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Helpful travel tips to help you make the most of your stay, wherever it is...

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The Lone Woman Traveler!

Ever been let down by a boyfriend? Just found yourself being single with a holiday planned? Girl friend just got the flu? Don't know what to do? Why just because you are alone can you too not escape from the monotony of life? Why not travel alone? Do what you never thought you were capable of and take an adventure, surprise your family and experience things you have always wanted to experience!

How to decide where to go and what to do
First have a think, are you going to do something different, see the sun, an adventure, something for charity, just to get away or merely on business? If you have a rough idea where you want to go then the planning can begin.
The internet is an essential tool during researching and planning. As you are going solo, it is best to plan every day almost to the last detail but with room to be flexible should opportunities crop up, things like accommodation should always be pre-booked as you don't want to turn up to a country, not knowing anyone and be stranded with no bed. Really think about where you want to go with the climate in mind. If you don't like hot weather you are not going to enjoy yourself in a place like India. The same goes for cold weather, try to avoid pony trekking in Iceland in October if the cold gets to you.

Some people choose a location based on experimenting with food. Strange, maybe, but an experience none the less as the Chinese food we order on a Tuesday night is certainly not what native Chinese people in china eat. Other people plan their trips based on a level of adventure.

If you classify high street shopping as a high risk then it is best to stick to major cities with New York usually being a favourite! If bungee jumping or skydiving is something you have never really wanted to do but feel you should probably try it then New Zealand is the place to go for outdoor adventure and stunning scenery. If you have buns of steel then hop on a donkey and take the roughly six hour trek down into the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. You could also canoe down the Amazon or become a midwife for a month in Namibia.

What suits the lone traveler:
The best thing about traveling alone is that you are alone. No more thinking about things you have to do for others, looking after others, worrying about others because you can go where you want, when you want and do whatever you want. It's your trip so you make the calls and you don't even have to come back if you don't want to! The choices you make are crucial, because if your experience is not what you thought it would be and you are disappointed then you will only have yourself to blame! How long do you want to go for? What's your budget?

Crucial planning:
Always buy the bible (The Lonely Planet Guide) to organize your trip, and always have all your nights accommodation secured before you are due to fly so you don't find yourself stranded somewhere you don't need to be. The Lonely Planet books are awesome; they will tell you what to see, do, buy, and go and necessities such as how much to expect to pay for a beer or a cab. Most places are now wise to overcharging tourists, so the money you will save knowing you have not paid too much for simple goods means the more cash you have to spend on shoes!

Make sure you have a rough idea on what activities you will be doing so you know what to stretch your travel insurance too. For example, scuba diving is not always covered automatically, so be specific on what you are doing and double check it insures your luggage as well, most do now. Also try to have your travel insurance extended a couple of days longer than your departure flight, incase flight gets delayed or cancelled and there wont be any confusion as to whether luggage etc is still covered.

It is advisable, if you chose to stay in a hostel that you find one with lockers, as you don't have anyone to help you keep an eye on your belongings and you have to sleep at some point! If you are planning on hiring a car, make sure it is hired before you fly and the booking is confirmed, once given the keys inspect the inside and outside for any scratches, dents etc with a member of staff taking note of the exact condition in which you received the vehicle. Make sure they show you where they want it dropped back to them, location of spare wheel, lights, how much it in the petrol tank etc. Make sure you read the small print before you sign the contract as each company may have varied ;terms and conditions' and keep the copy of your contract on file.

When traveling alone it is a good idea to leave an itinerary at home with someone, contacting them at pre-arranged times and dates. Obvious displays of money, jewelry, dress and luggage may attract the wrong kind of attention. Be aware of not only your handbag but all luggages at all times. For example, don't leave your handbag on the back of your chair in a restaurant.

Where to stay:
Picking accommodation in a safe area is smart. You're asking for trouble if you choose to stay smack bang in the middle of the local red light district! Request a room near the lift or stairs, not on the ground floor and preferably smoking so you can calm your nerves form the comfort of the bathtub! It sounds stupid, and you're not expected to be a trained locksmith, but have a little look at the door locks and window fasteners. Obvious signs, such as no lock or a smashed window pain, will suggest you don't stay there! Identify all callers before you open the door, if there is a chain, use it (especially at night) and a 'spy hole' is also useful and fun! Don't identify yourself on the phone until the caller has done so first. Keep your money and valuables close to you at night. It is obviously not advisable to carry your family heirlooms with you while traveling, mainly due to the comfort issue when placing them under your pillow! Insist on inspecting living before you stay, that way you can stay somewhere else if you don't feel safe or comfortable.

