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Solo Female First Time Traveler - Scared to Death

Solo Female First Time Traveler - Scared to Death

Old May 21st, 2013, 09:52 AM
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Thanks again for the wealth of information! I'm saving all the links!

So happy about the opera info, thanks! I read them all and the Venice arena and Opera Garnier look amazing, curious if Alceste is worth seeing?

Events have changed where I now have to be back by first week of October cutting my trip to 5 weeks - London 5 days, Paris 6, Nice 3, Monaco for a day, Venice 3, Florence 6, Rome 6, Sorrento/Capri/Positano 4.

Does this sound tiring to you? Monaco is half an hour from Nice so I f'migure the commute is not bad at all.

-From Monaco, do I go to Venice or Florence first based on logistics?

-Am I allotting enough time to Venice? It seems majority of the people I know who have been say a couple of days is more than enough plenty.

-I saw Casa Howard Guest House & am wondering if anyone has stayed in their Florence & Rome houses?
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Old May 21st, 2013, 12:53 PM
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prsonaly I would borrow a day from Florence and give it to Venice or drop Monaco entirely.

if you have 3 nights in Venice that gives you only 2 full days and IMO 3 days is an absolute minimum to get anything like an idea of the place [and still doesn't give enough time for some serious wanderings, which is one of the joys of being there!]

one day to explore The Basilica, the Doge's Palace, Santa Maria della Salute, the Accademia and possibly the Gugenheim; another day to see the Rialto Markets, the Frari, the Scuola di San Rocco, Ca' Rezonico and the Dorsoduro area generally; a third to get the boat out to the islands.
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Old May 21st, 2013, 01:16 PM
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Swoosh, are you doing three days in Nice AND a day in Monaco? Four days in that area at that time of year,, hmmmm what are you going to do all the time, I am not saying there is not stuff to do, but I am thinking four days may be pushing it since time is money,,I would do three days in Nice and that would include a daytrip to Monaco, its close by , it does just take about 35 minutes and one euro by bus..
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Old May 21st, 2013, 01:23 PM
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Does this sound tiring to you? Yes.

Am I allotting enough time to Venice? No. I would disagree strongly with the "majority" of the people you know. I'm crazy for Venice and would not spend less than 5 days there.

To cut time in Venice but go to Nice and Monaco? I don't get it. I'd even say shave a day from London or Rome and put it to Venice to get more time there.
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Old May 21st, 2013, 02:14 PM
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swoosh35: Is Alceste worth seeing? It all depends.

Alceste was written by Gluck, so it means early opera, usually without much action/acting and without huge orchestral accompaniment.

Without really know you, I'd say, no, it's not worth seeing for you.


If I were to choose an opera for you - unless you can tell me of your personal preferences - it would be the "Marriage of Figaro" and then "Turandot" at the Royal Opera House, which is quite beautiful. "Marriage of Figaro" would be fun and again, try and pick the first cast, the one with Luca Pisaroni, who is very good as Figaro.

As for the Opera Garnier in Paris, even if you can't see an opera there, you can take a guided tour of the opera house:

http://www.operadeparis.fr/en/pratiq...alais_Garnier/


I'd agree with justinparis that there are too many days in Nice. Maybe you could take a day from there and add it to Venice, so that you can attend the opera at Verona which is about an hour train ride from Venice.

You could arrive in Verona, tour the city a bit, see Juliet's balcony (everyone goes to see that balcony), attend the opera at night, stay overnight in Verona and then take the train into Venice the next day.
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Old May 21st, 2013, 02:36 PM
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>>>From Monaco, do I go to Venice or Florence first based on logistics? <<<

Check for budget flights between Nice/Venice or Nice/Florence on whichbudget or skyscanner.

I think three days in Venice is plenty, but I'm not a fan of Venice.
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Old May 22nd, 2013, 01:22 AM
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I think that two days in Venice will leave you thinking that you should have spent more time there.

