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Solo travel for an Chinese female, aged 23 - itinerary suggestions

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Mar 6th, 2013, 10:31 AM
  #1
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Solo travel for an Chinese female, aged 23 - itinerary suggestions

Hi,

It's my first time traveling out of Singapore/Southeast Asia and I would really like to visit Europe in May. Unfortunately all my friends aren't free/have other considerations so it would have to be a solo trip.

I'm a light skinned Asian, female, petite (160cm and UK size 4). I'm keen on architecture, museums, culture. Planning to live in hostels and live on a budget since this is my grad trip. My concerns are safety, language barrier (I speak only English and my Asian mother-tongue), ease of travel. I know that there are so many successful stories here and elsewhere on solo travel, but it seems that few are coming from an Asian perspective.

1) Where is safe/good given my considerations as an good introduction to Western Europe? I will be flying into either London or Paris and would like to spend 5-6 days each in London and Paris. I will be going for approx 25-30 days in total. My budget currently is 2,100 euros for the trip, excluding airtickets. This works out around 75 euros a day, including travel. I'll appreciate links to any itineraries.

2) I heard that Italy and Spain are too dangerous for a solo Asian like me - due to the pickpockets and language barrier. Any comments on that?

Traveling in May-Jun 2013.

Thanks!
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Mar 6th, 2013, 10:33 AM
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2) I heard that Italy and Spain are too dangerous for a solo Asian like me - due to the pickpockets and language barrier. Any comments on that?

Bollocks
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Mar 6th, 2013, 10:36 AM
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First of all - I don;t think you skin color, height or size are material at all.

Second, I'm afraid that budget is VERY low - probably no doable - for 30 days. Even i fyou stay in hostels they cost something and even picnics with food from a market are also not free. You will need to pay for transit within cities - and between cities (which can be expesnive unless you get non-refundable/non-changeable tickets very early). And many sights are expensive (in the range of 15 to 20 euros.)

My daughter and a couple of her friends went summer before last and in 5.5 weeks she spent about $8000 (more than 6000 uros) living very carefully. I suggest you start pricing things out now - and then either consider reducing the length of your trip or upping your budget.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 10:43 AM
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chrysalis,

For safety concerns my 2 friends (small, asian, petite girls) traveled together and when going out at night, made sure to meet up with other people staying at their hostel.

Since you are alone, try to make a friend in your hostel and go together for dinners/drinks. Make sure you buy a luggage lock with an extendable cable so that you can strap it to something to secure it down, as well as locking the zippers.

I think in the day you are pretty safe. And it's not "Bollocks" to be concerned about your safety given your build and traveling alone.

I live in California, and an asian (Canadian) girl was recently killed in the last 3 weeks traveling alone and found in the water tank of her hotel in downtown.

I lived alone in SF for years (for school) and was always mindful of my safety, choosing what time of day to get on/off the subway when meeting friends, taking cabs, making sure a guy-friend always came with me when traveling to a certain part of town (which is how I met my husband). Good for you for having common sense.

As to itinerary, I can't help you there--there's just too much. But most museums in London are FREE, so you have headstart there already.

For Paris, get the Museum Pass to save money.

Good luck and have fun!
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Mar 6th, 2013, 10:45 AM
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By the way, I would also check out the forums at Lonely Planet.

Lot more young backpackers post there than here.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 10:49 AM
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I very much doubt that the victim was killed because she was asian or a few inches shorter than the averge. It probably had something to do with the fact that the hotel was in a known drug trafficking area - or why she picked it to begin with.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 10:50 AM
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Oh and one last thing, for Paris, I've always felt really safe there.

The only area I would avoid is Montmartre, not because it's not safe, but because the winding roads and hills make it hard to see who is behind you when walking alone at night. There's tons of great bars here, but this was also the only place where it felt a little "dark" to me when walking back from a club.

The area below Chatelet-Les Halles also may have drug deals going on on the street corners (just pretend you don't see it), but by extension there's also more seedy/drunk people there at odd hours of the night.

You can stay in those areas, but those are just my observations. I'd happily stay in either of those areas again, though.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 10:53 AM
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nytraveler --- I don't know the victim, but I do think that logically speaking, if she were 6 feet tall, and a football player, the same fate wouldn't have happened.

And you are right about that area--I know that area very well and as a small, petite female, I wouldn't have chosen to stay there.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 11:35 AM
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As to your question no 2, I agree that it is a concern, but don't let that stop you. You've got a great command of English and that's all you'll need in any place you're likely to go in the time you have.

The best way to prevent pickpockets, I've learned from bitter experience, is not to carry anything very valuable, and keep anything valuable in a moneybelt or other pouch like device under your clothes. If they don't see it, they won't steal it. Keep a few dollars and a credit card in a pocket of your clothes. Keep one hand on every piece of your luggage at all times when you have it with you.

