Women Travelers: 2007
Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in Europe? What are some of the challenges you've faced and how have you dealt with them? Are there places women should not travel alone? How do you stay safe?
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
International Women's Day 2008 in London
Are there any Chicago area women heading to London in celebration of IWD in March of 2008? Want to go as a group? Let's start making plans.
IL USA Mon 12/24/2007
SW travel to Europe.
Hello. December 2006 I travel to Italy for 2 glorious weeks.Did not have problems in Rome,Florence,or Naples. April/2007birthday- 12 days in Paris,so many things to see... November/2007, 14 days in Spain- Madrid & Granada. I do not speak Italian,French or Spanish. Prepare yourself to travel (Rick's books very helpful+++)use the computer to get all the information from the web pages,print maps,make a plan and go............... IT IS A WONDERFUL EXP.to be able to see things you learn about them in schools. I do travel by myself (54)and can not wait for the next adventure. Greece,Turkey, maybe.
ma USA Sun 12/16/2007
Traveling solo in Italy
I will never go to Italy alone again! I was instantly homesick, and many people tried to scam me because they thought I was an easy target as soon as they heard me speak with a US accent in my very elementary Italian. However, I never felt unsafe and I'm not a paranoid person anyway. No one EVER tried to pickpocket me, but then I carried a Ferragamo handbag very tightly under my arm and it was NOT easy to open that way. I also look Italian and people did not know I was American until I opened my mouth. So maybe I was lucky. I ran into all sorts of people who were very trustworthy. But at the end of the day, I like traveling with other people better and prefer not to go on another trip like this alone. I am very cool about letting my friends do their thing if they need to break away as sometimes I need my space. But I prefer company and someone with whom I can share the experiences. I made new acquaintances and unfortunately, one of them a Dutch woman was ripped off of her backpack and went through major hassles to get her passport, money etc. Fortunately, we were all there for a class and other people pitched in to help her out.
All in all, I think as a woman it pays to be cautious. We can get ripped off or assaulted here in the US just as easily. One has to be careful and not act vulnerable. Be strong and confident and people won't mess with you. And it pays to always be aware of your surroundings. Plus, I don't like to travel in the high season, I hate crowds and it is much easier to stay on top of things when there are less people around.
Reston, VA USA Wed 11/28/2007
Women traveling alone
I traveled around Europe for 2 full months on a Eurarail pass when I was 25 years old. Being a single young woman I felt really safe everywhere in western Europe. I went to London, Munich, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxenburg city, Zurich, Bern, Venice, Verona, Milan, Nice, Paris, Cane, and Dublin. I felt safe the entire time and I would recommend that every woman travel alone at least once in her lifetime. I learned so much about myself, traveling, and about life while on this journey. I can not wait to do it again soon.
Lynnwood, wa USA Tue 11/27/2007
Iceland, Faroe Islands
Any other travelers traveled on Iceland's ring road, especially to eastern Iceland, and taken the Norrona ship from Seydisfjordur to Torshavn in the Faroe Islands? The bus from Reykjavik to Seydisfjordur -- it takes a while, so would like to stop along the way for sightseeing anyway, and see things in east Iceland too. Would like to hear from any others traveling alone and their experiences in Iceland, and, the Faroes. It seems like it would be safe to travel there alone. Thanks!
Wooster, OH USA Thu 11/15/2007
Go for it Travelgirl!
Travelgirl, I don't think you are too young to travel by yourself.. providing you are comfortable doing stuff by yourself. For instance, you won't have an extra pair of eyes or hands to help you, you will need to haul your own stuff, etc. and you don't get to split any cost or meals. On the plus side you set your own time and rules.
