Trip Coach: July 24, 2007
Beth Whitman, author of 'Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo,' answered your questions on solo travel.
Beth Whitman: Well, a bargain is really subjective. You and I might have very different ideas about what makes a good deal. Having said that, no matter what your budget is (or where you're going), you'll want to travel during the shoulder season (neither the high nor the low season) to get the best deal with the best weather.
I'd recommend narrowing down which location you're most interested in visiting, and then doing some research into when the shoulder season is. Hotel rates and airfares will definitely be lower during this time.
Once you've picked out a couple of resorts that you are interested in, bargain bargain bargain. Don't be afraid to ask for a lower rate or that free meals or an organized tour be added at no cost. You may even want to reveal that one resort is offering you a better deal than another and let the haggling begin.
Waltham, Mass.: I am a solo 60-year-young woman who will be traveling to Barcelona, Sicily and the Amalfi coast this September. I have read the numerous websites on how to protect yourself and your belongings from potential thieves and scam artists. Once in Spain and Italy, my main mode of travel will be the local train and bus systems. Am I asking for trouble being a solo female wanting to get to know and explore Italy, the country, and not just see the main tourist havens so many people trudge through? My grandparents were born in Sicily and I want to get to know the people and their island. Any suggestions on how I can explore by myself and still stay safe?
Beth Whitman: Hi, Lynne. Just because you're a solo woman traveling on her own, you're definitely not "asking for trouble" but you'll want to take some extra precautions.
Thieves are generally opportunistic and are looking for a quick steal. Travel with a cable lock to secure your bags to your seat/sleeper on the trains. Also, lock the zippers together of your bags so that no one can easily open them.
I carry my passport, the majority of my cash as well as my credit cards in a neck pouch (though I think I'm going to travel with a leg pouch next time) tucked under my clothes. I then carry a change purse with a small amount of local currency and perhaps a $20 bill (U.S). If I am robbed, I can quickly hand this over to a thief and not feel like I've been totally swindled.
Always stay on guard and never let go of your belongings. It's that few seconds of inattentiveness when your bag(s) could get snatched.
Finally, be aware that gypsies and young children are often the culprits of thievery in some European countries, not men with knives. A nice middle-aged woman with a baby could rip you off by reaching into your pockets and grabbing your cash simply because you are not aware of her intentions.
Burlington, Vt.: Is it safe for a woman to visit Chile alone? Can you recommend any tour operators to visit the Atacama desert?
Beth Whitman: Under the right circumstances, I believe it's safe for a woman to visit any place on her own. I would never suggest that a person (male or female) not go to a place that is high on their wish list. Despite the warnings from the U.S. government, few places are life threatening. Perhaps not always easy, but rarely dangerous.
Get yourself educated about Chile (if you're not already) and prepare yourself for the machismo, politics and any other issues you feel you might encounter. Talk with others who have just returned from there and read lots of magazines or online articles about the current state of affairs.
I actually don't have any recommendations for tour operators for the Atacama Desert, but an online search and some research in online travel forums will, I'm sure, reveal some great options.
On the June 26th Trip Coach, Wayne Bernhardson answered questions with regards to Chile. You might be able to find some additional information there.
Lake in the Hills, Ill.: I will be going to Paris on my own between Christmas and New Year's. I am very excited as this is my first visit to Paris, but as a woman (38-years-old) traveling alone, I am also a bit anxious. During the day I am quite comfortable wandering and exploring at my own pace; however in the evenings my danger senses perk up and I get nervous going out anywhere on my own. I feel that I am missing out on a lot of the travel experience because of this my fear. Do you have any tips on how I might overcome this? And if you have been to Paris, do you have any suggestions for "safe" evening attractions?