare with your own life. What reasons would there be for me not to be able to do the things I usually manage at home, in another place. I've only been to places where women have the freedom to live their life. If women at my destination can safely go to work, shop, travel public transport, eat out etc, so can I.

3 Which or your fears would be totally solved by being with others? People in groups get robbed too - maybe even more so because they don't stay as aware of their surroundings as a solo traveler does. Things go wrong - and maybe you would have to be the one who took charge anyway. At least your trip won't be spoiled by a companion getting sick, hurt, grumpy or unco-operative. How many squabbles have I overheard from people travelling in groups and pairs

4 Feeling like a loser. No one knows that you are alone - for all they know, a companion could be joining you at any moment. That said, I do find dining alone to be intimidating at times.

You can click my user name to find some of my trip reports (and some other threads which weren't tagged as trip reports. Possibly one of the most challenging things is manouvering all your luggage into toilets at airports and train stations when you don't have a companion to mind it while you "go".

Enjoy your trip.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 05:52 PM
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Wait a minute here,, but the dining alone thing, I never feel like a loser doing so,, in fact I feel somewhat empowered and mysterious... I have never gotten over other womens feelings about that, when I was 16 and got my first job I started eating out alone at home because I had a good job and all my friends could afford was McDonalds. Now in North America I admit I was/am a bird out of the water, but in Paris many women eat out alone and do not give a hoot.Trust me in Europe they are a lot more open minded about it..

Take a book, take your journal to write in, or just daydream and people watch..
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Old May 19th, 2013, 03:54 AM
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The others have given you very good information. I'd just like to add a few more:

1) If you are getting to Europe in September and plan to be there for three months, you wouldn't be leaving until November. It'll be relatively cold then.

Consider getting something from Scottevest:


I've travelled over most of Europe and parts of Asia with various versions of the scottevest - a jacket, the original vest, and the Chloe hoodie. They are just fantastic.

I used to tell me friends that my scottevest vest held my entire life in it. It has 17 pockets, most with zippers. Even though I'm a woman, I got the man's version in the vest because the women's version was fitted and I thought that when the vest was loaded up the fitted waist part would be too uncomfortable.

Some of the best things about the vest are: there's a key ring in one of the pockets. I've used airbnb mostly in Germany and Austria and the owner would usually give me a house/apartment key, so that key ring was perfect for keeping the temporary key(s) safe. The vest has a way to string earplugs right into the jacket; I loved this feature. The vest also has a couple of pen pockets. I put a pen in one and a pencil in the other (one of those automatic clickable pencils, so I don't accidentally stab myself with the usual pencil). Oftentimes when a pen is needed, like filling out forms at the airport, I didn't have to go digging for a pen, it was right there within easy reach.

There are also a variety of other pockets. One is big enough to carry an ipad, another is for glasses, - I usually divide up my cash and carry them in different pockets. My cash for the day goes into an outer pocket, the rest is scattered in various inner pockets.

Once I was on a train in one of the former Eastern European countries and had a first class compartment all to myself. The compartment got hot, so I took off my scottevest and hung it on a hook by the window. The heat made me sleepy. When I awoke and got off the train, I found that someone had emptied all the cash that were in the outer and inner pockets even thought the vest was between me and the window! These are light-fingered and fast thieves. Fortunately they didn't take my credit cards and passport (which they sometimes do), but they missed the cash that I had squirreled away in the hidden parts of the jacket. So, my advice to you would be: divide up your cash.

2) Transportation: One of the ways to save a bit on train tickets is to get a Pass from Eurail:


Since I tend to travel almost all the time, even if I have a permanent base, my preferred pass is the continuous Global Pass. It allows me to just hop on almost any train at any time to anywhere that is covered by the Pass. I don't have to hassle with figuring out schedules or fares.

This is just my preference, not saying you should do the same, you have to figure out which Pass works best for you, but the Pass has to be purchased here in the States before you leave, so another decision is whether even to get the Pass at all if you're not going to be doing too much train travel. If you do plan to be based, let's say in Paris, and then go to surrounding attractions like Versailles, or going to the little towns surrounding your Italian base, a Pass might work best for you.

3) Opera: If you've never been to an opera or are an ardent opera fan, the best opera experience in your time frame is Verona. In November, the Arena is putting on "I Capuleti e i Montecchi", one of the most beautiful of bel canto operas.


You will be in an open-air Roman arena. When you arrive for the opera, there will be vendors who sell "seat cushions". Get one, your buns will thank you. Try sitting on stone for 4-5 hours. Bring something to drink and even a bit of food. I prefer to be in the last row way up high where I can also look out over Verona if the opera gets a bit boring in places. There is no way you can feel lonely in the arena, you will be among thousands of people and probably surrounded by German tourists who insist on chatting away throughout the opera or else discipling their children. Sometimes it's like going to a football or baseball game here in the States.

