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Monday, November 12, 2012

175

Ideas for a Solo Traveler

A question from the advice "line":

I have three weeks off this fall and a limited budget (under $2,000), and I would like to go away on vacation. I also would be traveling alone since I'm at that "I have a real job with benefits/vacation and all my friends work at coffee shops/are funemployed" stage of life. I would wait for someone to come with me, but I really don't feel like wasting the vacation time I've worked really hard for, but I've also never really travelled alone and am daunted by it.

Any suggestions on where to go? Where is safe (I can't even believe I need to write this) for a young single female traveller to go without worrying about getting harassed? Where will I get the most bang for my buck?

(Side note: I've been all over the Caribbean and while it is beautiful, I feel the only places I'd want to go back to are Bonaire or Dominica, both of which would cost me a pretty penny.)

Oh no, I hope this isn't too late! But the Times recently ran a useful if breezy guide to solo winter travel, and this site had one earlier this year. And everyone has different suggestions for destinations, but personally I've had the best times in places where everyone speaks English. Which is maybe a little pathetic, and obviously not true for everyone. But I also love the darkness, and so enjoyed last minute-ish trips to Iceland in February, and Scotland in December (neither of which is particularly cold, by the way — both were generally a little warmer than NYC, weather-wise, when I visited).

What about America? If you've got less than $2K and want to stretch it out over three weeks, maybe try a few places you've wanted to see, and a couple you haven't. Train travel can be fun. And these are obvious, but I'd recommend: New Orleans, San Francisco, Austin. Maybe renting apartments in different cities for three weeks? Vrbo and AirBnB are both awesome for saving money and having excellent, "authentic" experiences, for lack of a better word.

As far as safety goes, I think the useful if vague answer is that pretty much anywhere is good as long as you use common sense and take some basic precautions. I'm not a travel expert, but here's a piece with some fairly intense tips for staying safe while traveling, including to practice yelling "help" before you leave, omg.

This might not have even begun to answer your question, though, so we turn to actual travel expert (and co-founder of the custom itinerary-planning site Fortnighter) Alexander Basek, who also happens to be wonderful and brilliant. 

Says Alex:

Hi Solo in Seattle!

Welcome to the wonderful world of traveling alone! Bring a book. Or better yet, bring a Kindle. Or download an e-reader app for your phone and start a totally enjoyable series that you can read while eating alone during your three weeks on the road. (My personal recommendation is the His Dark Materials trilogy, but if you want something more travel-related, any of Paul Theroux's nonfiction is great. He's cranky and it's good to have a companion, even a printed one, to remind you that travel is mostly interesting for the things that go wrong.)

If you're interested in traveling domestically, let me recommend the great state of Texas. It's the size of France, renting a car is not going to be that expensive, you can post up at aloft and Hyatt Place-type chains, and eat delicious foods along the way. And this isn't a backward way of telling you to go to Austin. You'd find amazing food and cool places in Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, and, well, let's just pretend you won't have time to make it to Dallas. You can also extend this in the other direction toward Albuquerque — Breaking Bad tourism ahoy, plus they have a couple brand new nifty hotels — and Santa Fe, if you're feeling witchy.

My other suggestion is to go to that place that's the same size as Texas — namely, France. Paris is Paris (wonderful), but you'll get great value outside of the capital. Marseille is buzzy (a Mama Shelter, which is sort of the Ace Hotels of France, just opened there, and last I checked it was under $100 for an awesome room in the center of town in November), Nice is off-season and so less de trop than it might be otherwise, Bordeaux is highly underrated, Aix is great, and most everything is an easy train ride. And no one's gonna give you shit. The French are just the best. Be game to eat and drink things and try the language (or better yet, have an opinion about Francois Hollande's personal drama), and you're in like Flynn.

At Fortnighter we get a lot of questions from women who want to travel solo but are concerned about it, and I don't have any constraints about telling them where to go. Many of our contributors are women, and usually they're traveling solo in places where I would be VERY stressed to go alone: Suriname, Egypt, Cuba. Traveling solo is interesting because nowhere and everywhere is safe; it's kind of an existential question. Although it's also really a question of how mindful you want to be — some places require you to have your wits about you in a way that others don't. It's not that they are unsafe, it's just that ramifications of a mistake are greater in those kind of spots than they are in, say, Normal, Illinois. So it's more about knowing your comfort level before choosing a destination.

Enjoy your trip!

Commenters: where to gooo?

Also, we're trying to get Alex to help out more frequently with travel-related content (and to send more people to Fortnighter, which is great), so if you have any not-too-broad, not-too-specific (Goldilocks-ish?) travel questions, please send them thisaway. Thank you!



175 Comments / Post A Comment

klpencil

If you're interested in sharpening your language skills, 3 weeks is the perfect amount of time to go somewhere like say Costa Rica, enroll in a Spanish school (ala Costa Rican Language Academy, just did this, great stuff), meet local people as well as other travelers and basically have a whole lot of fun.

noodge

@klpencil I second Costa Rica - it's really affordable (Mr. Teenie and I spent 2k total including flights for a 9 day trip last year), the locals are very friendly towards visitors, and you can go to amazing places like Montezuma, make tons of friends, and surf. or something.

kefuoe

@klpencil I enjoyed a week long trip to a French language school in Guadeloupe, and definitely would have gone for longer if I could. It was great to have some focus in the morning with the afternoons completely free. Most of my fellow students were various parts of Europe, and I stayed in the apartment of a local family, so I spoke French nearly all the time.

Beatrix Kiddo

@klpencil I second this suggestion-- and plenty of Latin American countries are even cheaper, although several might not be as safe.

stjohnofthecruz

@klpencil Good call. Costa Rica is a lovely destination if you're a brand new solo traveler and unsure of your street/world smarts. BUT, it's one of the very most expensive destinations in central America and it is very touristy.

For me, you get more adventure and more bang for your buck out of Spanish lessons in Guatemala. That was my favorite trip ever, but I elaborated below.

stjohnofthecruz

Also, I got way more harassment as a single woman traveler in Costa Rica than I ever did in Guatemala.

I think, as was said above: anywhere can be bad. A lot of it has to do (unfortunately) with how you carry yourself and your ability to recognize potentially bad scenes (Don't go off alone, for instance. If you can't take classes, stay in hostels! Make friends! It's the best part of solo travel.)

Another thing, buy a Fenix PD32 flashlight. It makes me feel safe and well-supplied, and usually all the guy travelers you meet will drool all over it. (http://www.amazon.com/Fenix-Flashlights-PD32R5-Flashlight/dp/B0095MXTBG)

It's plane-stowable, and fits in your fist, but it's got this 315 lumen strobe feature that will temporarily blind anyone even in broad daylight (My guyfriends checked for me: it works.) And then the edge has these hard anodized crenelated edges, so while they're blind you can smash 'em in the nose and run.

I carry mine everywhere, because pepper spray is ridiculous and doesn't pass security clearances. Also, it's useful even when you're not skr00d. There are other flashlights that are similar, but much more expensive or not nearly as high quality. A+++ shopping.

theotherginger

@klpencil I have traveled lots in Latin America - but I am fluent in Spanish. Antigua in Guatemala has lots of Spanish schools, so does Oaxaca (City of) in Mexico, and is near some of my favourite beaches ever (Mexico does have safety concerns, in terms of drugs and machismo, but street harassment was worse in Nicaragua, I found).

geek_tragedy

@theotherginger

Or what about Panama? That's supposed to be a less-frequented but interesting destination. And there are language schools there, I checked!

thisisunclear

ooh, lucky traveler. I highly recommend Buenos Aires at this time of year - it's getting warmer as we're getting colder; it's still kind of cheap (and airbnb, def); it wasn't impossible with my barely-there Spanish and mostly English; and if you're a bougie city chica like me, it's full of great shopping, eating, drinking, and dancing.

