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Ideas for solo female travellers to Europe.
by leics - last update: Aug 15, 2015
My VT column. Once tucked away elsewhere on the site (there was once an idea for certain members to write specific articles) but now here.Doing it for yourself: ideas for women travelling solo in Europe for the first time
Circumstances change, life happens. Children grow up, partners are no longer around. Perhaps it's like that for you? Maybe you have always wanted to visit Europe but just don't want to get involved in (or can't afford) organised group tours? Going it alone may seem like a very scary prospect?.but it need not be.
There are many, many female VT-ers who travel alone. Have a look at pages by Trekki
, Nepalgoods Suvanki
for a start?.you will find lots more!
So how can you make that first scary step a bit less scary?
1. First check whether you need a Schengen visa
(use Google to find information). If you do, apply for it in plenty of time.
2. Plan and research
as much as you possibly can to help you to feel more comfortable. Knowledge is power!
Use VT members and VT travel guides. Ask questions on the travel forums
and enjoy the answers!
3. Find and book a flight
which suits you. www.skyscanner.net
will give you all carriers, and usually fares, for your route and dates. Book on the airline's own website.Check the transport connections to your hotel using the airport website. Just Google the airport name (not its full name, just the city/location name. They all have English pages and information about public transport.
It's no fun to arrive in a strange place late at night, especially when you are alone. Try to time your flights so that you land in daylight.
4. Find and book your accommodation
There are a number of reliable European hotel booking sites used by VT-ers: ask for suggestions on the forums.
I always use either www.booking.com
(mostly booking.com) and have never been disappointed.
Check public transport access
from hotels to and from the airport (and the major sights). Travelling by bus and train is quite usual in Europe, and much cheaper than using taxis. Cars are a major hassle in most European cities and large towns; hiring one simply isn't necessary. Trains, trams and buses are safe and reasonably-priced. Even people who have their own cars often use public transport in Europe. It is the norm and is not just for people who are too poor to have their own car.
Check hotel reviews before booking, both on VT and by googling the hotel name and location plus 'reviews'. Ignore all reviews which are damning or over-enthusiastic: judge from the most common reaction to the hotel.
5. If you want to stay in more than one place you need to explore transport connections
before you book further accommodation.
Trains are usually easiest and fastest, safe and comfortable. You don't need to travel first-class (unless you want to), and in most cases you do not need to book your tickets in advance.
Ticket machines in many countries have English language options and stations/platforms are well-signed.
The German railway site Bahn.de
has times and details for almost all European trains, in English. For fares other than for and from Germany you can google the country name plus 'railway'. All official European railway websites have English pages and the vast majority give fares as well as times and details. If they do not give fares you can be certain that costs are very reasonable indeed.
Some European railway companies offer good advance online discount fares for some routes, dates and departure times (Germany, Italy, Austria for example). It is well worth taking advantage of these as long as you are certain that you'll want to catch that particular train on that particular day. Always try to book your tickets using the official country railway website. Avoid using ticketing agencies such as Raileurope if at all possible. They do not list all departures, do not offer the cheaper advance online fares which are available in many countries and charge admin fees.
There are also long-distance buses which are almost always cheaper than trains but almost always slower. Eurolines
is the portal to most European long-distance buses.
6. Tell your bank
that you will be abroad, where and when, otherwise your card may be stopped (an embarrassing hassle).
If possible, take more than one card
, just in case. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted, but be aware that chip & PIN technology is the norm in European countries. There may be times (e.g. ticket machines) when you won't be able to use a card which does not have a chip and PIN. You'll have to go to the ticket office instead, so allow time for that (there may be queues).Make sure that friends and relatives know where you can be contacted in an emergency
7. Take with you copies of all important documents
: several copies of your passport, airline ticket information, hotel booking confirmation and so on. For extra reassurance you can scan and email copies to yourself.
8. Unless you are an EU citizen, make sure you have good health insurance
to cover medical expenses. If you need a Schengen visa that type of insurance is a requirement of the visa.Even EU citizens..who can use their EHIC card to get free treatment, or claim back the money they have paid (this varies country by country) need to consider the possible costs of repatriation in case of illness or accident. Flying with a broken leg, for example, means you may have to pay for two extra seats and the cost of flying you back with a nurse or, god forbid, repatriating your body can be enormous...and financially crippling for your relatives. Travel health insurance will cover those costs but the reciprocal health agreements in place for EU citizens will NOT.
You might also want travel insurance to cover cancellations, delays, theft or loss of valuables.
9. Take the usual precautions against pickpocketing and opportunistic theft that you would take in any large town or city, anywhere.
Keep valuables safely distributed around your person (leave most in the hotel safe if possible)
Stay alert, especially in crowded areas and when using ATMs.
Don't flash cash or valuables, and be aware of who is near you when using an ATM.
Avoid dimly-lit or deserted areas after dark.
Do not get into conversation with hawkers, touts, beggars etc. Don't make eye-contact, keep walking and say 'No thank you' firmly.
Watch your drink in bars.
Don't leave your bag hanging over a chair (put it on the floor with the strap wrapped round your leg) and carry it with the strap across your body. In crowds, carry your bag in your arms.
