I am planning a trip to Eastern Europe in September this year. I am thinking of following the Lonely Planet 'Eastern Europe 101' suggestions and would like to know if train travel between the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Hungary is reliable and safe for a 50+ woman travelling alone?
- D. Beckett, Petersham.
Reliable, yes, and reasonably safe but you need to take care. Major train stations are crowded and pushy and they attract undesirables who would like nothing better than to separate you from your valuables.
You're particularly vulnerable when boarding a train, when chances are you'll be distracted and pickpockets can create an artificial crush around you. Don't put all your cash and/or travellers cheques in one place and keep a copy of your passport in your luggage. I also email a copy of my passport and the numbers on my travellers cheques to myself every time I go overseas. That way I can retrieve them as long as I can find internet access, which is almost universal. If the worst happens you might need to contact the nearest Australian consular office for assistance and you'll find a list of offices in the countries you'll be visiting on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website (www.dfat.gov.au/missions).
There's also good advice for women travellers at Female Traveller (femaletraveller.co.uk) and Journeywoman (journeywoman.com). As far as Eastern Europe goes, you're no more or less safe than in most other parts of the continent. Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office (fco.gov.uk) has a travel and living abroad website with country-specific travel advice and it's essential reading. Type "women travellers" in the FCO's search box and you'll link to a page of street-savvy suggestions.
You also need a solid travel insurance policy. Choice (www.choice.com.au) has a buying guide and while it doesn't recommend specific insurers, it does offer sage guidelines.
Compare Travel Insurance (www.comparetravelinsurance.com.au) might help track down the policy that's right for you.