Also Evita and gelato. Sold!

anitabath

@thisisunclear Seconding South America! I spent 2 weeks in Chile for a little under $2000 (including flights from Toronto) and LOVED it - did Santiago, Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, Quintero, and Pucon - you can cover a lot of ground really affordably with bus travel and hostelworld.com!

3penny

@thisisunclear Thirding, with an AMEN to Buenos Aires. All that dulce de leche and wake-the-dead coffee and lovely places to walk. And oh the wine. My jaunt to Argentina was my first major trip alone, and after the nerves wore off I had a blast. I recommend the seminal Idle Words essay on the local food, "Argentina on Two Steaks a Day." (I thought he was exaggerating about the steaks. He wasn't. God bless.)

theotherginger

@3penny yes. steak. wine. gelato. bread. coffee. also, museums, art, iguazu... humahuaca... cafayate...

Amphora

@3penny I had to read that whole thing and now I want a steak SO BAD. With ice cream on top.

thisisunclear

@theotherginger oh lord the steak and the wine and the steak.

karion

@thisisunclear: I just want to add that if you have a week to spare, I IMPLORE you to go to Bogota, Colombia. It isn't what you think - the city has changed so much, and it isn't any more dangerous than anywhere else.

The people are gracious and friendly. The food is terrific and pretty cheap (arepas, how I miss you. And hot chocolate with cheese. And ajiaco.) It is a gorgeous city, in the mountains, so it is temperate (around 60-70 every day).

And my God, if you can go during the month of December? It might be the most magical city on earth during December.

Steph

@karion Seconded on Bogota-it's one of my favorite cities! Medellin is also delightful.

Steph

@karion And I'm obsessed with chocolate con queso. CHEESE IN HOT CHOCOLATE. It's evil, it's brilliant.

theotherginger

@Steph now I really want to go.

Steph

@theotherginger If you do I have a bunch of blog posts on it- not sure if I'm allowed to share here or not...

theotherginger

@Steph I say you are allowed. it is conversationally relevant. but, your privacy is a real thing, so, do what you think is right.

Steph

@theotherginger Alright here you go: http://twenty-somethingtravel.com/2012/05/adios-south-america/
All the colombia info is near the top.

theotherginger

@Steph thank you. this inspired me to a. go to Colombia and b. rekindle friendship with former dude-friend from there so I can meet Colombian people in Colombia.

Steph

@theotherginger YAY! Colombian people are the nicest.

theotherginger

@Steph such a good blog. wow. I always appreciate it when people who blog for work still manage to keep it personal and interesting (aka the reason we read blogs to begin with)

3penny

@Steph Thanks; I'm bound for Quito in a few months and am grateful for such a balanced post about the city. We're just there for a day, with the option to lie around in a hotel room if necessary should the altitude give us the whammy. Thence to Otavalo and the hills, hurrah!

I spent a little less than a week in Morelia, Mexico, and while the state itself is wracked with drug violence, the narcos didn't seem to affect daily life or the many language students there (a visitor's perspective, granted, and therefore possibly entirely off the mark). A pity that Quito doesn't offer the same sense of safety.

anitabath

@Steph Cartagena is also excellent!

Steph

@theotherginger Thank you very much!

distrighema

If you're anxious about picking just one place, I'd do a road trip. You can go somewhere big as a main destination but then along the way, because there's no one with you to complain about it, you can stop for every roadside attraction and scenic detour that strikes your fancy.

The Lady of Shalott

@distrighema Road trips are wicked awesome fun! BUT they do require a pretty high level of confidence and being smart about where you're going and what you're doing. Being careful about where you stay, where you stop, etc., is all exponentially more important. Solo female travelers can be easy targets for dirtbags who prey on women traveling alone.

BUT with a little bit of common sense, basic car know-how, and a good cell phone plan, road trips are THE BOMB. They are so much fun and I love them!

garli

Pretty much where ever you feel safe is probably a good answer? I almost said Mexico because I've cruised around Mexico alone more then once but apparently people think I'm nuts for that.

ghechr

What about Amsterdam? I went there in November and it was the best. There are so few tourists because it's "off season" and I always felt very VERY safe there, even in the red light district. The food is to die for and everything there seems so colorful.

Dizzy

@ghechr I second Amsterdam!I spent some time alone there last May. I fell in love with the neighbourhood where the zoo is and their giant main library is incredible (and has amazing Italian food for some reason). Making friends with travellers is an option and alternatively lots of people in the city seem to go out solo for a beer/meal- I never felt strange about getting a table for 1. easy to get around on transit/by bike. Lots of English and a good starting point for day trips to other parts of the Netherlands. It's a beautiful city.

Judith Slutler

@ghechr It's very nice indeed, but let me tell you the weather will be SHIT.

gobblegirl

@Emmanuelle Cunt Unless you like mist and damp and "European noir atmosphere." If so, the weather will be the best.

ghechr

@gobblegirl Yes, very noir. I got a cool corduroy peacoat to keep me warm. Also, I live in the desert so it's nice to have some drizzle in my life now and then.

meetapossum

@ghechr Amsterdam is also stupidly beautiful. I definitely learned about visiting there through the whole "drug tourist" aspect, but it's truly gorgeous and has art and history that will appeal to anyone. Though I will admit that it's the only place I was offered crack while just walking around.

auxamandes

@ghechr yes, amsterdam! so so so great. i stayed with friends there, but i always had fun staying at hostels in europe - it's a good way to meet people if you're feeling bored/lonely. i usually looked at the reviews on hostelworld.com to suss out the vibe, level of discomfort... but yeah, amsterdam: so walkable, great museums (rijksmuseum, van gogh, anne frank house, great little photography museum), great food actually, super friendly people who usually speak impeccable yet adorably accented english. also easy to do excursions to the hague, other cities, which i wish i had done.

Tragically Ludicrous

@ghechr As Emmanuelle Cunt mentioned, the weather will be shit (it's shit right now!) but it's still pretty beautiful, and all the shittiness makes the cafes a bit more gezellig. All so pretty with the glowing lights and such! Everyone in every situation will speak English, so it's easy to deal with.

Plus, it's a good base to do other touring, if you're so inclined. Other parts of the Netherlands (come to Utrecht! It's like Amsterdam but with students instead of tourists!), but also parts of Germany (Cologne is great) and Belgium (shopping in Antwerp! Constantly yelling "it's like a fairy tale" in Bruges!). I'm biased because I live here, but this part of the world is very neat.

PatatasBravas

Mmmmmm so many options.

North American options: Savannah. Quebec City. Santa Fe. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Victoria, BC. Make it a roadtrip through middle America, and resolve to visit every cool brewery and unexpectedly funky downtown arts scene from SLC-Denver-Kansas City-Memphis-Hotlanta (or as much driving as you want to tackle).

Outside of North America: see whatever awesome airline deals you can get, rent an apartment in a reasonably safe and walkable part of town for whatever big city you can fly into, and just do your thing.

leonstj

Quick question regarding the picture for this post: how do ya'll pronounce it? Cuz I say it like COM-pis, like "Compost", tinkle. However, when my coworkers once heard me mention it, they're like, 'hey leon, you are wackadoo, you are supposed to say "come" "pass"."

