Solo in New York City - and loved it!

by Gina Jordan
(Melbourne, FL)

Just wanted to let you know I've enjoyed reading your articles and your awesome pics shared on Facebook. I'm not a backpacker but you definitely inspired me to take a trip about two weeks ago.

I traveled SOLO to New York City and stayed a full week and had the most wonderful time.

I had been a couple of times before with family and enjoyed it but being recently retired, I decided to dedicate an entire trip to the wonderful art museums there, which are (arguably) some of the best in the world and was something I had been wanting to do forever. And because in my small circle of people, I knew no one with either the time, the money or the "want" to go to and see all the places I wanted to go to, on MY schedule and MY itinerary, I decided to go it alone and it was an excellent trip!!!

All the reasons you talked of for doing it solo were SO RIGHT ON. From meeting new people to changing directions without explanation to letting things just be because no one to complain to. I booked a charming hotel in the heart of the city, made friends with the doorman, and honey I wasn't afraid at all.

Well honestly I had a minor panic attack when I first got there because of the enormity of it all but after that I did GREAT! And alas, it was SO entertaining there and you are never truly alone in NYC! I just kept up with the crowd to not look so touristy, embraced my independence and took my dear sweet time and had the full art "experience"!

Did the Metropolitan (2 days), the MOMA, the Guggenheim and the Tenement Museum and it was all wonderful. I took some great photos, which by the way I used my iphone 4S exclusively as it has a great camera and also because I didn't want to be or "look" distracted (safety!) lugging my big camera around. Anyways, I LOVED it and am ready to go back!!!

So, Thanks for your inspiration!!!!!!!! I can see many new solo destinations in my future. I may try to share my NYC story later.

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Solo Travel in Ethiopia

by Priscila
(Toronto, Canada)

With 2012 just kicked off I'm planning my next trip and the destination I have been thinking of is Ethiopia... I went through your older posts and can see stories about Tanzania, but not Ethiopia so I would like to know if you or anybody you know has visited and whether it is safe for solo travelling. I have done quite a bit of travelling, but other than Bali this would be my second solo trip. Any comments will be really appreciated!

My Answer: You're in luck, Priscila, I have traveled solo in Ethiopia - for nearly two months and for my money it's one of the safest countries in Africa.

The first thing to figure out is where to go. I'd stay away from the region closer to Somalia, which is not safe… actually I'd stay away from most borders, including Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan. Things are a bit rocky right now and border crossings are often flashpoints. Ethiopian Airlines has a great airline network throughout the country so getting around won't be a problem. Just don't expect flights to take off when scheduled - they'll inevitably be a few hours off, and possibly even days!

Expect to be crowded by children, half a dozen grabbing each arm at times. Learn to ignore them and please try NOT to give them money. See my page on street beggars to find out why. In Ethiopia I have no problem giving food to adults, especially early in the day after they've gone all night without eating. That's not the same as giving children money.

Ethiopians are hugely hospitable so you really should have very few problems. You'll find petty crime (you find that everywhere), since you will look rich in one of the world's poorest countries; the roads do leave something to be desired, as do the buses - one of my most hair-raising bus rides ever was in northern Ethiopia; some well-worn tourist scams are also worth avoiding - like 'let me invite you to my house to meet my family' or 'please come to this cultural event', which will inevitably cost you money and not be authentic.

Get a good guidebook. I used the Bradt Travel Guide to Ethiopia (you can buy it on Amazon) when I was there and hands down it's the most comprehensive and accurate. If you can only take one, make it Bradt. If you can manage to carry two, then bring the Lonely Planet along as well because it's better-organized and more user-friendly.

A final word: Ethiopian time is a bit different from ours so figure that out before you or or you'll end up like I did, standing in front of a bank at 2am waiting for the doors to open…

I loved my time in Ethiopia!

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Solo female travel advice for Peru?

by Christine
(Miami, FL)


Hello! I'm a 21 year old female student and was recently invited to go conduct research in Manu National Park, Peru. I am very excited for this opportunity, however I am kind of at a loss as to how to start getting the ball rolling for my trip.

My estimated departure to Peru is around May 7th, and I need to stay for 8 weeks at least to do research. I will be living in both Cuzco and Manu National Park during that time. I can stay longer if I want to (which is when I will basically be solo traveling) and I'm not quite sure how to organize a fun experience for myself. Also I will have time off to do whatever I want to.

I will have my new passport in about a month, and I should be purchasing tickets soon. I want to do all the things I can while I'm there, but I guess I'm scared I don't know what I'm doing. I've been reading your website and have been getting a lot of great information, its just been hard for me to put the pieces together.

