I like travelling alone. Getting on the plane alone, not having to organise any body else’s hand luggage. Not having to talk to anyone unless I feel like it. I enjoy walking the streets of Paris, Madrid, Copenhagen, London, Venice, etc alone. Just far enough away from home in order to feel that the world is slightly different. Going further afield requires company. In my case. But Europe is my back pocket, and here’s a little list of 5 DO’s and DON’Ts for women travelling solo. I’ve found it to ensure a smooth ride every time.
- Gay Heaven! Every big, European city has its own gay area these days. I loooove Le Marais in Paris and Chueca in Madrid! Cafés called “Coming out”, “The Stud” and “Castro” are clear indications you’re in the right place. You may also spot the rainbow flag hanging from balconies and displayed in shop windows. A bit of research on beforehand may even land you a place to stay smack in the middle of the gay area. A great way to feel safe on your way home late at night.
- Keep busy. Bring along maps and literature. Pen and paper are a must. It does get a bit boring eating alone.
- Get talking! If you’re up for some company, make sure you stay in hostels or B&Bs where the atmosphere is more laid back than in a hotel, and you’re more likely to get chatting to other guests. Remember that youth hostels apply to mental age, not the age stated in your passport. If you’re young at heart, you’ll fit in. Last time I stayed in a hostel (on the Cote d’Azur) I got chatting to a retired couple from Canada well into their sixties. Check out www.famoushostels.com for inspiration.
- A bit of Nancy Drew… If you’re going purely for leisure and have plenty of time on your hands there’s this little game I’ve invented for myself. Basically you decide to follow in the foot steps of someone local one whole morning and see what they get up to. Alternatively you can give yourself a mission along the lines of “I will only speak French” (if you’re in France). Small, individual projects like this may seem weird, but they will give you a goal and keep you entertained. Failing the above, go by the rule that when in Rome, do as the Romans…
- Deterrent. Sometimes you just want to be left alone, and as a female travelling alone, that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Bring along something which communicates to the world that you want to be left in peace. IN PEACE! Remember, male vultures need to receive the message in great, big capital letters sometimes, but a combination of dark shades, a book and an i-pod (even if you haven’t switched it on) should do the job!