Ophelia

@leon s I split the syllables differently... so for me it's CUMP-is.

frigwiggin

@leon s

I say "come-pis," which sounds rude when I break it down like that, but whatever.

Edith Zimmerman

@leon s Umm, trying hard to be polite here, but cump-iss yeah.

ETI: Sorry for the repeats!

leonstj

@Edith Zimmerman - Whatever, I'm just glad i don't pronounce the stuff from the faucet "wooder" anymore.

meetapossum

@leon s There's nothing wrong with "wooder."

Apocalypstick

@leon s Come pass, but to be fair I am cringingly posh.

Lisa Frank

Maybe this is obvious, but staying in hostels is really great when you're travelling alone. You can hook-up with like minded people for an afternoon or a few days, but you have no obligation to stick with them. You can also pick up great tips from other people who are travelling back-packing. I've traveled alone and stayed in hotels, and it was a much lonelier experience. And AirBnB and CouchSurfing kind freak me out; I'm hesitant to stay in a stranger's house, but I have lots of friends who have done it and had great experiences!

chi_logan

@Lisa Frank I agree that staying in hotels is lonely and sucks. Don't do it.

Hostels can be amazing, though not 100% of the time. Definitely check out reviews if you can, and if you're in an area that's full of backpackers you'll probably be fine (avoid Venice Beach).

I've used airbnb.com for the past year or two and have only had positive experiences (and made some friends!). Again, if you stick with people that have lots of positive reviews you should be fine... I've also only stayed with other ladies.

swirrlygrrl

@Lisa Frank Definitely don't skimp on feeling safe - not a good way to enjoy your trip - but if you don't feel comfortable about staying with even a well-reviewed counchsurfing host, for example, you still may want to sign up to the site, complete a profile and then check out the boards or events they host or meet up with individual members in public locations. I met a few really great locals and long-term expats in Cairo, for example, who introduced me to the city in a whole new way when I was there (and staying in a hotel) for work. I met other travelers, but I didn't click with most of them - they tended to be either "drink your face off" twentysomethings, or business travelers with no interest in any place outside of a five star hotel. The couchsurfers tended to be people who loved travel and new people and their city (and yes, the occassional guy looking to hook up with an "easy" foreign woman, but they were pretty easy to spot and avoid) - great experience for me.

up cubed

@Lisa Frank My fav hosteling chain is Hosteling International (HI, with a blue triangle). Their motto says something about young people, but I think people of any age can join and rent from them.

rowrow

@Lisa Frank what i've done as i've gotten old and out of the 18-person-dorm headspace is rent a private room in a hostel. it's still cheap, but you get privacy, extra security, and you can still meet people! i met a lovely girl when i was doing that solo in Istanbul last November.

Ophelia

If you can find a cheap airfare, I highly recommend Ireland. Hostels there are really nice, and B&Bs are relatively cheap if you want to upgrade for a night. Or maybe do a little bit of traveling around the UK and Ireland? Trains can be kind of expensive, but there are lots of decent lodging options, and if you're looking for a first-time solo traveling, you won't have to navigate a new place and a new language.

professionalmess

@Ophelia This makes me happy to hear. I'm thinking about going to Ireland alone early next year, but then sometimes I get anxious about being in a different country all alone.

theotherginger

@professionalmess it's the greatest! I am so used to traveling by myself now that traveling with people kind of annoys me (ok people annoy me a bit to begin with, to be fair). I haven't been to Ireland, but it looks absolutely beautiful!

questingbeast

@Ophelia Also, travelling from Ireland to the UK by the Holyhead ferry provides the ideal opportunity to stop off in lovely North Wales. Mountains! Castles! The most mountains and castles ever!

astrangerinthealps

@Ophelia Hmm hmm hmmm. Ireland is high on my list. Now it might be even higher.

BoatGirl

@professionalmess Ireland was the first place I ever travelled alone. It was so easy to do there and everyone was so wonderful. No one is shocked that you're travelling alone, and you get the impression that people are kind of watching out for you. I highly recommend solo Ireland.

kefuoe

I travel alone a lot. I'm not sure if there are places that are more amenable to the single (female) travelers than others, and as others have said, it's a matter of where you feel comfortable. That said, as a New Orleans resident, I can endorse it as a great place for single travelers. If you are the slightest bit outgoing, you will find the locals very welcoming, very helpful, and ready to make sure you have a good time. Also, I loved Marrakesh and would go back ther e in a minute. I found it to be very affordable (once you get there).

temporal_paradox

@kefuoe I've traveled alone quite a bit for work, which is different than vacationing, however I found that New Orleans, and Washington D.C. were my favorite cities to visit alone and the only ones I would go back to alone for fun. The locals in both, but especially New Orleans, were very helpful and quick to point out where I shouldn't go by myself, as well as the places that I absolutely shouldn't miss. D.C. was a whirl wind, and there was a million and one things to keep me busy, and if I ever looked lost people would ask me if I needed help. But New Orleans, it was just a talk and eat town. I mean, there were definitely things to see, everywhere, but my favorite memory is riding the steetcar and talking to the driver all the way up Canal Street about his history of New Orleans, and the best place to get alligator.

theotherginger

@temporal_paradox that sounds like my kind of city.

KatPruska

Check out the thorntree forum on the Lonely Planet travel guide website for ideas. Traveling solo is so empowering! You get to go where you want, when you want, without having to compromise! Compromise sucks!

Seriously, though, I sort of want to refer this person (and anyone else who needs help in this department) to my dad. Even before he retired from teaching one of his favorite hobbies was arranging budget travel, since finding the best airfare is a sport for him, even if it meant driving the 4 hours across the border to the Toronto airport to drop me off and pick me up. (He also had to talk me onto the plane when I had a panic attack in the check-in line on my way to Italy for 3 solo weeks when I was 19. Thanks, Dad! Your weird detachment from all my emotional problems really did help sometimes!)

zamboni

I'd be very interested in hearing some destination ideas for solo travellers who can't drive.

gobblegirl

@zamboni Big huge cities with vibrant transit are always a good choice. But I also coped really well in rural east Africa. I guess what they have in common is that in both places, a lot of people don't drive. Instead of subways and buses in Tanzania, there are minivans (that they pack full of people and sometimes animals) going by on the main roads every few minutes, with unofficial designated stops. Extremely efficient, though not the most comfortable ;)
The worst is medium-sized North American cities that were designed for cars. Everything is far apart and they usually have very unsatisfactory transit. Trust me, I live in one.

Megasus

@zamboni I don't drive and this is what I do. If I want to do the countryside, there are often like weekend tours that can take you out there? But basically just somewhere with good transit is the best.

par_parenthese

@zamboni I was very happy with the public transport in Hong Kong and Sydney, and I felt completely safe wandering around both places at all hours. Violent crime in Hong Kong is virtually nonexistent for the traveller -- the worst that might happen is pickpocketing, and I lived there for almost five months and never had so much as a coin stolen. Now's a fantastic time to go there as well.

