Archives

Subscribe to Volunteer Vacation RSS Feed

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Safe Travel Advice if you Intend on Going to the Middle East

Due to recent events in the Middle East, many travelers are now on edge over security concerns. Here are some tips on staying safe if you plan on travelling to the region in the near future.


‘Maintain a high level of vigilance’ — travel security experts advise caution when traveling to the Middle East

Jan 8, 2020 

By MEERA JAGANNATHAN and ANDREW KESHNER

SOURCE: MARKET WATCH

The State Department says Americans should maintain ‘situational awareness’ in the region following the Baghdad airstrike

Tourists at the Khazneh, or Treasury, in Petra, Jordan. The popular destination is in a region of the world where tensions can be expected to rise after an U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, killed a top Iranian military official.

Iran and Iraq are obviously not destinations for most U.S. tourists, but experts say U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling to other countries in the Middle East following the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad’s international airport last Friday.

Iran, which has several armed allies in the region, retaliated Wednesday by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at two American military bases in Iraq. The Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. airlines from flying over Iran, Iraq and waters of the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf, and Reuters reported that a number of non-U.S. airlines, including Emirates and Lufthansa, had canceled flights around Iraq and Iran.

Meanwhile, a Ukraine-bound Boeing 737 BA, -0.77% operated by Ukraine International Airlines crashed Wednesday after taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran said the crash was under investigation by a commission, and that any statements about its causes before the commission’s decision were “not official,” the Washington Post reported.

Iran and Iraq are listed as Level 4, meaning do not travel to them, by the State Department, while Israel and Jordan are deemed Level 2, calling for increased caution.

Travel experts advise caution when visiting the Middle East. “Any of those places in the Middle East, I would have a heightened level of concern,” Tim Bradley, managing partner of IMG GlobalSecur, a Tavares, Fla., a firm advising companies, nongovernmental organizations and mission groups on safe travel across the globe, said last week after Soleimani’s killing.

The State Department did not respond immediately to a request for comment Wednesday, but it urged all U.S. citizens last week to leave Iraq “due to heightened tensions” in the country and surrounding region.

The department sent out a string of notices on Twitter TWTR, +1.25% cautioning American citizens in countries including Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait to maintain “a high level of vigilance” and “good situational awareness” in light of the tensions in the region. American citizens in Bahrain should also be on the lookout for demonstrations or unrest, the State Department said.

“While we have no information indicating a threat to American citizens, we encourage you to continually exercise the appropriate level of security awareness,” a department tweet stated.

The State Department regularly issues travel advisories on a 1-to-4 scale; countries rated at Level 1 are places where travelers should “exercise normal precautions,” while Level 4 is a warning not to travel to a country so designated.

For context, Iran and Iraq are listed as Level 4 countries, while places like Israel and Jordan are deemed Level 2. These are countries where the State Department says travelers should use “increased caution.”

Travelers should be especially aware in public squares, and should also recognize that U.S. embassies and Western-branded hotels can face increased risks of attack, Bradley added.

The State Department’s ‘Smart Traveler Enrollment Program’ is a free service under which travelers send their itineraries to the department.

What about Americans planning travel to lower-risk Middle Eastern destinations like Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar?

“Don’t cancel your plans,” said Matthew Bradley, the regional security director for International SOS, a medical and travel security services firm (and no relation to Tim Bradley of IMG GlobalSecur).

That said, travelers to those traditionally lower-risk regions might still minimize their movements to reduce the risk of being a victim of circumstance, he said, and maintain a heightened sense of awareness.

Trust your gut, said GlobalSecur’s Bradley, a former FBI special agent. “If you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, it’s time to leave.”

Tim Bradley said there are other ways to plan ahead:

  • Enroll in the State Department’s “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program,” a free service under which travelers send their itineraries to the department. The program gives updates on a country’s safety conditions and enables government officials to get in touch in case of emergencies.
  • Brush up on current events before traveling, even if it’s just to know when holidays are approaching, he said.
  • Travelers should be in touch with family and friends back home as their trip proceeds. It’s also smart to leave a hard copy of the trip itinerary at home with someone.
  • Arrange transportation from the airport to the hotel ahead of time. Hotels typically can provide a car service, he said.
Share
 
Solo Travel 2020: volunteer travel and beyond

New year, new solo travel opportunities. Volunteer travel and volunteer vacations are but one unique solo-travel opportunities you can take to experience new countries, cultures and communities. Here are some other destinations to help you map out travel in the new year.


50 Awesome Solo Travel Destinations To Visit In 2020

From Slovenia to Ecuador, these spots offer a variety of activities for solo travelers.

10/01/2020

By Caroline Bologna

HuffPost US

Many people take the month of January to look at the year ahead and set travel goals. One of the most powerful ways to explore a new place is to take a solo trip. From the freedom and flexibility to the stress relief and boost in self-reliance, there are endless benefits to solo travel. And there are many exciting places to make it happen.

