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Black Women Travelers Share Their Best And Worst Travel Experiences

Take a nod from your tribe to make the best decision for your next trip.

Travel

It's always good to be able to get a warning or preview of travel experiences before booking a trip. Who wants to spend hard-earned money traveling somewhere only to find that they've gotten themselves into a horrible, unsafe, or unsavory experience that could've been avoided? And if you love to travel or are looking for your next vacay spot, you've probably come across lists detailing the best and worst countries for Black women via your IG Explore page or your YouTube suggestions.


Black women have been leading the charge in shifting the narrative on travel as of late, framing it as a great way to expand our horizons, find a better quality of life, or reach extraordinary personal milestones. And with the challenges of COVID and the recent national epidemic of police brutality, some have decided that relocating abroad is the best move.

Whether you're simply planning your next vacay or looking to make a major life change, take a nod from other experienced travel lovers. That's the beauty of the Black female travel tribe.

(Oh, and this list is neither to discourage nor overly encourage visiting any city or country, but to offer a diverse perspective to help you make your own sound decisions for what's best for you during your travel journey.)

NICOLE GRIMES, PH.D., Educator, New York

Nicole is an education consultant and founder of Carib Biz Network who has traveled to 40 countries including Zambia, St. Lucia, Chile, and New Zealand. "We will at times encounter things or people that stand counter to our values or belief systems, but the goal is to move in understanding and respect," she says.

BEST: Portugal

I recently came back from a multiple-stop Euro-trip where I visited Portugal for the first time. It was a phenomenal surprise! First, it's all things Western Europe but at a more affordable price point. The colorful tuk-tuks and trams that traveled up and down hilly Lisbon added so much old-world charm to the city.

If you're a seafood lover, the food there is everything. Octopus, sardines, cuttlefish, and shrimp are served practically everywhere. The most awesome part was seeing so much diversity. Lots of melanin everywhere!

The most amazing day trip I did was to a village called Sintra, a whimsical, hilly town with palaces and castles. Visiting the world-famous Pena Palace was like stepping into a fairytale. It's a must-see!

NOT SO GREAT: The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

I have been to the UAE twice, once in 2013 and then in 2015, and I really wouldn't return with any degree of fervor. Traveling solo as a woman of color in Muslim countries comes with certain challenges. I remember—whether it was trying to get a taxi, interacting with front desk staff at my hotel, or just walking the streets and asking questions—men were often rude and sometimes menacing.

There were male taxi drivers who didn't want to give me change back. Store clerks also tried to rob me and grew belligerent when I asked questions. A lot of times they had attitudes like, 'How dare you question me, woman?!'

I quickly realized that I had to remember where I was and not prance around with any degree of what could be interpreted as arrogance. I just tried to move in patience. It was what it was. My safety was way more important.

JENNIFER HENDERSON, Travel Influencer, Washington, D.C. Area

Jennifer is a makeup lover and foodie whose platform, Lipsticks and Passports, covers unique ways to affordably appease your travel bug and all that comes with prepping for your next adventure. She's been to more than a dozen countries, including Iceland, the Netherlands, and Ethiopia. "If it's your first time traveling, find a list of things to know for first-time travelers," she tells xoNecole. "It will be a lifesaver!"

BEST: Mexico

Isla Holbox has a totally different vibe than Cancun or Cozumel. It's way more chill. There are flamingos, friendly people, clear water, and $1 tacos! Does it get any better than that? I spent the majority of the time laid up on the beach drinking cheap champagne, but I did venture out and do an island tour, and I explored the local food scene. Everyone on the island was pretty friendly and they were definitely helpful, especially when it came to translating.

Oh, and since there are no cars on the island, there is minimal smog, so you can see the stars!

I live in a city, so seeing stars is a rare occurrence! I [was tempted to book] another trip to visit the island before my first visit to Mexico even ended.

NOT SO GREAT: Canada

I can't say I have ever had a bad experience traveling, per se, but I have had several interesting experiences in various countries. My most memorable experience was in 2016 in Vancouver, Canada. It was my first time traveling internationally. I was headed to Sydney, Australia, and I had a four-hour layover in Vancouver.

I was scared and confused because I couldn't find the gate for my flight on my boarding pass. I had no idea what I was doing. So, I walked up to a woman who looked like she would know how to help me. She grabbed her purse as If I was about to rob her.

The entire time I was there I noticed various people staring and pointing any time I made eye contact. I ended up finding a customer service desk and asked about my boarding pass. They were able to help.

NGOZI OGBANNA, Tech Professional, New York

Ngozi enjoys her work as a growth marketer and has proudly visited "20 countries and counting!" including Jamaica, Indonesia, and Kenya. For Black women looking to take their next trip, she adds, "Ultimately, be aware of your surroundings, stay street smart, and know that isolated incidents are not representative of your entire travel experience."

BEST: Ghana

I've had amazing experiences across a number of continents and countries, but one of my absolute favorite experiences was visiting Ghana during the "Year of the Return" festivities in 2019. Africa in December is the best—and typically most expensive—time to visit since it's when most people return home to see family, attend weddings, and of course, party into the new year.

My trip felt like a homecoming: lots of fabulous Black people from all over the world connecting, vibing, luxuriating, and enjoying the sights, food, culture, and music of Accra.

I can definitely picture myself living in Accra—going to the beaches, hanging out at rooftop bars, enjoying the concerts, and hiking across waterfalls and jungle canopy walks.

NOT SO GREAT: Argentina

I went to both Patagonia and Buenos Aires. While it was a diverse group of people, I was the only Black person on the trip. I was also one of the very few Black people, in general, in the Patagonia region during my entire trip.

I definitely stood out—Black Girl Magic!—and it was very awkward to get blatant stares from some of the locals, especially having one man point at me—in surprise, but still rudely—and say 'la negra,' which means 'Black woman,' because he clearly doesn't see many of us in his day-to-day life.

I did not, however, let that sour my overall trip nor my desire to travel to more remote regions (like mountain regions in Peru, for example) because I will make the best of any situation.

Along with her day job, Charmaine hosts her own podcast, Kulcha Shock Abroad, and serves as director of Yawd Cards, a fun game that plays homage to her Jamaican heritage. She's been to 30 countries including Costa Rica, Cuba, and Belgium. "Visit everywhere with an open mind," she urges. "Someone else may have a terrible experience and hate a country or city. You may go and have time time of your life!"

BEST: Turkey

It was an unexpected love-at-first-sight destination. You know those places where you get off the plane and the excitement starts but continues throughout the trip and you are devastated to leave? Yeah, that one! The food, for me, puts it in the top five places I've been.

The beach towns are quieter and just as beautiful as many other coastal European cities. The people were unbelievably welcoming and nice, and as a Black woman, I never felt uncomfortable at all.

If you are a geology or ruins junkie like me, this country is definitely a must-go.

NOT SO GREAT: United Kingdom

I experienced blatant racism for the first time on my first long-haul trip there at 16. I never forgot being followed around museums or while shopping on Bond Street.

It left a bad taste in my mouth, and although I live in the U.S. where these things happen all the time, that experience as a teenager shaped the way I felt about being Black for a very long time.

Gladly, I resumed traveling extensively in my 30s and have since embraced Blackness and Caribbean culture. I have not been back to London since, but I will within a year!

Davida is founder of skincare and lifestyle brand Katelynn and Adwoa, and she's traveled to South Africa, Cambodia and Germany, to name a few.

BEST: Ghana

The experience starts as soon as I get off the airplane at Kotoka International Airport. Each person makes it a point to say "Akwaaba" which means "Welcome Back."

The amazing food, beautiful beaches, top fashion, and culture in general all add to the amazing experience that I always have in Ghana, but specifically as a Black woman, it feels good to travel to a country with billboards and ads of women who look like me.

Knowing that I am safe to roam by myself, can sit at a restaurant, or even walk into any bar without being harassed puts Ghana at the top of favorite countries to explore. I book all of the tourist tours to Cape Coast, Kakum National Park, local festivals, shopping at the night market, and of course restaurant- and bar-hopping.

NOT SO GREAT: France

I've traveled to Paris two times. The first time was in 2007 for work, and I had a terrible experience. I left my hotel and decided to explore the city on my own. When the cab pulled up in front of me, I proceeded to get in when a man started yelling and cursing at me in French, pushed me out of the way, and proceeded to get in the cab I hailed. No one helped. No one at the restaurants were welcoming or warm at all.

Between all of the cigarette smoke everywhere, the blunt, rude attitudes of the locals, and the language barrier, I did not have a good experience in Paris.

The second time I went was in 2011, and this time I was with my mom, sister, and best friends. The experience was about the same: bad customer service, rude locals, and just an overall feeling of not being welcome.

Nevertheless, [I think] I would have been able to navigate a bit better had I learned the language. And going with a group of friends is a good idea. I wouldn't recommend Paris for solo travelers. Also, search #BlackParis on Instagram before visiting. It gives a list of cool Black-owned restaurants and tours in Paris.

Featured image via Getty Images

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