USA Wed 10/31/2007
FEMALE SOLO TRAVEL
I just turned 18 and I'm intending to backpack solo around Portugal (Porto, Lisboa & Lagos) and Spain (Seville, maybe Madrid and Barcelona). Is it a good idea, is it generally safe especially for young girls like myself traveling alone??
editors note: All questions must be posted to Travelers Helpline
USA Tue 10/30/2007
I second the DivaCup. I've had mine for about 4 years and will not go back. Before the Divacup, I was one of those women who always needed "backup" even with a super tampon. I have *never* had a leak with the Divacup. I can wear it up to 24hours if necessary without problems. It might take a month or two to get used to, but it's so worth it.
LA, CA USA Fri 10/19/2007
I was going to post this over at the packing light thread, but due to the risk of offending any guys "ooked out" by period talk, I'm bringing it over here.
My #1 absolute travel necessity is a Divacup. I pack lighter than light (one carry-on and a backpack for 14 weeks!) and this little silicone cup saves me more stress than I can really describe--no packing tampons, no hunting for them in foreign language drugstores, and no opportunity for leakage in my underwear. Doing a search for Divacup will show you more about how it works, but basically it's a funnel shaped cup made of medical grade silicone that you place when your period starts, remove, empty and rinse as needed, usually about every 12 hours, then reinsert. Because the cup forms a seal in your cervix, you don't have the leakage problems of tampons or the odor problems of pads. It's absolutely sterile (and possibly safer for your reproductive tracts than chlorine-bleached tampons) and reusable indefinitely. Even on my heaviest days I never have to change it more than once in the morning and once at night...and off I am wandering the world without hunting desperately for bathrooms.
It did take a couple cycles for me to get used to it, but now I'll never switch back and use this baby every single period. It's flexible, easy to insert (which I didn't expect since I'm very small) and I never have those awful "oooh I guessed the day wrong and now I have to pull out a dry tampon, yeeouch!" moments: since the cup is silicone it can't absorb anything, and therefore doesn't leave you feeling dried out.
But anyways, it wins in the light packing department (smaller than a 3 oz. bottle!), in the convenience department, and is probably better for the planet as well when you consider the amount of sanitary products that are no longer ending up in the sewage/landfills. Take a look at some sources online which explain how it works, but take it from me: it's safe, super-easy, non-toxic, and a joy to travel with. Oh and by the way, mine was $20 online, not to mention the lifetime of savings I'll recoup from not buying other sanitary products every month.
Washington , DC USA Wed 10/10/2007
My mom and I have taken three trips to Europe-2005-France & Italy, 2006-Germany, Austria, & Switzerland, 2007-England, Scotland, & Wales. We have felt very safe even in large cities. The only exception is Italy. We were robbed at the Milan train station. We keep our passports on our bodies at all times and just stay alert. With just some commom sense, traveling in Europe is not a problem. I've felt safer there than trying to go to a movie in the Dallas area. Obviously, you keep your eyes on your luggage at all times. Property theft is the only thing I have worried about, I have never felt physically unsafe.
Athens, TX USA Fri 10/05/2007
Getting a Cell Phone
Just got back from London. In London I popped into a cell phone company and got a new one for 20 pounds. They made me add 20 pounds worth of airtime, so technically its 40 pounds total. So just get it when you get there. The pay as you go is so easy to get... and not expensive either! My average call was about 3p a minute and I never had a dropped call!
USA Tue 10/02/2007
I just got back from Europe and I did it all by myself (ok, I had help with Rick Steves books). What a blast! I landed in Rome, then to Austria, Germany, Paris, Dublin, London, Switzerland and home. I kept a travel blog for my friends and family back home. If you are trying to decide whether or not to go... well read by blog http://travelingwithtricia.blogspot.com/
PS) It's too bad the other lady decided to leave. Theft happened to my family in their USA homes... it's not just in Italy. In fact my earings were taken here in the good o' USA at a spa. I traveled with a zipped purse in Europe (twice) and India, and I was fine. Just travel ! It's worth it !
Happy Travels ! Tricia =)
Santa Rosa Beach, FL USA Sun 09/30/2007
Email is safe! Don't be so paranoid
Rose, emailing your information is just as safe as keeping a piece of paper in your bag (which can get stolen as well).