Bethany Murray@twitter

@zamboni Japan! Great transportation options.

theotherginger

@zamboni I can drive but refuse to outside of cities that I am familiar with, and highways. But no unfamiliar cities.
Pretty much everywhere else, ever, has better transit than the US and Canada. It might be crowded, it might not come exactly at the time you expect (this depends on where you go. I imagine Germany and Mexico, say, would have different relationships to time. Even in Mexico the buses run better than at home, though). Go somewhere with trains!

highjump

@zamboni I never drive abroad. I've found London, Rome, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Prague have simple to navigate public transportation systems. I have also enjoyed visiting small but compact cities like Florence where one can simply walk everywhere.

swirrlygrrl

@zamboni I don't drive in Canada or abroad. While there are things I could do if I drove, or at least far more easily, I haven't had a problem using transit to see cities and move about the country in: the UK; pretty much all of Western Europe; Turkey; Egypt; Oman; UAE; Jodan; Lebanon. In some places, like Egypt and Jordan, hiring a driver or cab for the day wasn't much more than renting a car, paying for insurance and gas. Tour options, even for singles or small groups, are also very affordable in countries like Egypt.

I actually think North America is one of the worst places to try and travel if you don't have the option of a car - the distances plus poor public transit options make it hard to get to more out of the way places.

up cubed

@zamboni I've done extensive travel in Mexico and Guatemala and never driven, but did need to do it for Costa Rica. The bus systems are much better than in the US, since more local middle class people use them. However, it is good to talk with locals about certain trips (like overnight rides) to make sure they are safe.

lkron

I just spent two full weeks traveling solo in Germany. It was amazing - beautiful cities, safe and clean, easy to navigate - everyone speaks perfect English and loves to travel themselves, so they love to meet new people and help visitors get around. Hostels were all new and clean, surprisingly quiet and really welcoming - all for $30/night. I loved every city and town I visited, and can't wait to go back!

highjump

@lkron So happy to hear this! Germany is really creeping up on my GO SOON list. What cities were your favorite?

lkron

@highjump I started in Frankfurt, then visited long-lost relatives in a tiny town called Schwäbisch Hall close to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (very touristy but very cute, worth a few hours but not much more), ventured down to Konstanz, right on the border of Switzerland. It was BEAUTIFUL. If I'm ever old, retired and rich, that's where I'm moving. Munich was good to see, but Berlin's museums were amazing. Hamburg was really cool, too... I would definitely go back to all these places and more. LOVED IT.

stjohnofthecruz

For $2k, you can fly to Guatemala, and stay the entire time in a beautiful balcony room covered in flowers in San Pedro, the tiny town across Lago Atitlan. Also, you'll have hot water and wifi(!!!)

Plus, you can afford to take three hours of Spanish lessons every day, climb volcanos, enjoy a safe friendly town, eat out every meal, and be in one of the rare third world towns that prioritizes as a matter of civic pride being friendly to strangers. The reason is that, unlike party towns like Vang Vieng in Laos, where tourists show up for two days, do tons of drugs, trash the place, and leave, San Pedro is mostly about learning Spanish. People stay for a while. And it feels GOOD to stay. And it's beautiful.

There's also $3 yoga under the trees next to the lake with the most chilled out instructor ever and a chocolate shaman across the lake who does guided spiritual instruction while you're under the influence of pure cacao.

I am normally a "can't stop won't stop" kind of third world traveler, but San Pedro stopped me in my tracks. It's the place we're all looking for. I stayed a month. So cheap. So sweet. So good for the soul. And when you're back in America and feeling unworthy because you're not rich or famous enough, you'll remember the way people live there, and you'll feel a lot better.

Also, if you happen to get bored (you won't), you could go see the Mayan ruins before the calendar brings around DOOMZDAY.

realtalk

@thesquishy ahhh I'm going to guatemala for six months to learn spanish and do some volunteering, and I'm going to be in a homestay program in Xela - how far is San Pedro? so psyched to add this to my itinerary!

stjohnofthecruz

@realtalk Awesome! I'm sacred to say anything in case you're already paid in full, but from everything I heard about Xela: it's a dump. The ONE good thing about is that you'll meet fewer tourists so you can work on your Spanish harder. But the fact is, you'll find people you can speak English with anywhere and people you can homestay with anywhere.

I strongly recommend getting to San Pedro as soon as possible. I think it's even cheaper than Xela, actually, or exactly the same, and it's incredibly beautiful and fun and friendly and weird and sweet. Everyone who had been through Xela and come to San Pedro was like, "OMG I've finally come home!" And then they didn't leave.

If you get to San Pedro, ask for Juan Marcos at Escuela MAYAB. It looks not as nice as the main one, but Juan Marcos is known as one of the best teachers in town, and having tried several--and referred him to several friends who had also tried several--consensus is that this is accurate. Tell him Christy from New York sent you.

Be careful with your homestays tho. If you get a dumpy one, ask to change. Some people will feed you well, others won't. Also, I ate the cut-up fruit and got E.coli. Everyone who goes to Guatemala gets something. If you have a problem, go to the local doctor. A checkup and all the antibiotics you need will cost you $20USD. You'll be fine.

realtalk

@thesquishy My program is actually for people who want to work in bilingual medicine, so there's a bunch of medical volunteering at clinics, and a really strong emphasis on medical terminology. It's got a super good reputation, run through USC, etc etc, so I think I'm gonna be okay! But we get some time off, and I'm psyched to head over to San Pedro. Thanks for the recommendation :)

stjohnofthecruz

@realtalk Oh perfect! That makes a huge difference.

My original reason for picking MAYAB is because they're the school that's supposed to have connections to the local hospitals, so if you want to do medical volunteering through them, you can. Just in case you get over there!

beeline96

LUCKY!!! It's so hard to narrow down options... Have you considered WWOOF (an organic farm stay)? It might be a fun way to relax in a scenic rural area for a week or two in some country, then spend a little more money the 2nd-3rd week in a nearby city. (Might be tough during the fall/winter.)

Also, if you spent $$$ on a flight to Southeast Asia, somewhere Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, you would end up spending very little money once you got there. At least, that's what my friend - who was in Phnom Penh and is currently in Ho Chi Minh City - tried to convince me. Sadly, I could never get three weeks off in a row :( I hear amazing things about all three countries, though.

Since I'm not super helpful, might I also suggest reading "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven"? It's not exactly about solo travel --- but sort of --- and I highly recommend it.

planforamiracle

@beeline96 I recently returned from WWOOFing in Quebec for a month and I recommend the experience wholeheartedly!
You're right about the timing though—late fall/winter is generally the 'off-season' in the sense that a lot of farms do not have enough work to do to justify adding someone to their household temporarily. You might also need a little bit more lead time to set up travel and stay arrangements. In general, farmers like to plan ahead :)
I also want to gently correct you on the idea that it's "a fun way to relax in a scenic rural area"—wwoofing is a work exchange, and while simply BEING in a rural area is relaxing in and of itself (at least it was for me!), farm work can be tough and it's important to remember the work aspect out of respect for those who are opening their homes and livelihoods to traveling volunteers.

MilesofMountains

Oh no, I'm really disappointed to hear that Dallas apparently sucks. My boyfriend is travelling there in February for a snowmobile (yes, I know) exhibition for work and I was planning to go along with him. Is it really not worth it? (Keeping in mind that we're small town Canadians and I've never been south of Portland)

stjohnofthecruz

@MilesofMountains I've heard good things about Dallas. It sounds absurd. Like the New York of Texas. Also, it's not Houston.

gobblegirl

@MilesofMountains Where are you from?

