Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Welcome! Let's get to your questions on travel safety.
Fountain Valley, CA: I have a daughter that I need a passport for. Her father isn't around, nor can be found. I have 100% custody because he never contested, but there is no paperwork stating such, it just is. Therefore, how can I get her a passport if he can't/won't sign and there is no court order? -Trudy
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Dear Trudy, We're quite sure your signature will be enough, but all the rules and regulations are available at most local post offices, just check with your postmaster for the one closest to you. Best, Sheila and Peter.
Hong Kong, China: Hi, I have a planned trip to Hong Kong for May 18-28, 2006. It will be myself and another girl both 27 years old. We are concerned with safety. We'd like to include a side trip to Malaysia or Philippines. Our interest is getting both beach and city and exploring culture for Hong Kong and Malaysia. Any suggestion would be helpful like cheap airfare, best scuba local, hiking, city life, etc. Thank you!
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Boy, you really are waiting until the last minute to plan this jaunt! Seek bargain airfares via the Internet at sites such as expedia and travelocity, but know that many such tickets mandate NO changes. Guidebooks from Rough Guides and Lonely Planet offer specific destinations suggestions. Use common urban sense in Hong Kong, and you'll be as safe as you can be, in the countryside of Malaysia and the Phillippines you MUST do some homework first and learn aboout those regions where it is possible to encounter potentially dangerous circumstances. Check with the State Department (which you can do on line at State.gov). Best, Sheila and Peter
Lewiston, ID: I am going to Venice in October. Is there a safe place to stay that is reasonably priced? I will be in Venice for 4 days.
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Venice is realtively safe, but reasonably priced? Not by Lewiston standards. Best advice for you if money is a key concern: find a package tour before you leave. Best, Sheila and Peter
Raleigh, NC: My husband and I are in our 30's, and have 2-3 weeks to take a dream trip to India this August or September. We're definitely interested in seeing the Taj Mahal - what are the other "must-sees" you would recommend? We're very interested in natural beauty as well as cultural immersion. Also, we're not sure if independent travel would be either unsafe or too chaotic - what are some good budget-friendly but reliable tour operators? Thanks very much!
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Perhaps divide your trip between an organzied tour group for the must-see destinations followed by a second honeymoon-type period of the two of you meandering around the countryside. By doing the group tour first you'll have a good sense of your safety needs. To choose a good tour operator, pick a few you think are appealing and ask them for references from past customers. Best, Sheila and Peter
Honolulu, HI: How safe is the water in China and Hong Kong? Many guides indicate not to use hotel water even for brushing teeth. However, during our pre-departure briefing, our tour leader indicated this practice is safe, along with using ice cubes -- this is in 4- and 5-star hotels, if that makes a difference. We are confused by the conflicting guidance. What is safe, and what isn't?
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Hong Kong is First World. Don't worry about their water. But no matter what anyone says, as soon as you cross into what we used to call Red China, it should be bottled water only no matter what, including teeth brushing. Sure, that fancy hotel may have a purifier -- and maybe it's out of order the day you stay. Best, Sheila and Peter
Mesa, AZ: Going to the Czech Republic July 19th through August 3rd alone. Have never travelled outside the U.S. before but in this case I have a basic Czech vocabulary. What precautions should a women take in this country and what is the best way to bankroll this vacation besides cash? - Holly
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Take the same precautions you'd take in Chicago or New York, and that includes carrying no more cash than you can afford to loose. Your ATM will not only provide you money when you need it, but at a good exchange rate. Best, Sheila and Peter
Clearwater, FL: I would love to travel to Egypt in Jan. 07 but fear of safety is stopping me and my husband from making our plans. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks, Pat
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Very high profile terrorist attacks have occurred over the last few years in Egypt, but overall the country is remarkably safe and the people warm and inviting. Check with the state Department for their latest warnings, but remember, life is a risk . . . ! Best, Sheila and Peter
Cedar Rapids, IA: Is it safe for a woman to travel to Costa Rica alone, or should I go with a tour group?
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Why take off for an unknown location worrying about whether you should be alone? Why not join a group, test the neighborhoods, and then leave the group for your own jaunts knowing its their to rejoin when and if you wish. Best, Sheila and Peter
Gladwin, MI: In late fall (usually the second week in November) myself and 3 girlfriends like to take a trip to the Carribbean. We want a great beach for relaxation, an all-inclusive hotel and maybe some shopping. We usually go for 4 nights and like to keep it around $1,000 each (The price and # of nights is somewhat flexible). We are from a small town and would love your advice for a safe (and clean) place!! Thank you. -Beth
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: This is really a question for a travel agency or an online travel operator. If you're buying an all-inclusive package at a resort, you're likely in a safe enough neighborhood. Just know that some resorts abut desperate poverty and if you cross into the local town you will considered very rich (and hence perhaps vulnerable). Best, Sheila and Peter
Schenectady, NY: I'm planning a trip to Amsterdam. My main interest is visiting museums so I want to stay right in the heart of the city. However, because I am an older woman traveling alone I want to make sure I'm in a safe neighborhood. Is the price of a hotel usually an indication the type of neighborhood? I'm trying not to spend too much money on this trip. My airfare is free (frequent flyer miles)and I don't spend a lot on food when I travel so if I can keep the hotel cost down while still feeling safe it will be a great trip.
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Amsterdam is more expensive than Schenectady, for sure! But there are many modest, safe, and clean hotels in the nighborhood directly adjacent to the State Museum. A good alternative is a pension where the bathroom may be down the hall, but the informal atmosphere may result in you meeting some new friends. Best, Sheila and Peter
Greenville, NC:: What are some of the travel clubs or opportunities that focus on singles or unaccompanied women? I will be taking a trip this August without my husband (but with his blessing, smile) and would like to go to Brazil or Italy but am concerned about my safety in traveling alone.
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: Brazil and Italy are great destinations for you. Many books (including ours! -- Safety and Security for Women Who Travel) list such clubs and groups. Bon voyage! Best, Sheila and Peter
Mason City, IA: I had never really considered making the trip to Romania until a distant cousin recently called with an invitation in response to a letter in which I had asked him for some help with some family genealogy. As far as I know, he's one of the last of any living relatives on my maternal grandparents' side. Now that he's mildly chastised me for making other travels but not yet coming to Romania, he's got me seriously thinking about it!
I would plan to depart from Mason City if possible, as we have a Mesaba Airlink to Northwest Airlines/Minneapolis. I would prefer to utilize NWA due to accumulation miles already achieved.
Dates? Most likely early summer of 2007, or perhaps 2008. I would most likely be traveling alone (female, age 52) or perhaps with one additional person. I have previously traveled abroad, to England/Scotland/Ireland with a tour in 1995, and in May of this year I will be traveling with one family member to Sweden via Copenhagen to visit family.
The more I think about Romania, and the possibility of seeing my grandparents' homes before they emigrated in 1921, the more excited I am at the prospect! However, I'm unsure of the safety and ease of traveling alone to an Eastern European country. I appreciate all input! Thank you! Kathy
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: It will be a challenge compared with the tourist-experienced England/Scotland/Ireland landscape, but you will have a terrific time. Not only your cousin, but his neighbors will welcome you, feed you, and offer overnight accommodations. The only real caveat: good luck if you're a vegetarian! Best, Sheila and Peter
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan: We wish you all a bon voyage (and don't forget to pack a copy of Safety and Security for Women Who Travel!) Best, Sheila and Peter