Sure people hack emails, but people also can break into your room (ie: a dishonest maid) and take stuff.
I've emailed a scanned copy of my passport and my cards. If need be, I can also go directly to the bank site and get my bank information online. I trust my email more than I would a piece of paper in my hand luggage or purse.
USA Thu 09/20/2007
Theft is rampant in every corner of the world. You can't seem to escape it. It isn't likely to change anytime soon so we must change our behaviours instead. Reading Jacqui's post troubled me greatly. I'm sorry to hear that her experience in Italy has caused her to not want to return to such an interesting and exciting part of the world. ALWAYS wear a moneybelt. Rick is very pro-moneybelt and for good reason!
YYZ, CANCAN Mon 09/10/2007
I had an experience on Saturday Sept Ist that I thought should be told. I arrived in Italy at Milan/Malpensa @ 2pm and took the bus to the Central Station in Milan, I got robbed while in the station after being in Italy a little over an hour! My wallet and camera were stolen out of my ZIPPED purse, I lost 4 credit cards 250 euros cash along with $60. american money, my driver's license and phone card. The American embassy was closed-all the banks in the US were closed due to Labor Day and it seems that all the Western Union's in Milan are not Western Union anymore! It took me 2 days to get some cash and change my plane ticket so I could get back home. Satying was not an option because I couldn't get a vredit card replaced and couldn't rent a car. VERY frustrating, a horrible experience! Luckily I met a nice young lady and she helped me file a police report and let me stay with her and her Mother 2 nights until I was able to get a flight. She even drove me to the airport at 3am for a 6:15 flight. No more Italy for me! I'll stick to France!
Santa Rosa, Ca USA Fri 09/07/2007
Keep a copy of important documents and Phone numbers...don't use e-mail for this
If you read the posting below, to email yourself copies of your important documents, please DO NOT do this, you will put yourself at great risk. The person who wrote the post had the right idea to have copies of all important info such as passport, credit card, bank info etc. But, DO NOT e-mail it to yourself. One, e-mail is NOT A SECURE means of transmitting information. Anyone has the ability to hack into an e-mail and read its content. So, if a hotel asks you to send your credit card number by e-mail ask to do it over the phone or send it in multiple e-mails. Someone would have to get into all the e-mails and piece it together...not impossible, but at least you make it more difficult to obtain your info. Next, internet cafe sites are public computers that if set up a certain way can track your passwords and such. So, it is ok to read personal e-mail, but not great for conducting business like transferring money from savings to checking. Keep a copy of your personal information in your hotel room safe if possible. Don't keep it in your purse with your wallet.
Milwaukee, WI USA Sun 09/02/2007
Anti theft shoulder purse
I purchsed this shoulder anti theft purse at Mori Luggage the other day. It is light weight. I loved the features it offered and am bringing it to London with me. I am wearing it instead of my back pack to the museums and here is why. It will go over my head and across my hips.
Last year when I went to Paris at Xmas I went to the museums with my backpack on. Stupid on my part because I had to unlock all my locks on it and dump all my change out etc and take off my money belt. Not this year. I felt all thumbs.
se, GA USA Sat 08/18/2007
Rail Transportation in Italy
Just a caveat for those of you using EuroStar Italia if you're carrying your own luggage. If you want to get back to Rome from Naples, you might reconsider the Naples Campi Flegrei embarkation trains as there is no elevator or escalator and in order to get to Track 4 (to Rome) you have to carry your bags down flights of stairs, cross under the tracks, and carry them up serious flights of stairs. If this is not an issue for you then the Campi Flegrei stop won't be either, but if it is, you might consider booking a train directly from Naples Centrale to Rome.
Pauline, SC USA Mon 07/23/2007
Just be aware and not paranoid
Crocs has made sandals and flipflops which are supposed to be slip proof. I'm going to give it a try in September.
As a traveling petite woman, I never use those money belts. I travel as I do here in the states, with a mini backpack. I don't load up my wallet with a ton of money, just what I need for a day say $50 for a day's food plus an ATM card.
