One giant piece of advice comes from someone with quite a bit more experience traveling than us, Nicky Kobly, who shared their advice to us and a number of other people on December 12th of 2018. It is such amazing advice that we didn't want it to get buried or forgotten about, so we are sharing it here to help as many people as possible:
Hi to all. I am an avid traveler. Through my 50 years, I have been to all of Europe, all of the Middle East, Most of Africa, India, Russia and a couple of the South American Island nations. I often see people asking the same question - "Is it safe?" Let me give you all some advice.
Traveling the World as a Woman
Women are not treated the same in every country. As such, you need to respect the customs of that nation. Be aware by doing some research. When I travel as a woman alone, I always bring the clothing specific to that nation. You can't and should not assume that they will think its ok for you to go without hijab just because your nation doesn't customarily wear it. Also be aware in most Arab countries, a woman travelling alone shouldn't run around in the markets assuming that it is ok. In many countries, you would not see a single woman in the marketplace with the exception of tourists. This makes you "out of place". Not a target. In fact some of the most respectful and kind people I've met in my travels were from areas that the media has stirred up intense fear. That's not to say you should or shouldn't go there - I always went. But make decisions based on your own levels of acceptance. You can't decide based on someone else's recommendations. You will also find that countries you thought would be safe and reasonable are often more dangerous. I had someone attempt to rape me in the USA so my opinion is very jaded with regards to returning. But I have felt respected in countries like Turkey, Syria, Pakistan, many others. If in doubt, carry a head scarf. This is the same in orthodox christian countries when entering a church. They would prefer you cover your head. Its their church you are visiting. Respect that.
If you are an LGBTQ traveler, as my daughter and her partner are, know the tone of the area. Places like some Eastern European and African countries are probably best to not hold hands and just travel as "friends". It can be a little more difficult for gay men than gay women but you can research the area first. In general, people will leave you alone in some of Europe (they will stare) but Northern Africa can be a bit dicey. Join the LGBTQ Facebook pages of the country before you go and ask. However, again, the biggest homophobia she has ever confronted was in the USA.
Note: Imprisonment for homosexuality is possible in the orange countries on this map. Death is the punishment for the red countries. Be extra careful in these countries!
Travel Advisories & Required Help
There are always travel advisories available through government sources. If you are really interested but still can't find information, contact the embassies via email. That's one of the reasons they exist - to aid travelers. I've had my passport stolen a couple times (France, Scotland and Italy) and the respective Canadian Embassy was very helpful each time.
Being Overcharged or Swindled
Be aware that if you are going to a city or country with a high tourism level, such as Rome or Egypt, you'll get soaked. Just count on it. I have never been much of a fan of these areas and if going there, I would just do so on a tour. But I like to backpack so they are typically not on my itinerary. Besides, there are much nicer and cleaner places to go. The Pyramids are cool, sure, but I'd rather go to Ethiopia for their amazing food and outstanding hospitality.
Helpful Travel Information
The Lonely Planet books are helpful. Buy them. They are worth the money. Also, every country in the world has an Expat Facebook page. Join them. I learn more from those conversations than through gossip or otherwise. I have often let travelers come and stay in our home when they are visiting Estonia. You will find the same on the other pages. You will also learn the best way to travel. For example, it would be foolish to fly from my city of Tallinn to Helsinki and then off to London. Its much cheaper and certainly more enjoyable to take the ferry across (30 euros) and then catch a flight to London.
Best Place to Book Accommodations & Flights
The absolute best place to find accommodations, in my opinion, is Booking.com. If you have an issue, and I have had one or two, they take care of it for you. Also, if you are traveling from North America, you should buy the plane ticket to your first location and then buy the rest while traveling. North Americans pay outlandish amounts of money for their travel. I just booked a holiday for my brother to come here from Canada. By booking direct with the airlines and from my location here in Europe, I saved him over $500.
How to Get Around Once You Arrive
In Europe we use Taxify. Its considerably cheaper and easier than other taxi services. Load it on your phone. It works great and I use it all the time. You'll also find that the drivers are often expats and willing to help and/or show you around.
Communicating with People in a Foreign Country
Learn how to say Hello and Thank you. Other than that, as long as you buy a sim for your location, Google Translate will help you out like crazy. And as it often does a shitty job of translating, this can also make you some new friends as they laugh at google instead of you. Some of my best friends happened because I asked a question about a taxi and Google translated it as "where is my broom".
Using a Foreign Currency
Finally, and I have found most important, learn the currency in the location. This is very important. If you have no idea what is the market value for what you are buying, it is likely you will be soaked.
Calling Home & Communicating with Friends and Family
Oh I wanted to add one more thing. If you don't already know, the fact that you have Facebook means you have free phone. Use it. I don't ever make calls using my cell number; I always use Facebook messenger. My kids all live in Canada now as they go to University and we talk to each other daily - using Facebook. My daughter and her partner went on a European trip a couple years back and we used it all the time. The voice quality is exceptional and the video is usually pretty good. It also helps to save you money on those times when you are away for a stretch and start to get lonely. It happens to all of us and this added feature makes me the biggest Facebook fan out there.
When someone asked: “How can we share this to our Facebook page to save for future reference?” Nicky replied:
You can add me I guess. Or just copy it into a doc maybe? I'm a public person so I'm not blocking you from doing anything with it.
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore