Has Anyone Traveled from Cape Town to Cairo?

by Deepa
(Washington DC)

Fellow Solo travelers out there !! Has anyone done this or similar itinerary ? Ignoring time available and assuming I have a decent saving to go on this trip, anyone out there interested in sharing their experience?

Especially solo females? I have traveled alone in Asia and South America but my first time alone to Africa and getting nervous about safety.

South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt.

Ed. Reply: Deepa, I've done part of that route - South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea. I was stopped at the Sudanese border by the war and never made it any further.

I was on my own and I too was concerned for my safety. In the end I needn't have worried. I used common sense and I was on the road in Africa for more than a year - it was all pretty fine. I followed some basic rules: I didn't go out at night by myself, and I was particularly careful with my belongings - nothing flashy.

The scariest part was overland transportation, especially the minibuses and big buses. Between the loud music and crazy driving, it was best to just try to sleep through it all.

I should caution you that the hardest part of the trip seemed to be getting all the visas. Since they're only valid for a certain length of time I couldn't get them all before traveling and had to figure out which countries had which embassies. But I don't know how long you plan to travel for so this may not be a problem for you.

I'm not sure what else you'd like to know so please feel free to ask! Perhaps others out there have traveled a similar route?

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Easy itinerary across South America?

by Angela
(London)

Hello,

I am a female in my 40s and do not have a very good sense of direction. Please can you advise of an easy foolproof itinerary for 6 months in South America?

Answer: You're handing me quite a challenge, Angela - you're not telling me much! Are you partial to adventure travel? Do you love the great outdoors? Are you a city slicker? Is it culture you're after? Are you a seasoned traveler or a newbie? And are you including Central America?

Not knowing any of this I'm simply going to share with you what I would try to visit if I had six months to spend in Latin America.

I would probably divide the continent into 5-7 countries and spend 3-5 weeks in each (give or take). I prefer getting to know a country well rather than skimming and trying to fit in as much as I can - but that's me. So if I had to choose six countries or regions, this is what I'd choose:
- Ecuador, because it's so diverse, not as well-known as some countries, and has the Galapagos Islands
- Peru for the Inca Trail - the Nazca drawings, colonial Lima, and of course Machu Picchu
- Brazil for the Amazon rainforest, the Pantanal wetlands, the beaches of the Northeast, and of course Rio
- Argentina, from the streets of Buenos Aires, through Patagonia and right down to the tip of its toes with a visit to Tierra del Fuego

I'd also consider Colombia, coming out as it is from years of turmoil - such an exciting place! And if you're considering places further North, I'd give some serious thought to Cuba, which is on the verge of such huge change you'll never have a chance to see it like this again. The other country I love is Mexico, for its art, its food and its history.

If you're sticking to South America proper, I'd start by flying into Colombia, then head down to Ecuador and Peru, fly to Brazil and travel down to Argentina, flying back from the South. You should be able to lessen the financial outlay by buying one of the many South American air passes now on the market.

There is no such thing as a 'foolproof' itinerary, and travel in South America is anything but straightforward - there's a lot of hopping around because it's huge and land connections are often difficult.

Finally, I'd drop by tripatini.com - it's a network of travel professionals and you can ask this question there - and South American experts will share their wisdom with you.

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Jun 01, 2011
Don't Ignore South America's non-Spanish Countries
by: Vanessa

Great, wide-open question and excellent response.

My additional thoughts:

Don't ignore the 3 non-Latin areas of South America: Guyana with its British heritage and wonderful back country of forests and water falls and some remarkable artists, specially the women poets, and, of course, the women who roll right over political and economic problems and just keep growing their veggies and supporting their families. Surinam with its Dutch heritage and Cayene which is legally and culturally part of France with its famous Devil's Island.

And Uruguay is remarkable. Everything from its peacefulness to the stunning and quirky architecture.

To make life stress-free, leave all jewellery at home, send photocopies of your passport, credit cards and health insurance info to someone you trust (not sure if the US Embassies will accept these photocopies for you) in each country and make sure someone at home who actually answers the phone at strange hours, has all this information. Keep your back-pack etc free of political statements (national flags etc). Try to achieve the impossible - that wonderful Latin look of the elegant hitch-hiker. Simple clothing, respectfully covered arms, head and knees if visiting churches.

Food from the street grills is usually safe. Salad is asking for a case of tummy problems.

Carry tissues and hand-wipes.

Learn Spanish.

Relax and learn and enjoy.