Being said that, I also am not naive to think my American way is best. If I am in a crowd, I move my bag in front of me. My bag is zipped and I am always under the impression that someone is behind me.
Have a good time, and keep a copy of your cards, passport, etc. online. I emailed a copy of my important informatoin to my yahoo account. If lost or stolen I can retrieve it at any internet cafe
USA Fri 07/13/2007
Speaking of flip-flops...
If you're traveling to Athens, Greece, don't wear flip-flops because of the slippery cobblestone and going up and down stairs especially while visiting the Acropolis. Trust me... I had to learn the hard way. I picked the wrong day to wear flip-flops.
London, UK Sun 07/01/2007
I wear a traveler's vest with multiple pockets with zippered or velcro-closings. I usually wear a money belt for passport and credit card. The pockets in my vest hold daily money and other important things. The only problem is the vest can be too warm sometimes.
Napa, CA USA Wed 06/27/2007
About money pouches -- I've used the money belt, but I've never actually carried my money in it. I keep my passport, plane ticket, credit card, traveler's checks, MAC card, and driver's license in it, unless I'm actually planning to use one of these. If I've taken out hundreds of dollars/euros worth, I may keep some of it in there, but generally I keep reasonable amounts of money in my purse. That way I'm not always reaching into the bag (it makes me uneasy for anyone to notice I have one), but my essential things are safe. After all, I'd be sad if I lost $200 in cash -- but I'd be devastated (or worse!!) if my passport had gone missing in Russia!
That said, I've never had a pickpocket take anything. And I did forget, after getting in line to enter a club, that they might just want to know that I was 21! After realizing all my ID items were in my money belt under my "little black dress", I stepped out of line quickly and went to a restroom!
Newark, USA Sat 06/16/2007
We are never afraid of crowds because of pickpockets. Each opening of our day back packs and luggage are locked.
Our money, passports and credit cards are in our neck pouches.
Here are some links that perhaps will make you feel safer:
Antioch, CA USA Fri 06/15/2007
Is it good to stay in a crowd even though crowds can be known for pickpocketers?
USA Sat 06/09/2007
Neck worn Money belt
I traveled with my Husband to Italy March 2006, to visit our son who was in the USN and stationed in Naples. It was wonderful. One thing that he told us about handling Euros while traveling was, if you are pulling out your "day" money, always look around to see who is watching you and make eye contact. The one time I did not do this while in a hurry to board a public bus, I was pick-pocketed. Unlike american dollars, Euros change color and size for each amount, a pickpocket can see what you are handling and know what amount you are carrying. I had a small bag that I carried my glasses, lipgloss and Day money about 70-100 Euros. Which was accessed while holding on for the bus ride. My important cards, passport and such were in a money belt around my neck. I found that if I wore scarves, as all Italians do, this would cover the strap and I could use them to cover my head, if I needed to, when entering a church. It also helped screen access to the money belt. I did not let this hamper my trip and my son got to say, "I told you so...!"
Monterey, CA USA Mon 05/21/2007
I travel mostly in the summer, so this won't help everyone, as far as hiding moneybelts (although in colder weather a jacket or sweater will cover your lumpier waistline!). I have three black dresses I always take. One is very old, from Eddie Bauer and of a lightweight jersey material, but not clingy, it's sleeveless and it comes to about mid-shin. With sandals and a scarf it looks very chic (you'd have to be very, very close to me to see that it's bascially like a very old t-shirt!). I have a short sleeved version that is just about knee-length, and another sleeveless one that's a little slinkier fabric (nice for evening)and also knee-length. You cannot see the moneybelt at the waistline, since none of them are tightly fitted, and it would be impossible for a "pickpocket" to access it without me knowing!!! I really like the first two I described on traveling days- they are more comfortable than capris or even a skirt and I feel dressier. The bulk of the contents of the moneybelt should sit in the hollow of your lower back, so it really doesn't make your stomach look bulging if you position it that way. I only wear an old watch and very simple earrings.
