1. ALWAYS PACK A BATHING SUIT -- writes Elizabeth in Washington DC, USA -- Put a bathing suit in your suitcase even if you don't swim. Hot tubs and jacuzzis are generally available in larger hotels even if a swimming pool is not. In tropical areas, a tour may unexpectedly require one as well. I was surprised when my day tour in Costa Rica ended at a hot springs to observe a volcano's evening activity. By chance, the gift shop sold suits that initially looked like a typical one piece Speedo. I was in for another surprise when I discovered there was much less fabric than I expected, so ... pack your own!
2. PAMPER YOUR BODY IN LONDON, ENGLAND -- writes Fede in London, England -- Here's my advice for visitors to London. As you walk past Waterloo Body Station (103 Lower Marsh, SE1), the gorgeous smell of aromatic oils grabs your attention. This shop is full of UK made products for body care. Creams, lotions, hair products, gift boxes, yoga mats, candles -- you have so much to choose from! I have discovered many quirky brands such as Tamu and Organic People, and bought many presents for friends and family in this shop. Rebecca, the owner, and the rest of the staff are always there to help you and suggest what to buy depending on the occasion or the person's taste. Downstairs there's an oasis of peace where you can enjoy a massage (or two), with plenty to choose from (hot stones, relaxing etc). Closest tube: Lambeth North. Website: waterloobodystation.co.uk
3. DON'T SHOW YOUR LUGGAGE IN NEPAL -- writes Amanda in Kathmandu, Nepal -- Be savvy, ladies! If you come to Nepal, India or elsewhere in Asia never accept the first price for a room and never show up with luggage where they can see it. It's best to read their sign by the guesthouse entrance and then call them from right outside to get a good price. I've found that the price quoted is directly proportional to the effort they believe is required to carry your luggage to the next guest house. So, never show up loaded with luggage looking like a haggard tourist needing a room.
4. A FEMALE-FRIENDLY B&B IN CUSCO, PERU -- writes Nicole in Hamilton, Canada -- My girlfriend and I stayed at a gorgeous little bed and breakfast/hostel in Cusco, called El Andariego. The staff were awesome, picked us up at the airport, helped us out despite our poor Spanish and held our back packs for free while we climbed Machu Picchu. The rooms were tastefully decorated and spacious, and we had a double room (2 twins) with our own clean, full bathroom where (the floor was so clean) we could shower without sandals on. And a western toilet with a lid, which made my travel partner very, very happy. El Andariego is family run, and Grandma makes breakfast while her grandkids man the front desk. The B&B has gates that are closed and locked at night and they walk out to check to see who it is before they buzz people in. El Andariego is also a block from the Plaza des Armas, essentially the centre of all tourism with lots of food and sightseeing options. Website: www.andariegocusco.com.
5. MONASTERY STAYS IN ITALY ARE EXCELLENT FOR SOLO TRAVELERS -- writes Stephanie in Albuquerque, USA -- Through a suggestion found on the Journeywoman website, I used MonasteryStays.com to find lodging in Italy. I could not be happier. I stayed at The Suore Francescane del Cuore di Gesù in Rome and Monastery Guest House of the Parrochia S. Maria della Sanita in Naples. Both places exceeded my expectations. The convent in Rome was a working convent. The Sisters were extremely friendly and sweet. The rooms and private bathrooms had been completely remodeled, and while simple, they completely met my needs. The guest house in Naples was a working basilica, but no longer a working monastery. The building was huge and appeared to be ancient. It was marvelous! It had also been completely remodeled and completely met my needs. MonasteryStays.com made the booking process extremely easy and were quick and efficient to answer questions. If I return to Italy, I won't hesitate to use MonasteryStays.com. I only wish they were available in other countries.
6. SOLO DINING IN FLORENCE -- writes Eleanor in Cambridge, Canada -- I'd like to let other JourneyWomen know about Le Barrique, a fabulous, small restaurant in Florence. It's near Piazza Carmine on Via del Leone 40/R. Phone: 055 224192. Le Barrique is on the less-touristy side of the Arno, and thus away from the usual hordes. I believe this restaurant would be perfect for a romantic evening, or just on your own. I was on my own, I went back twice and they made me feel very welcome. I enjoyed pate the first evening and a fish dish the next. Both were excellent, and both times the dessert was divine! For beverage, I ordered a Chianti, which was great. Prices were moderate, but slanting to the high end. However, I felt it was worth it. Go. Try it! Website: www.enotecalebarrique.com
7. GREAT GUIDE IN SIEM REAP AND ANGKOR, WAT -- writes Meg Greismer in Okinawa, Japan -- We hired Sopheap Brem for four days while touring Siem Reap and Angkor Wat and we couldn't have been happier! He was extremely knowledgeable about all the temples, restaurants and overall history of the area. Any questions we had, he could answer. He was very flexible with our itinerary and spoke English well. Sopheap was always so positive/happy and great with our young kids. He felt like part of the family while on this trip. I highly recommend him. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
8. BUSES IN TUCSON, ARIZONA -- writes Margaret in Hamilton, Canada -- I've just returned from a wonderful weekend get-away in Tucson, Arizona. Previous travels sites advised "must have car in Tucson" but I'd like to tell you that actually the public buses worked just fine (for a weekend anyway). SunTran buses were not frequent however, I was armed with a schedule and they were precisely on time. A day pass is $3.00, buses are air conditioned and I found the drivers very helpful. I hope this tip is helpful to other members of the Journeywoman Network.