Of course, it’s always important to research current conditions in your desired destination to stay safe when traveling, especially for solo trips. But fortunately, there are precautions you can take, and tons of backup options if needed.

We asked travel bloggers and other experts to share the solo travel destinations they recommend for 2020. Keep scrolling to read about 50 places that will surely inspire your wanderlust.

Vancouver, Canada

“If you enjoy spending time in nature, Vancouver is a great place to add to your solo destination list for 2020. Canada as a whole is a very safe country to visit, and Vancouver has so much to offer. The city itself offers beautiful views of mountains and has a lot of fun places to visit, such as Granville Market and Stanley Park. You can also do a day or weekend trip from Vancouver to escape into the mountains any time of year!” ― Amber Primdahl, travel blogger at She’s Catching Flights

Santiago, Chile

“I recommend Santiago, Chile. South America is a friendly destination for travelers, even if you don’t speak Spanish. Santiago is not a difficult city to get around alone, as you can take the subway or Uber. The local food scene is fantastic and casual, so it’s a great place to enjoy a meal and cocktail by yourself. For example, at De Patio restaurant, you can sit at the counter and chat with the chef while he prepares dishes with ingredients straight out of his garden.” ― La Carmina, travel blogger and TV host

Malaysia

“Within Southeast Asia, I think Malaysia is a great destination for solo travel for any age. You’ve got some incredible rainforests and stunning canopy walks, buzzing cities with a great culinary scene, and since most Malaysians speak perfect English, it’s a lot easier to connect with locals than in many other countries. Malaysia doesn’t have the travel party scene you find so much Thailand, so it’s a perfect choice in Asia for more culture-focused or mature travelers.” ― Marek Bron, travel blogger at Indie Traveller

Slovenia

“Delve into one of the greenest and most beautiful countries in Europe by buying a ticket to Slovenia! Not only does it have fairytale castles built into mountain walls (check out Predjama Castle!) but underground cave trains resembling Indiana Jones’ own adventures. The capital city is by far the prettiest I’ve ever seen, too. Transport links are convenient. The country is small enough to explore confidently. And the safety, as well as a high level of English among the younger generation, make this the perfect European destination for a solo traveler this year.” ― Alice Teacake, travel blogger at Teacake Travels

St. John’s, Canada

“It’s not a place many people have heard of, but St. John’s, Newfoundland, is pretty magnificent and a great option for solo travel. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful with massive cliffs overlooking the ocean. You can stroll to the top of Signal Hill to overlook the harbor and out to the sea. You can also drive out to Cape Spear to stand at North America’s most eastern point. But the truly special part of St. John’s is the people. They are some of the warmest and friendliest you will meet. You can grab a pint in one of the many Irish pubs and strike up a conversation easily. And for such a small town, the downtown area is packed with restaurants, pubs and shops. Plus, they have puffins and icebergs (even in May). You really can’t go wrong here. Don’t forget to get ‘screeched in’ while you are in town, too.” ― Mark Ostermann, senior editor of Miles to Memories

South Korea

“Seoul is on the top of my list for great places to travel solo this year. It’s safe for solo travelers, fairly easy to get around, and the people are always kind and willing to help tourists. The city is full of modern conveniences that take everyday luxury to another level. There’s WiFi everywhere, you can Uber around the city, and the customer service is impeccable. It’s great for solo travelers on a budget since there are a ton of low-cost options for hotel stays and food. The street food in Seoul is a must!” ― Jee Choe, digital designer and blogger at Oh, How Civilized

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

“Skip the crowds of Amsterdam and head to Rotterdam. This city is easy to navigate by public transportation, walkable, and of course, very bike-friendly. Take a water taxi and enjoy the views of the modern architecture of the city. Head to the food halls such as Markthal and Fenix Food Factory to check out what’s new with Dutch cuisine.” ― Jessica van Dop, travel media specialist and blogger at The Dining Traveler

Accra, Ghana

“Ghana is one of the best countries to travel solo in Africa. Ghanaians are known to be very kind and are typically willing to help travelers with directions or the like. Accra has a beach close by, along with many cute boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Solo travelers might appreciate that Uber is available and affordable in Accra, which makes navigating the city quite easy.” ― Briona Lamback, travel blogger and founder of Buoyant travel agency

Malta

“This incredibly charming and gorgeous European island is just off the coast of Italy and makes for an enchanting solo travel adventure! You can rent a car and explore both islands in just a couple of days, and see things like quaint cobblestone streets and the stunning Blue Lagoon.” ― Alyssa Ramos, blogger at My Life’s A Travel Movie

