Trip Coach: July 24, 2007
Beth Whitman, author of 'Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo,' answered your questions on solo travel.
Marblehead, Mass.: I want to travel to Turkey, but none of my friends are interested. I don't really like the regimentation of an escorted tour. What options are there?
Beth Whitman: You could simply book your flight and your first night's hotel stay and make a grand adventure of it on your own. One thing to remember when you're traveling solo is that you're only ever alone if you want to be. There are lots of other travelers out there and with just a little effort, you'll be able to meet up with them and have fast friends. Guide books list popular internet cafes, coffee shops and backpacker hostels where you will undoubtedly meet up with others.
If you feel like you need to have someone with you from the beginning, try connecting with other travelers through an online site such as Solo Travel Portal.
Dallas, Tex.: I will be traveling to London for business and some solo sightseeing from 7/31-8/12. Is there anything that I should be aware of traveling as a solo woman in London? Any recommendations for sites to see?
Beth Whitman: Hi, Charlene. Luckily, London is a popular tourist destination and relatively progressive when it comes to women's rights (as opposed to Middle Eastern countries, let's say). As a solo woman traveling to London you should take the usual precautions. Always be aware of your surroundings; keep your bags close to you at all times; if traveling by train, lock your bags to the luggage rack with a cable lock; never let anyone overhear your room number in your hotel lobby. I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the gist.
As a first timer to London, you will want to see as many sites as you can squeeze in. I recommend you give some thought to what your interests are and doing a little research as to what you might enjoy most and plan accordingly. You might love museums and architecture. Or perhaps you are a theatre person. If shopping is your thing, visit Harrods. My point is to focus in on what it is that YOU enjoy doing at home and then follow those interests while you travel!
Philadelphia, Pa.: Hi Beth, I am planning on doing some solo traveling through Western Europe and into North Africa this coming January, for 6 months or so. My biggest worry is travel insurance. I do not have too much money to spare, but my mother's worries are perhaps not baseless. What do you do about travel insurance? Do the coverage and/or prices depend on the destinations? Where should I look for possible insurance plans? Thank you for your help.
Beth Whitman: Hi, Sam. Generally, if you have healthcare coverage already, your insurance will cover out of pocket expenses if you are injured while out of the country. Check with your provider before departing to make sure.
Beyond that, there's travel insurance (in which you may recoup your travel costs if you have to cancel your trip at the last minute) and then there's evacuation insurance.
Personally, I have never purchased travel insurance in which my costs would be reimbursed or my bags and clothes replaced if they were lost.
However, I do purchase evacuation insurance. I've used MedJet Assistance in the past and I find it to be really reasonably priced. If I am injured during a trip, they will get me to a Western hospital that can treat me.
You might consider getting evacuation insurance just for the portion of your trip that might be a bit more dangerous (Northern Africa, for example). This will cut down on your costs so you're not paying for all 6 months but will give you some protection if you do need to get out to a Western hospital quickly.
New York, N.Y.: I want to take a solo vacation over the last two weeks of August. I am considering Central or South America. I have backpacked in Western Europe and parts of Asia extensively, and am comfortable staying in hostels or other budget accommodations. I am interested in culture, food, and nature, and plan to spend most of my time outdoors. I am fit enough to do some biking and/or hiking. Can you recommend a safe and inexpensive trip? (I will use frequent flier miles or airline employee passes, so airfare cost is not a concern, only the availability of seats to my destination.) Thanks!
Beth Whitman: Costa Rica! This is an outdoor adventure paradise. You won't have the same cultural and culinary experiences that you might find in other parts of Central and South America, but you can't beat watching macaws, monkeys, three-toed sloths, anteaters, toucans and quetzals. You can then head off to the beach for a little R&R after you've hiked your boots off.
I'd highly recommend the Osa Peninsula and the Monte Verde Cloud Forest. I'm jealous!
Beth Whitman: Thanks for joining me today. I've thoroughly enjoyed answering your questions and helping you sort through many of the questions and issues that pop up with regards to solo travel. For more in-depth information, travel tips, travel stories and the chance to share your tips, questions and answers through my Forum, please visit WanderlustAndLipstick.com. My book, Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo, is also packed with hundreds of tips that will help you get started planning your next journey.