Travelling Solo – Make it easy on yourself

I’m travelling alone on a ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmel on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. I am enjoying myself and listening to a wandering band of enthusiastic Mexican musicians entertaining passengers for the 45 minute ferry ride. Today the sea is calmer than the journey to the island last week and the sky is a brilliant blue with scudding little clouds. I am a happy lone traveler.

I’m travelling first class and it’s worth every peso. Arriving in hot sunshine for the busy mid day ferry, my ticket gave me priority and my bags were taken and stored. YAY! On this trip I’m not travelling light. I have two huge bags; one is for living whatever life throws at me and one is full of diving gear – a chunky, buoyancy jacket, a pair of fins, diving boots, snorkel, mask and two diving suits. So it’s always a joy when the bags are taken away to be reunited with me at a later date.

After the bags disappeared into the hold I was ushered to the head of the line (that’s a queue in English) and was swiftly aboard to discover a comfortable leather seat in an air conditioned lounge. Perfect embarkation and time to reflect on my Follow Grandma rules that have evolved over the years as a solo traveller.

RULE NUMBER 1. Make life easy for yourself.

I regularly remind myself that I am the only one looking out for me. No one else to help with the luggage or stay with it if I need to chase the guy who knows where the ferry, train, bus or plane goes from. (I’ve learned that even if it’s only hand luggage you have to take it with you as you treck around airports and stations looking for information about the next stage of the journey ) So, on occasions like today, first class is non negotiable. (As it happens it’s only an extra £8 for a return fare!) Now, comfortably seated, with my luggage stowed, I can write a blog or two.

My plan when we dock is to look for a young, virile porter who will walk a few paces behind with my bags as I engage with a helpful local taxi to take me onwards to the next destination.

RULE NUMBER 2 Always check and agree the price of the porter or the licensed taxi before the journey begins. That way you aren’t in for any price hikes and nasty surprises.

RULE NUMBER 3 Keep a supply of small local currency or single dollar bills to give to people who have been extra caring or helpful. (Incidentally, tipping is a whole minefield and important enough to warrant a separate blog later)

RULE NUMBER 4 Keep all your travel papers in one folder. This filing folder starts before I leave the UK. I have an A4 plastic folder and I slip tickets, addresses of where I’m going and receipts in the individual plastic pockets. A friend has asked me to do a blog on how to keep tabs on important documents so that’s coming soon. Today I was delighted with how ‘My Rules’ helped not only to smooth the way but saved me a good few dollars.

This is how the they worked out for me today.

RULE NUMBER 1 Make Life Easy.

The first class ticket gave me priority. I conserved my energy by planning beforehand how to handle my two big bags and negotiate a taxi in the busy ferry terminal at Playa del Carmen. I was then able to easily spot a porter (sadly not virile and young but older, weathered by the hot sun) but he was as sturdy as his bicycle carrier.

RULE NUMBER 2 Agree the price.

The porter and I struck a deal on the price, (before he leapt onto his bike), Then he was off at speed with my two bags, including the heavy diving gear, to find the taxi. So much for my fantasy of the young man walking behind me. I raced after him through the crowds and he soon found taxis at the ferry exit. However, before he could unload I asked the price for the fare to my hotel. They wanted $60 !! I’d done a little research beforehand and knew it should be $25 so I declined, with a big smile, and encouraged my willing bicycle man on towards the town taxi rank. There I offered $25 to the taxi rank manager and it was immediately accepted. A saving to me of $35.

RULE NUMBER 3 Have a supply of small ‘thank you ‘ currency

Now was an occasion for Rule 3. I produced US dollars for the now heavily perspiring porter – a little extra money over and above the fare we’d agreed. He had been kind because he could have dumped me at the ferry terminal taxi rank. He got a tip. He cycled off with a big smile.

RULE NUMBER 4 The Travel File.

In my file I had a print out of the hotel and the address. (Much easier for the taxi driver to read than for me to say in Spanish!) I sat back cool, calm and relaxed in the air conditioned taxi that whisked me towards more adventures

Yet again my few simple rules had made it easier to navigate a few mini hurdles between the Island of Cozumel and Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s mainland.

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