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Lone female eager to travel but too scared!

Travel Forums North America Lone female eager to travel but too scared!

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11. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 200 posts) 30w Star this if you like it!

Background: I'm from the UK, female, older than you, almost always travel alone and only began to travel abroad at a much later age than you. Since then I've visited 30+ countries and used public transport in all of them. I've visited the US six times now and it's the only country where I've had to hire a car (just once so far) to do what I wanted to do. Driving on the 'wrong' side is much easier than you might expect, as is driving an automatic, but car hire certainly isn't cheap for UK citizens because of the additional insurances you'd be daft not to buy (in the UK we insure our own vehicle rather than ourselves as drivers of any vehicle).

Domestic US flights are very easy, of course. It's just a matter of a) checking and booking in advance to ensure you get a decent fare (just like European flights) and b) checking to see what sort of public transport there is to/from the airport. There's almost alwayssomething serving the nearest city but getting anywhere else can be tricky.

US trains are ok, though you do need to buy Amtrak tickets well in advance to get best fares. Fares rise as departure date nears and the train fills up. As Beausoleil says, railway stations (everywhere, not just the US) often attract 'interesting' characters and are sometimes in 'interesting' areas. The US rail network is very limited in comparison with European countries, as are services. Amtrak runs the major long-distance routes and there are also some commuter lines such as Metro North, which runs from NYC into e.g. Connecticut.

I've only used US long-distance buses once (Megabus from Iowa City to Chicago). It was fine (new bus etc etc) though, again, the Chicago bus station was 'interesting'.

You do need to be aware that, unless you are in a major city, local bus services are usually few and far between. Those which exist are aimed primarily at commuters. Lots and lots of places have little or no public transport connection between them. An example: I've just stayed in what in the UK would be a large town/small city (e.g. Brentwood, Torquay, Durham). No railway station (as is the norm), not served by e.g. Greyhound (also the norm) and only 3 local bus routes, each with widely-spaced services and the nearest bus stop was 1.5 miles away from where I was based. The bus stop for the long-distance route connecting the town to the nearest city/airport (about 40 minutes ride) was also 1.5 miles away.

If you go it alone you don't have to be much more worried about safety than you would be in the UK except that imo you do have to be much more aware of where you are. Unlike the UK and European countries, US towns and cities really do have 'neighbourhoods' where it's really not a good idea to walk..or even, sometimes, be. I walk a lot wherever I am and I've found that I know quite quickly when I'm where I probably shouldn't be, so I retrace my steps. Trust your instincts and act on what they're telling you.

I understand absolutely what you mean about guns. The fact that one hasn't seen them (I haven't, yet) does not take away the niggle of worry for those of us from countries where guns simply don't feature. But, as with all travel, it's a matter of being pragmatic about the risks, using common sense and taking sensible precautions (e.g. not walking alone late at night) to ensure that you are as safe as you can be.

Hope that helps. :-)

[ Edit: Edited on 14-Aug-2017, at 23:57 by leics2 ]

12. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 957 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

Hi and welcome to the forum.

I don't think anyone's yet mentioned visas. As Brits we can enter the USA on the Visa Waiver Program for up to 90 days, and this isn't extendable by doing a visa run say over into Canada. This could limit your plans a little. There's also the issue that with US Immigration nothing is guaranteed - the officer on the desk could on a whim issue you a shorter period, from what I've read. It's not something you tend to get when landing for two weeks in Florida, but for extended travel you may face a higher risk - US Immigration work on a presumption that anyone entering intends to try to stay, unless you can show them evidence otherwise - ties to your home country. A British passport will be more help than many nationalities, but for peace of mind it may be worth having copies of stuff available (eg on your phone) such as proof of onward travel, bank statements showing salary going in, mortgage document showing you're a home owner back home, etc. I'm sure others with more experience than me will say not to get too hung up on this, but US Immigration are certainly one of the more difficult for travellers.

This is probably not of interest since you're specific about the USA, but both Australia and New Zealand are a lot more geared up for solo travellers, and for public transport for travellers. Both have backpacker infrastructure that makes it easy - plenty of hostels (generally of a good standard since there's lots of competition), and bus networks either doing town-to-town or stops along the way to see the tourist sights (which gets you an instant bunch of mates to travel with). The USA by comparison seems very geared up for couples driving and using motel chains, and both car and motel work out expensive as a solo. Anyway just a thought since the travelling solo aspect is concerning you.