Oman

“Many people can’t even point to Oman on a map, but it is one of the best destinations for solo travelers in 2020! Locals are friendly but rarely pushy, and you can walk down the street without getting stared at. Renting a car is easy and the roads are in pristine condition. The highlight of traveling Oman is the fabulous nature and scenery, from sparkling blue wadis and sand dunes for hundreds of miles to sea cliffs and the ‘Grand Canyon Of The Middle East.’ If you want a break from traveling solo, consider hiring a local Omani guide to show you around for a day or two!” ― Victoria Yore, travel blogger at Follow Me Away

London, England

“London is a great place to visit on a solo trip, especially if you’re new to it and a bit nervous. They have a vast public transportation network to help you get where you need to go, and since the main language is English, you won’t have to deal with a language barrier, which can help anxious or beginner solo travelers. There are also many free and affordable things to see and do in London, like visiting their museums.” ― Primdahl

Taipei, Taiwan

“Taipei is still under the radar compared to many large Asian cities such as Bangkok and Tokyo, but it’s a great destination for solo travelers. The lively night markets, the modern architecture and the art scene give a solo traveler plenty to see and do. From ultra-luxury shopping at Taipei 101 to donning plastic gloves to eat chili crab at the Raohe Night Market, there’s a wide spectrum of experiences to be had. The city is modern and safe, and locals are friendly and helpful, which makes it perfect for a solo traveler.” ― van Dop

Medellín, Colombia

“When I first told people I was planning a solo trip to Medellín in Colombia, so many peopled warned me not to go. Luckily for me, I didn’t listen to them, as I would have seriously missed out! What makes Medellín such a great destination to travel solo too is salsa! Up until visiting Colombia, I’d never ventured out much in the evenings alone as I was either concerned for my safety or I just didn’t feel comfortable sitting alone in a bar drinking. The salsa dancing culture in Medellín meant that as a solo female traveler, I could go out to a dance class then head to the salsa clubs alone and have a fun-filled night of dancing and meeting new people without ever feeling awkward or lonely.” ― Claire Summers, travel blogger at Claire’s Itchy Feet

Napa, California

“A great destination for solo travel in 2020 is Napa, California, even if you aren’t much of a wine drinker like myself. Stay at the Meritage Resort & Spa. Sit on the balcony to relax and look at the view of the vineyard or even take a walk through it. On a hot day, a nice dip in the pool is refreshing, or head to their spa to unwind. Napa is also a place for foodies. There are many Michelin Star restaurants. Also, a food tour is a great place to try many different delectable cuisines.” ― Holly McGuinn, travel blogger at HollyDayz

Georgia

“The country of Georgia is arguably the most underrated travel destination in the world. It packs a lot into a small area. Tbilisi has cobbled streets, centuries-old churches and wine cellars, and breathtaking views around every corner. It has a distinctive blend of post-Soviet dilapidation and emerging modernization, and is only a short drive away from snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and fun-packed beaches. Solo travelers can experience a lot without having to undertake long transportation hauls on their own.” ― Konrad Waliszewski, travel blogger and co-founder of the app TripScout

Mexico City, Mexico

“I had fun spending a few days alone in Mexico City. There are plenty of museums, architectural and historic sites to explore, and it’s nice to be able to go at your own pace and take your time. The anthropology museum, for example, is gigantic, and I liked how I could focus on the exhibits that interested me the most. I found locals to be welcoming and friendly, especially at specialty bars such as the gothic El Scary Witches. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with the people around you.” ― La Carmina

Tajikistan

“Tajikistan is a tiny Central Asian country on few traveler’s maps, which is all the more reason to visit! Though small, its mountains are massive; more than 90% of the country is covered by towering mountain ranges. If epic mountain vistas (and virtually empty trekking trails) aren’t enough, Tajik people are also worth the trip ― they’re some of the sweetest and most hospitable in Central Asia. It’s difficult to go a day without an invitation for tea or a friendly chat, which is a blessing, as any solo traveler knows. In this age of mass tourism and frustrated locals, Tajikistan is a treat you don’t want to miss.” ― Alex Reynolds, travel blogger at Lost With Purpose

Australia

“Known for its laid-back culture, and some of the world’s friendliest, most welcoming locals, Australia is a great place to travel solo. While you’ll definitely have to brush up on Aussie slang, there’s no language barrier for English speakers, the Aussie dollar right now is very low, and there’s a huge amount of incredible country to explore, whether you’re interested in climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a city escape or camping under the stars in the outback. Walk into a pub alone and you’ll end up sharing a beer with the locals; walk up to the beach by yourself, and you’ll likely get invited over to join a summer barbie. Plus, if you’re wanting to support Australia after the devastating bushfire season this year, a great way to do so is by visiting!” ― Meg Jerrard, travel blogger at Mapping Megan