The whole continent is truly wonderful and we, North Americans, have so much to learn, specially from the indigenous women.

vanessa in victoria, bc

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Backpacking in Honduras?

by Christine
(New York)

I will be heading out on my first international solo trip next month: destination Honduras. Other than the obvious questions of "What do I pack?" And "How do I stay safe and be smart?" I am really curious as to how to find a great experience with not that much planning in terms of destinations. I want it to be a bit of an adventure and have the experience be dictated by recommendations and other backpackers I may meet along the way.

Any advice is appreciated!

Answer: As you said, there is the obvious advice about safety and packing. This website has plenty of information about these issues, whether it's about a travel packing list or safety. The most pertinent would be those pages about safe travel for women and more specifically on unwanted male attention, hotel room safety and how to avoid crime abroad.

Now more specifically about Honduras, I'd be cautious but not concerned. Just be aware of your surroundings. Thousands of women, including myself, have traveled perfectly safely throughout Central America. That said, you may attract a bit of attention, especially if you're traveling off the beaten track, and especially if you don't look latin.

I'd be particularly aware of crimes of opportunity in the more touristy parts of the country, so perhaps avoid jewelry and similar temptations. Remember that Honduras is a poor country so there are robberies, and that's inevitable. Don't fight anyone who wants to take something you own: better they take your possessions than anything else. That said, violent crime against foreigners is rare (though not unheard of).

I'd also stick to the smaller towns and villages and stay away from cities, and wouldn't walk around cities at night if visiting them is a must. Remember the 'macho' nature of the men here - and act and dress accordingly. Society as a whole is largely conservative so you'll repel trouble if you dress conservatively.

There's also a nice site called Sidewalk Mystic which provides plenty of independent travel information to Honduras, so have a look. One final word: if you speak Spanish, that's great. If you don't, try to learn a few words before you go, and take a phrasebook. You'll please the hospitable Hondurans to no end, and it might be hugely useful too.

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Jan 15, 2011
fantastic Honduras site!
by: Christine

Sidewalkmystic.com is a fantastic site! Thanks for all the useful information.

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Buying a car as a tourist in the USA

by Camilla

I am 19 years old and from Scandinavia. I would like to travel across the USA and I’m planning to do so next year if everything will work out. My problem and biggest concern right now seems to be the fact that I can’t find out whether it’s possible for me to buy a car and a car-insurance in the USA. Can you please help me? Thanks!

Answer: Buying and insuring a car in the US isn't the problem - registering it is.

First, though some sources state you need a US drivers license to buy a car in the US, this is not true. You can buy a car in the US with your International Driver's License.

Second, most companies will not insure you, although one company's name - AIG - keeps popping up as one that will insure tourists, albeit at a high cost. Most insurances require a local address so if you don't have that getting insurance (not to mention car registration) will be tricky but not impossible. And bring an English-language insurance certificate if you have a clean record as it might help keep the cost down (although given your age I'm afraid costs will remain high).

Third, you'll have the problem of registration, and for that you DO need a local address. This is the hard part. This gentleman on Travellerspoint forum seems to know quite a bit about this and is answering questions. I also think he provides a local postal address in Nevada for people who want to buy a car for the short term - he hints at that but doesn't really say it outright. I have no idea if he's legit but he has appeared several times during my research. The problem is that registration rules change from state to state, and rumor has it that some states will allow you to register a car even if you don't have an address there - but I haven't been able to confirm which ones.

Here's what USA Tourist has to say.

You might also trying calling the US Embassy in your country (although I wouldn't hold my breath) but you never know… the embassy website might help, and there might be an email address that yields some kind of response. Unfortunately US embassies are among the most unresponsive unless you want to spend a long time on the phone talking to a computer. But there are exceptions so you can try.

You might also consider long-term rentals because buying does seem to be complicated...

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Female expats in Qatar or elsewhere in the Middle East?

by Tara
(Austin, TX)

This is more of a relocation question than a travel question, but I was wondering if you or any of your travel-savvy readers out there have had any travel or extended stays in Qatar? A former employer is working over there and contacted me recently about a job opening. She's been giving me tips, but naturally, she has a bit of an agenda, so . . . thought I'd ask questions from a more objective audience. If you've been, do you have any tips or stories to share? I'd love to hear them! I would be there for a 3-year contract, and would be giving up a lot here at home to do it. However, it could be an adventure of a lifetime, or the misadventure of a lifetime! One never really knows for sure :)

Answer: I've never been to Qatar, Tara, but perhaps other readers have. That said, I did a bit of digging and found a few places you might reach out to for more information.

My first stop would be Expat Women, a website for… expat women! If you Search Qatar, you'll get 20 entries but if you search Middle East or other Gulf States, you'll get a lot more.

