Thursday, September 2, 2010

Travel Tips For Women Who Travel Alone

Travel tips for single women, travel tips for women traveling alone
Taking a selfie, before it coo, at Parc de la Cuitadella during a solo trip to Barcelona in 2008

The New York Times focused on the rise of solo travel recently and how the industry is reacting to it. People who are afraid of traveling alone befuddle me.  By virtue of having to live and work all over the world for the sake of my real job, I've never had a fear of going anywhere or doing anything by myself.

A girlfriend of mine thinks I'm crazy but it's a matter of not wanting to wait.  I don't have the luxury of a flexible schedule so when I have the free time, I jump on a plane.  I don't want to wait for a friend or a boyfriend to go with me.  By most accounts, my single girls who won't go anywhere alone want a boyfriend or husband to take them.  If I'd waited for that, I would have never left Dallas!

Antoni Gaudi, Solo Travel
La Perdera, Barcelona

The great thing about going it alone is that you can do absolutely whatever you want.  Want to sleep till noon and have a theme-park dinner at 10pm in the Tivoli Gardens?  No problem.  Plan to spend all day on the Mediterranean Sea?  You can.  Want to sit at that cafe right off the Seine River and people watch in Paris for two hours, you can and no one will complain.  There is no one to tell you can't.  It's the ultimate freedom.

You meet the most fascinating people.  I had dinner with the actual Pep, of Barcelona's famed Cal Pep restaurant one night.  He was busy but spent time with during dinner at his magnificent restaurant explaining the dishes in broken English.    

 From Balcony at Les Ombres
I've lived in Guam, vacationed in Tel Aviv, run a half marathon in Jerusalem and jetted to Barcelona and Paris all solo, not to mention countless solo sojourns for work.  I would do it time and again but there are some definite things a single chick on the go should do to make sure she's around to do it again.

Keep It Close and Closed
When strolling solo through Barcelona's Gothic Quarter or gawking at the Eiffel Tower, you'll be alone in a sea of people.  First and foremost, keep your purse closed and tucked securely under your arm.  I don't bring a big backpack, for many reasons, but for the purposes of being safe it's impractical.  A pickpocket or thief can grab something out of one of those zipper pockets even if it's securely closed with safety pin or other attachment.  I carry a nice mid-size bag, nothing too big or too small, and keep it closed at all times. Barrington Gifts Stadium Crossbody bag or GiGi New York's Madison Crossbody are great for touring a city.

Don't Carry Your Entire Wallet 
Tallin, Estonia
I have a little cigarette holder and while I have never smoked, it's the perfect credit card and cash holder.  I always bring that along with me when out and about.  I fill it with one credit card (not that ATM card, keep that separate), a copy of my passport and some local currency.  I usually don't exchange currency.  I have an international ATM card that charges significantly less fees and commissions when changing money so I generally just get local currency through an ATM.  That is a separate trip I will make in the morning while I am out getting coffee or breakfast.  With your mini-wallet,  if you do have the unfortunate luck of it getting lifted, at least not everything is gone.  Carry just one card and some cash for the day. 

Don't Bling It

This is a tough one for me.  One of the few things in the world I love as much as traveling is jewelry.  Sue me.....I have jewelers in my family.  But when overseas or traveling solo, I wear the less expensive goods.  I have a great big shell ring, some silver pieces and beaded necklaces that I bring.  None of the good stones or really nice watches.  With a lot of sparkles on your hands or ears, you will stick out like a sore thumb and in a bad way.  You will attract attention of potential pickpockets, gypsies or others who might think you a good candidate to rob, attack or do something even worse.  Don't do it.  It's just not worth it.

RELATED: Chic travel jewelry.

Old City, Jerusalem, Israel
Old City, Jerusalem

Dress Appropriately
I learned this the hard way.  I was walked through Jerusalem's Old City and got terribly lost.  I was wearing an outfit that, honestly, was pretty conservative for me: a long-sleeved knit top, denim skirt and closed-toe shoes.  Having my legs exposed as I was unknowingly walking towards the Muslim Quarter was the mistake of a lifetime.  I had men sneering at me and hurling words I didn't understand towards me.  Finally, it took a sweet, little 12-year old to clue me in. 

"You must stop," he said.

"I'm just trying to get out of here," I replied.

"No," he responds.  "You are not Muslim.  That is the Muslim Quarter.  You are not allowed."

Light bulb moment.  Message understood.

Walking back to my hotel, I got more awful comments thrown my way by a variety of men.  It was really one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've ever had.  The rest of the trip, it was jeans and long-sleeved shirts.

Don't Let Them Know You're Solo
Part of the fun of traveling solo is that you meet a variety of people and end up chatting with some lovely folks.  Some, though, not so lovely.  Don't let them know you're alone.  If some inquiring mind asks you why you're eating alone, or hiking by yourself, just say you're visiting your dad or that your brother is back at the hotel.  My father actually lives in Israel and spent a few days of my time there with me.  He didn't have the stamina to run around with me all day, so I would be alone most of the time.  The "dad at the hotel line" worked quite a bit for me when dealing with those guys. 

What About You? 
Are you a solo traveler? Is there a place you're dying to visit by yourself? I would love to explore Rome solo. Have a question about visiting a city solo? Email me.