Ask Joan: solo travel across Europe and a summer in Cuba

Six months in Europe for a woman in her 60s and a family summer in Cuba or Spain

 

I am a woman in my early 60s and considering travelling alone to Europe to explore sunnier climates for six months next year. I have a small pension but like nice accommodation. I don’t mind sharing. Any suggestion of how I could plan my trip would be welcome. PW, Laois.

As you will be travelling alone, maybe staying with a family would be a nice way to experience different places.

Homestay. com connects travellers with local hosts all around the world. It is also a reasonable way to travel, with prices from €15 per night. Cities are more expensive but still a lot cheaper than staying in hotels. If you look through the listings you will find lovely places to stay and can send messages to or video chat with hosts.

You may think hostels are for young people and backpackers, but that has changed in recent years. Across Europe you will find striking and unusual hostels in cities, towns and by the sea, and all at reasonable prices.

Hostels are also like mini tourist offices and are great places to find out what’s on and things to do. You could find yourself making friends and having people to chat to. Browse hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com to see the variety of hostels around Europe.

You can also download a free ebook of luxury hostels in Europe at budgettraveller.org.

My husband and I are hoping to spend all of next summer with our two children in Cuba. Do you have any ideas on how we might go about arranging this trip? Given the length of time we’ll be away, some form of rental accommodation seems best, although I’m not sure what’s possible in Cuba. Where would we best to base ourselves? I’ve been to Havana once before and loved it, but somewhere smaller and less hectic might be better. If Cuba isn’t practical we would consider Spain, but again where to base ourselves is an issue. BD, Dublin.

The tourist card/visa for Cuba allows for stays of up to 90 days, so that should cover your summer visit. It would be worth visiting the Embassy of Cuba at 32b Westland Square, Pearse Street, Dublin 2 (tel: 01-4752999) to clarify details of visiting Cuba for a long period and to seek advice on finding accommodation.

I have noticed a lot of accommodation in Cuba on Airbnb lately, with apartments and houses all across the island. This would be a good place to look for a holiday rental. Prices are reasonable, and I am sure you would get a great deal for a long stay. You could also consider basing yourself in a number of places. Transport is spotty in Cuba so stay in or near bigger towns. Talk to Cuba Travel about flights, cubatravel.ie (tel: 01-6111030).

Taking airfares into consideration, Spain would probably work out about the same. Once you move even slightly off the beaten track in Spain, costs go down, although rural Spain can be quiet, with little English spoken.

Choosing where to stay would depend on whether you want to be by the sea, in the mountains, on an island or can stand the heat of summer in the far south. Some places I like include Majorca, Costa de la Luz, from Altea to Calpe on Costa Blanca, San Sebastian, Tarragona on Costa Dorada , Costa Tropical and the Alpujarras.

The Spanish Tourist Office in Dublin may be able to advise of some other suitable places (tel: 01-6350200).

Send your queries to jscales@irishtimes.com.