My next stop would be blog directories or aggregators that group country-based blogs and forums together, like Expat-Blog, Expat Focus, or Allo' Expat.

This review of expat blogs in the Middle East should also be helpful. If you do move, please come back and let us know what it was like!





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Sep 10, 2011
I'd say Go!
by: Anonymous

I lived in the middle east for five years it was one of the best things I ever did! You need to abide by their cultural rules though and at times these may seem very restrictive but it's the best way to ensure you are safe, respected and enjoy your time there. You will make instant friends and see a cross section of Muslim life. I never regretted going and my mantra was "when in Rome". Don't try and buck the Muslim system. You can't change it to your culture. The people are friendly but take care as a woman. Some Muslim men see you as available because you are western so listen to your fellow ex pat women whom you meet and take their advice on how to conduct yourself. But the experience of the land, the culture, history, lifestyle is worth the temporary sacrifices. Go! If you don't like it you can always quit and come home. I went for one year and ended up staying five!

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How is Dubai for women travelers?

by Susan
(Punta Gorda, FLorida)

A friend just asked me if I would like to accompany her on a trip to Dubai. Altho I've traveled quite a bit, this was never on my bucket list and I'm wondering if it's a good choice for this year's travel budget.

My concerns about Dubai are:
- Is it safe or culturally restrictive for single American women?
- Is it outrageously expensive or can one have a good time on moderate funds?
- Is it a worthwhile choice or just another kind of tourist trap?

I would welcome any input before I make a decision.

Answer: Dubai is an excellent choice if you're curious about the Gulf States but not ready for a strict Muslim society. Of course Dubai is Muslim but it has huge diversity and you'll find people from all corners of the world because of the great employment opportunities and tax breaks.

In other words - you won't find it culturally restrictive at all. Just dress moderately or even better, appropriately. There's nothing wrong with a bikini on the beach but a sleeveless top and a visible belly-button in a market or traditional area would be seriously frowned - although it's likely nothing would happen to you. There is no religious police chasing you here.

I'm not sure about when you're going but beware the 'summer' months - you'll be hot, hot, hot. And the humidity is also quite daunting, although since you're from Florida you'll be more acclimated than others might be.

When it comes to safe travel for women in Dubai - don't give it another thought. Dubai is probably one of the safest cities in the world. You can walk around at night on your own and the biggest danger you may face is being propositioned by men. True, there are quite a few Western sex workers around and if you're on your own, dawdling and wearing revealing clothes, there's every chance you'll be approached. But violence and major crime? Hardly.

Dubai is expensive, no question. But it doesn't have to be exhorbitant. The more 'touristy' you are, the higher the price. If you want to eat at world class restaurants, you'll pay the price. There are plenty of excellent Arab eateries at reasonable prices, and I'd opt for those - excellent shawarma skewers! In fact you'll even find reasonably-priced hotels.

Taxis are cheap and the metro is new so if you don't rent a car you'll be able to get around easily. Where you'll really get stung is alcohol, if you happen to drink. Few places have liquor licences and those that do are generally attached to hotels and resorts of the more expensive kind, so beware - a cheap meal could turn into an extravaganza if you're not careful.

As for being worth it, I have yet to visit a place that isn't. If you're looking for an Arabian Nights setting, you probably won't find it in Dubai. There are some older sections but this isn't the heartland of the Middle Eastern culture. That said, the glitz is in itself a tourist attraction - I mean, the Burj Khalifa is a landmark famous around the world, and may still be the world's tallest structure. If you're seeking some culture, there's always the Dubai Museum (definitely worth the visit) and the Jumeirah Mosque, where non-Muslims can go to admire the architecture.

One major pastime in Dubai is shopping, and you can spend (or waste) a lot of time going from mall to mall. The one shopping experience I would recommend is the Gold Souk, along with the Spice Souk nearby (more for the atmosphere than the spices though).

Just a word of warning: Dubai is safe and may seem westernized, but that's a veneer. So no public affection, no drinking publicly, and no drugs. This is where the western veneer would peel off quickly.

Other than that - enjoy Dubai! It'll be an unusual travel experience and one you may not get a chance to repeat.

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Jun 27, 2011
Right On - Women traveling in Dubai
by: Steph

I am writing this from a hotel at the Dubai airport. This is my second trip to the country and I have to agree 100% with the article. As a woman, I have never felt uncomfortable or threatened here. Everyone is accommodating and generally pretty nice. Remember, this country thrives on tourism. That means that most folks speak English and are more than friendly. Definitely get out and see the sites...they are amazing!