MilesofMountains

@gobblegirl Well, I'm actually from Victoria, but my boyfriend and I live in Smithers, BC. (which is a surprisingly good tourist spot! Anyone who likes outdoorsy stuff should come here for a super non-threatening solo vacation!)

gobblegirl

@MilesofMountains I have been to Smithers!

TheBelleWitch

@MilesofMountains I so want to go to BC. Anyway, to chime in on Dallas, I don't love the place but as a former resident of Houston, they seem ... about equally repellant? I would go just for the Texas experience, especially if the trip is just a few days. Or, if you can rent a car and daytrip out of town while he works. (Alvarado for historical small-town Texas, Glen Rose for fossil dino footprints, Waco for a Dr. Pepper museum, [apparently])

If you go, definitely, definitely hit up the Sixth Floor Museum in Dealy Plaza (JFK assassination museum). It's really well-done and engaging. There is much, much fancy shopping in Dallas, which might be a fun change of pace from small-town life.

briarnoir

@gobblegirl Secondary A+ to Smithers. It's lovely spot!

par_parenthese

@MilesofMountains I did not remotely enjoy Dallas (no car! not walkable! stupid hot! water that tasted like the shit you scrape off the side of a fish tank!), but Dealy Plaza would be rad to visit, and the bonus is that you really can get KILLER Tex-Mex and BBQ just about anywhere in Texas. But seriously, brace yourself for THE worst-tasting water in America. I was so dehydrated by the time we left, it was ridic.

prosecuted hamburglar

@MilesofMountains Full disclosure, the first 18 years of my life were spent in Dallas. I would not live there now, but I will echo the sentiment that there is KILLER Tex-Mex and BBQ to be consumed. The only thing that entices me to come home for xmas (besides family, I GUESS) is eating at all of my favorite restaurants.

But I will say, the 3.5 hour drive from Dallas to Austin is really fun. There are some quirky stops along the way, such as the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco (already mentioned by someone else), kolaches at the random Czech gas stations in West, and the monolithic dome homes outside of the town Italy.

Oh, and the grocery stores. Texas wins at grocery stores. See: Central Market.

jarwithaheavylid

@MilesofMountains I would go, if I were you. Partly because it's more fun to travel together than for one of you to stay at home alone, and also partly because it's probably worth seeing. I'm not from Texas, but I was in Dallas for a wedding once. A few things I did while there:
If you're at all into architecture or design, there are some buildings worth seeing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas, Renzo Piano), Kimball Art Museum (Fort Worth, Louis Kahn), Fort Worth Modern (Fort Worth, Tado Andao). The Detroit Museum of Art is right across the street from the Nasher and it's pretty nice.
The Botanical Gardens are lovely, though I don't know what they look like in February.
And the Old Red Museum.

Also, the Lonesome Dove restaurant in Fort Worth has out-of-this-world steaks, if you're omnivorous. You can see the cattle run in Fort Worth and feel pretty guilty because of how beautiful and gentle they are.

astrangerinthealps

@MilesofMountains I visit family sometimes near Dallas, and it's not my favorite but not a total wasteland either. I tend to like Fort Worth better than Dallas itself. There is a cluster of three art museums there that are all worth your time, for the architecture and the art. I've always wanted to go to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, but it always seems to be closed when I'm there around Christmas. And yes, that is the place to get your Tex-Mex on.

astrangerinthealps

@jarwithaheavylid Yes to the museums you mention, and the Botanical Gardens. I was there in winter once and it was still nice. My favorite museum is probably the Amon Carter: beautiful Philip Johnson building, nice collection, good gift shop.

Slapfight

@MilesofMountains OOOH! I've visited Victoria and Tofino! It's so lovely up there. Do you surf? Victoria Clipper represent!
Ok, I really can't rep for the Clipper. But it was great.
How about you stay put and I just come back to visit you? Is this getting weird? I just had coffee.

MailerMattDaemon

@MilesofMountains I go to Dallas sometimes for work, and I will say that it has some of the very best consignment shopping in the land. Lots of fancy ladies buy expensive clothing and then don't wear it (or wear it very little) and sell it on the cheap. My dreary Dallas trips have been brightened many-a time by consignment adventures!

MilesofMountains

@briarnoir Yay for Smithers love! I'm actually really surprised to find people who have heard of it, it's so tiny and middle of nowhere.

@Slapfight Oh, I miss Victoria a lot. I never learned to surf, unfortunately, but I do practically every other beachy thing.

Beatrix Kiddo

I love all the suggestions everyone's given so far, but also, check out Couch Surfing!

gobblegirl

Come to Canada! You'll be able to get cheap flights from the US, it's very safe and easy to prepare for (which is nice if you're entry-level at solo travelling), and a pretty cool place! If you're from a coastal place or the South, visit the mountains (Jasper! Banff! Lake Louise!)or the old cities of Ottawa, Quebec, or Montreal. The east coast is also VERY cool and has a lot of unique cultural experiences. Are you from the midwest or somewhere chilly? Visit the West coast - the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island, or Vancouver itself. It's beautiful out there and the food is amazing - so easy to get great local fruit, veg, and seafood.

wallsdonotfall

@gobblegirl Cheap flights where?! (Or, I guess, what counts as cheap?) I feel like Chicago-Toronto should be inexpensive, but round trips are always above $300. Maybe I'm just spoiled by sub-$200 flights for equivalent domestic flights.

The Lady of Shalott

@gobblegirl While there are tons of awesome places to go in Canada, the East coast is probably not an awesome place to go between now and spring--it tends to be cold and rainy, and most of the stuff that's awesome to see is better seen in summer.

For cheap flights try Westjet and Porter, as well as airfarewatchdog.com and kayak.com. BUT it is probably going to be $300 round trip at a minimum for most places in Canada.

CANADA IS AWESOME! But, you know, unless you're really keen on winter, you might want to hit the west coast.

Megasus

@The Lady of Shalott BUT if you hit up Quebec at the right time the sugar shacks are open....

MilesofMountains

@The Lady of Shalott Even then, I'm not sure I'd recommend the West Coast in the winter, unless atmospheric drizzly days are your thing. Summer on the coast is awesome, though. I recently did a cider-brewery (cidery?) tour of Vancouver Island, and I'm itching to do a winery tour of the Okanogan. There are also non-drinking things to do there, I hear.

The Lady of Shalott

@Megano! fnhghghg yes Quebec/Ontario in about February? ALL THE MAPLE PRODUCTS YOU CAN CONSUME. And then some!

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@MilesofMountains
Yes, the summer is wonderful! You can just plan something and KNOW that it isn't going to rain!

gobblegirl

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll You're all so down on winter! East coast in "actual" winter is indeed very very snowy. Probably best enjoyed in fall, to get maximum foliage. But what is more beautiful than historic Quebec City in the winter? Or Montreal during Carnaval? Or skating down the Rideau canal? Or blindingly blue skies over snowy mountains in the Rockies. Or the smell of wet cedars in +10 weather in the Cowichan Valley? (Vancouver is grey and drizzly all the time, but the Island isn't.)
As long as you have the right coat, it's all perfect.

gobblegirl

@gobblegirl I meant "the Island isn't so bad." It does rain there all the time, but it's not slit-your-wrists-grey in my experience.

The Lady of Shalott

@gobblegirl I'm not down on winter! I just...LIVE here, and there's almost no tourists during the winter for a reason. Not everybody is keen on a wintry vacation.

