Warning: Rambling Incoherent post ahead.
Where I spend my time: Lowsec 80%, Highsec 10%, Null sec 5%, Wormholes 5%
When I first started playing Eve, lowsec was pretty intimidating. It didn’t help that I got ganked in my first 2 trips to lowsec.
“Pirates live there!”
“There are gatecamps lurking around every corner!”
“People will scan you down in seconds, find you, and blow you up!”
While that is all potentially true, it is infrequent. In fact, most of the people I encounter in lowsec are avoiding combat! It is actually kind of hard to engage someone in combat if they don’t want to be engaged. If you are flying a cloaked ship, you are safe about 95% of the time. If you are flying a combat ship, only a few people will engage you one on one. That is why the whole are of “baiting” was invented – to trick people into fighting.
Now, this isn’t to say that lowsec is safe! I have a 4.0 security rating and I blow up your ship if I get the opportunity (I usually don’t pod, but most do). There are lots of players that are opportunistic like that. Living in lowsec forces you to be on guard all the time. Everyone one you meet is either prey or a hunter. As a solo player (and a one account solo player at that), I don’t have the option of calling for back-up. Fortunately, most people I encounter don’t know that!
There are also roaming gangs. If they happen to catch you on gate or in-transition they will kill you pretty quickly. But as long as you are not hanging out by gates, you are pretty safe from them.
There are occasional gate camps. The smart-bombing battleship ones are pretty effective at killing covops and frigates (and pods), but not much else. Otherwise, random gate camps are pretty rare. They usually only exist at choke points right by highsec. The transition point from highsec to lowsec is probably the most dangerous part of lowsec. Choose your entrances carefully!
I have been scanned down in the sites that I am running a few times, but since there is an acceleration gate at most of the sites, you get a fair bit of warning before someone shows up (way more than you get in wormhole space!).
Hauling around lowsec can be pretty intimidating. Pretty much any cruiser hanging on a gate can catch and kill you. Long hauling routes in anything but a blockade runner are a bad idea. So lowsec logistics is all about using worhmoles, blockade runners, jump freighters, and the occasional warp stabbed Epithal PI hauler. You tend to pay close attention to m3 requirements and (in my case) do some of your own manufacturing.
On the positive side, lowsec is awesome for exploration. The PI is good (though not as good as wormholes). There are lots of stations and competition for sites/resources is less intense (though more deadly) than in highsec. Each area of lowsec has its own personality influenced by its proximity to highsec and nullsec as well as the major groups that call it home. Some are more suited to some activities than others, but all have their perks.
When you first get ready to dip your feet into lowsec, I would recommend flying about a bit in a cloaked ship like a covops or an Astero. Find a nice quiet entrance, preferable where one highsec system borders multiple lowsec systems. Check that their hasn’t been a lot of kills in the last hour and that there is no one hanging out on the highsec side of the gate (these are indications of a gate camp). Warp through several systems in a circuit (either a loop or an up and back) and make bookmarks along the way. Take note of systems that have a high population and see if they are all in the same corporation (indications of a pirate corp home system). Initially, it is probably better to avoid dead-end systems. Several of them have been “claimed” and can be pretty heavily occupied. If you are looking for a base, it is usually safer to choose a system that has multiple stations. If you want to do PI, pay attention to good planets like plasma (depending on what you want to do). If you want to mine, keep an eye on systems with lots of belts. Just take a few hours over the course of a couple of days (and at least 1 weekend) to get the lay of the land during the hours that you plan on playing. Make sure it is to your liking. Several constellations have high-sec islands that may be useful to you. Often they are very sparsely populated.
If you are getting into lowsec for exploration then pay attention to how many signatures you see. When you are ready to run sites (either profession or combat) you can go back to your highsec entrance and change out ships if necessary as long as the coast is clear. I based 2 jumps into highsec for several months just because it was easier for logistics. But eventually, you will get comfortable enough that returning to highsec each time seems like a waste…
… and then you will be living the lowsec dream.