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Hopi culture: traveling to visit a traditional way of life

by Carolyn
(Wisconsin)

Hi, I am reading the most fascinating book about the Hopi Indians in southwestern U.S. called "HOPI" by Frank Waters. It seems one can visit their reservation for ceremonial dances. They are somewhat modernized with a beautiful hotel and other tourist amenities such as museums and restaurants. However, there is one town where there is still no electricity and running water and the Indians live in ancient stone house dwellings as they always have.

I have never been in any situations of such cross-cultural difference. Have you ever been to such a place? They say you cannot go to the non-modernized town without an indian guide because the people are very sensitive.

Answer: Visiting people in their own environment is one of the best travel experiences you can hope for. And yes, I have indeed been in similar situations, several times.

In the Brazilian Amazon, I stayed with some rubber tappers deep in the forest. There were no modern amenities at all, and I had to catch my own food. In Africa, in rural Zimbabwe, I spent a week in a rondavel (a round hut) in a small village where we had to walk 2 km downhill to the river for water - and carry it back the same distance uphill! I can tell you I didn't wash often that week.

The most important lesson I learned was one of respect: respect for other people's traditions and ways of life. When you go to someone's house you follow their rules, or try to where you can. Visiting someone in their own village is the same: just watch what people do, and don't be afraid to ask questions - you can't be expected to know everything. The fact that you're reading about the culture already will help prepare you for your visit.

It makes sense that people might not want you to visit isolated towns without someone to accompany you. After all, if they live differently, it's probably because they want to.

Keeping traditional cultures alive is difficult, with the pervasiveness of the Internet and television and cell phones. So a group of people who have chosen (because I can't conceive of this being anything other than a choice) this style of life would want to safeguard it, hence the need to tread lightly. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity!

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When is the best time for trekking holidays in Nepal?

Nepal trekking peaks in the Himalayas

Nepal trekking peaks in the Himalayas

The weather can change often in the mountains. What time of the year has the best weather to travel to Nepal and trek the Himalayas?

Answer: Trekking in Nepal can take place nearly all-year round so it's tricky to recommend a season to trek the Himalayas. Nepal has two main seasons for trekking: before the monsoon and after the monsoon. The pre-monsoon season goes from around the end of February for three months until the end of May. The earlier, the colder, especially at high altitude so if you fear the cold, wait until later in the season. Don't wait too long, though, or you'll end up trekking in the heat and haze.

Altitude is also a factor if you're heading into the higher peaks, because early in the season passes may still be snowed in. By April or May, a lot of the snow will be gone. The nice thing about this season is the clarity and light in the morning (though the clouds will then usually roll in).

If this season doesn't work for you, you could try the post-monsoon season in October and November, although that's when the Mount Everest trek and other treks are the most popular - and that's when tickets to Nepal are the cheapest. It's popular because of the day-long sunshine (no afternoon clouds!) The season goes on into December but you may find it gets too cold for you, and it could also snow.

When not to go? In most of the region, during the monsoons, from July to September. It's rainy, the rain can cause landslides and avalanches, and trekking routes may well be closed off. Another 'off' season is winter, unless you're an expert trekker, because of the cold.

A popular book on the Annapurna Circuit is Bryn Thomas's Trekking in the Annapurna Region. Another classic is Lonely Planet's Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (Walking).

Photo credit: Cotaro70s via Flickr

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Cuba travel?

by Tricia
(Minneapolis, MN)

I thought Cuba was illegal for leisure travel. You mention it as a good destination, yet everything I read tells me I can only travel there if I'm not going as a tourist but as a specific kind of visitor, like journalist or similar.

PS. Love your site.

Answer:

Hi Tricia, Cuba IS a magnificent destination! Unfortunately, it is illegal for US tourists - although not for anyone else.

Here's hoping the travel embargo will be lifted at some point, and as this is a travel site I don't get too deeply into politics, but let me say that even if it's illegal, that doesn't stop thousands of Americans from taking the risk and visiting, either via Canada, Mexico or another of the Caribbean islands.

It's a bit like travel to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries - you can go to Israel but other countries had better not find out about it or you won't be allowed in.

In Cuba's case, there has been a strict travel and trade embargo for a number of years, which I document in The Cuban Embargo, a story I wrote more than ten years ago but which remains largely relevant today.

Just for fun I Googled 'cuban embargo' and came up with highly relevant results, both for and against the embargo. Definitely worth reading!

For the sake of American travelers (not to mention Cubans) I hope this gets resolved sooner rather than later - Cuba is an amazing country and definitely in my Top Ten list.

And PS: thanks for the kind words about my site!