USA Sun 05/20/2007
Elizabeth, I have been to several major European cities, and I like to dress fashionably -- and I always carry my valuables with me in a moneybelt or neck pouch. I put around 80 Euros in a small wallet in my purse for the day's spending. If I plan to use a credit card, I find a way to discretely take it out of my neck pouch, at the table, in a restroom, or just in a corner. You don't have to make a big show of it, but I think it is better to be safe than sorry. I have never been pickpocketed but I can't imagine anything more of a hassle than to lose my credit card, passport or airline ticket while in Europe.
San Francisco, CA USA Sat 05/19/2007
"I would use big bills to get the transaction overwith quickly, and employees don't like it when you do that (I got a couple of nasty comments - one lady scowled and muttered "typical American" when I did this). "
Yeah but I'll bet the twit took your money didn't she???? They should blame their pickpockets for that situation when americans and others come to their country and add to their economy by spending money.
USA Fri 05/18/2007
Female solo travelers
I am 27, single and very excited about my solo trip to Paris in March 2008. I found an apartment to rent for two weeks, which I prefer since I don't want anyone having regular access except me. I don't have to worry about hiding money in the bedpost, etc.
Like the others have said, I prefer to travel alone. I've travelled with other people many times, and while it has it's perks, my favorite parts were when I could break loose and do my own thing. I'm friendly, so I always meet people. I've got friends all over the world I've met while travelling.
I am very thankful to celebrate my youth and independence by taking this trip. Life is good.
Dallas, Texas USA Fri 05/18/2007
Money belts and neck pouches
Money belts and neck pouches are not something you drag out while in public. You would be broadcasting to all....here is where my big money and valuables are stashed. Before we leave the hotel we take out only enough to use for that day. If we need more we go into a rest room and take our more. When we pull from the ATMs then asap go into a rest room and stash it. We take out only what we can afford to be stolen.
CA USA Fri 05/18/2007
Fashion and Security - Do They Mix?
On my first trip to Europe, I wore a money belt under my clothing and didn't care for it one bit. First of all, the extra bulk made my waistline look lumpy and unnatural. Secondly, I found myself embarrassed to get my money out at the counter or restaurant because I had to dip down into my waist to pull money out. Getting correct change together turned into a virtual peep show, so I would use big bills to get the transaction overwith quickly, and employees don't like it when you do that (I got a couple of nasty comments - one lady scowled and muttered "typical American" when I did this). I also felt that wearing one put up an immediate barrier to cultural trust and I was spotted as a tacky, untrusting American at every turn. I didn't use one on the next three trips and managed just fine, though I'm still always a little worried about getting pick pocketed. Any advice on discreetly but tastefully hiding money without putting on a strip show every time the pay point comes into play?
Pacifica, CA USA Wed 05/16/2007
Make yourself safe
Most any place can be safe if you make it so. Keep you money and ID separate in a zipped pocket or inside your clothes. Pickpockets are everywhere - pay attention. Where practical shoes, be aware of your surroundings. If you feel uncomfortable in a place or situation - listen to your instincts and leave or get to a group of people. Don't drink when traveling alone, it makes you much less aware and by definition less safe. Ask at the hotel about different neighborhoods or areas and how safe they are. In certain areas where that are known for higher crime rates, consider tours. Have copies of all of your documents, credit cards etc... and numbers to call and cancel. Late at night skip walking or public transport and just take a cab.
Clarkston, MI USA Mon 04/30/2007
I am also traveling to Florence in April. I will be brining 2 pairs of shoes...tennis shoes and sandels/flip-flops. Now they are sturdy leather flip-flops, not cheapo ones, but flip-flops all the same. In my opinion nothing is more comfortable. Although you do want to be sure and wear them around ALOT before your trip to be sure they are broken-in and aren't going to hurt your feat.
