We at Frommer's love the family vacation as well as the romantic getaway. What usually gets less attention -- but which comprises many of our favorite travel experiences -- is the solo trip. You know, the one you plan on your own, carving out an itinerary made only for you. That might mean mornings hustling from one museum to the next, afternoons lounging on a beach, or nights sidling up to other singles in a trendy bar. The bottom line is you choose your own adventure.
Istanbul for the Single Female Traveler
Istanbul seems an unlikely candidate for the single female traveler. The city is overwhelmingly crowded and Turkish men have a reputation for being aggressive tricksters, wooing foreign women only to take the money and run. In reality, though, the culture and people of Istanbul make for a unique experience for a woman traveling alone.
Istanbul's extensive public transportation system (www.iett.gov.tr/en/index.php) relies heavily on buses and trams, which are great for sightseeing since they're above ground. Plus, you won't get stuck in confusing underground passageways and, in the case of the buses, you'll always be near a transportation employee. Unlike in other metropolises, Istanbul's public transportation system does not have the reputation of being hunting ground for sexual predators. I traveled the tram and buses during sardine-can rush hour and felt completely at ease. For those uncomfortable dining alone, most Turkish restaurants have a special room for single diners and families, called the aile salonu. You may not be immediately escorted to this room, but you can certainly ask to be moved there if you're seated next to a group of boisterous men.
The historic core of Istanbul teems with carpet salesmen (emphasis on men). These salesmen are the easiest to ignore -- unless you want to buy a carpet. However, no trip to Istanbul is complete without a whirl through the Grand Bazaar. But the Bazaar is a hive of salesmen, an overwhelming number of whom seem to be under age 35 and flirty. For the most part, they are harmless; striking up conversations seemingly irrelevant to the business transaction at hand is part of their job, and at the very least helps to stave off boredom. You'll likely be offered a glass of tea after purchasing something. Tea in Turkey is an integral part of the social culture without the connotation of the Western custom of asking someone out for coffee or a drink. In fact, sharing a glass of tea may wind up being a genuine moment of cultural dialogue, when you find out your 28-year-old salesman lives with his family and is engaged, while you have your own apartment and the means to travel by yourself. For more information, pick up a copy of Frommer's Istanbul or visit the tourism bureau website at www.icvb.org. -- Melinda Quintero
Keeping It Austin Weird
For singles, Austin, Texas, is the perfect storm: The combination of the largest university in the country, the virtuosic live music scene, the 300 days of sunshine a year, the job growth in high-tech industry, and, hell, even the barbecue has attracted highly educated, unattached young people in droves. Mostly they flock to inexpensive Sixth Street, which is populated by tattoo parlors, art galleries, casual cafes, and a host of college bars and music clubs that can sometimes lean more toward fraternity fracas than cultural cachet. But there's nothing wrong with cutting loose there every once in a while -- try the alternative Casino El Camino, 517 E. Sixth St. (tel. 512/469-9330; www.casinoelcamino.net), for a beer and a K.C. Burger (a ¾ pound patty, barbecue sauce, grilled onions, cheddar cheese). To get your music fix on, look out for Austin City Limits Music Festival (tel. 888/512-SHOW for tickets; www.aclfestival.com) or South by Southwest (tel. 512/467-7979; www.sxsw.com), both of which feature national talent like Foo Fighters, Beck, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, the Raconteurs, Gnarls Barkley, and Talib Kweli performing on stages around Austin. The SXSW festival also features film and interactive conferences (read: new-media entrepreneurs, bloggers, and general tech geeks getting together to fawn over Web 2.0; Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, was a keynote speaker this year).
Austin is notably the largest city in the U.S. without a professional sports franchise, but there's no shortage of eligible singles at UT Longhorns' football games (tel. 512/477-6060 for tickets; www.mackbrown-texasfootball.com), which pack Darrell K. Royal/Texas Memorial Stadium. If you're a cyclist, Austin Parks and Recreation (tel. 512/974-6700; www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks) maintains 25 miles of paths, replete with beautiful joggers and fitness buffs on Sunday mornings. There's also golf, rock-climbing, swimming, scuba diving, and tennis, among other options, thanks to the area's mild climate and limestone rock formations. Just be sure to fill up on the pancakes at Kerbey Lane, 3704 Kerbey Lane (tel. 512/451-1436; www.kerbeylanecafe.com) at the beginning of a big day -- or at the end of a long night. Your true love might just be waiting to pass you the syrup. Check out Frommer's San Antonio & Austin or visit www.austintexas.org. -- Emil J. Ross
In Mexico: Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drummer
Going it alone on your next trip? Consider a visit to Mexico City, a vibrant, cosmopolitan city chock full of world-class museums, an array of restaurants and arty cafes, and a nightlife as good as any in Latin America. On my last trip to D.F., I bunked down at The Red Tree House (www.theredtreehouse.com), a haven for travelers -- many of them solo -- in the hip Condesa neighborhood. The comfortable rooms are a bargain (from $50 with shared bathroom; rates include continental breakfast), and there's free Wi-Fi access. In the evenings, owners Craig and Jorge, along with their yellow lab, Abril, often invite guests to share a glass of wine in the living room. Don't be surprised to meet Craig and Jorge's expat neighbors, as well as an assortment of fellow travelers whose interests and background are as varied as the countries from which they come. The rich conversation meanders, perhaps veering into Mexico's inscrutable politics, the house's evocative art collection, or the previous night's repast. It's here that you can connect with other travelers and pick up suggestions about what to see and do.