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Where are the best places for a woman to explore outside Europe and North America?

by Kiki Leigh
(California)

Thai Floating Market

Thai Floating Market

I'm a 26-year-old travel junkie. Ever since I spent a semester in London, I have loved to travel abroad. In the past five years I've lived in four states and spent two years living in the Netherlands.

So far, my only trip outside North America or Europe was to Israel. I loved the sense of adventure there.

Where should I go next to feel like I'm really "out in the world" experiencing new ideas and ways of life ... but also safe?

Answer:

It sounds as though you're looking for something 'different' - so Australia and New Zealand might be too similar to what you're used to. I'd suggest Southeast Asia to start, more particularly Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, followed by Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore if you're still feeling trippy.

This part of the world is culturally diverse - you'll definitely feel a 'sense of adventure': much of the food will be unfamiliar, the people will behave (and often dress) differently, and the pace of life is more mellow. The smells may surprise you, and the wildlife certainly will. The scenery may at times remind you of a postcard you've pinned on your fridge with the note "someday"...

Southeast Asians tend to have a courteous culture, which will make solo travel easier and enhance your feeling of safety. I lived in this part of the world for several years and other than being approached for 'marriage proposals' by young men wanting to emigrate, safety as a solo woman was something I didn't often have to think about.

Also, I'd prefer to talk about 'safer' rather than 'safe' - because you can never guarantee safety, not even crossing the street in front of your house.

Any thoughts out there? Can you recommend other places a solo woman might feel comfortable in?

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Mar 15, 2010
Things change!
by: Anne W. S.

I'm in Bangkok right now and it certainly doesn't feel safe... so make sure you check the LATEST news before you go somewhere. It could be safe yesterday, dangerous today, and safe again tomorrow. Things change.

Mar 15, 2010
New Zealand
by: Dina VagabondQuest

I was just back from a road trip in New Zealand, and I will totally recommend NZ (not only for solo woman traveler). It's very easy to feel in love with NZ. The nature was just amazing. The variety is really wide. Just travel a bit, you see something really different.

Check out Kiwi Experience. I hear it's quite popular for solo backpackers. Basically you have a one way ride that you can stop at many points along the way, and you can make your stops as long as or as short as you want.

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Lost/Confused Traveler

by Fatima N.
(Omaha, NE)

I am 25yrs old, single and for mostly all my life I've been wanting to travel. However, the circumstances in my life has delayed that adventure. Right now, I am working full time at a job that expects longevity, but I'm trying to survive, pay bills, or deal with a seperation; that to me seems like I'm making excuses. I'm afraid and don't know where to start - how do I leave when my financial circumstances are shaky, and I don't know what to do with this job, if I decide to leave. Help, I am seeking advice and a deeper meaning to my true course in life a traveler at heart? Thank you.

Answer:

You're faced with the same dilemma many of us have already faced - how to make a lifelong travel dream come true when there's little money and plenty of fear. The good news is that you're not alone, and most of us have gone through this before.

First, the money. Of course you need money to travel, and the best way to get it is to save it before you leave. My friend Lisa Lubin addresses this very issue in her recent post, How Could You Afford a Round the World Trip? This will get you started. Another source of hugely helpful information for the first-time traveler is Stephanie Lee's excellent book, The Art of Solo Travel, released a couple of weeks ago.

The next thing I'd do is post your question on one of the two major global travel forums, Lonely Planet Thorn Tree and BootsNAll. Both have several categories in which your question might fit and with thousands of members, you'll find support and advice. You'll also find helpful tips on my money saving travel tips page.

Now, the job. This is a hard one and I can't give you any personal coaching or advice but I can say that many travelers I met during three years of non-stop travel (myself included) had left a career behind, with some trepidation. My own decision wasn't easy - I had a fabulous job with long-term stability and an excellent salary. My friends, family and colleagues thought I was insane. But I needed to travel so off I went. I didn't regret it. That doesn't mean there aren't exceptions, but for me, living my dream was the best thing I ever did. You're much younger than I was, so you'd have better chances of finding a new job when you return. So - should you quit your job to travel? Either way, it's YOUR decision, and a very personal one.

One last personal observation, culled from experience: traveling takes you towards things, not away from them. If running away from a situation is in any way part of your plan, remember - wherever you go, you'll be taking yourself along!

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Jul 07, 2010
Shaky financial situation - but living my travel dreams
by: Anonymous

Hi there! Reading your article, I could have written those exact words about a year ago.

I was working. Paying bills. Not saving. Wanting to get out..but how the hell to afford it...

I am currently esl teaching in South Korea, my first year is almost up and it was a ROUGH year. However, I am debt free now and able to save some.

I will come back for a second contract in February next year to fund my RTW travel dreams.

I am looking into other ways to generate income..ways that don't include returning home for the long term and being chained to a desk.