What I want to know is if you have any basic advice for organizing trips like in my scenario (I'm very apprehensive about solo travel, but I want to do it). Things I'm wondering about are: how/when should I book excursions, should I fly directly into Cuzco, do I really need a travel agent, are there cheap options for students for housing/fun/travel, how much luggage I should take for my almost 3 month trip (I will be camping/trekking a lot I imagine), what do I do about money, and so on. As you can see I'm pretty lost but I would appreciate any advice you can give me and I will keep looking through your website for information! Thanks :)

My Answer: You're not as lost as you think you are! And you're more than halfway there. You know your destination, you have a timeframe for your trip, and you'll soon have your passport (and whatever visa you might need for research or extended travel in Peru). You're well on your way… This link by the way is to an expat forum in Peru - and expats are often the most in the know when it comes to a country. So feel free to post your questions there, especially those related to accommodation and travel in the country. You may well find some expats near Manu, possibly other project personnel, who have great ideas on where to stay.

Speaking of accommodation, I would try the couchsurfers at (couchsurfing.org and see my own page on couch surfing as well). In addition to offering a roof over your head, couchsurfers are often available for chats by email to help you ease into your new community. As you'll see there are plenty of people in Cuzco who offer hospitality of some sort - just choose wisely (be cautious when it comes to young single men - stick to families or couples or women). Also I ran a Search on 'homestays cusco' and 'homestays cuzco' and came up with quite a few names, if you prefer to find your own way (I'd wait for recommendations from locals if you can be a bit patient…)

In terms of packing, I have a great printable checklist - have you signed up for my newsletter, Women on the Road News? If not, do so right away and you'll get a packing list designed with the long-term traveler in mind. You can also get a detailed list on my travel packing page.

The one other question I can answer is NO, you do not need a travel agent! All you need is to do some comparison shopping online to find the best airline tickets. Start with this page on very cheap international flights and work your way from there.

Your other, more 'local' questions - about meeting people, having fun - would best be answered either on the Expat forum, but also in the Peru sections of the best travel forums. If you haven't visited them yet to post questions, please do so! A word of advice: keep your questions narrow because it will make them easier to answer. Divide up your questions into bite-sized ones…

Try not to worry about solo travel. Cuzco is a huge tourist destination and you'll find plenty of others there with whom you can travel part of the way, especially if you spend a few nights in the local backpacker hostels. I've traveled solo most of my life and even in the remotest places I can't say I've lacked a travel partner for at least part of the way. Solo just means you're not going to be stuck with the same people day in and day out! You'll be able to pick and choose your travel companions, if and when you want them.

This is such an exciting opportunity! This website, Women on the Road, survives on what readers put into it so once you've taken your trip or you've finished in Manu, please come and share your travel stories about some aspect of your solo experience - we all love to hear from our readers! And if you haven't done it yet, please do join us on Facebook, where you can also drop in with questions and we'll do our best to answer! Have a wonderful trip, Christine!

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Should solo travel to Istanbul be such a challenge for Me?

by Hadeel
(Amman, Jordan)

My name is Hadeel and I am 23 years old. I work as an air hostess in an Arabic airline and I am not used to travel alone because living with my parents made me dependent. Now I want to know my abilities and decided to travel solo starting with Istanbul. But why am I always thinking that I can't, that I need company, that I am weak and that I have to ask about others' experiences to be sure about my safety? Am I really weak? Is solo traveling not for me ????

Answer: Hadeel, your reactions are absolutely normal! First of all, your fears. I know very few women who weren't scared the first time they traveled solo. It is very daunting if you're not used to it! So fear is a natural and healthy reaction. It will help you be cautious and stay within your comfort zone.

The good news is that as an air hostess you are already used to some traveling, and by choosing Istanbul you are choosing a destination that is not a world away from your own. You will find Istanbul a busy but very pleasant city.

What I would suggest is that you stick to what you know best. For example, with your airline, do you ever stay overnight in a hotel? Staying in a hotel solo is not very different from staying there with a cabin crew. I would keep the first trip short, and plan it well before you go. For example, if you were going to Istanbul for four days, you would reserve half a day for the Grand Bazaar, half a day for the Topkapi Museum and so on. If you break your trip into planned half-days, it will be more manageable.

Look on Trip Advisor or on some Istanbul websites for good restaurant recommendations. If a lot of tourists go eat somewhere, you will not feel alone because everyone there will be foreign. Also, eating out by yourself is sometimes a bit daunting if you're not used to it so I've put together these tips on solo dining that might make those meals a bit easier for you.

I might also suggest you try to contact a friendly woman in Istanbul who is willing to at least spend a bit of time advising you on where to go and what to do. There is a wonderful email service called Hermail. All you do is look up Istanbul, and you will be provided with one or two contacts in Istanbul. These are women who already belong to Hermail and who have indicated they are happy to provide information to other women travelers. You can then exchange by email and get some good advice from someone who is local.

It's worth doing a bit of research on the web about the city. Here's a piece by my friend Lisa Lubin on Istanbul, as she was traveling solo around the world a couple of years ago. And there are plenty of other posts on forums about solo travel to Istanbul, including Fodor, Indie Travel Podcast, Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet.