Amphora

@wallsdonotfall Porter Airlines has sales ALL the time, I can usually find a Chicago-Toronto round trip for $200. I've actually never been to Toronto in the summer...we always go for the holidays to visit my in-laws. At least most of downtown is connected underground!

theotherginger

@Amphora I have american friends, and they fly out of buffalo rather than toronto on occasion to get better prices. is it worth it? not to me. i also wouldn't do Canada for a solo vacation in winter. Come for a weekend in the summer... in winter, the Texas/Arizona/southwest sounds much more appealing.

Amphora

@theotherginger Seems like you'd make up the difference in ticket prices trying to get to Buffalo from Toronto.

theotherginger

@Amphora you can take the megabus, which can be really cheap, and goes directly to the airport, but the hassle of crossing the border in a bus, and the time it would add, has made it never appeal to me ever. so in that sense, yes, you would make up the difference

harebell

Can anyone recommend fun and not-too-distant/airfare-costing places to travel where Spanish is spoken, to rev up my language abilities?

The Guatemala recommendations above were really tempting, though the plane ticket sounds pricey. I'd love to go to Buenos Aires, but it's a bit far/pricey. Am deterred from Costa Rica by people saying it is touristy. My husband and I both love Mexico City but I want to go somewhere new because he lived there for a while. Any other recs? Belize? Is Panama pretty?

And to the original questioner: Alex is spot on about going to France, where they won't blink an eye at a solo traveler. I recommend Aix and Carcassone. Barcelona might also be lovely. Or New Orleans. Or Berlin -- though winter is not the best time for that. But Berlin is wonderful and you could drink mulled wine and go to the Schokoladenfabrik baths to stay warm! So many good options.

stjohnofthecruz

@harebell Are you checking Fly.com? I don't know where you're coming from, but if flying into Guatemala City is prohibitive, check Cancun. It's the sneaky way in, because Cancun is so touristy and they make the fares super cheap to get people there. Then you take a miserable 20 hour bus trip to Atitlan (or break it up by stopping off at the Mayan ruins at Tikal, the most famous ones), and everything will become wonderful wonderful wonderful.

I've never seen tickets from North America to South America that were cheaper than North America to Central America.

P.S. Oh, and Belize is super touristy and very English-speaking. Also very very expensive. Most people I met found it kind of useless, unless they were traveling with their mothers or something.

harebell

@Canting Meringue@facebook
Thank you -- I have very little first-hand knowledge of Central America, so this is really helpful, especially about Belize (I will cross that right off!).

Was looking at vayama, not fly.com (which I will definitely try!). Buenos Aires was about $1800 from where I live, whereas Guatemala City was more like $600-800 depending on how many stops. A Cancun flight is an interesting tip. We will probably take our trip just before/during Christmas, which usually means lower rates plus much more availability (and besides, Christmas is fun in foreign places). It sounds like you definitely recommend Guatemala!!

stjohnofthecruz

@harebell I love it so much I'm on the verge of deleting all my comments. COOL KIDS ONLY. (J/K good luck and enjoy wherever you end up!)

Tam
Tam

@harebell I can also recommend San Cristobal in Chiapas, it's such a beautiful colonial town.

theotherginger

@Tam yes. I was just there. It was so lovely. I might do Cancún (to fly, not to stay there), and then Mérida, Palenque, San Cristóbal and Guatemala. Go to Semuc Champey if you go to Guatemala. Do it.
Within Mexico cheap flights can be found at vivaaerobus.com (you get what you pay for) and volaris and interjet - they might even go to Guatemala?
If you want to go to Argentina, it's also beautiful, but can get pricey (4 years ago), compared to Mexico and Central America. If I had the chance, I'd do Colombia/Ecuador/Bolivia and maybe take a short trip to Machu Picchu.

straw hat

@harebell I LOVED Panama, I stayed there for a few months a couple years ago and ever since I praise it to everyone who will listen.
It has great and diverse scenery (beaches, mountain, jungle, deserted tropical islands!), great culture, esp. native, and super friendly people. It's cheaper and less touristy than Costa Rica, at least it was at the time. It's not very big and it's easy to get around so you'd be able to see a lot in little time.

I had a good time in Belize! Probably because I had heard bad things and didn't expect anything. I found a really cheap place to stay and enjoyed the snorkeling/scuba diving which is EXCELLENT.

selenalynn

@harebell I loved Costa Rica. Yeah, it's more expensive than neighboring countries (though still much cheaper than the US/Canada) and it's touristy but well-maintained, in that they take care of their trails and rain forests and historic buildings. I got a bungalow on the beach on the Carribean side for something like $8 a night a few years ago.

Plus, I mean, you're a tourist. Nobody is forcing you to buy loud tshirts and overpriced Hilton rooms. There's still plenty to do and see besides all that.

Plant Fire

@harebell Honduras!! Guatemala is nice but I strongly recommend going to Copán, in Honduras either instead or in addition to (I liked both). I loved it when I visited, it is fantastic and perfect if you like ruins and fascinating old things, there is soooo much to see. Bring good walking shoes for when you go, you'll want to spend a lot of time exploring and checking out the ruins and statues and other interesting things.

For weather I'd recommend San Salvador as the best, however, I can't really say more than that as I lived there when I was 6 and 7 years old and so I...don't remember much. I wouldn't really recommend Buenos Aires. Not that there is anything wrong with it, I lived there for 5 months and thoroughly enjoyed it I just thought it was a little boring and there wasn't as many interesting things to do/see compared to other cities I've been to.
However, Iguazu Falls (in northern Argentina by Brazil) is lovely although I don't know if there is enough to do there to last a vacation. I'd probably combine that one with Brazil (several friends of mine went and loved it) because you can cross the border into the other side of Iguazu and then maybe go from there to Sao Paolo or somewhere fun. Keep in mind that there is a fairly large reciprocity fee to go into Argentina if you are a US citizen.

geek_tragedy

@harebell

If you are considering Argentina, I have often found deals through Delta. It's sometimes more affordable to find a cheap flight to Atlanta, and then take Delta to ARG.

up cubed

@thesquishy This is my mother's secret to cheap Central American vacations- fly somewhere touristy (for cheap) and immediately catch a bus to a smaller city.

leonstj

Sometimes I dream of just taking a long weekend, like 4 or 5 days, somewhere really random and small, like Des Moines or or Wichita. Every place I've ever been to has had some decent bars with nice people, at least two decent restaurants, a walkable downtown (even if it's only a few blocks, and at least one cool "coffee shop and bookstore near each other" spot.

Really, I just like being in a hotel and somewhere new.

BoatGirl

If you're travelling solo, I really recommend staying in hostels, where you can meet other solo travellers and band together for a day or two if you get lonely. Plus, hostels are cheaper than hotels or B&Bs and you can save on food by cooking your own as they usually have kitchen facilities.
As far as fall travel - I really enjoyed both Scotland and China during the fall. Both were less crowded and really fun during the off season.
In the fall, I think the only thing you need to consider is if you want to do a lot of hiking wherever you go - will the days be too short or will there be too much rain? If you're planning to do more museums and local culture, lack of daylight or too much rain shouldn't matter.

theotherginger

@BoatGirl yes! I have had so much fun in hostels - when I travelled for 2 months I mixed up hostels, friends, small hotels and couchsurfing, and met people, and didn't, depending on how I felt.

stjohnofthecruz

@BoatGirl Just learn how to check for signs of bedbugs before you move in! Other than that, hostels are awesome.

swirrlygrrl

@thesquishy Um, you need to look for bedbugs everywhere. Or no where. They happen in all types of accomodations, at all price ranges.

stjohnofthecruz

@swirrlygrrl Ain't that the troof.