Good Luck! DO NOT give up on your dream. Even when it seems like it may not happen. As much as I wanted to travel I did not think it would happen...and now I'm closer than I've ever been.

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I am all "Churched" and "Museumed" out! Help!!

by spachick
(USA)

When I was 20, I did the Europe thing. I went to an over abundance of churches and art museums. So much so, that I'm kind of sick of them. I am thinking about going to Panama City, Panama on my next adventure in Feb/Mar 2011.

I am looking for some new destination ideas. I've done the learning another language thing and the volunteer thing.
What I like about learning a new language was that a) it didn't take up a lot of my time, b) still had my independence while meeting other people. But I am looking for something new when the exploring and shopping is done. Any ideas??

Answer: The world is full of fabulous destinations that don't involve shopping or sightseeing. In fact, most destinations fall into this category!

A quick word about Panama City first - of all the fabulous destinations in Panama, the capital is probably the least interesting. It's worth taking a drive up to the Panama Canal and watching the ships go through, or better yet, getting on a ship yourself but I'd stay away from the city. If you can, Bocas del Toro is a wonderful destination, especially if you like Caribbean culture and the waterfront. I would also explore some of Panama's forest reserves and if you're so inclined, hike the Quetzal Trail, which I did a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed.

But back to destinations: it depends on what you like. If natural habitats are of interest, extend your Panama trip into Costa Rica's cloud forests. Another great forest and wildlife destination is Brazil, both the Amazon and the Pantanal. Of course there are plenty of organized photo safaris in Africa if you enjoy wildlife.

If you're interested in offbeat destinations that aren't really on the tourist track, you could try someplace like southern Africa - either Mozambique or Namibia, each of which is special in its own way. Further north, Ethiopia will make you feel like you're in another world.

If you want something tamer, have you ever been to Southeast Asia? There's Thailand of course, but right next door are Cambodia and Laos, both of which remind me of Thailand 20 years ago, before everyone arrived.

If you'd rather stay in Europe, there are some less traveled places that are more about natural beauty than museums, especially in Scandinavia.

I'm biased, of course, but here are my own top 10 travel destinations.

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Oct 14, 2010
What interests you?
by: gwen@algarveexperiences.com

I think there are many of us who have traveled extensively and had many 'traditional' travel experiences who are now looking for something new and different.

If you were my coaching client I'd encourage you to create a couple of lists; the first being a list of your interests in life. Mine would include gardening, cooking, reading, camping, hiking, personal growth, and cultural shifts. The second being a list of what feels like a 'mystery' to you at this stage of life. Mine would include: how do individuals choose between tradition & 'progress'; what are other women my age REALLY thinking about; what alternative approaches to ageing successfully exist.

I'd then start exploring what's out there that seems to map to the interests on my combined lists (cities, countries, conferences, courses/retreats, package deals). There are all kinds of 'modern retreats', learning holidays and cultural exploration opportunities available in today's world. Yes, you won't likely find these opportunities in a glossy brochure at your travel agent, but one of the joys of the Internet is just how easy it is to find out about non-traditional travel experiences to off-the-beaten-track locations.

I'm a big fan of Twitter and follow a lot of folks in the travel business. I'm constantly amazed, excited and astounded by the richness and variety on offer to those who seek it out. Best of luck. Hope you let us know where your explorations take you.

Dec 12, 2010
Things to do when you are churched out...
by: Laura

I understand the need for a 'goal' or a focus when travelling, it provides structure to your day and it gives you something to aim for--and you dont necessarily have to follow the plan--its just there ' in case'.

I am an avid reader, and my destination when I hit a new city is to head to the main library. Some of them are ancient, and are housed in some of the most beautiful buildings....alternatively, I search out quaint 'bookstores' too.
Check out this link to see what I mean!



Dec 29, 2010
Roma, Italia
by: Marcella M.

I love to travel and in Rome I have many museu and monument so I like to discover the cuisine. I learn to cook everywhere! In Thailand I take a cooking course in Bangkok and in Paris I also take a course. Best way to know people is through their food!!!

Ed. Note: I couldn't agree more! Have a look at the page on
cooking schools in Europe
to get more inspiration or ideas about chasing cuisine around the world!


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Travelling to Thailand?

by Peta

I am wanting to plan a trip to Thailand, but the current political situation is making me a little hesitant. I would be travelling solo and was just wondering how safe you think it would be to go there at the moment.