Ecuador

“I recommend Ecuador for your next solo destination, thanks to its breadth of outdoor activities and cultural experiences. While Quilotoa Lake is at the top of my list, there’s plenty to do and see for every travel style. Whether you want to channel your inner mountaineer, surf the coast, traverse the jungle, or channel your love for wildlife ― Ecuador has it. There are so many amazing things to do in Ecuador.” ― Olivia Christine, travel blogger at O. Christine

Iceland

“As someone who has traveled solo to over 15 countries, I believe one of the best places to travel solo to is Iceland. Statistically, it is one of the safest places in the world, but it also has so many great things to do by yourself. From soaking in the Blue Lagoon to driving the Golden Circle, you will not run out of things to see and do in this beautiful country. And it doesn’t matter what time of year! You will love it winter or summer.” ― Danielle Nelson, travel blogger and creator of Pack This Journal

Ethiopia

“Ethiopia remains one of my favorite solo travel experiences. The capital, Addis Ababa, serves as the gateway to Ethiopia’s mythical and ancient world and continues to earn its reputation for friendly people, delicious food and the world’s best coffee. Spend a few days basking in the city’s restaurant and market culture, then take off to explore the ancient stone churches of Lalibela, which I believe are even more impressive wonder than Petra (so visit before every other traveler catches on!). Nature-lovers can then find a number of ways to get off the grid throughout the country, such as the Simien Mountains.” ― Waliszewski

Edinburgh, Scotland

“For ghosts and grand tales, magical Harry Potter moments, stunning Scottish architecture and a multitude of exhilarating festivals to enjoy throughout the year, there’s no better city than Edinburgh. As a solo traveler, you’ll be warmly welcomed by friendly locals. Walking through the streets at night need not be a worry. You’re in good hands here!” ― Teacake

Grand Canyon, Arizona

“Solo hiking and backpacking trips are an amazing way to escape into nature and experience true inner peace. The Grand Canyon is my favorite destination for solo hiking and getting into the solitude of nature. The stunning perspective shift that traveling down into the canyon provides is unparalleled in all my other hiking experiences. Plus, the popular trails are usually busy enough that you’ll run into plenty of other hikers if you want to chat and make friends.” ― Carrie Hoffman, digital nomad and co-founder of the Bigger Life Adventures yoga and adventure retreat

El Nido, the Philippines

“The Philippines is a great place to travel solo in 2020. El Nido is full of beautiful beaches with endless water sports, boutique hotels, and design-led hostels — perfect for meeting other solo travelers. The island’s famous boat tours are a great place for solo travelers to experience the culture with the comfort of a group.” ― Lamback

Montenegro

“Montenegro delivers the benefits of Croatia, but without the overtourism. This tiny country has one of Europe’s best beaches, countless charming old towns adorning the Bay of Kotor, and incredible natural parks and wineries throughout the country. It’s easy to rent a car and explore the entire country on your own in a relatively short amount of time.” ― Waliszewski

Alberta, Canada

“If you’re in North America, I recommend traveling to Alberta, Canada. Between Calgary’s bites and the national parks, you can indulge in ‘me time.’” ― Stephanie Be, travel blogger at TravelBreak and founder of lifestyle app BUENA

Istanbul, Turkey

“In recent years, Turkey has taken a hit in the tourism sector. While things are starting to recover, it’s still an excellent place to visit in terms of affordability. Istanbul has long been a culturally vibrant city. Offering some of the region’s most unique experiences. It’s a perfect destination for solo travelers interested in digging into one of the world’s oldest civilizations.” ― Erick Prince-Heaggans, travel blogger at Minority Nomad

South Island, New Zealand

“Although I might be biased because I am a Kiwi myself, I still have the South Island of New Zealand up at the top of my list as a great solo travel location for 2020. OK, it is on the edge of the world, which means a long flight, jet lag and an expensive plane ticket. But road-tripping around the beautiful South Island, where you can easily find a spot to watch the sunset and have a glass of wine in the wilderness alone, is sure to provide you with whatever it was you set off to achieve by solo traveling in the first place. You can surf on the East Coast, then drive an hour and a half and be in the Southern Alps that run right through the middle of the South Island to go snowboarding or hiking. If that hasn’t sold it for you, then maybe the fact there are no snakes or deadly animals will make the thought of a hike into the wilderness a pleasant one.” ― Eamon Wood, travel blogger at Wayward Wheeler

Savannah, Georgia

“A great destination is Savannah, Georgia. The delicious food alone would bring me back! The Pirate’s House’s award-winning pecan fried chicken is mouthwatering, and visit the nostalgic Leopold’s for ice cream. Savannah also has a lot of history, parks and tours to keep you busy. Not too far away is Tybee Island, where you can relax on the beach and listen to the sound of the ocean.” ― McGuinn