BoatGirl

@swirrlygrrl I got FLEAS on the executive level of a Radisson in New Brunswick, NJ!!!

Steph

Ugh I'm late, but as a prolific solo traveler I have to recommend Japan as an ideal place for first time solo ladies! It's super safe, everyone is friendly and it's fascinating.

Honestly though, I have traveled through 5 continents and dozens of countries and I have yet to run into any problems with my safety. I'm sensible and I don't take unnecessary myths, but I don't find the world to be as scary as so many portray it to be.

Bethany Murray@twitter

@Steph I agree with what you say about Japan, but I think it would be hard to pull off for $2,000 or less.

Steph

@Bethany Murray@twitter Yeah I realized that after I posted... Still awesome for people who can afford it!

For under $2000 I would probably head to Central America or Colombia I think.

_antislice

http://www.yesandyes.org/

It's one of my favorite blogs ever, and the author has gone on multiple low budget solo lady adventures. And features mini travel guides for many places, etc, etc.

swirrlygrrl

@_antislice Thanks for hte tip! I'm skimming and plan to check her further.

BS
BS

India! Grouse times to be had on your own, they speak English and are lovely (ignore anyone who says Indians are rude to ladies on their own, this is exception not rule), and if you stick to 1 or 2 states then you can keep it contained. Also, cheap as cheap.

I wrote a piece on the sort of lunatic advice people will give you before you travel solo - you may want to read it so you know that most of it you can laugh off: http://www.thevine.com.au/life/travel/travelling-with-breasts/

Have fun, we're all jealous!!

Brigdh's@twitter

@BS Yes, I was totally going to say India! It's a bit expensive to get there (assuming you're coming from the US), but once you're there you can save a lot of money. Also, the train system is amaaaaazing and wonderful, which makes it so easy to travel from place to place. And the only time I've ever been harassed, as a woman alone, was on a bus in rural Haryana (ie, a place with a fairly bad reputation for its treatment of women) by some guy who I think was drunk, and everyone else on the bus banded together to defend me.

I love India so much, everyone should go!

astrangerinthealps

Reading this with great interest. I'm planning some solo travel too. I have a birthday to celebrate in January and more time than money with which to do it, and all my friends are either broke or busy with their jobs and/or families. The thing is, I hate sunshine, so I'm looking at more northerly destinations. So far I'm thinking Seattle and Vancouver, because ferries (I love them). But I've also been wanting to go to South Korea. I wonder what that's like in winter, and if it would be wrong to go somewhere alone where I don't even know the alphabet. Mexico City is tempting, except for the sunshine. I'm dying to go cycling in Denmark or the Netherlands, but maybe not in winter. I followed the safety link in this story and it led me to this: http://solotravelerblog.com/solo-walking/ which looks good too. 

Tragically Ludicrous

@Fflora People definitely cycle all year around in the Netherlands, but the spring or summer would be much more pleasant for a "cycling around the country" sort of trip. Too much cold irritating rain this time of year.

theotherginger

@Fflora it's not that sunny in Mexico City (this is one reason I prefer the city to other parts of the country, I now realize!). Especially if you come during rainy season - it isn't tropical enough to rain all the time - this season just ended but it is gray outside of my window right now. I promise.

astrangerinthealps

@theotherginger That is promising. If I don't make it there in January I will make a note to go at the tail end of the rainy season some year.

Lost penguin

if you are up for coming to Europe then Malta is lovely. Small so easy to get about, very friendly- I have been several times on my own, GREAT history, excellent food, lovely people.......

teaandcakeordeath

This is a little broad but if you would like to try a new sport or something like surfing or yoga, theres normally a hostel or camp that you can join for a week or so. It makes it easier to meet people are youre all doing something together and it feels a little safer too. Plus they generally pick rather beautiful spots. Or maybe some sort of charity project like habitat for humanity? Or Machu Pichu! I dont know, every where is exciting.

Melusina

What about finding some sort of residential project -- a commune, kibbutz, artists colony or eco-type thing in a beautiful location? You would have to pitch in and do your bit but it would be a great way to have friendly company.

Nutellaface

Home exchanging is an awesome option because it is FREE. You know the movie The Holiday? It's that thing. You can probably meet a charming lady or gentleman in addition to staying somewhere for ZERO DOLLARS. Then you have money to spend on everything else, and someone to watch your cat or water your plants or whatever. Free vacation plus built-in house-sitter! Homeexchange.com is a good site. There's a subscription fee but it's like $100/year or something, so obviously way cheaper than a hotel. /infomercial

madge

i am super late to this party, but what about taking a long train trip? i did this a few years ago -- flew to denver, hung out in the rockies and boulder for a while (airbnb!), then took the train to salt lake city which was *beautiful*, and hung out there a few days, then on to san francisco. this took me about a week but you could start in chicago, or take a transcanadian train which i also hear is gorgeous.

ooh you are going to have FUN!

keynesiancutie

@madge My bf and I took the train from DC to Chicago and it was SO much fun. The couple we sat across from at dinner was really into trains and they also spoke very highly of the transcanadian train. I definitely think a western train trip is a great suggestion! (Now I want to go too!!!!)

itiresias

this is such good timing! i'm in the exact same position as the LW and only started seriously thinking about how to spend my vacation time yesterday. also, shout out to my homegirl, it's a weird feeling to have a 9 to 5 and 401k when all of my friends and boyfriend work in bars or freelance stuff to get by. my friends in this city, anywho.

also, i need advice, and if anyone could weigh in, it would be great. i do have one friend from childhood who also lives in my city, who will have some time off between a contracted job and grad school this summer and she keeps telling me we should plan a trip together, knowing that i have the finances and time to do so. i love her very much, she's like a sister to me, but she can be infuriating and impossible for a lot of reasons. we've traveled together in the past and since she's outgoing and loves to go DO things, she can be a great travel partner. however, she's gotten way more into a culture i'm not a fan of - dubstep, drugs, a lot of new age hippie stuff - in the past months, and getting into generally more erratic behavior that i see as "crazy and unstable" rather than "spontaneous and fun". and i'm sorry if that sounds offensive to anyone. she's also very stubborn and never can be told she's wrong. i am wondering if going on a trip with her would be a disaster. because at the same time, i really would like travel company and we've had so many great adventures in the past.

astrangerinthealps

@itiresias How about setting some limits on the trip, say, going someplace that's within her budget as well as yours, and not too remote? If you decide halfway through that it's not working and you need to switch hotels, you won't feel guilty that she can't afford to be on her own, without a car or whatever. That way you can have good times as long as they last, and if it goes bad you can bail with minimal hard feelings. 

itiresias

@Fflora true, but she's pretty set on wanting to backpack in eastern europe - turkey, croatia - and make it to asia if possible. which i'm also very interested in. we'd be staying in hostels, couchsurfing and camping where we could. it would be the kind of thing where it would be awkward to split up.

astrangerinthealps

@itiresias Yeah, that's a lot to commit to with a friend who isn't as stable as she used to be. But if it's all within each person's respective budget and it's all pretty ad hoc, I'm not sure why it would be so hard to split up if it came to that. It's not as if you're buying a nonrefundable week at a high-end resort on a small Caribbean island where you are sharing a suite to save money...?

up cubed

@itiresias I've had success doing trips where we spent a few days together at the beginning and the end, then did our own thing for a few days in the middle. That way you don't get too tired of each other.

newyorkette

I spent 6 days in Barcelona by myself in March (female, 25) and I can't recommend it highly enough. In total it cost me somewhere in the realm of $1100 ($600 of which was the plane fare). I found a room in an apartment through Airbnb, which was super cheap and a great experience.