However, as is the case in any city in the world, there are Istanbul neighborhoods in which you'll have to be careful. This piece on Virtual Tourist highlights some of these. At the same time, in all fairness, the same website carries dozens of articles about how wonderful Istanbul is so please take the warnings seriously but then, move on to plan what will be a really enjoyable trip. This page on Turkey Travel Planner provides a sensible approach, as does Journeywoman.

Let me add that I have been to Istanbul twice and to other parts of Turkey on my own several times. Each time I was treated wonderfully and respectfully, and Turks are among the best hosts in the world. I never felt unsafe, even at night, but I kept to those areas considered safe, with the dodger areas left for daytime sightseeing. Things can happen anywhere, but in Istanbul I was more worried about crossing the street in the crazy traffic than I was about crime. I just took regular, sensible precautions, as I'm sure you will.

As for the rest, just behave as you would do at home. Ignore any comments by men and just keep walking. Since you live in a Muslim country you are already familiar with dress code and customs and although Istanbul is a bit more Westernized I don't think you'll find people behave too differently than they do in Amman. Also, your advantage coming from a Middle Eastern country is that you'll be used to the hustling on the streets and the efforts to sell you things. Again, you should feel perfectly at home in Istanbul.

I hope you have a wonderful trip, and please do come back and tell us about it! And don't forget to bargain in the souk!

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Travelling alone in Cuba...

by Mónica
(Madrid, Spain)

I got to know about your website through the BBC and it is really better than what they described! I was thinking of travelling through Cuba with a rental car and to lodge at Cuban homes. As I am Spanish, the language wouldn´t be a problem, but is it realistic for a woman to travel like this in Cuba?

Thank you very much in advance for your reply and warm regards from Madrid!

Answer: Thanks for your kind words - I'm glad the BBC mention got you to visit my site!

The answer is YES indeed, Cuba is very safe, possibly one of the safest places on earth for a woman traveling solo.

That said, you should keep the following in mind:
- Men WILL hit on single women wandering around Cuba and offer them everything under the sun. But a firm 'thanks, but no thanks' will usually do the trick and get rid of unwanted advances.
- You may get offers for 'genuine' Cuban goods, like cigars, on the street. They might even suggest that you 'come and see what I have'. The intentions may be fine and as a woman nothing would likely happen to you - except that the goods would probably not be genuine. Moral of the story: same as everywhere else, don't wander off with strange men.
- If you need help, head for the police. They're everywhere, and extremely helpful.
- Use your common sense: don't walk on deserted beaches or cross empty parks alone late at night. You wouldn't do that anywhere else, so don't do it in Cuba.
- There is petty pickpocketing, including bag-snatching from ride-bys. Hang onto your bag on the streets and keep your papers safe.

I spent two months in Cuba a few years ago and I absolutely loved the country and loved the people. I hope you find the same!

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Any advice about solo travel for women in the United States?

by Suzanne
(Pismo Beach, CA)

I am thinking of selling everything and buying a trailer. Then traveling across the USA. I have been thinking of traveling like this, or overseas, for years. Since I am single, I am concerned about safety, making money, etc.. Especially since I will be boondocking as much as possible. Does anyone have experience or advice on this? Also, wondering how to deal with a caring friend of mine, who insists it is wrong for me to do this.

Answer:

Let me divide up my answer into three sections.

First, RV travel. Have a look at Frugal RV Travel for some great information on how to travel with an RV. There's also a Contact Form so if you have any specific questions about RVing that aren't covered in their FAQ, drop them a line.

Second, the caring friend. Of course people will be worried about you! When I quit my job to travel the world at 43 on my own, I couldn't find a single person who thought it was a good idea! The important thing was that I thought it was a good idea. How to tell your friends was written with foreign travel in mind, though you'll find some useful information that applies anywhere.

Third, I can't really help you with information about RVing in the US - I've never done it. I have traveled solo to several places in the US - California, New England, New Mexico - and I've had an amazing time because people are so incredibly friendly and helpful. The only tip I have is to be safety-conscious! Some of these domestic travel government tips might help. Happy travels!

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H.E.L.P. Camping in North America for a Year Solo!

by Bobbi
(San Luis Obispo, CA)

I am a YOUNG 75 year old in excellent health (per last annual physical), very active and able! I've just ended a relationship and now I have OPTIONS! We had an RV and traveled across country, but now I'm on my own and don't need/want a 24' RV that gets 7 miles to the gallon.

I'm looking at Little Guy's, T@B's and RPod by Forest River! I have a 2006 Highlander (Paid for) and want to hit the road for a year. Has anybody out there done this? If so, give me some "tips". I would also like to "hook up" with like minded people (men or women) and age does not matter either.

Another question! Have any of you out there rented/leased out your home for a year and what were your experiences. I'd rather not put all my stuff in storage (against that idea) and would consider a reasonable rent without having to move out!

I guess I'm asking more that one question/topic, but have at it. I'd like to begin planning a trip across the good ole US of A while I have the strength and determination. BTW, I've traveled to Canada twice tent camping, but am ready to upgrade a bit.

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