Argentina

“If you want a destination to both indulge you and inspire you at the same time, Argentina is your place. There are few better cities in the world to wander as a solo traveler than Buenos Aires. You will experience the best of Latin American and European culture all in one place. Delicious food and wine, sexy tango dancing, vibrant music, beautiful architecture, world-class art, highly caffeinated yerba mate, and vivacious people — do you need any more reasons? A short flight from there can also get you to breathtaking Patagonia and the world-class wine region of Mendoza.” ― Waliszewski

South Tyrol, Italy

“For a European solo trip, I recommend rock climbing in the Dolomites of South Tyrol. Start the day with mountains, and finish it with a smile. ― Be

Thailand

“For younger or inexperienced solo travelers, I always like to recommend Thailand. I think of it as just the perfect training ground for solo travel. Thailand has a way of feeling quite adventurous, especially if you haven’t traveled much in Asia yet. At the same time, since it’s such an established tourist destination, you also never have to worry about travel logistics too much. There are social backpacker hostels and cozy hotels virtually everywhere in Thailand, so you can always find the atmosphere you’re looking for.” ― Bron

South Of France

“The South of France makes the perfect road trip for a solo traveler. Drive through lavender and sunflower fields in full bloom, kayak through turquoise blue waters in the Gorge du Verdon and chase Van Gogh in Arles, finding the real-life places he painted and lived. Go in the summer, end of June/early July, to see Provence at its best.” — Jen Ruiz, travel blogger at Jen on a Jet Plane

Lisbon, Portugual

“Lisbon is one of my favorite cities, and with good reason. The people are friendly, the architecture is gorgeous, the food is phenomenal and it’s one of the most affordable destinations to visit in Europe.” ― Tausha Cowan, travel blogger at The Globe Getter

La Paz, Mexico

“If you’re looking to relax and get off-the-grid, look no further than to the beautiful, uninhabited beaches of La Paz. Located in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, this city is the perfect place to jet off to pristine remote beaches and surrounding pueblos. If adventure is what you crave, be sure to visit during whale shark season when you can snorkel with these gentle giants.” — Asia Dawn Simonelli, relationship coach and travel blogger

Budapest, Hungary

“Budapest has long been on intrepid travelers’ bucket lists. Its stunning architecture, delicious food scene, and refreshing thermal baths make for an exceptional experience. What many don’t know is that Budapest is home to one of Europe’s best music scenes, with world-class musicians performing everything from classical to rock. It gives solo travelers more than enough to fill up their itinerary.” ― Prince

San Juan, Puerto Rico

“If you like beaches, good food, and a good party, San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a great idea for a solo traveler. San Juan is vibrant with a strong local culture. There are events pretty much every day for locals and tourists alike. Whether it’s mingling with locals at the Bomba, [traditional Puerto Rican music] performances at El Patio de Bonanza on a Monday night, or wandering the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, there’s plenty that will keep you entertained.” ― van Dop

Rwanda

“The capitol city of Kigali is one of the cleanest cities in the world. The people are hospitable, and their tourism infrastructure is reliable. The major draw to visit Rwanda is to see the endangered mountain gorillas. The permit costs around $2000, but it’s worth it to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.” — Nathan Fluellen, host and travel blogger at World Wide Nate

Barcelona, Spain

“Barcelona, Spain, is an amazing destination when traveling solo. There are plenty of activities you can do alone, such as touring historic churches and parks designed by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, or visiting the Picasso Museum. Get lost in the gorgeous maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter and stop for a glass of sangria and some people-watching. At night, head to see flamenco dancing before ending the day in a tiny restaurant to have some authentic paella. The city is safe, transportation is abundant, and the locals are always welcoming.” ― Christine Johnson, travel blogger at My Traveling Kids

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

“With the Expo 2020 Dubai revving up for its October start time, Dubai is the place to visit in 2020. Dubai has always been one of those places where it’s easy to make fast friends and you could meet ‘anyone,’ and going in 2020 only triples its magical effects. I’d go as early as possible to avoid the inevitable Expo 2020 price inflation, but if you can make it before May, you’re guaranteed tours, accommodations, sights and overall trip quality unique to this year.” ― Gabby Beckford, travel blogger at Packs Light

Albuquerque, New Mexico

“If you’re looking to knock a bucket list item off your solo travel list this year, save up your money for a sunrise hot air balloon ride during mass ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It won’t matter if friends don’t make the splurge — flying in the air with hundreds of other balloons at the same time is a singular experience. Bonus? The balloons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from Yoda to pink elephants!” — Ruiz

San Pedro, Belize

“San Pedro, Belize, is the ideal destination for beach bums. They have fresh lobsters the size of your arm for less than $20, the second-largest coral reef in the world and the impressive Great Blue Hole, best appreciated by air. You can book a tourist flight in a small propeller plane that lasts an hour. The official language is English and the chosen mode of transportation is golf cart.” — Ruiz