If you click on my user name, you can find the trip reports that I have written about Venice.
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Old May 22nd, 2013, 02:03 AM
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Somebody posted this above:

"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."

This is simply not true. It is almost impossible to find safe, decent lodgings in NYC at a price comparable to what you find in Europe. Also, if one drinks wine with one's meals, wine prices in NYC are absurd. If one sticks to the tourist areas of France and Italy, Spain, etc, I suppose one could end up with the impression things cost more. But one hopes you will be moving beyond Venice and Capri!

^^"Check for budget flights between Nice/Venice or Nice/Florence on whichbudget or skyscanner.^^"

There are none to Florence, and the ones to Venice book up fast. You should also check out flying Nice to Rome and taking trains from there.
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Old May 23rd, 2013, 02:48 PM
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Thank you, thank you for taking the time to respond!

So I'm heeding your advice and staying in Venice from Sept 16-21, which gives me 4 full days, before I head to Florence. After watching countless videos of Rick Steves & YouTube, I agree I should stay a few more days.

Peter_S_Aus - I am enjoying your trip reports about Venice! I'll surely refer back to it as I continue the planning process.

The train takes 7 hours from Nice to Venice while easyJet is only an hour for $50. Makes more sense to fly but I want to double check with you experts!

Also, do I fly into the Marco Polo in Tessera or Treviso?

easytraveler - Thank you for the opera info! Yes, I think I'll pass on Alceste. I am open & excited to see most operas except for German. I've seen 3 (Das Rheingold, Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde) and, unapologetically, walked out of all three to have a drink at the bar! Hmm, maybe I just don't like Wagner. I will definitely check out the Opera Garnier whether I see one or not, looks beautiful!
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Old May 23rd, 2013, 02:58 PM
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<The train takes 7 hours from Nice to Venice while easyJet is only an hour for $50. Makes more sense to fly but I want to double check with you experts!>

