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Old 07-31-2015, 11:02 AM
26,590 posts, read 54,571,346 times
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Originally Posted by erjunkee View Post
Hi All,

So Ive just been presented with a wonderful opportunity to go to Rome, Italy, for an international emergency medicine conference in Italy in a few months.

I have an old med. school buddy who's going to Italy. Due to our scheduling conflicts at work, she will be leaving ahead of me and she wants me to meet her at our conference hotel.

I don't travel often, but when I do, it's usually just to my home state in the South. I've only been to Europe once (Spain), but I was traveling with a group of 5 other females and safety was never a question.

This time alone, it would be me all alone, up until I meet with my friend at the hotel.

While I would love, love, love, to go to Italy (as it's a once in a lifetime experience!), I'm very nervous about traveling alone. In fact, I'm scared. Just the thought of traveling for 8+ hours on a plane, by myself, and then landing in a foreign land alone, is overwhelming. I feel inundated with so many "what ifs."
But I so want to go!

Has anyone had a similar experience with being fearful about traveling internationally alone?

For those who have traveled to Italy (specifically Rome), is there anything I should look out for or be worried about?

Any and all helpful advice would be greatly appreciated .
Let's take this one step at a time. The flight to Rome is a no-brainer. You go to the airport, check your bag, show your valid passport (if you don't have one, apply TODAY as they can take a couple of months), get on the plane, be served dinner, have a couple glasses of wine, try to get comfortable, and go to sleep. If your company will spring for business, you'll have a comfortable flight. If not, it might be worth spending a bit of your own money to upgrade to premium economy/economy comfort for a little more leg room and slightly wider seat. Bring a neck pillow and eye mask. Wear something comfortable. I bring a large pashmina that can be used as a wrap but also a blanket on the plane.

Arriving in Rome is easy. You will go and get your bag just like you would in the US, then proceed to the booth with the bored man where it says "Arrivals Nothing to Declare." He will take half a glance at your passport, stamp it (or not) and give you a bored wave of the hand. Italy is the most lax country with immigration I have ever been in.

In general, Rome is perfectly safe. I assume you will fly into FCO. I spent a second with Google and assume the conference is at the Ergife Palace. Lovely location. You can get there either by train with a couple of transfers, or by taking a cab. While the latter won't be cheap, after an overseas flight as a solo traveler with luggage who it seems hasn't done any international travel, it would probably be the best bet.

Chances are that your room won't be ready yet. Personally I like to have a change of clothing in my carry on and spend a few minutes washing my face and brushing my teeth, plus changing my shirt after I arrive.

I will caution on a few things about Rome. The pickpockets and scams are everywhere. It's a serious issue there. invest in a money belt that is worn under your clothing. Something large enough to put your passport, credit cards, and cash in. UNDER your clothing. Carry a few Euro in an easily accessible place for small purchases like a cup of coffee. Mind your belongings. Whatever you do, do not get into a cab that you don't get at the official taxi stand, don't allow anyone to "help" with your bag unless they are a uniformed employee of your hotel or the airport. Pack light so you can easily manage your one checked bag and one carry on by yourself including going up and down stairs. I use a small flat crossbody that easily fits into my carry on and will hold my iPad or a book, a pen, tissues, my small credit card wallet, handcream, etc. I bury it in the bottom of my carry on before I get off the plane--remember cash, passport, etc are in the money belt.

Once I get into my hotel I lock my valuables into the safe and only carry the amount of cash I will need. I use my US drivers license as ID as it's easier and cheaper to replace than my passport and I can get home without it.

Don't even look at the touts selling crap (including knock off handbags) off blankets on the street. They will rob you blind, and it's illegal to buy counterfeit items in Italy and you can be arrested and fined!

Learn a few words in Italian. "No, va via!" is simple to remember. It mean, "No, go away." "Basta!" means "enough" as in "I've had enough of you, scram!" Over all you will find the Italians to be either warm and kind or just completely disinterested.

Don't be afraid of this journey. It's a remarkable city, one of my favorites in the world. Let me know if you want any further advice.

Last edited by annerk; 07-31-2015 at 12:00 PM..
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Old 07-31-2015, 11:05 AM
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Pretty much every cafe in Rome will give you their WiFi password for the price of a glass of house wine or a beer. It's a cheap and effective way of keeping in touch.

If you will only be making maybe one short call home, just have your carrier turn on the international calling. Turn off the cellular data!! You can otherwise leave the phone on and won't pay a dime if you don't answer incoming calls and only use data on WiFi.
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Old 07-31-2015, 11:29 AM
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One other thing about Rome... The tap water is amazing! So pure and clean. It comes via the viaducts from the Apennine Mountains. There are water taps all over the city and unless it says “Acqua Non Potabile” it is not only 100% safe, but pure and delicious. Feel free to refill your bottle at any of them, they are there for the public and you will see local people doing the same thing.
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Old 07-31-2015, 01:52 PM
Location: SW France
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Hi there,

Jezer's daughter here. I've just come home after living in Italy for five months alone. Of course the experience is a little different, but I'd like to think I might have some knowledge that might help!

The first thing I would say, is that with any sort of travel, everybody is usually more scared than they have to be. My experience of Italy was so positive, and I find that it is a very welcoming country with very friendly people. I think particularly being in a city like Rome, you won't need to worry as much about the language barrier, as many people will speak English.

When you think about the experience, what exactly is it that worries you? Try to break it down in your head (or even on paper!), and I'm sure that there will be a simple solution for almost every worry that you have. Just like any city, common sense will apply, but I think that if you do your research first you will have a far less stressful journey.

I think that if you take the plunge you will really surprise yourself with how well you can navigate a foreign city by yourself and what a great experience you will have. If you're not familiar with traveling by yourself, it's worth noting that if you have an iphone there are so many apps which can help you to plan and manage your trip from maps to translators (as a just in case measure!), this can greatly reduce any anxiety as you have that added safety net.

Anyway, I realise that my response is a little vague, but what I'm trying to say is, there is nothing impossible about traveling to Italy alone! I was very scared to move to Italy alone, but as they say, nothing great came from comfort zones, and I can't describe what an incredible experience it was.

If there are any more specific questions you'd like to ask me, I'd be happy to help
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Old 07-31-2015, 07:54 PM
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I'm a woman, and I traveled alone to Paris in 2011 for 12 days. It was awesome! I don't speak French, I find charades works well in almost any situation If you do your research beforehand, and take proper precautions (against things like pickpocketing and theft) you will be fine. You can do this! It will be a great adventure

ETA I purchased a PacSafe backpack, and it was well worth the money
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