Happy travels whatever you do. :-)

13. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 200 posts) 30w Star this if you like it!

I've visited the US several times over the past 6 years or so (always on an ESTA) and have never had any issues on entry. The default for visitors is 90 days and that's what I've been given each time, even though I've usually been asked how long I'm staying and it's always much, much less. You have no chance of getting an extension to that stay nor of getting a 'long-stay' visa.

If you're travelling on an ESTA you'll have a photo taken on entry and (the first time) you'll have to give all 10 fingerprints, and you'll certainly be asked some questions....but if you are open and honest there shouldn't be any problem. The border officer wants to know why you're visiting, roughly what your plans are and how long you're planning to stay. If they decide to ask further questions they'll primarily want to know that you can support yourself during your stay and that you have no intention of overstaying or working during your visit. Having some proof to hand might set your mind at rest though imo it's unlikely you'll be asked for anything.

Entering the US is really not a big deal unless they think you're trying to pull the wool over their eyes...or you actually are trying to do so, which I'm afraid can happen. ESTAs are not available to UK citizens who have ever been arrested (subsequent charges, trial and verdict are irrelevant) and getting a US visa costs both time and money. Being arrested (with no subsequent charge) is common in the UK (it's a much bigger deal in the US) so I do suspect many people lie on their ESTAs. No doubt most get through without any problem but it's really not something I'd advise anyone to do: the potential consequences are seriously not good.

14. Posted by Loneskyblues (Budding Member 11 posts) 30w Star this if you like it!

Thank you so much everyone for all your advice, it's given me lots to think about and has actually got me feeling very excited. Good to have some peace of mind re guns issue from people that actually live there. Yes there's lots in the media that scares the hell out of me, which is a shame, but I'm determined not to be put off by it. Good tips on public transport again, maybe hiring a car and flying everywhere would be a better plan. And visas! Didn't think about that, I shouldn't think I'd stay longer than 90 days, great heads up about what happens on the other side though, thank you.

Leics2 so good to hear from people around my age doing the same and much more, 30+ countries? That's amazing. And reassures me too.

I will keep looking back to all this advice when I'm thinking about where I want to go. When some of you hire cars, I guess you do it while you're over there? Or is it something you plan whilst you're still in your own country? Not sure what to book here whilst I'm still at home and what to book whilst I'm over there.

Thanks everyone, I'm feeling braver already

15. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 483 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

Hi. We rent (hire) cars occasionally, but we usually lease a car which is a little different. I'm not sure if that is available in the USA because, of course, we have our own car here. I do know that when we rent (or lease) that we do it ahead of time to be sure we are getting the car we want at the price we want. Doing it ahead of time is usually a good idea and checking as many rental agents as possible is another good idea. They often have specials and prices vary wildly so check many agents and check often. When you see a good deal, grab it. After you look for a while, you will know a good deal when you see it.

16. Posted by balhannahrise (Respected Member 51 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

Sorry, I must be blind not to see lone female in heading :(

I am female and travel alone and quite enjoy it. As an outgoing person, I meet lots of people along the way and get invited to dinner with some who must feel sad for me being on my own.

I always research well about where I am going so I know the public transport, what tours are available and the cost, accommodation etc, this makes life easier for me and I know in advance if somebody is trying to rip me off.
As you are travelling to another English speaking country and not a third world country, then I say go for it!

I find I usually come across a problem or two along the way, but don't worry yourself sick about that, people usually will come to your aid, or head to the nearest information centre or your hotel.

Just be aware of your surroundings, just like you are at home.

Do it ! Have a good time!

17. Posted by Teoni (Respected Member 439 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

I rent a lot of cars around the world and because of the nature of my last USA trip I ended up renting a lot of cars in America. First of you need to check what insurances as a UK citizen you need to purchase for renting a car in the US. A lot of travel insurances won't cover excess payments if you don't purchase certain car rental insurances, so make sure you read the fine print of your travel insurance to make sure you meet the requirements to be covered. I had to purchase CDW (Collision Waiver Damage) and in some places LDW (Loss Damage Waiver) cover.