Answer:

Peta, I'm actually writing this from Thailand, on 12 May. Tonight the army has given the Red Shirts an ultimatum - vacate the city or else. So it's not clear what will happen. Your best bet would be to stay tuned to some web-based news sources, both local, as in the Bangkok Nation or international sources like CNN News or the BBC. I'd also post a question on one of the main travel forums, BootsNAll or Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree.

I don't think going solo has much to do with the situation - having a travel companion probably wouldn't make much difference. Most important is to monitor the situation, and also realize that unless things get really ugly, protests tend to be localized in certain parts of the city.

Also bear in mind that the protests, at least for the time being, are in Bangkok only, and don't affect the rest of the country (although of course this could change). There are other entry points, including Phuket and land borders so if it's Thailand you want, you can easily cross over from Laos or Malaysia and avoid the protests.

I did think twice before coming over last week but I'm on Koh Samui, an island an hour's flight away from Bangkok, and it's as though the protests were on another planet. Still, I'd probably avoid Bangkok for the time being, except to change planes. Tonight though, after the ultimatum ends, it might be a different story.

Ed. Note: For an update at 11 March 2011, please read How safe is Thailand with recent demonstrations in 2010?

Comments for Travelling to Thailand?

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May 12, 2010
Thanks
by: Peta

Thanks very much for your reply. The links you posted will be helpful. Nice to get the perspective of someone in the country at the moment.

May 13, 2010
Dont worry too much
by: The Dame

Im in Phuket at the moment and there is nothing to worry about. In fact the Thai's are complaining that whats going on in Bangkok is hurting tourism. Id stay out of Bangkok but everywhere else is fine to go to.

Just a reminder, bring light loose clothes and lots of mosquito repellent, its extremely hot and humid here at the moment and its soon going to be the rainy season.

May 19, 2010
Most of Thailand is ok
by: Ann M

I'm in Samui (19th of May) and everything is very chilled. Things will presumably settle down in Bangkok too after today, but I did cancel my trip there for tomorrow to wait and see for another couple of days.

It has certainly looked bad in the media, but outside of the protest areas life has gone on as usual.

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SEA alone and during the raining season

by Lory
(London UK)

I'm so excited I found this website and just at the right time since I'm planning an around the world trip leaving this September. I will travel solo and plan to spend 3 months exploring Southeast Asia.

My question is: considering that at that time it will be the raining season in SEA, shall I start from Thailand and go down, by land, to Malaysia or vice-versa? How feasible is it to travel around northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam in September/October without getting stuck in the mud?

Also I've never travelled in a Muslim country before and I'm a bit apprehensive, what do I need to consider or expect? Do I need to cover my head? What is the etiquette for women traveling alone?

Answer:

Lory, I'll try to answer all your questions. First, the weather. September IS the rainy season in the region so expect to get drenched. If you wander off the beaten path, you will end up in mud in rural areas where roads aren't asphalted.

That said, keep two things in mind. First, it rarely rains all day. In Thailand, you'll get bursts in the afternoon, and the rest of the day might be rain-free. Laos and Vietnam are rainier.

Second, there are variations within countries. Some cities or parts of the country have different rainfall patterns - Northern and Southern Vietnam, for example. A good place to get a sense of what to expect is by checking the BBC country climate guides for each city you plan to visit. If that's too dry to you, drop by the Asia board on the BootsNAll Forum and just ask your question. You're bound to find someone who's been through the rainy season in each of these countries. So yes, you'll get stuck in the mud - but not all the time, and not everywhere.

Now - about which direction to go. If you're traveling in September and October, I'd start with Malaysia, where the rainy season isn't really in full swing until October. I'd head up the West Coast, stop off in Penang (one of my favorite islands), head up into Thailand, and cross over to Laos and then Vietnam. Again, you'll get great advice about specific routes and times of year from the forums.

As for travel in a Muslim country, if you're talking about Malaysia, don't give it a second thought. Many Malaysian women don't cover their heads, and you'll find huge diversity in the country - for example there are large Sikh and Chinese populations. Just dress modestly, stay away from halter tops or shorts and short skirts and you'll be fine.

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Six months off and plenty of interesting options... what next?

by La Vonne
(San Marcos, Texas)

I have always dreamed of traveling but then got married, had kids and that whole distraction. I am 46 and am about to graduate from Texas State University with my bachelor's in Cultural Anthropology, specializing in Latin American cultures and a double minor of Spanish and Women's Studies.

There is a good chance I will go on to Universidad para La Paz in San Jose Costa Rica. There I will obtain a double Master in Genders and Peace Studies. I have 6 months in between finishing at TSU and beginning at ULP. I am thinking that with my newly acquired academic tool box I could have a lot of interesting options.