Cinque Terre, Italy

“While this beautiful cluster of Italian villages is often considered a romantic escape for couples or a destination to add to your bucket list for a someday visit, I think the time to go is now. Thanks to accommodation platforms like Airbnb, you can rent a fairly affordable apartment or homestay for a week and take the time to really explore. I went on a solo trip in 2019 and had an incredible time. Cinque Terre consists of five villages connected by footpath and by train. The train is really easy to navigate and there are English-speaking tourism ambassadors at each station ready to help you if you get lost. The towns are small and easy to maneuver, and you can’t go wrong with ordering pizza or pasta at restaurants that don’t have translated menus. Summer tends to be the busiest season, but also the best time to go solo because you’ll never stand out in the crowd. Keep your clothing low-key, travel light and pack smart, and you’ll be good to go! Just don’t forget to bring enough memory cards to hold all the incredible pictures you’ll take!” — Francesca Murray, travel blogger at One Girl : One World

New York City, New York

“If you want to be surrounded by people on your solo travels, then what better place than the Big Apple? You can blend in with the masses and pretend you are living that Manhattan life! Take a stroll through Central Park or along the High Line. Shop at Chelsea Market or on 5th Avenue. Hit up a museum and a gallery or two. But if you really want to try something different and totally unique, take the tramway to Roosevelt Island. You will get some amazing views of the city on your ride over and back. Also, be sure to stand at the tip of the island at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park and soak in all Manhattan has to offer from the middle of the East River. It is like taking a step back in time when you are on the island and it is totally unique to anywhere else in the five boroughs.” ― Ostermann

Guatemala

“Guatemala was the first country that I ever traveled to solo, and it is, in my opinion, one of the best places to have a magical solo trip in 2020. It’s hard to really describe what makes Guatemala so special, perhaps it’s the magical Lake Atitlán or the rumbling volcanos that overlook Antigua. Whatever it is, Guatemala has a way of capturing your heart, and the only hard thing about traveling there is leaving! Transportation is improving there and it is now much safer and easier to travel from town to town. You will find many other solo travelers in Guatemala, so you will never be alone for long.” ― Summers

Easter Island

“This small but fascinating island is full of wonders, from ancient Moai statues that you can easily road-trip around the island to see to the jovial locals who are more than happy to tell you the tales of their past and present cultures. Stay at an Airbnb and get to know your local host or head down to the main Moai statues at sunset, where you’re sure to meet locals and other solo travelers!” — Ramos

Dublin, Ireland

“Dublin, Ireland, is a fantastic city to explore as a solo traveler. Matter of fact, it was the first city I traveled to as a solo female traveler. Dublin has an interesting and captivating history while being as cosmopolitan as any European capital city! I stayed at an Airbnb inside the city walls and was able to walk to everything easily. For those not in love with a lot of walking, or should the weather be inclement, Dublin’s transportation is first-rate, from buses to trams to trains. The city is safe and I never felt uncomfortable exploring or dining alone. Dublin’s historical attractions, such as Dublin Castle or The Book of Kells, give one a peek into Dublin’s ancient roots. The Temple District is a lively and trendy reminder that Dublin produces great beer and has great pubs to enjoy it in, serving traditional Irish cuisine. It’s a great way to meet new people and make new friends, as the Irish are some of the friendliest people on earth! Dublin is a great city for solo travel: safe, clean, walkable, great transportation and friendly, helpful people.” ― Linda Malys Yore, travel blogger at Linda On The Run

Bhutan

“I highly recommend Bhutan. Since Bhutan mandates a fixed tourism fee per person, it doesn’t matter how many people you go with, and I’d say it’s the best place for some quiet reflection. Rich in natural beauty, plants and animals, many come here to be enlightened and achieve happiness. Most Bhutan visitors are drawn to either its culture, way of life, happiness index or religion. Seeing people lead their lives with simple contentment is enough to make you reevaluate yourself and your life. With so many lessons to learn, you’ll definitely emerge a lighter, more wholesome person from your visit to Bhutan.” ― Isabel Leong, travel blogger at Bel Around The World

Aspen, Colorado

“To my surprise, Aspen has been one of my favorite solo travel destinations to date. I think solo travel can really lead to self-development and growth, so I decided to try a new outdoor activity during this trip. I took one-on-one snowboarding lessons and I had an absolute blast. It was the perfect way to get out of my comfort zone and stay active while traveling alone.” — Ciara Johnson, travel blogger at Hey Ciara

Berlin, Germany

“Because of Berlin’s incredible techno and nightlife scene, it’s a great destination for solo travelers — especially those interested in electronic music, DJs and nightlife. The scene in Berlin is very welcoming, and with clubs like Berghain, Sisyphos and Tresor still operating after decades of transforming the techno music scene, it’s a worthwhile destination. The nightlife scene in Berlin might not be for everyone, but for those interested in music, the clubs are great places to make new friends and easily meet new people with shared interests. Tourism in Berlin is booming, and it’s best to visit while these clubs still run regularly, as other big Berlin nightclubs are continuing to shut down due to government pressure and social changes in the city.” ― Adam Groffman, travel blogger at Travels of Adam

Quotes have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Share
 
Traveling abroad for the first time?

