If you are a woman travelling by yourself, try to stay at female-friendly properties. Youth hostels are often a good choice, particularly for younger women; some offer private rooms. Or look for bed-and-breakfast establishments or small locally-owned hotels with communal areas where you can easily meet other guests. All-inclusive resorts can be lonely places for women not interested in partying.
It’s easy to have casual chats with others over breakfast or while making a meal in a communal kitchen. The cottage I stayed at in Bocas del Toro in Panama had a kitchen that we all could use and mixing with others was very informal. There was also a deck on stilts over the water that we shared. There are places like this around the world and we just need to let others know about them.
Think twice about choosing an isolated hotel for streets can be poorly lit and it’s nice to get around at night without having to depend on a taxi. I usually choose a hotel that is near restaurants, shops and other gathering places, even if that means it’s a little noisy. It’s always important to stay in a place that’s secure and where your valuables can be locked up. If I’m feeling a little nervous, I don’t hesitate to shove the dresser in front of the door before I go to bed.
During a two-week stay in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, I rented a small unit that included kitchen facilities, work and sleeping spaces, with a balcony that had a great view of the ‘playa’ and the town. There was a small swimming pool that I always had to myself. Wireless internet allowed me to keep in touch with work and family, which was essential on that trip. There were also two large dogs on the property to discourage trespassers. I bought groceries and settled in as if I was at a summer cottage back home, but instead of it being a vacation by a lake in Canada in July it was one in the tropics in February.
Internet cafes can provide opportunities to casually meet up with others, if only to chat about how to get to the bus station. Some restaurants are particularly female friendly, such as the OM restaurant in Bocas del Toro in Panama where many solo women regularly ate. There was a large table at one end of the restaurant and I recall thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if those of us who would like to dine with others this evening could sit there together.’ Bravo, to those travellers that take the initiative and extend an invitation to others to join them. Cheers also to restaurants that treat solo women well, such as the FUSION restaurant in Kovalam, India that despite the waiting crowds kept the best table for me as promised, with the little sign that read, “Welcome Sylvia (7:00 pm)”.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2010