Waist-pouches under your clothes for cash, cards and papers are useful and reassuring. Neck pouches are not such a good idea; they are almost always visible and far too tempting a target.
Don't leave your phone visible on a cafe/bar table.
Trust your instincts: if you feel uncomfortable somewhere, leave. Walk out or walk in the opposite direction. Don't let 'courteous' behaviour get in the way of your safety. If you need to speak loudly or sharply to someone (or even swear at them), do so. If someone is hassling you, make a fuss loud enough to draw the attention of other people. People will always help wherever they can, and no wrongdoer wants attention.
Europe is a perfectly safe place to explore for a single female if you just use normal common sense.
10. Many (and most younger) Europeans speak at least a little English and many are fluent, especially in visitor-popular places. But it's still a good idea to take a small phrasebook/dictionary with you, if only for signs and menus.
Try to learn some basics such as 'please', 'thank you', 'sorry', how much' etc. It's courteous to use the relevant language and it will make you feel more confident. Knowing some numbers is also useful.
But don't worry about not speaking the language: smiles and gestures go a long way!
11. Worried about eating out alone? Take a book with you, play with your phone or keep a travel journal. Reading or writing while you eat makes it clear you are not there for any other reason and keeps unwanted attention at bay.
Eating in caf?s, bars, pubs and fast-food places such as pizzeria can feel more comfortable for a single woman than formal restaurants.
12. If you are approached by people offering to be your guide, or by hawkers and street-peddlers, just say 'No, thank you' firmly and keep walking. If you really want a guide, ask for recommendations at the local Tourist Office or your hotel.
'Distraction' is a common method used by pickpockets and petty thieves all over the world. So if someone e..g. shows you a ring they have just 'found', or says you have bird muck on your coat and 'helpfully' offers to wipe it off, or tries to tie a bracelet around your wrist.......just ignore and keep walking, even if it feels rude. Chances are it's a distraction ploy.
13. What essentials should you take?
You can buy over-the-counter medications easily everywhere but it's a good idea to take a supply of you what you normally use for headaches, stomach upsets and so on (be aware that codeine is illegal in Greece).
Same with toiletries. You'll find them everywhere, but you may want to take your own brand of suncream, shampoos etc (remember liquid restrictions on flights).
For washing clothes, use travel wash, ordinary soap, shampoo or shower gel. Let clothes drip-dry in the bathroom overnight (a few plastic pegs are useful for this)...if they are still damp in the morning just hang them up in the wardrobe to finish drying during the day. There are also laundrettes (laundromats), laundries and dry-cleaners, of course (but I've never needed to use them anywhere).
Carrying a supply of tissues and/or wet wipes is always a good idea. Not all public toilets are fully equipped and public toilets themselves can be quite scarce in some European countries. If you are desperate and can't find a public toilet, cafes and bars usually have them...but you should buy something, of course, if only a coffee. Mcdonalds is excluded from this comment: as far as I'm concerned you can feel free to use the toilets in any McD branch without buying anything. Their toilets are usually pretty clean too.
You will probably need an adaptor for electrical items. Sockets in most European countries have two round pins but the UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus use 3 square pins. Switzerland uses two thin pins. If you're visiting Switzerland you'll need a 'worldwide' adaptor or a special Swiss adaptor (ask in the hotel if you're stuck...they may well have one to lend you).
If you don't come from a European country then do check the voltage for the countries you are visiting. Many devices are now dual-voltage (there will be a label on them somewhere to tell you) but if you are from a country which uses a lower voltage you may need to carry a transformer for some heat-producing electrical items (e.g. hairdryers). To be honest, it may not be worthwhile lugging their weight around. Most hotels have a hairdryer available and, if you're really desperate, they (and curling tongs, kettles etc) can be bought quite cheaply in most places.
One last thing: remember that people, wherever they live, are just people. Most are simply ordinary folk doing their best. There really is no need to be over-concerned about personal safety. Europe is a safe place to be.
Act with common sense and you are no more likely to come to harm in Europe than in your everyday life. Do take each and every internet horror story with a very large pinch of salt.
When you get back home make your VT pages??.and I guarantee you will soon be planning your next solo trip!
For me, the only real downside to travelling solo is.....
....always having to ask strangers to take your photo!
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| Comments for leics about World|
|rosata Mon Aug 20, 2012 23:03 UTC|
Looking forward to meeting you in Halifax :)
|goodfish Sun Aug 19, 2012 22:10 UTC|
Oh god. Zillions of in-laws and butter-on-a-stick. Welcome to Iowa. Most of us would never go near that stuff, BTW. Not the in-laws - the fried butter, I mean. Ewwww. A good trip to the Windy City tomorrow: you might enjoy the Field Museum? Good luck finding a place to puff. We found a far corner on the rooftop bar at Rock Bottom Brewery (1 W Grand Ave, between State St & Dearborn St) where it was allowed if you get desperate. :)
|anilpradhanshillong Sun Aug 19, 2012 06:19 UTC|
Doesn't mean you have to maintain radio silence! Enjoy the Big Apple!
|HORSCHECK Sat Aug 18, 2012 19:00 UTC|
J, thanks a lot for the belated birthday greetings. Better late than never.