Solo, alone? Aren't you scared... my response

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
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Trip End Sep 29, 2012


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Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, February 11, 2012

I fly into Bogota from Caracas. I am advised strictly NOT to take the bus overland across the Venezuelan/ Colombian border due to safety concerns. This is spot on advice.

The British government issued advice against all travel to a zone all along this border so I book a flight (not cheap) but important for my safety. 

You can see the advice here: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/south-america/venezuela

I was glad in one way to leave Venezuela. I felt like I was trapped a little due to the safety warnings and risks there to me. I did not see many tourists in the city. Cars all have blacked out windows so you never see other people inside and everyone drives everywhere!! The 'express kidnapping' I read about happens to people who may stop to buy something in their car and the kidnappers seize their opportunity. It can be minutes or just an hour, the kidnappers will get the victim to drive around looking for their ATM and withdraw money from their account, it's really not nice and can happen frequently. Only three days before my arrival in Caracas the Mexican ambadassor suffered the same fate. Wrong place late at night, but it is these precautions that can remove a person's and country's freedom and that is a little what has happened to the wonderful people in Venezuela.

The first week I was so looked after, being driven everywhere and all the wedding celebrations had no time to notice the country and how it was functioning.  This is an adventurous travellers paradise you should visit but I would advise in organised tours and to stay on the tourist trail.

My second week there I did have to travel on my own. My main concern or riskiest part was when I was travelling to and from the airport, bearing in mind I visited Caracas airport three times that week I was a quite nervous. I followed all the advice and read from my Footprint South America handbook similar advice.

Take the official taxis, they have a yellow sign on the side of the car and the driver will have an ID around his next. Ignore the crowds of men shouting 'taxi taxi' when you come through customs. Unfortunately there have been incidents when they have said official taxis and they are not, take the unsuspecting tourist to middle of nowhere, leaves them after robbing them. Was I scared now? Oh god yes.

I met a lot of other tourists from Germany, Russia and Czech Republic. A couple of British girls, and finally a couple who were going to live in New Caledonia (no I had never heard of it before either), a French island not far from Australia coast, so I learnt a lot about this island and we chatted again about why and how come I was traveling 'solo', alone.

I heard stories of horror from the Czechs about experiences in Caracas, being robbed, sticking up a fight (this is really not what you should do but of course is human nature if you're being robbed) and being stabbed with the Czech boys in question getting on the first flight out of the city. I repeated the same thing I have told many people over the last few weeks. I feel I am safer than groups traveling. I don't stand out too much, thanks to my dark hair and ever progressing shade of brown tan. I also research where I am going to the hill checking reviews on sites like tripadvisor, hostelworld, Lonely Planet Travel Forum and then asking around to other travelers before final checking against what my Footprint guidebooks says. I keep my money and valuables in three different locations when I travel if something gets stolen, so what! I have more money or an ATM card in another place. I do though impose my own night curfew. If I don't like the look of the area or my guidebook or reviews advise to not walk alone at night, I don't. It does mean my evenings are going to bed early with a book and looking at photos of the day but for my safety it is worth it. It is also means I try as much as possible to travel in day light. I am definitely NOT a morning person, but now I have to get up quite often from anything from 2.30am to 6am to get that first bus out that day to arrive in my destination in the daytime.

I also think about what I dress and how friendly I am with people I meet on the way. I get asked all the time am I traveling alone, people are really genuinely surprised about it. Dependent on who they are i.e. if another European traveller I might tell them I quit my job to travel and be more honest, for others like the Army officer at a memorial in Cartagena I visited, I say yes but my friend is in the hotel I am with her. I also have to observe what's happening around me and if something doesn't look right I move on with confidence. Showing that you don't look lost, when in fact you are, is important for staying safe! On the whole though in both Costa Rica , Venezuela, Colombia, the people are very friendly and would like to help you and are curious about if you like their country, where you are from, if I am married, what my job is, how old I am, the list goes on. In my broken Spanish I try to reply and a smile really does go a long way. I feel I have had a lot of kind gestures from people from taxi drivers, air pilots! and the people in the hostels to make me always feel welcome and at ease. I think it is merely a matter of attitude, confidence and going with the flow in the country you are in, observing how others behave and adjusting is what is important.


I hope this helps others who are thinking about traveling alone to go do it, I don't regret it just those occasionally moments I'd like to share with someone special or a good friend but hey for now I have skype for that!
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Comments

Eddie Joyce on

Pleased you are safe I am of on my holiday Scotish Dancing for Five Days
in Scotland of course cold at the moment but safe.Will visit Norma and Ian
while I am there.Have fun love Eddie and Maureen

aborder
aborder on

I crossed from caracas to Cartagena via land and had no problems. It took two coaches and a truck that takes you over the border. I ran out of cash and a kind Colombian lady let me borrow some cash then I paid her back at the Colombian border town! The only negative was constantly being stopped by the military and being body searched each time. The journey took 24 hours and it was wonderful to see different areas of Venezuela and Colombia. But, always best to trust your instincts.

greekcypriot
greekcypriot on

Charlotte the tips that you share are very important for people coming there, and I notice that you move very carefully, you are bright lady and you know how to act in difficult situations. Letting the people who ask you know that there is somebody waiting for you back at the hotel or that you are not alone is again very helpful and clever to do.
Many people surely would want to be in your shoes!!
I look forward for the coming entry.

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