Generally speaking in comparing airports & trains, you need to find out what it takes to get to the airport from Nice, and then getting into Venice proper from the airport on the other end. While trains usually leave and arrives more central parts of each city. So you need to add to a plane ticket the time and cost of getting to and from airports. While a train ticket price is likely all you need.
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Old May 31st, 2013, 07:13 PM
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Swoosh,
I was quite terrified of solo travel too. My strategy was to start "small", as in just to explore one small country, with a tour. That worked out very well (I went to Portugal with a Trafalgar tour). That "introduced" me to Europe and travel, and solo travel specifically. Though it's true that there many retirees on the tour, the one thing that I remember the most is how active everyone was and how diverse the group was (Australians, New Zelanders, Canadians, Filipinos, Portuguese, and Americans). It was fun to have a group and a "safety net" just in case.
I did a few more group tours, adding solo days before and/or after the group tour, with adding more and more solo days.
But this last year, I did a truly solo trip - no pre-arranged tour. Spent 12 days traveling through Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.
Here are a couple thing I hope you'll find useful (some of which were probably stated above):
- Don't rule out Hostels (I think there's a difference between "hostel" and "hostal"). I had a really nice one in Spain, with a private bathroom. Also, if possible, check into B&Bs. It could be a good option.
- Get a portable safe. I bought one from PacSafe (you can find them on Amazon), they have a bag that's like a safe. I used it on several trips because I was also concerned about carrying too much cash at any one time. And as someone mentioned, if the room has a safe, that's a good option as well. The same company also sells purses/backpacks/etc. They're not cheap, but offer peace of mind and I travel with them all the time (so don't mind having spent the money on them - I have 3).
- Pickpockets and general safety: That's one of my concerns when I travel too. I typically have a nice camera (which I decided could be used a weapon if I swing it hard enough if need be ), but I also try not to make myself a target. I look like I know where I'm going, don't have my guide book out or the map (though, when i need to ask for directions, I do) and generally have a good awareness of my surroundings. I have found Europe to be no less safe than where I live in the US.
- Public Transportation: metros are fairly consistent, so if you figure it out in one country, you've figured them out in most of Europe (I only found Budapest to be a little different, but it took no time to figure it out and get used to it). they're also generally safe (but like everywhere at certain times, certain areas aren't as safe). But do some research (in Vienna, they're on the honor system from what I remember, and in Budapest, they have police right at the escalators checking your stamped ticket). Walking is great, if you're used to it, but sometimes, it's just faster to take a metro. Made good use of taxis in Spain. So worth it (and not that expensive, but it depends on how tired you are and if budget is more important that being tired/feet hurting). I'm not accustomed to walking as much as I do when I travel, so taxis were very handy in Spain.
- Language: I had more problems in the NY airport with no Spanish than I did in Spain for 2 weeks! Most cities are well adapted to English-speaking travelers. Also, I understand that there are some translation apps for smart phones. I don't have one of those phones, so I use a printout of important phrases or a phrase book. If you know another language, it will come in handy (on my Portugal trip, I ended up speaking 2 languages in addition to English, completely unexpectedly - we were looking for bottled water and we didn't speak Portuguese, so a gentleman who was helping us (he didn't speak English) spoke enough French and I spoke enough French so we were able to figure it out).
- Luggage: travel light if you can. I generally just have a carry-on for a 2-week trip.
- General Planning: I'm a planner and do plan out my days with a lot of detail. I don't want to miss anything. But that's my personal style. I'm just not a "wing it" kind of traveler. I know I can't just pop back in whenever I want and see something I missed, so I try to plan to maximize my experience/budget.
- "Must See": I typically do have a list of "must see/must do" per city. But I also feel free to change my mind. For example, I had planned to go to a specific museum in Vienna. But I was tired and decided to extend my stay at a different attraction. So in my mind, I had a ranking of what I really want to see and what was more of an option, if I had time. The one thing you don't get with a tour is flexibility. I love cooking and always look for unique opportunities, so I took a private cooking class in Budapest. Highlight of my Hungary stay. Went to the symphony in Vienna. But even the most unexpected things can create fantastic memories and experiences. On the same trip, while I was at the Schonbrunn Palace, the fall weather was just perfect and I enjoyed the tree-lined "streets" and chestnuts falling to the ground. It was just perfect. A postcard in my mind.

Hope this helps.
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 03:07 AM
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Hi swoosh!
about Italy: use the fast train called "freccia" (www.trenitalia.it) to go in Venice, Rome, Florence and Naples. Take a look at my post here for details:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...nd-of-june.cfm

From Naples to Sorrento you have two choiches: by train "circumvesuviana" (about 1 hous), very cheap but a little uncomfortable, or by ferry (ask at the station).

Many local agency offers you one day trip by ferries. Only for example: Naples/Capri/Naples, Sorrento/Capri/Sorrento, Sorrento/Positano/Amalfi ecc...
I suggest you a trip to Procida (do you remember the italian movie "Il Postino: The Postman"?). It is very "authentic", quiet, and with very few tourists, you will love it!

Don't miss Pompei (very closer from Naples-Sorrento)! I can't describe this place, you have to see it yourself! It is an amazing experience, you will feel like traveling into a time machine…

About safety: make a copy of all your documents and send it via e-mail to yourself, so they will remain on the web, accessible from any computer. In case of theft/loss will be easier to obtain copies from diplomatic consulate.

Dont' worry, you will have a wonderful holiday, I'm sure!
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 03:52 AM
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Sounds like a great trip is in store for you. A couple things you may want to consider:

Paris and London are the most expensive cities on your trip. If you make a strict itinerary of must-see places and allow yourself a day for extra sightseeing, you might be able to reduce the overall number of days you spend there.

