International travel has formulated some of my favorite life experiences, but there are certainly things you need to know before taking the plunge abroad. Some of our Skepchicks are about to partake in their first foreign affairs, so we began compiling a list of helpful travel tips. I have had the fortunate experience of traveling to six continents… alone. As a female, this can be daunting. Learning a few tips, tricks, and expectations can go a long way.
If I am traveling somewhere new and don’t have the luxury of knowing any locals, I always buy a travel book. Lonely Planet and Frommers are great options. These books give you the low down on local customs, tipping, safety, expectations, restaurants, hotels, etc. I always want to know the cities I am visiting, particularly unsafe areas. Are these areas only unsafe after dark? What is the local attire? What are local scams? Should I take cabs at night? Should I have the bar call a taxi for me instead of get one off the street? How do they treat women? These books always have a section on this, so take a read. It is good to know what to expect. You know when to put your guard up or be more flexible depending on local customs.
There are many questions you need to have answers too. I find that knowing this information ahead of time allows me to maximize my travel experience. Also, ask other people who have traveled to those countries. Certain places are more challenging than others. Generally, it is more difficult if you don’t speak the language. Learning a few common phrases can get you a long way. People in most countries are generally friendly and exerting just a little effort gets better results. That being said, sometimes it is good to keep your mouth shut and try to blend in with the locals. If your appearance is similar, this strategy can keep you safe. Again, doing your research will let you know when and where to employ these strategies.
As a woman traveling alone, I have been fortunate enough to avoid any terrible situations. There were a few places where I had some sketchy experiences, specifically the Middle East and South America. As an American, I have had people lecture me about our politics, even if they weren’t my views. Some fairly inappropriate sexual advances have stemmed from a man’s belief American stereotypes. Usually a quick explanation eliminates any awkwardness about it.
Also, just because you start a trip alone doesn’t mean it will end that way. Over the course of my travels, I have met many companions. Many of these people I still keep in contact with. Bonus: then you have a new friend in a different place that can show you around on another trip!
Leaving a copy of your itinerary and passport with someone at home is a good idea. That way if your tweets or facebook updates stop on day three of your trip then someone knows where you are or should be . Also, be aware of when your access to computers, phones, etc. might disappear so they don’t worry unnecessarily. I also make copies of my passport and stick them in a few different places to travel with me. The more uncomfortable I am with the place I am traveling, the more precautions I take.
Everyone has their favorite stories and all of mine result from talking to as many people as possible while traveling. Enjoy the experience just remember to be safe while doing it. When first traveling do what you are comfortable with and over time that will change. I always try something unique to that destination whether it is a food, a custom, or a drink. Do something new! The best experiences of my life have been abroad. Enjoy every second of it!
What are your favorite travel experiences? What are your craziest travel stories? Where are you going this summer? Where would you travel if money wasn’t an option? Do you have any tips for traveling alone? Do you have any trips for traveling as a female alone? Do you have any logistical tips? What is the weirdest food you have eaten abroad? Do you have any bad experiences that others should be aware of? Do you have any must see sites, must eat restaurants?