I backpacked with a friend last summer through Costa Rica and Panama, stayed at hostels, slept in tents in the jungle and rode the public buses. I practiced my Spanish with the locals and tried new foods. It was fabulous!!!! I want more of it but I want to visit more indigenous people and talk to the women. I am an awesome writer (my professors tell me so) and feel that I will be very successful writing about middle-aged back-packing.

So, can you give me the best advice for utilizing my background, skills and following my dreams? Or, at least point me to where I find the best information.

Answer: The good news is that you're already well on your way to achieving your dreams and acquiring the best skills to do so! The bad news is that you've now got a lot more choices…

If I had six months and your skills, I might try doing one of the following during that time.

Certainly to travel more would be an option. With the Spanish, I might try visiting the rest of Central America - everything north of Costa Rica. There are some fabulous indigenous communities and cultures in places like Guatemala and given the time I might be inclined to see more of that region. I'd have three other travel options: Mexico, for its amazing beauty and diversity, western South America, around Peru and Ecuador, and the southern cone, Argentina and Chile. Any combination of these could easily fill six months and get you in shape for school again.

If you'd like a bit of a break from travel, how about becoming a volunteer? Since you speak Spanish you'd most likely be able to find a placement for six months pretty much anywhere you wanted. You'd put back into the community, do some good, practice your language skills, and become deeply connected to a community. A friend of mine volunteered with indigenous groups in rural Panama for several months and learned more about their culture in that time than she could have from any studies.

If you love writing and believe you have what it takes - and it certainly seems you do - why not look into becoming a travel writer? You don't have to write about holiday destinations - you could write about cultures and people and help others understand the world around them. If you've never tried this line of work you could try taking my free travel writing course to see if this is something you'd like to pursue.

There are plenty of other options… you could get a job teaching English abroad. Teaching is always a good way to get to know a culture and share a bit of your own. You could also take a course - learn meditation, take cooking classes, study art history… short courses are available in plenty of places. The possibilities are infinite.

What a great place to be - six months of freedom and a desire to see more of the world. I hope you enjoy every second!

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Should I take a short backpacking trip or a long one?

by Emma

I'm in the process of sorting out my 1st backpacking trip and I'm planning on a year and just wondered if you'd recommend doing a little trip for a month or so before doing 'the big trip'? Just to get in the swing of it?

Answer: I think it depends on you, because both options have advantages. By taking a short backpacking trip first, you may help allay any fears or concerns you have - about your gear, your destination, feeling lonely, cost - all the little things we worry about before taking a trip. So in that sense, a dry run might be beneficial.

On the other hand, one of my joys in travel is the discovery of new places, new people - and you only get a chance to 'discover' once. If you've been there before, you won't experience the novelty twice (although there will be many other experiences you can have over and over again).

Where I think this might work is if you take a short trip close to home. Say you're from New York, you could backpack to the Canadian Maritime provinces for a month. It's another country, but similar enough to the US not to be too overwhelmingly different. If you're from Australia, you could visit New Zealand. This would help you try out your gear, get a sense of how much you need to enjoy your trip (in money, clothes, time...), and build confidence about being on your own without having to land in the middle of Borneo or Bolivia on your own for your first trip out.

The above applies if you're headed to somewhere radically different from your home country. On the other hand, if you're from the UK and plan to travel throughout Europe, where the culture is different but not radically so, I'd say, just go!

A year is a long time (even if it can fly past very quickly) but in the end it's a question of how comfortable and ready YOU feel.

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Going backpacking with no real plans

by Lynn Wartes
(Texas)

I'm going to Germany for a year to au pair, and my boyfriend/fiance is meeting me over there around the end, then we are both wanting to pack a backpack and take off! We have a couple friends who have been doing this for about six months,and they went in without any preconceptions of how it would be, no money saved up, and no real destination. They love it!! We are trying to do the same, and I want my boyfriend there because in certain countries it is just better to travel with a man to avoid bad situations. Where can we talk to people who did the same, and what advice would you give us as a seasoned traveler?

Answer:

Lynn, two things come to mind. First, it's fine to take your boyfriend along if you want to - but solo travel, when undertaken sensibly, is no less safe than traveling with someone else.

As for lack of planning and just winging it, it works for some people, and doesn't for others. I tend to improvise my destination, but try to plan the money end of things. I don't like running out of money and having to interrupt my travels because of finances.

I'd suggest you at least have enough money to reasonably survive a month or so on the road, on the cheap. And if you have more, so much the better. I'd also suggest you get some medical insurance before you go, because that's the one thing that can set you back enormously. No one plans to get sick, but it can happen, so make sure you're covered.

Otherwise - just get your paperwork in order, hop on the train or plane, and enjoy!

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