Stockton, Ca USA Mon 03/19/2007
women travelling alone
I think it depends on where you want to travel. I travelled alone to Florence in September and I had a wonderful time! People always talk about eating alone. In Europe, its not such a problem, though I did get bored. However, I met people at almost every meal! Fellow travellers are always dying to strike up conversations. I stayed safe by not staying out too late and by staying mainly in well populated areas. I also did a lot of research on where to stay and chose a nicer hotel/area then I would've had I had a companion, just for my own peace of mind. Loneliness can be beaten by choosing a couple of 1 day tours. I went on a winery tour/cooking class with accidentaltourist.com which I highly reccomend. You should go for it!
Richmond, VA USA Tue 03/06/2007
How-To for Evenings Alone in Spain
For my 50th, I am traveling solo to Madrid, Barcelona and Seville in May. Any tips for how to spend the evenings? It is intimidating to me to go to a tapas bar or restaurant alone, so can anyone recommend a tapas tour or other means of being comfortable in a tapas bar? Same for flamenco shows. If any other kindred spirits will be in those cities 5/4-5/10/07, let me know!!
orinda, CA USA Sun 02/25/2007
Pamper Yourself Occasionally on a Trip
I am a 64 year old woman and I have traveled alone or with other women for 23 years safely in all parts of Europe, and every year to Italy and have never had any problem, but in Naples and south of Naples, I think it's wise to be careful.
If you want to see Pompeii and Herculaneum and Paestum on your own, you certainly can go alone, and your best bet as Rick Steves says, is not to stay in Naples but to go to Sorrento, which is perfectly safe and friendly. I'd go during the main tourist season, rather than the off seasons, so that the facilities at Pompeii will all be open and walking down thru Ercolano the city to the ruins is not spooky.
Getting to Sorrento is the problem! After trying every means of transportation to Sorrento known to man in the past, including the fast boat and the Circumvesuviana train, and two absolutely hair raising taxi rides from Naples, one of which drove (believe it or not) ON the yellow line of that narrow winding two lane mountain road to Sorrento I said the heck with this, I'm too old for this stuff, and this past March I arranged for a driver, Renato Cuomo, whom I had heard great things about, and he made the difference to me in the last trip. I wanted to climb Vesuvius this time (March of 2006) without fighting with the vans at Ercolano which stop at the bars on the way back. I did. I wanted to see Cumae and Solfatara and on the way he recommended Bacoli, which I had never heard of which was just magic. I am interested in Roman ruins, and it has the incredible Piscine Mirabile, which I had never heard of, which is jaw dropping. The gate is locked and the key held by an elderly gatekeeper down the street whose grandfather before her had been in charge. If you like Roman ruins you will find it unbelievable (and it has about a million iron stairs to climb). . Bacoli also has one street which is like being plunged back to the '40's Italy and is just a magic place.
The Archeobus in Naples is difficult to find, it's just getting started, apparently, difficult to know if it's running on the day you're there, and if you only have a day and want to see Baia and Cumae and Pozzuoli, I recommend for safety and for convenience, a driver.
When you travel on your own you need to be alert 24/7 all the time and I think you are entitled to reward yourself one day of the week, and take a day trip and as Greyhound says leave the driving to us. It's amazing how invigorating it is, whether it's a day trip from Paris to the Normandy Beaches, or the Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich, or one of the day trips out of Rome, such as to Tivoli and to Hadrian's Villa, or a trip of your own direction with a driver, these trips often provide a nice oasis in a long trip. All are easily arranged online.
I also like to splurge one night for a "nice" hotel stay on a trip, the Settimo Cielo that's already recommended in Rick Steve's book in Sorrento has the most incredible views imaginable and is a great place to stay. The Santa Anna in Rome is not a splurge, but seems like one, it's in the Vatican area.
Not all women travelers are 20 years old, not all of us are Olympic athletes, but we all want to feel safe and enjoy ourselves, and there's no reason we should not. I think that if you pamper yourself on a trip occasionally, especially when you most need it, you tend to enjoy the whole trip a lot more and you can go on your own enjoyably.
Pauline, SC USA Sat 01/20/2007