This is one of the reason I tend to favour purchasing rentals through third party sites like as they tend to do cheaper bundle deals than if you go direct and add on the insurance later. Of course you always have to check, one my car rentals turned out to be cheaper direct even after adding the compulsory insurances.

Car rentals should always be booked in advanced as it is much more expensive to book on site, if you do rent direct see if there is any rewards club for that company you can join, sometimes you get discounts but you will be entitled to express drop offs and pick ups which in America does make things easier. When you go to pick up a car, rental companies will try to up sell you things (and in America I found they really put the hard sell on) and they will try to scare you into thinking you need more insurance but if you have travel insurance it should cover everything that they claim their optional insurance will cover (and you don't won't to be insured twice) of course check the fine print and rules for UK travel insurance.

As for car versus public transport it entirely depends where you want to go. The first thing I would focus on is a wish list of the places you want to visit and the sights you want to see, then you can start thinking about what is the best way to travel between them.

18. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 957 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

For the car hire CDW it is normally cheaper to buy your own cover online, compared to what they'll try to sell you at pickup. I use moneysavingexpert to find the best deal at the time.

19. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 200 posts) 30w 1 Star this if you like it!

>When some of you hire cars, I guess you do it while you're over there? Or is it something you plan whilst you're still in your own country?

UK travel & health insurance doesn't generally cover car insurance, other than medical care for injuries caused by accidents. Nor do UK credit cards. For that reason I don't take personal injury insurance in the US, nor loss insurance for personal goods (also covered by the travel insurance), but I do always take the equivalent of UK 'fully comp' because (apart from road accidents...there are idiot drivers everywhere) if someone backs into the car when I'm parked at a supermarket, or knocks off the wing mirror when I'm parked somewhere, I don't want to pay for it!

There are a few UK companies which provide blanket annual insurance for hiring cars abroad but if you're not planning to do it regularly imo there's not much point.

It's always best to book your car online in advance because it's often a cheaper rate, and it ensures that the vehicle you want is available when you want it. It's easy enough to cancel if you change your mind. I always go for the cheapest, smallest vehicle available.....though in the US you should be aware that the smallest vehicle is usually quite large in UK terms (think Mondeo or similar).

I said above that I've only ever hired a car in the US but forgot about Ireland, where I've hired on several occasions. I've hired in the UK too and have always used Enterprise or Avis, had excellent service and no problems at all. You do need to check which multi-nationals, nationals, local hire companies have offices where you want to pick the car up and (most importantly) where you want to drop it off. One-way hire, by the way, will cost you a hefty premium and sometimes you have to pay a bit extra if you want to take the car into states other than those which immediately adjoin the state where you are.

As a UK citizen you don't legally need an IDP (international driving permit) to hire or drive in the US but it's a cheap and useful piece of extra ID and I'd strongly recommend getting one. It's very easy to get an IDP, either in person from the Post Office (certain branches only):

or by post from the AA:

But the IDP is just an extra. You must take your licence card and paper licence with you.

Do make sure that you have proper travel and...most insurance, with good cover for all medical & emergency dental treatment. US medical costs are incredibly high and treatment for even a minor injury or illness will cost you a lot of money. In the US, always carry your medical insurance details with your ID.

[ Edit: Edited on 15-Aug-2017, at 23:17 by leics2 ]

20. Posted by Loneskyblues (Budding Member 11 posts) 30w Star this if you like it!

Ha ha Balhannabrise, I would love people to feel sorry for me and invite me to dinner. I'm not super outgoing but I do love getting to know new people and I agree that travelling alone would be beneficial in being able to do this. Love hearing that other women are out there doing it alone. Obviously I know they are, but I just don't know anyone myself that does!

Thanks for all the car rental advice. I hired a car in Ireland last year and ordered the extra insurance online rather than with the rental company which turned out much cheaper, and I STILL almost got caught out when they pressured me to buy more insurance on top of everything when I went to pick the car up. Luckily my mum was with me and explained what they were trying to sell me , lesson learned there. But I won't have mum with me so i WILL have to really be on the ball.

Are there any companies that do great guide books, anyone got any that's like the bible to them? I've looked on Amazon but there's so many.

Also, which airlines are most frequently used in and around America. Like for the UK we use Easy jet or Ryanair for cheap flights to get around Europe. And do most British travellers use British Airways to get there? There very pricey!

Thanks again :)