I would highly recommend staying in hotels with at least 3 star ratings, esp in the big cities. The beds and linen are better, and they are more secure. Paris is notorious for tiny rooms and bedbugs. When my husband and I visit there we stay at the Hotel Mercure, it caters to business travelers and is clean and spacious and surprisingly affordable. It does put you more in the business district, but you can take a taxi or the Metro to the tourist sites--it takes about 15-20 minutes tops. Mercure is a European chain and it may serve you in London as well.

The London Oyster card gets you all over town on the public transportation and you can buy it before you leave the US.

You may want to check out flying from Paris to Italy instead of taking the train. It will save you time and is usually cheaper (esp with regional companies like Air Berlin, or Lufthansa which has a huge regional jet fleet). You can actually do the same for Italy but I don't know if you save money on those very short flights, the extra cost may be worth it just for the convenience.

Trains in Italy are well-known for not running on time, so allow yourself a few hours extra just in case. It is essential that you make reservations for seats, or you will not have one. Trains are very crowded in the summer. If you have a huge suitcase it can make navigating the trains a nightmare, some platforms do not have lifts and you may end up having to drag it up the stairs. Plus, finding room for it on a train is difficult when it is really full of travelers.

Beware of people in train stations telling you they really need just a few euro to get their ticket because they missed their trains, it is the most common scam I have seen here.

Agritourism is really big in Italy, think of it like bed-and-breakfast travel but better. You stay on a farm that caters to guests, it can be anything from a real farm experience where you help pick the olives that you later eat to a mini-spa in the country. You might want to look into that because it would definitely make your trip memorable.

I noticed that several people talked about using android phones to navigate--that can take some planning. If your phone has a SIM card you get charged insane roaming fees while in Europe. The cheapest way to go is to get your phone unlocked before leaving the US and then purchase local SIM cards that are pay-as-you-go (You will need a different one for the UK, France, and Italy--you can get them at any mobile store, most tobacconists and lottery stores--they cost as little as 10 euro or 10 pounds). My husband and I do this (we live in Europe and travel pretty extensively) and it works out really well. You can pop your US SIM card in the phone any time you need to make contact with family and friends there.

As far as security goes, it all comes down to alertness and common sense. I am a female in my 40's and have been solo traveling in Europe and the US since my 20's. When I need to make travel plans that include looking up information on maps or wallet-oriented activities (looking for tickets, counting receipts or money, etc) I always go have a cup of coffee and do those things while I am sitting there. I don't put anything in the outside pocket of my backpack that I don't want to lose, and most of the time I drop my wallet in one of those cloth grocery bags that people use for shopping and dump my other stuff on top of it. It works really well.

You need to have hard copies of all your travel documents. Then if there is any problem with anything (including losing your passport) you can get quick replacements and resolution of your issues. Emailing them to yourself is not good enough because you may not have access to email when you need those copies.
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 04:07 AM
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Just a couple more things to clarify:

if you stay in a hotel like Mercure, you can ask if they have a business floor. That is a floor where rooms are given for business travelers. It is generally quieter and more secure.

Having both email copies and hard copies of all your documents (including color copies of your passport) is important--not one or the other.

It is very hard to find free wi-fi in Europe. So if you plan on using your phone to navigate you really need a SIM card from that country with a data plan, you will pay hundreds of dollars in roaming fees otherwise. I do not exaggerate, we had that happen once before we got smart about getting SIM cards for the country we were in at the time.

I just looked at the distance from Paris to Italy and I would strongly recommend taking a plane there. It will be cheaper and more convenient, and will save you time that you can better spend on sightseeing.

Good luck!
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 04:37 AM
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Yodababe is right, but is not fully informed about the new Italian trains. The things he says are right for "ordinary" railways. If you use non-stop fast trains "freccia" or "Italo", they are more quick than "ordinary". Usually, they are very punctual and confortable, and are more expensive train "ordinary". They are the preferred choice for businessmen for domestic travel in city centre, because the total times are shorter than with plane, and are more cheaper. You can only access if you have a reserved seat and standing passengers are not allowed.
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 05:26 AM
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Good to know, ecovanavoce! I was basing the comments on trains mostly on our experiences in Germany, where we use the trains extensively. Even our fast long-distance trains are incredibly crowded. We were on a train to Frankfurt last week where at least 20 people were standing in the aisles of 1st class, this was the ICE express train. Crazy! Sounds like Italy has a clear win there.
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 07:44 AM
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You can download the free Fodor's apps for London and Paris.