Walking through Condesa, you'll see excellent examples of Art Deco architecture amid the area's vast array of bars, cafes, restaurants, galleries, and bookstores. The neighborhood is a haven for twenty- and thirtysomethings, and attracts more than its share of artists. There's plenty of quiet here amid the city's cacophony, too: Head to Parque México, only a few blocks from the Red Tree House, or to Bosque de Chapultepec, a magnificent urban oasis with a lake, a zoo, and the official residence of Mexico's president. Check out Frommer's Mexico or see www.visitmexico.com. -- Matthew Brown
Luck of the Solo Traveler in Ireland
Years ago, I traveled with my family to Ireland, only to find myself wondering what the trip would've been like if I had visited the country on my own. And that's not just because I was a recent college grad, feeling way too old to be traveling with my parents. It's because the villages and cities I visited all called out for single travel. From the quaint inns dotting the hills of County Kerry to the boisterous bars and clubs of Dublin, the entire country exudes an overwhelmingly friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Everywhere I journeyed, local folks were happy to chat: They gave directions, recommended their favorite restaurants and attractions, and even on occasion broke into (Irish folk) song. The sense of craic (the Irish slang for fun) in the country is so pervasive, I think it'd be hard for any lone visitor even to remember that he or she is traveling alone. But if you prefer organized trips, you can always travel to Ireland "solo" through a group: Intrepid Travel (tel. 800/970-7299; www.intrepidtravel.com) offers a biking and hiking trip to Ireland that carries no single supplement fee. Pick up Frommer's Ireland or visit www.discoverireland.ie. -- Jennifer Reilly
Feeling the Vibe in Fiji
Though it may have a reputation, along with other South Pacific destinations, as the place the ideal romantic honeymoon or getaway for two -- think private thatch-roof bungalow on stilts over a calm blue sea -- Fiji is little-known for its suitability for solo travelers. Whether looking for romance or simply for friends to hang out with during your trip, you're sure to find what you're looking for in this tropical nation composed of over 300 islands. Fiji is a country that is very backpacker-friendly, and not just among the young party crowd. Inexpensive hostels and hotels, which are often in gorgeous beachside locales, are plentiful and are the perfect place for meeting and greeting, what with their notoriously communal and social scene. Don't get me wrong: You can also have your pick of full-service luxury resorts as well; just cozy up to the liveliest beach bar and ask if anyone can recommend his or her favorite snorkeling or dive sites. Fijians are so warm and welcoming of travelers that it's virtually impossible to not pick up on the local vibe and be a bit more outgoing and effusive yourself -- not to mention you'll be under the influence of those incredible tropical climes. For more information, pick up a copy of Frommer's Fiji or visit www.bulafiji.com. -- Alexia Travaglini
Solo in Southeast Asia
Although making the leap to explore Southeast Asia solo can be a tad intimidating, the experience can be phenomenally rewarding. Don't get me wrong; sharing the experience with a travel buddy is fantastic. Splitting costs down the middle can be even better, especially in a pricey destination. Traveling in Southeast Asia can be so economical, however, that it's a breeze to travel well on the most modest of budgets. From stylish $20-a-night hotel rooms to $40 private tour guides, the prices in this part of the world make traveling solo easy and enjoyable. A year ago, I spent three weeks traveling on my own around Thailand and Cambodia. Not only did I stay well within my budget, but I had one of the most enjoyable trips of my life. With prices so low, I was able to spend my days exploring exactly what I wanted, from esoteric museum collections to the intricacies of Khmer temple architecture. By night, I would eat out and explore the after-dark scene, where I usually met a healthy cross-section of the population, from energetic young Thais in Bangkok's trendy nightspots to foreign aid workers and NGO employees in the bars of Phnom Penh. Perhaps the best part of traveling solo was that when I wanted to eat, I would eat; when I wanted to sleep, I'd sleep; and when I wanted to be lazy and do nothing at all, I would do that, too. Without anyone else to accommodate, I lived selfishly for a month and enjoyed every minute of it, absolutely guilt-free. For more information, pick up a copy of Frommer's Southeast Asia. --Marc Nadeau
Mixing It Up in Melbourne
I'd definitely go back to Melbourne, Australia, on my own. While the public transit isn't perfect, the trams are charming, the taxis are cheap, and -- especially when I was in a place where tourists aren't usually spotted -- the locals always inquired if I needed some help. By the end of my first day, having checked into a rather noisy backpacker hostel, a new-found friend told me I could stay with her family while I was in town. (Granted, we were both fans of the same band, and that's a bond that's international). Later, I traveled by train to Geelong, and the first thing the girl sitting opposite me said was: "What are you doing here? Tourists don't go to Geelong." I joked that I was going to the wool museum, and she told me she was in the Navy, and she made sure I got where I was going when the train arrived. Wherever I went in pubs and restaurants, I had similar marvelous impromptu conversations, on the topics of America's Cup, the song "Cotton Eye Joe," and (of course) Abba. I will look forward to playing the jolly swagman on walkabout Down Under any time I can get the chance to go back. For more information, pick up Frommer's Australia or visit www.australia.com. -- Kathleen Warnock
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