Staying safe:
Have your wits about you at all times; listen to the advice from the locals and fellow travelers. Don't be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time! Don't panic in scary situations, for example, if you were confronted by a man demanding your purse, don't try to fight or argue, just hand it over. This is the reason why you always separate your cards from your cash, and never to carry a lot of cash with you at one time. You can always withdraw more cash as long as you still have a card. Travel with at least two cards, incase one is lost, stolen, maxed out, and keep these cards separate from each other and your cash. Here is where the old card and/or cash down the bra or in your shoe trick comes into play! Don't let anyone who may confront you get the chance, cross the street. If you are confronted, don't let them know you are scared. Try to gain the psychological advantage, and if that doesn't work and you are forced to fight physically make sure it is a crippling blow so you can escape. Stilettos may hinder your running ability, but a heel to the groin is sure to hurt enough for you to get away. If you feel you may need a bit of preparation, think about joining a woman's self defense group before leaving on your trip.

Dress codes differ greatly from country to country and getting that wrong puts you at an immediate disadvantage. As a general rule, tight and skimpy clothes are inappropriate for most countries outside Europe and North America. Legs and arms should be covered when visiting places of worship and national monuments. Throughout the Arab world and other Muslim countries, hair should be covered by a head scarf as well as your legs and arms.

Confrontational and challenging situations with men can be easily avoided by adopting an assertive and dismissive manor. Remember many men translate 'eye contact' as 'come over and speak to me!' The use of dark sunglasses will limit this problem, but let's be honest; wherever you are in the world, they just can't help themselves! Be prepared to answer questions about yourself, the obvious hinting on whether you are single or not. To avoid unwanted attentions of some men, throw in the odd line about your 'husband' and team up with a fake wedding ring as a lifeline.

Sanitary and Hygiene:
Tampons and towels are unobtainable in some areas of Africa, Asia and South America and are scarce luxuries in many of the eastern block countries. You should be sensitive to the cultural and religious attitudes towards menstruation. In some places it is forbidden to enter a place of worship at this time of the month, and some paces will not even allow women to walk near food let alone touch it. So be warned, discrete disposal of towels and tampons is in order.

Banking:
It is a good idea to let your bank know you are traveling somewhere and for how long, so they do not cancel your transactions as a protection measure when they find money being spent in a random destination. Again, inform them when you have returned home incase your card details appear to still being used from where you have come back from and they can stop any further abroad transactions as they will not be your doing. You can store all vital detail on a website, including bank accounts and contact numbers and it is safe on the net with your own personal login and password.

Travel Items Checklist:


  • Passport with relative visas and photocopy of passport (incase of loss) to be kept separate from original

  • Money, cards, traveler's checks

  • Insurance papers

  • Itinerary with contact numbers for accommodation, trains, buses (incase delayed, lost, plans change)

  • Emergency numbers for your destination (fire, police, ambulance

  • Contact number for lost traveler's checks, cards

  • Vaccination certificate if you are going somewhere they are required



Less obvious:


  • Tissue paper

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • Swiss army knife

  • Ziploc bags (keep things dry and airtight)

  • Hand disinfectant (the waterless stuff- incase no water and preparing food etc)

  • Sarong or similar (so you can quickly cover up when modesty calls i.e. Entering a mosque)

  • Sewing kit (quick repairs)



Things to do on your own:


  • Art galleries


  • Monuments


  • Castles


  • Pyramids etc.

  • Markets and shops

  • Lakes, rivers, seas

  • City sights (buy 'city pass')

  • Museums

  • Aquariums

  • Spa treatments

  • Music, shows, theatre



Life changing experiences:
You can be involved in so many amazing activities all around the world; it is just choosing the experience that is right for you which is the hardest part. For charity work, and overseas jobs helping animals, children and communities visit www.i-to-i.com To get some ideas of how to string together a great adventure taking into account certain places or tings you have in mind to go or do than visit www.gapyearforgrownups.co.uk which will help you plan a good route with 40 countries on offer you may never come back! A great website for specific countries you would like to visit and in depth descriptions with contacts to the unique activities you have to do there such as New Zealand, the visit www.statravel.co.uk

Still having second thoughts?
Everyone who has traveled to the furthest corners of the world has never regretted it and all say the hardest part is coming back! Once you have done it once you will have the 'travel bug' forever. You go through so many emotions while traveling with the least common being stress. People seem to make more rational decisions while they are traveling as they are so much more relaxed. You tend to also acquire many valuable character traits such as decision making skills, you become more open minded, you will meet special people who you will stay in contact with, the ability to empathise with others. With this new attitude and way of thinking you will also be able to give something back to members of your family and other around you.

Top 10 'Lone Women Traveler' Websites:

 

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