On a trip to Turkey last summer, artist Jil Nelson was surprised when her cabdriver took a detour: "When we protested, we found out he was giving us an informal tour. He had heard us commenting on how beautiful the Old City looked. When does that ever happen?"
Smooth traveling in Turkey requires little more than proper etiquette, awareness of local habits, and common sense. Women in Istanbul—especially in trendy nightclubs such as 360 and Reina—dress no different from women in New York. In mosques, people are required to remove their shoes, and women must cover their head with a scarf.
T+L Tip "Women traveling alone should avoid certain areas of Anatolia, such as Konya (the home of the whirling dervishes), where a woman might feel strange walking into a restaurant by herself," says travel agent Ellison Poe. "People are extremely orthodox. Even in Cappadocia, where people are accustomed to tourists, women travelers should take precautions: Dress modestly and stay in a small group."
With an eye toward foreign investment and virtually no threat of terrorism, Vietnam has improved its infrastructure, and the arrival of hotels like the Park Hyatt has raised its tourism standards. Exploring Vietnam's diverse landscape—from sweeping rice fields to idyllic beaches—is fairly uncomplicated. "I rode a bicycle to school in Hanoi. I never felt threatened," comments graduate student Naomi Greenwald, who spent four months there as a student in 2001. If you're at all nervous about eating alone, one fun option is to take a food tour, such as Vietnam Cookery Center, which offers a half-day cooking class that includes a market tour (www.expat-services.com).
T+L Tip "When renting a motorbike, beware of a scam in which the bike's owner supplies a lock he has a key to. Someone follows you to steal [back] the bike, forcing you to pay," says travel agent Diane Embree. One way to avoid this is to buy your own lock. She also recommends keeping your belongings out of range of the many street children and thieves on bikes, especially in the touristy D Dong Khoi and Pham Ngu Lao areas of Ho Chi Minh City.