Don't go into any situation that looks dangerous, and, perhaps most important, beware of friendly native strangers. Don't let anyone buy you a drink or give you any food--it can be drugged. This last is tough to do (I again know from experience) because it may require you to be rude to someone who is trying to project him or herself as your friend, but better to be rude to someone you will never see again than to never be seen again by your family and friends.

I really like MaddieEm's suggestion to make friends with fellow travelers and go around together. While traveling in South America, I've encountered several groups of young women who met while traveling-in the airport or at the hostel and then traveled together.

Bon voyage!
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Mar 6th, 2013, 11:48 AM
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I'd feel fine going back to the places I've been in Italy solo (Rome, Venice, Milan, Florence, Lake Como area). Just take the usual precautions. However, you might need to shorten your trip to save money, so Italy may not be in the cards. Even a hostel in Paris will run about €30-40 - half your daily budget. Throw in food and you have not much at all left for train tickets, museum fees, anything else. If you shorten your trip to three weeks, you'll have a little more wiggle room.

I'm Caucasian, but I'd be shocked if you have problems due to your ethnicity. There are many Asian tourists in all of these countries. Be smart - don't drink much, don't go places with strangers - and I think you'll be fine.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 01:15 PM
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Sorry -
A criminal with a knife or gun doesn't care how tall you are - or what your gender is. My brother - 6'2" and in his 30's and very fit was accosted by a drunk in a subway station at 9 pm and needed police help to get rid of the bum. Luckily the gay was not armed - but if he had been my brother's height would not have mattered.

The only reason gender would matter is if the woman was raped - and I didn't see a mention of that. and a guy can rape a woman who's 5'8" just as well as one who is 5'. If they're armed it doesn't matter - and since you're not supposed to fight (unless they are threatening to kill you - size usually doesn;t matter.

Safety is in following the basic rules - don't get drunk, don;t drink something anyone gives you (roofies are everywhere) and hang onto your belongings at all times. If in doubt, take a taxi back to your hotel (another good reason not to try to travel on a few $ a day).
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Mar 6th, 2013, 11:28 PM
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Thanks all for the tips!

Budget wise I guess I'm too optimistic, but I'll cut it to 3 weeks or up my budget. I'll be more careful of my belongings as well - and will travel light.

I came up with a rough itinerary for 15 days excluding flight days. Do give comments - mainly on safety, feasibility and suggestions as to the trains/mode of transport I can take to connect these cities would be greatly appreciated! Also on whether I can add any destinations or increase the days spent on a particular place.

Day 1) Leave Singapore and Arrive in London
Day 2) London
Day 3) London
Day 4) London
Day 5) London
Day 6) Travel to Paris via train,
Day 7) Paris
Day 8) Paris
Day 9) Paris
Day 10) Travel to Brugge
Day 11) Brugge
Day 12) Amsterdam
Day 13) Amsterdam
Day 14) Amsterdam
Day 15) Return to London and Flight home

It's a rough start but I'll fine tune it soon!
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Mar 7th, 2013, 12:03 AM
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Hi chrysalis! I'm also Singaporean and female, and I just came back from a solo trip to Europe (although I met up with friends living there). I can give you some tips specific to us.

1) Don't worry too much about safety when it comes to Western Europe. Just keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings. London and Paris are not as dangerous as somewhere like JB. Even in Rome, where I was warned that there would be several pickpockets, I felt relatively safe. The trick is to keep your credit cards, your passport and the majority of your cash in a moneybelt that you'll wear hidden under your clothes. I bought a cheap, good moneybelt from Mustafa Centre for $8.90 and it was quite comfortable and secure - I even forgot I was wearing it at times. Just keep 10 - 20 euro in your pocket for spending. When you need more, go to the restroom and take out more from your moneybelt.

Don't worry about being Asian, female and petite. If you stay away from risky areas like Montmartre and Pigalle, the likelihood of violent crime is not at all great. Just be careful about being pickpocketed, and don't stay out too late at night. I was always back at my hotel by 11. Even once, when I was out in London in Leicester Square past midnight on a weekend, I felt safe. Just be mindful of what time the tube (MRT) stops running.

2) I don't know about Spain being too dangerous, but I have Singaporean female friends who went there and survived. And loved it! I just went to Italy on my own (Rome and Florence). Although Italy is initially very confusing, I ended up falling in love with both cities. Italy is so different from Singapore - the roads are confusing, there is breathtaking scenery everywhere, the people are loud and boisterous - and yes, there will be language problems, but I always asked if they could speak English, and even if they couldn't, they would happily help me with gestures and broken English.

There is a lot more advice I'd love to help with, but I have to run now. Let me know if you want to get in touch and I'll try my best to help you out!
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Mar 7th, 2013, 04:36 AM
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Hi maccabe,

Thank you so much for everything - especially the moneybelt thing (I'll head down to Mustafa soon to get one).