I suggest you linger longer in places, to get to know them and to save on transport budget and hassles of moving.
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 11:15 AM
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The kindle/iPad idea is great for another reason--you don't have to worry about your cell phone bill getting hit up with roaming or international data charges.

Money belt--sometimes if you don't want to wear it, stash extra money in your bra or sock in case something happens to your purse. Keep a copy of your passport information page, visa page, and greencard hidden somewhere in your luggage; as well as with family members and in an email you can access.

Yes pack light. Wear clothes 2-3 times before washing them. Wash under garments in the sink if need be. Any soap can be used or bring a baggie of powder laundry soap. If you bring clothes that you don't care about leaving behind, the last week start ditching your clothes so you can make more room for anything you buy. When you do buy things check to see if the shop offers shipping service so if it is cheap enough you can have it just sent back to the USA. Beware about some machines to buy train tickets. The ones at the Amsterdam airport only accept the ones with the microchip inside.

Getting around--if you are nervous about the public transportation then spend a couple weekends learning how to get around your large USA city so you have some practice, and confidence, at looking at the different signage and the array of people around you.

France--I have not been there, but I hear that they don't like speaking English and if you politely tell them you don't speak French and ask for their help then they are a bit more receptive. Just what I have heard from people that have briefly been there.

Tours--I have only done a 3 hour one from a company based out of the Amersterdam airport, but it was great. There are many short tours out there. I even saw some that were resonably priced in Paris that were like walking tours or those little motor scooters. Check tours out especially if you don't have a lot of time there and the tour gets you to the places you want to see.

Above all, have fun! Remember, you are in control. Do what you want, when you want, and always know that you can change it as you go.
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 01:35 PM
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I have to disagree with the Kindle/ipad suggestion. I have never seen anyone using one to navigate. Apple Maps are legendarily awful. And it broadcasts TOURIST to everybody that can see you, as well as making one a target for pickpockets who would probably love to get their hands on your ipad or Kindle.

Here's a crazy idea. Before you leave the comfort of your home, get your trusty guidebook and look up stuff you want to go see. Then go to google maps and print out walking directions from your hotel or other location to each one. Put them in a folder and plan your day of sightseeing before you leave the hotel in the morning. If you get lost, take a taxi. Even if you find extra stuff to see (and you will) this provides a framework for your sightseeing that will save you time and frustration when you are on your holiday.

Use your phone to look stuff up if you really need to, but these high-tech 'solutions' are more trouble than they are worth. Believe me, my husband and I travel extensively in Europe and use this system, and it works efficiently. It just takes a little forethought and planning, not a bad idea if one wants to travel safely.
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Old Jun 1st, 2013, 01:48 PM
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> The kindle/iPad idea is great for another reason--you don't have to worry about your cell phone bill getting hit up with roaming or international data charges.

No, it's a horrible idea. As is walking around with a Kindle or iPad as a navigation device.

If your phone is a GSM phone, tell your provider you are going to Europe and ask them to unlock your phone so you can use it there. Then when you get to your destination country, walk into any cell phone shop and ask for a Pay As You Go SIM. They might ask for your passport (legal reasons) so be sure to bring it. Get a SIM with a data plan and use the Maps app on your phone for your navigation needs as required (be sure to turn on your GPS). Oh, and ask them to configure the phone for you (if needed).

If your phone is not a GSM device, then it's up to you whether you want to buy/borrow/rent an Android smartphone.

As others have pointed out, finding free WiFi in Europe can be a challenge.
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