Get me out of my comfort zone - at least a little ways...
January 29, 2010 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Travelfilter: what country/region should I visit next? I have a week or so for a trip that I would like to take sometime this spring. I'll be traveling alone and I want to keep it to a relatively tight budget.

In the past, I've visited a variety of European countries, Guatemala, and Jamaica. I've also seen plenty of the US and Canada. I'm hoping to get beyond Western Europe and Central America this time around.

My solo travel style is usually guesthouse/cheap hotel accommodations (dorm-style is not my bag anymore), public transit, and street food when I can get away with it. As a woman traveler I want to be safe, but I also don't usually engage in really risky behavior anyway (i.e. I am not out partying all night or even really walking alone at night). I speak English, with some French, and less Spanish. The idea of solo travel in Asia makes me nervous due to language issues, although I could be convinced that it's not that big a deal (if that's true!)

I prefer cities to countryside or beaches, although a mix would be okay too. I love cultural stuff, markets, interesting local cuisine, and just wandering around. My budget is somewhat flexible but I want to keep costs down as much as possible - let's say I want to spend around $150 a day and see where that leads.
posted by cabingirl to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Vietnam is great, fits all your criteria, as long as you can find a reasonably cheap flight, which is not always possible. It's quite easy to get around with English and a bit of French is quite helpful as well. I spent much less than $30 a day, sleeping in shared hotel rooms that were quite comfortable for $5-6 a night.

I'd also recommend Thailand, except the biggest attractions there are the countryside and beaches, Bangkok isn't worth an international flight, in my opinion. For a one week trip, I'd recommend flying to either Saigon or Hanoi, the latter being my strong preference.
posted by bluejayk at 8:42 PM on January 29, 2010

If you go to Southeast Asia and are nervous about language issues, you can start off with Singapore and then go on to the other countries (e.g. Vietnam and Thailand as mentioned above). It's cheap to travel from country to country within Southeast Asia once you're in the region.
English is the main language in Singapore, and it's very much a city (with some beaches and offshore islands). Public transportation is reliable, very accessible and cheap. And the best aspect of Singapore is its food (in my opinion) - yummy, with a wide variety, and cheap. It's very safe for a woman traveller, and has an interesting cultural mix. US$150/day is much, much more than enough than you need to enjoy the city and sights comfortably (probably half if not less than half will be enough). Memail me if you're interested and have more questions :)
posted by aielen at 9:07 PM on January 29, 2010

I had a great time recently in Peru, which would tick your boxes of cities, cultural stuff, markets, interesting local cuisine, and just wandering around.

You'd be living very comfortably on $150/day, and it's not such a far flight from America & in more or less the same timezone as you, which means you can spend more time exploring, and less time recovering from long flights & jetlag.

In a week, you can't do much in any country, but you'd get enough value from Lima + Cusco (gateway to Machu Picchu & dozens of other Inca sites within short daytrips).

Only, if you're travelling soon, keep an eye on the news about the mudslides that cut access to Machu Picchu, and stranded thousands of travellers. The site is such a big money-earner for the country that I assume they'd work overtime to get the transport infrastructure back into place ASAP, but probably not right away...
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:09 PM on January 29, 2010

I had a great time about this time last year in Peru and I recommend it heartily. While in the Sacred Valley (area around Cusco that includes Machu Picchu) we had a car, a guide and a driver for around $100/day and it was totally worth it. We saw some absolutely amazing things that we wouldn't have otherwise and far, far better explanation of where we were and what the significance of it all was than from a guide book.

Wow! I googled for some pictures and the first article I found had our guide in it:

Personally I don't think Lima is a "wander around" city safetywise outside of maybe the Mira Flores area, but taxis are super cheap. Also, the food was fabulous, fresh and also very inexpensive.
posted by turbodog at 10:30 PM on January 29, 2010

Best answer: I've done two trips to Vietnam as a solo female traveller with, it seems, a fairly similar travelling style and interests to yours. I highly recommend Hanoi - fascinating city and culture, great food, and you can easily get to Sapa (mountains) or Ha Long Bay (coast) for a couple of days if you want to.

I speak no Vietnamese and language was never an issue - in a city, there's always someone around who can speak enough English for you to get by. In fact, you'll probably be approached by Vietnamese university students wanting to talk to you to practice their English. Vietnamese uses a modified Latin alphabet, not characters, so it's easy enough to get yourself around.

If you do go, get in touch with Hanoi Kids (shoddy website but they're legit). They're a group of volunteer students who offer free tours of the city and will take you a bit off the beaten track if you ask, again in return for practicing their English and sharing their culture.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 10:30 PM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Looking through the blog entries I linked above, apparently the author used the same guide coordinator as us, Sophia Barreda. She did a great job and got us really nice rates at hotels and setup the guides and whatnot.
posted by turbodog at 10:37 PM on January 29, 2010

Maybe try Uzbekistan?
posted by aqsakal at 2:42 AM on January 30, 2010

Best answer: The idea of solo travel in Asia makes me nervous due to language issues, although I could be convinced that it's not that big a deal (if that's true!)

Ironically, language issues aren't generally too bad for English tourists in Asia because the language issues are so bad. No tourists can speak or read Thai for instance. So anyplace that tourists generally go will have the signs they need translated, and there will be people who speak Thai.

Given that, it's pretty rough to go to Asia for a week. The flights are going to waste a considerable amount of that time.
posted by smackfu at 7:32 AM on January 30, 2010

I prefer cities to countryside or beaches, although a mix would be okay too. I love cultural stuff, markets, interesting local cuisine, and just wandering around.

Istanbul. Cultural stuff, markets, interesting local cuisine, places for wandering around--all in abundance. By big-city standards, safe. Easier to get around than you might think, especially if you're a visitor rather than a local commuter. $150/day would go a long way. To get away from the city, just hop a quick ferry out to the Princes' Islands (especially Buyukada).

And then there's the rest of Turkey. You might start by getting the ferry from Yenikapı pier in Istanbul to Yalova, across the Sea of Marmara, and a bus from there to Bursa and the mountains.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 7:38 AM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thailand. Bangkok is an increasingly interesting city, in my view, if you can find your way out of the mazes of shopping malls. Worth it for the food alone, anyway. Generally no problems with language - small restaurants out of tourist areas, maybe, but many other places will have English menus, so you can at least just point to it so they can read the Thai next to it. Accommodation is cheap, even for a hotel room. I have always felt very safe in Bangkok, even when walking around late at night.
posted by AnnaRat at 7:46 AM on January 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I am seriously considering Vietnam now. I've been browsing the Thorntree boards today and it sounds like a great place. I only wish I had more than 7-10 days to spend.
posted by cabingirl at 5:44 PM on January 30, 2010

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