A lot of people like to stay in Venice. I prefer to stay in Verona and train in to Venice. Somehow Verona has a more settled feel for me. For a first time visit, however, you may want to stay in Venice.

4) On language, learn the basics. "Hello", "goodbye", "please", "thank you" and one swear word. Just also remember which word is "hello" and which is the swear word.

5) On dress: I prefer pants, especially those that are lightweight, dries fast and has a hidden zippered pocket in it. Something like this, but again, not suggesting you get these which are given only as an example. There are plenty of brands with a hidden zippered pockets.


6) Travel light, travel light, travel light.

Personally, I can get by for months in Europe with a 20" suitcase, a light backpack and my trusty scottevest, which I always get in black. I've even worn the scottevest to the Vienna Opera - a scarf does wonders

7) on backpacks: My preferred backpack is the Rick Steves Civita backpack



This backpack can substitute as a purse or a briefcase. If you want to place it on the floor out of sight but still know where your stuff is, you can place one foot through the padded carry strap and the backpack will go nowhere.

It is extremely light - this is important when you're running to catch a train - astounding durable (mine is about 20 years old and has been everywhere), with great zippers and plenty of room to carry a lot of things if need be. It's extremely scrunchable, like a T-shirt. If you're on one of those inexpensive European airlines like Easyjet and are allowed only one carryon, you could scrunch up the backpack and place it in the large back pocket of the scottevest or in your suitcase. Another adventage is that I place my plastic bag with the 3oz liquids in one of the side mesh pockets and send it through the airport x-ray machine. No one has ever asked me to take the plastic bag out and place it separately. It's just another less thing to worry about.

Needless to say, mine is black. Black is an invisible color, much better than flashing lime green or brilliant orange.

8) Yes, please xerox a copy of your passport, your driver's license, your credit cards, and any other document that you will be taking with you. I travel with only two credit cards, an AMEX and a Capital One card. There's really no need for more. $1000 in cash, US dollars, for emergency - about $200 in smaller denominations than $100. This is for emergencies and is, of course, separated.

Give a xerox copy to someone you trust at home , like your Mother, just in case. Carry another xerox copy with you but not, of course, with the original documents. If, say, a credit card is stolen, you can notify the bank immediately with all relevant information. Xerox both front and back.

9) Last but not least, make sure you have all the relevant shots. Check the CDC website for necessary shots. Update tetanus, etc. if need be.


You'll be OK, think enjoyment! Bon Voyage! Have a safe and wonderful trip and hope you will post a trip report on return!
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Old May 19th, 2013, 07:53 AM
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Swoosh: regarding photocopies of documents - I scan them and email them to myself. It's easy to download or to save on your iPad or phone. I don't carry paper copies of them anymore.

I keep my cash and cards in a wallet in an outside zipper compartment that's next to my hip (I use a cross-body strap bag.) I attach a loop to that zipper pull, the loop has a carabiner on the end and I snap the carabiner onto the strap so that it can't be easily opened by a pickpocket. That's what the Pacsafe bags have. I don't like their design and weight, but that's a feature that's easy to copy. My favorite carabiner clip is by Olympus and I got it from B&H photo online for $5:

I don't mean to suggest that you won't be safe or that you should be paranoid, but I do a few things so that I never have to worry about my stuff. And of course, by packing light you have less stuff to worry about.
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Old May 19th, 2013, 10:39 AM
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More on opera:

Here's the schedule for the Royal Opera House:


I confess that, for me, unless it were convenient, this particular schedule doesn't quite excite me into prolonging a stay just for attendance at one opera. However, you may like the experience of attending an opera at the ROH.

Here's the Paris opera 2013-2014 schedule:


Lucia di Lammermoor with the "first cast" which includes Vittorio Grigolo would be worth seeing. Note that it is in the Opera Bastille and not at the ornate and more traditional Opera Garnier.

Then in Italy there are opera houses in Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice, Milan and just all over the place. Unfortunately, for lack of state-support money, performances may have been cut. In addition, there is the usual "volatile" Italian characteristic which may, for some reason mysterious to you, cause the cancellation of the very performance you want to attend. Oh, and good luck trying to find out who is singing at what. It's all in the fun of being in Italy! BTW, if you want to attend a particular performance, DO NOT buy from an agent, directly or online. You can usually get the ticket yourself directly from the relevant opera house website or your hotel would even be happy to get your ticket for you - for a price.
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