Traveling to a foreign country for the first time can be both exhilarating and anxiety inducing: have you considered all the required information, devices, social protocols and social etiquette? How about finances, security and insurance? Much to consider. Here are some tips on how best to navigate traveling abroad.


10 Things You Need to Know About Traveling Abroad for the First Time

DECEMBER 26, 2019

By Megan Grant
Parade

Remember that one time I went to Paris and brought my blowdryer so that I could look #fabulous while strolling down the Champs-Élysées, but forgot that the outlets are different and I couldn’t use it so my hair was a giant ball of frizz for eight days?

Fun times.

There are so many details we forget when traveling abroad—some minor (see: the great hair frizz of 2018) and some much more crucial. If you’re planning on boarding a plane and adventuring to a faraway place, here are 10 things you need to keep in mind about traveling abroad.

10 Things to Know About Traveling Abroad

1. Figure Out How You Can Pay for Things Beforehand
“Uh, I’ll just swipe my card, yeah?” Maybe. But maybe not. Michael Turtle of Time Travel Turtle tells Parade.com, “When you’re in a different country, you may not be able to pay for things in the way that you’re used to. I normally always just tap my credit card at home, but there are quite a few countries where you still need to use your PIN, so make sure you remember it if you’re planning to use your card. There are some countries (particularly in Scandinavia) that are moving to a cashless economy, so they may have no option but to use a card.”

If you plan to use a card, one more word of caution: Fees. Watch out for them. “Your bank may charge quite high fees so look into this in advance and investigate your options,” Turtle advises. “You can normally find a credit card offer that will have zero international transaction fees and I would recommend signing up for one of them if you’re going to be doing a lot of travel. On the other hand, there are still a lot of countries that mainly use cash—even Japan, despite its very modern reputation—so it’s also wise to have a card that will let you make cash withdrawals without a huge fee.”

Cash always works too, but again, there’s one caveat you have to be careful of, according to Turtle: “Bringing your own country’s cash and exchanging it is also a good option, although I rarely do that because you’ll always lose a bit of money on the conversion and I prefer not to travel with a lot of money on me.”

2. Dress Accordingly
You may be a stranger in a completely foreign place, but try not to look like it, okay?

“One of my suggestions would be to try to blend in with the locals. You don’t want to stand out too much by looking like a tourist because not only can this be embarrassing but it can set you up as a target for pickpocketing or theft,” says travel writer Reannon Muth. So, what should we do to avoid this?

“To blend in, I’d suggest wearing muted colors or dark colors and avoid wearing sneakers (especially white ones!),” she explains. “In the US, people wear sneakers all the time, but in Europe and most of the other countries I’ve visited (I’ve been to over 40), people only wear athletic shoes when they’re working out. Sneakers are usually a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist. I’d also recommend wearing clothing that’s somewhat stylish (or at the very least fits well and isn’t overly baggy or wrinkled). In the US, a sports hoodie, yoga pants, and flip flops (athletic leisurewear) is perfectly acceptable attire for wandering around town, but I’ve found that in many other countries, people aren’t as casual with their attire.”

3. Invest in a Pair of Good Noise-Canceling Headphones
Flights are long. Planes are loud. You won’t be able to sleep, read, watch movies, or do anything else with the sound of jet engines numbing your ears. “Good noise-canceling headphones for the flight are a must,” says international speaker Adnan Kukic. He recommends the Sony WH1000MX3.

4. Don’t Assume People Speak English
This one is tough, I know. What the heck else are you supposed to speak? Before you go to another country, though, you should brush up on the basics, at the very least. Muth explains why:

“It can be rude to just walk up to a sales clerk and start speaking English. Even if you’re in a touristy area and are 99.9% positive the person speaks English, it’s still polite to greet them in their own language and then ask them if they speak English. At a minimum, you should take the time to learn how to say ‘hello,’ ‘excuse me,’ ‘please,’ and ‘thank you.’”

5. Check Your Phone Plan
During my frizz-filled trip to Paris, I made another startling discovery: Apparently, the phone towers in Las Vegas don’t reach to France. Who knew?

You might be able to use your phone overseas. You might also be charged an arm and a leg for it. “Most plans will charge exorbitant fees to use your phone overseas,” explains Turtle, “although some do have good deals about international roaming, so it’s worth investigating whether your provider does. For most people, though, you’re not going to want to have long conversations or text message conversations on your phone while you’re away.”

Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives for staying in touch with people—when you have WiFi, that is. “I find it’s quite easy to avoid doing that if you just make calls with something like Skype or WhatsApp when you have WiFi at your hotel,” Turtle says. “The problem is data. We have become so accustomed to using our phone to look at maps, search for public transport timetables, check opening hours, and find reviews of restaurants, that you may be lost (literally) without data on your phone. So, in this case, I recommend buying a local SIM card that has enough data for your stay.”

It’s always good to err on the side of safety, though. “… you shouldn’t assume that you’ll always be able to get an internet connection while you’re traveling,” continues Turtle. “Perhaps the hotel WiFi is dodgy or you can’t get a data signal on your phone. I always make sure to download maps for offline viewing on my phone and I screenshot any directions or public transport timetables that I need. I also take photos of signs at train stations or ferry ports that I might need later on. We are so used to knowing that any information we need is right at our fingertips at home, but that’s not always the case when we’re traveling so it’s better to be prepared.”

6. Take a Nap ASAP
Jet lag is brutal. Your body has its own internal clock, and when it’s disrupted, weird things can happen. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can go beyond sleepiness and even affect your mood and concentration and give you, ahem, stomach issues. No thanks.

Thankfully, there’s a little trick. “As soon as you land in your abroad destination, take a nap, even if for just a few hours,” advises Kukic. “It helps greatly to adjust to the different time zone.”

7. Respect Mother Nature and All Her Creatures
While on an exciting trip, we understandably want to do things we’d never do at home. But there’s a reason to pause and think before you take part in typical touristy activities: It might be to the detriment of a living creature.

“Never ride an elephant (or support animal tourism)!” says Dani West, elephant advocate for Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants. “Interested in getting up close and personal with our majestic wildlife? Support and visit sanctuaries around the world … but do your research! Never ride, bathe, or pay to see them in zoos or circuses.”

Have all the fun you want on your trip, but still be mindful of how your activities impact others.

8. Remember That You Might Not Be in a Service-Based Country
“… the US is unique in that we’re a ‘service industry country,’” Muth tells Parade.com. “In nearly every other country I’ve visited, this isn’t true. Americans’ version of ‘good customer service’ doesn’t exist. Shopkeepers may not greet you when you walk into a store and waiters might not come and refill your water glass. They aren’t being rude; that’s just the norm in their countries. You’ll often find that you’ll have to hunt down a salesperson or waiter in order to purchase something or put in an order.”

Muth explains that this extends to ordering food at a restaurant. You might not get as much special attention as you would in the US: “Similarly, when you order in a restaurant, it’s customary in most countries that you don’t ask for substitutes with your meal. You order what’s on the menu and that’s it (no ‘dressing on the side’ requests or ‘Can you add almond milk instead of regular milk?’). This really isn’t done unless you have an allergy and it’s actually considered rude. It’s a quick way to earn a reputation for being a ‘demanding crazy American.’ Obviously, you can ask for substitutes if you really need to. But I’d just try to keep it to a minimum. If you have to change the entire order to fit your tastebuds, you might be better off ordering something else.”

And while we’re on the topic of food…

9. Be Prepared to Change Your Eating Habits and Meal Schedule
“Eating and drinking can be very different in another country and it’s important to be prepared for things to not be the way you would normally expect,” says Turtle. “In Spain, for instance, dinner is always eaten very late so you may often not find restaurants open at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. But I’ve also been caught out in smaller towns in Europe where they’ll stop serving dinner at 9 p.m. In countries like Morocco or Malaysia, you’ll rarely find alcohol served with meals for religious reasons, so don’t expect you can have a glass of wine with dinner. And in Japan, you may come across the restaurants where you have to order all your courses from a vending machine at the entrance before you sit down.”

Tipping also varies from country to country and culture to culture. “In North America, it’s expected to leave a considerable tip for every meal, while most places in Europe just expect a small token of a couple of euros, while many Asian countries find a tip to be rude and you shouldn’t leave anything,” adds Turtle.

10. Stay Aware of How Much Space You’re Taking Up
“Unless you grew up in a crowded city like New York, you may not be accustomed to maneuvering through cramped subway cars or crowded marketplaces, but in many other countries, space is more limited than it is in North America and locals are experts at taking up as little space as possible,” says Muth.

“This also applies to your voice—talk quietly in public. Although it’ll differ depending on where in the world you’re traveling to, I find that in most of Europe and many places in Asia, people speak quietly and remain more reserved when talking to strangers,” continues Muth. “This is partly cultural but also because people in, say, Tokyo, are used to moving among thousands of people every day and are conscientious about not disturbing people around them by speaking too loudly.”

Traveling abroad is exhilarating and eye-opening. Just do your due diligence before you go and always be mindful of your behavior.

Share