I have a couple of other questions to ask you with regards to attire and luggage packing (once I sort out the itinerary) so it would be great if I could get an email

Italy is actually one of the places that I really really want to go but had many reservations due to the prevalence of pickpockets and general safety concerns. I think recently a tour bus was missing there which was reported in local news. Any advice if I should skip it or I can replace Amsterdam with 5-6 days of Rome and Florence?
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Mar 7th, 2013, 05:15 AM
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You really have no reason to be concerned. Asian tourists are everywhere in Europe and I have never heard of them being targeted for not speaking English or for being slight in stature. All the places you want to visit are perfectly safe if you have common sense and take precautions like using a moneybelt and not drinking too heavily etc. The places you are visiting you will find English is spoken by a lot of people, especially those in restaurants or tourist sites.

You will most likely be surrounded by fellow tourists most of the time, find a hostel in the centre of the cities you visit and you should have no problem. You are aware of pickpockets, and your moneybelt should help you - you should be fine as you are prepared.

Dont carry around anything you would hate to lose.

Other than that - go where you want to go! If you want to do Rome, do Rome! Hundreds of thousands of tourists (including small asian tourists that are travelling solo) survive every year!
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Mar 7th, 2013, 09:01 AM
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There are some pickpockets in Italy, just as anywhere else, but really it's fine. A moneybelt is one method; I use a bag that I carry cross-body and always keep in front of me with my hand on it (or between my feet under the table, in restaurants). I don't carry my wallet or anything else valuable around in my hand on the street. I haven't had problems so far. I do the same in London and Paris (haven't been to Amsterdam, but I'd do the same there too).

Be aware (but no need to be paranoid), be careful and use common sense, and truly, you'll be fine in any of those places. Don't let fear of pickpockets keep you from these experiences!
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Mar 7th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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Sure, you can contact me via email at islinda [at] gmail [dot] com.

Actually, when I first saw your itinerary, I thought it was very sensible, because all 4 cities you listed are quite close to one another, geographically speaking. If you want to switch Amsterdam for Rome and Florence, you will have to add in flights and a train ride between Rome and Florence. This will cost you euros and travelling time.

I checked Easyjet for prices in May, and it will cost you around 60 - 70 euros to fly from Paris Orly to Rome, and about 80 - 100 euros to fly from Rome to London Gatwick (Easyjet does not fly to Florence.) This does not include a 19 euro fee that Easyjet charges for checked baggage (unless you pack light and only have carry-on) and you will also have to include 40-50 euros for a train from Rome to Florence and back. But don't worry, the train is fast and the journey is around 1.5 hours.

If you want to add Italy to your itinerary, don't worry about being pickpocketed, but instead consider whether your budget can accommodate the added expenses of two internal EU flights as well as the Italy train rides. But if you need time to consider, decide soon as Easyjet flights and Trenitalia tickets are much cheaper when you book earlier. The prices that I quoted you earlier could easily go up come April.

Anyway, contact me for more info! I'll try my best to help.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 08:41 AM
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I dropped you an email with regards to some of the more specific questions.

I have checked Easyjet - probably can get flights to and from Rome for 100 euros. Rail europe seems to show around 40-50 euros for the train/back, so total would around 200 euros. Thank you so much for the research! I really appreciate that.

Besides Trenitalia, what are trains are there from Rome to Florence and do I have to book the train tickets in advance or would it be better to buy there?

I'm considering getting the London (3 day) and Rome (3 day) and Paris (2 day) passes to cover some of the transport and attractions. Would that be good?

Revised itinerary
Day 1) Leave Singapore and Arrive in London
Day 2) London
Day 3) London
Day 4) London - Day trip to Bath/Stonehenge
Day 5) Travel to Paris via Eurostar (train)
Day 6) Paris
Day 7) Paris
Day 8) Paris - Day Trip to Versailles
Day 9) Get to Bruges from Paris
Day 10) Brugge
Day 11) Get to Rome - should I train to Brussels or train back to Paris in order to catch the flight to Italy?
Day 12) Rome
Day 13) Rome
Day 14) Rome
Day 15) Day trip to Florence
Day 16) Rome
Day 17) Return to London and Flight home

Budget wise I'm looking at (for 17 days)
35 euros a night for hostels
20 euros a day for food

Approximately (I still have to work this out)
300 euros for attractions
300 euros for inter-cities trains
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Mar 8th, 2013, 09:17 AM
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The London Pass is generally considered a rip-off - most museums are free anyways. Do a search on this site for each and you will get lots of info.

Also dont use Rail Europe for your train tickets - go to each countries rail company site to get the cheapest prices.
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Mar 8th, 2013, 09:28 AM
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Thanks - the London Pass was actually part of my original itinerary and I assumed that my friends have done the research. Will re-look into this!
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