9. A FASCINATING MARKET IN SHANGHAI -- writes MarieAnne in Shanghai, China -- If you want to indulge in touristy souvenir hunting in Shangjai, a good place to start is the Dongtai lu antiques market (by Xizang lu, between Xintiandi and the Old Town). A lot of the antiques aren't actually antiques and you'll need to bargain hard, but the goods for sale there are fascinating. Need 1930s posters of Shanghai cigarette-ad poster girls? Need a ceramic statuette of Mao? Or a jade dragon? A birdcage? A life sized replica of a Xian warrior? This market is a great place to buy off-beat, funky, unique gifts for friends back home. Or just browse the stalls for pure entertainment.
10. STAY ORGANIZED WITH ZIP LOCK PLASTIC BAGS -- writes Kay in San Diego, USA -- I just returned from a photo safari in Africa that involved a month of packing and unpacking in multiple locations. The best advice I got for this trip was to pack everything in zip lock plastic bags. I found the 2 or 2.5 gallon size were perfect for one pair of pants plus a short sleeve and long sleeve shirt. All socks went into another smaller bag, underwear in another, and so on. Unpacking was just a matter of tossing bags on to a shelf and the clothes stayed relatively unwrinkled. Plus, when the duffle was searched at airports, my belongings were neither missing nor a mess. P.S. I know this idea is not new, but it worked so well, I wanted to mention it again. Also, I was operating out of a duffle, so the cute packing cubes everyone talks about would be relatively worthless. Plastic bags are cheap and flexible and fit the bag in the best way possible.
11. BEST PAELLA IN VALENCIA -- writes Sally in Boston, USA -- Lovers of paellas will agree that the epicenter of true paella-dom is in and around Valencia. In Valencia's old-city section there is a wonderful small restaurant called Canela that is a stellar choice for traditional paellas of all sizes (for two or for a small group). They also serve other beloved rice-dishes like those of the brothier 'meloso' style. There are two iterations of Canela, one is a nice, small restaurant, on Calle Quart, 9, the second is their less formal 'bodegon' style restaurant three doors down towards the historic gate into the Old City. We chose the Bodegon Canela for Sunday lunch because we were dressed casually (though the restaurant is not fussy) and we loved it. A starter of incredibly sweet local mussels, followed by a 'meloso' rice with seafood, a good bottle of dry Spanish rosé and we had a perfectly delicious meal for a very fair price. The staff was very friendly, spoke English well, was welcoming and the service was good. For non-rice eaters there are numerous other meat or grill options. Website: www.restaurantecanela.es
12. PERFECT LITTLE HOTEL IN ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO -- writes Esther in Portland, USA -- I as invited to a destination wedding in Isla Mujeres, a lovely island, a ferry ride away from Cancun. I didn't want to spend too much on a hotel but wanted to be close to the beach and the ferry pier. I found the perfect hotel at the perfect price (right across the street from the beach and a three-block walk from the ferry). It's called, Hotel Posada Del Mar - $65 per night for two people, air conditioning, small fridge, safe, quiet and clean. Reception clerks speak English and are very helpful. The biggest drawback is no elevator in the three-story building. Ask to be assigned to the first or second floor in the new section. Website: posadadelmar.com And, If you want to buy silver or gemstone jewelry I recommend La Mariachi (ask for Fernando, the owner). P.S. I had a Mayan Biomagnetic healing session with Lorenzo at Casa Amour on the south end of the island. It was only $40 compared to $200 in the USA. Worthwhile doing if you have health issues.
BONUS TIP -- PERFECT PENSION IN PAROS, GREEK ISLANDS -- writes Paula in Bursa, Turkey -- The Greek islands are one of my favorite destinations, and Paros, at the heart of the Cyclades is a particular favorite because it is more laid back and more of a place for independent travelers. It's not on the major cruise ship/charter company itineraries but every bit as charming as its siblings. I believe that the perfect place for an independent woman traveler to stay is Niki's Pension. It's located in a typical Cycladic building fully-renovated to provide the perfect blend of modern conveniences and traditional charm. And, it's on a quiet side street just two minutes walk from the bustling seafront full of great places to eat and drink. Niki's provides lovely welcoming touches including a bottle of wine in your fridge, flowers in your room, a beautiful candlelit terrace to welcome you home each evening and expert local knowledge from the charming and witty owner, Bruce. With only 8 rooms, you are assured of personal attention even in the midst of high season and you're likely to make new friends as well! Website: niki.paros-island.com/index.html
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