Three weeks would be a great amount of time to do all of Spain with maybe a trip across the Strait of Gibralter into Morocco for a weekend? Alternatively you could split the time between Spain and France.

This was the first time I've traveled solo and I can't believe it took me this long. I'm planning a trip to Istanbul next spring on my own as well. It's empowering and really freeing - go, and enjoy!

recoveringEvangelical

Puerto Rico! I did a solo trip there this summer for less than $1000k. Stayed in this awesome AirBnB apartment with a kitchen. Saved soo much money by not eating out and drinking, and the beach was within walking distance. I also took a day trip to another beach by renting a car at Avis, which was only about $40 for one day. It was a blast, and I didn't really get harassed much. You can practice your Spanish or just use your English - it's up to you!

Anyways, can't say much more than it was awesome, and Old San Juan is beautiful.

vunder

I would want to know way more about what this letter writer is after from her travels. What is the tolerance for being alone and having open ended wander time vs openness to others and hoping for structured thing to do. Different places offer both, but all I've heard so far is safety. But let me suggest: Spain, Portugal, Argentina. Especially Spain, only bevause there is heaps of famous stuff to see. But don't you have places you're already curious about? Scratching that "I've always wanted to go to x" itch is half the fun. Most places are safe enough, really. I mean if you live in the US, so many places are safer than here. Another option is the Go to ----- to learn to ---- approach. Honduras, diving. Guatemala or Mexico, Spanish. Costa Rica, surfing. That way you have something to do and will meet folks while doing it.

astrangerinthealps

@vunder Spain is the best place I've ever been. Except, strangely, Barcelona, which might have been my single worst day of travel ever. Before I went there I read something in a guidebook like, you can go to Spain for one thing and then while you're there, stumble on something else that will become a lifelong obsession; it's hard to stop at just one trip to Spain. And I have to agree. I could go to Spain once a year for the rest of my life and not get sick of it.

highjump

I am proud to discover that very few people are enthusiastically seconding France. I was really surprised to see that recommendation. Sorry Francophiles, but the French really earn their reputation as unfriendly to tourists. I think it would be a lonely place to go alone.

Central Europe is where it is at in my book. Krakow, Prague, Vienna, Budapest could be a good skeleton itinerary. English will be widespread in Prague and Vienna, and only a bit less so in Krakow and Budapest (and unlike terrible France, Poles and Hungarians will totally meet you halfway when you're trying to say something). There is so much to see in these places, the food is to die for, and things are pretty cheap.

If English would make the LW feel safer I also recommend London and environs. I could go there for a month and never get bored.

astrangerinthealps

@highjump It's funny about France: after one trip to Paris, I was done and never felt the need to go again. Which made me feel like the ten years I had spent learning French, to the point of near-fluency might have been wasted (if I didn't spend as much time as possible in Québec). But I still want to travel to other parts of the country even if it's just to find out if it's true what they say about the French outside Paris.

Hammitt

I realize this answer comes with a lot of ideological baggage and so I understand if people want to pick me apart in comments but:

My best best BEST solo travel experience was in Israel and Palestine.

I went without agenda - I'm not religious in any way and my political views on the situation come down to something like "basically two states but I also realize that this is a lot more complicated than I understand and so while I'm in this country I'll just try to listen to a lot of opinions and learn."

I had the best time. I LOVED Jerusalem (so many cheap hostels where you can sleep on rooftops!) and Tel Aviv (which I thought I would hate, as I hate beaches and nightclubs, but there are a million coffee shops and design-y cafes, and leftist political education centers with cocktails (that's a thing)) - I liked Haifa, too, although not AS much, and wish I'd spent much more time in Jerusalem.

PS I also felt really safe as a solo young woman travelling

PPS This seems kinda self-promoting, but fuck it, I'll share anyway - there's lots more on my experience there and some solo and some group travel in general here: http://hammitt.wordpress.com/israel-and-palestine/

Tulletilsynet

China is safe and amazing and endless. If you can only get yourself here on your budget, you can study up a great Lonely Planet-style itinerary. Book perfectly acceptable very cheap hotels on Agoda (standard booking sites have poor coverage), travel by non-bullet train and by boat, eat street food. (Much safer than mass-produced snacks.)

Frog Doctress

@Tulletilsynet I did this. Went for a month... I love Shanghai, and want to go back to stay.

keynesiancutie

YES to Santa Fe!! My parents recently moved there and I really like it. Plus, people are so friendly. Young people I meet when I'm with my parents are always asking me what I do and how long I'll be in town (not in a creepy way). I'm usually pretty caught-up with family time, but I bet you could easily meet some cool people as a solo traveler. Plus all the art gallaries are like a free museum! And check out the flea market! And obviously, eat your weight in green and red chile. If you have a car there are a lot of cool day trips out of Santa Fe. It's cliche, but there's a reason New Mexico is the land of enchantment- it's so beautiful! I'm trying to plan a trip with my boyfriend now because I'd really like to go not for family time.

sony_b

I just wrapped up two weeks in Morocco, half of that solo in Marrakech. I had a great time. If you book a riad (guest-house, like a B&B) there will be other people to talk to, and many educated people in Morocco do speak English. They all speak French and Arabic. You will want to find someone to be your guide, at least at first. I used one for three days but would have been OK without him after a while.

rowrow

man, what a question. go... anywhere? where have you always wanted to go? do you like sun? cities? beaches? nature? art? americana?

figure out a bit of what you'd like, and then start browsing guide books. even though it seems fuddy duddy, i like Frommer's for their "best experiences" sections. you can also check out operators like Gap Adventures, and copy their itineraries if you're not sure what to see in a set time in a set country.

with limited time and money, here are a few suggestions:
* stick to one country, or one (small) region. too much time racing from place to place does not a fun trip make.
* like some of the other commenters said, centre your trip around a class. if you don't feel like language classes, you could take a cooking class in Thailand, yoga in Costa Rica, whatever really.
* avoid Europe. Europe is expensive. airfare would be $1k, and the rest of your money wouldn't go very far with museum entries, transportation around, and food.
* try South America or Asia. i had great experiences backpacking solo in Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal and Guatemala. i experienced more harassment as a solo (blonde) female traveler in Malaysia, India and Vietnam.

have an amazing time.

jp@twitter

I did a road trip through the National parks last year at around this time solo and had a blast. Flew into Vegas, did Zion, Bryce and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (which may be closed soon due to snowfall); and then trekked around to Arches, Canyonlands and Monument Valley. There are tons of affordable places to stay and lots to see along the way.

Kate Dollarhyde@twitter

I read all of Cheryl Strayed's books on a recent 10 day solo trip to Iceland. Highly recommended!

pumpkinrun

Headed to Cuba on Saturday for 10 days by myself! Don't speak a lick of Spanish and staying in casa particulars (rooms in people's houses). Feeling incredibly excited and foolish at the same time.

Angela Jones@facebook

If you're into original, weird and awesome street art, these destinations will sure land on your to visit list. http://loljam.com/post/1923/?mode=travel

antomoel

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1963248500@twitter

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1963248500@twitter

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