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Guide to Solo Travel for Women in Europe

Advice for women wanting to travel solo in Europe. Tips on safety and how to have an amazing solo journey through Europe.

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My very first backpacking trip abroad was a three-month solo journey across Europe — although I didn’t plan it to be that way. I was actually supposed to go with a friend, but about two months before our departure she had to cancel.

At first, I wanted to scrap the whole trip, but I’d been planning this big trip for months (and dreaming about it for years). Plus I’d already bought the non-refundable plane ticket, so I started researching solo travel.

The idea of traveling alone, especially as a woman, never even crossed my mind until that point, but the more I researched it, the more I came to realize that solo travel was something that sounded amazing. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it.

Okay, I was a little nervous before heading off. I remember having a mini-freakout when I was on the plane, but I was able to pull myself together pretty quickly. As soon as I landed in London I successfully made it to my hotel using the Tube. Success!

After all was said and done, I discovered how much I loved solo travel. Sure, there were some not-so-great times and I made a few mistakes, but I would do it all over again if I had the chance. One of the biggest surprises was that I met a large number of other solo female travelers in Europe — there were probably one or two at every hostel I stayed at!

I’ve gathered some of my best tips and advice for solo women travelers in Europe. These are the things I wish I would have known before I traveled to Europe alone. I urge you all to learn from my mistakes!

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The first week of traveling solo was the toughest for me. I was still a little timid, and I tended to keep to myself. I would spend all day walking around and then come back to the hostel and not have anyone to talk to.

Then one night I decided to cook a meal for myself at the hostel. I went down to the kitchen and there was another solo female traveler trying to organize a group meal. She asked me if I wanted to chip in a little money, and she would make a big meal for whoever was interested.

There ended up being around 15 people who gathered for the meal. It was a ton of fun and everyone had a great time. I finally met a lot of people, and I spent the next two days hanging out with the girl who organized the meal. And that is when I realized that solo travelers have to put a bit of effort into meeting people. From that point on, I had very little trouble meeting people.

And you shouldn’t worry too much about being “alone”. There will always be people to hang out with if you seek them out. I’ve had to eat by myself a few times — which I admit isn’t the most fun thing in the world — but it really isn’t that bad. I think we tend to fear eating alone because we think other people are judging us. But honestly, other people don’t really care that you’re eating alone — plus, you’ll never see these people again, so who cares?

Why Solo Travel is Great

I don’t know why more people don’t embrace traveling solo – especially in Europe. Below are some of the top reasons why I loved traveling solo, but you can read a lot more general advice about traveling solo here.

Freedom to Travel

Any solo traveler will tell you how amazing it is to be able to do whatever you want. Want to spend all day in a museum? No problem. Want to sit in a park for 3 hours? Go for it. Want to eat at McDonald’s? Supersize it, sister.

Do whatever you want because you don’t have to ask what your travel partners want to do.

Financial Freedom

Money is another tricky subject when it comes to travel. Often groups of people don’t want to spend money on the same things. For example, your friend might want to eat bread and cheese every day, but you want to have one or two nice meals. These differences often lead to one party not being happy.

Meet More People

When I travel with my significant other, I end up meeting fewer people because we often go off to do our own thing. Traveling solo forces you to put yourself out there to meet new people. Plus, solo travel is becoming more popular, and you’re bound to run into a lot of travelers who are happy to hang out with other solo people.

I also found that a lot of groups openly invited me to hang out with them, which I found was great. In fact, I probably got invited to 4 times as much than when I traveled with friends.

Self Discovery

Traveling alone makes you become more confident and self-reliant. Plus, I feel like it makes you a better person.

Easier to Couchsurf

Couchsurfing is an amazing way to meet locals and save a bit of cash. Most Couchsurfing hosts don’t have a lot of room, so solo travelers have an easier time securing a spot. Some people recommend finding a female host for safety reasons. I’ve stayed with hosts that were a family (husband, wife, and kids), and that has worked out fine. Just be sure to read the reviews to hear what former guests have said. You can read more about Couchsurfing here.

Practical Tips for Successful Solo Travel in Europe

Here are some random tips and advice that will help make solo travel go much more smoothly.

Meeting People

There are plenty of ways to meet other people while you’re traveling. The easiest is at your hostel. There will nearly always be someone looking to meet up. This is also a great opportunity to meet up with other solo travelers.

Most major cities have free walking tours which attract a lot of younger travelers. Additionally, large cities usually have a weekly Couchsurfing meetup group where people from around the world meet up to just hang out — normally at a bar or café. These are open to all people — not just Couchsurfers. You can also check out

Start in a Country Where You Know the Language

Traveling is confusing. Traveling in a country where you don’t know the language is even more confusing. That is why I’d recommend starting out in the UK or Ireland because you can always ask someone if you have a question. If nothing else, it lets you ease into international travel a bit easier, and it will help build your travel skills.

Plan Ahead to Avoid Confusion

I always recommend having your accommodation arranged before you arrive in each city. This way you’ll know exactly where to go the second you step off the train or plane. I also recommend spending a little time studying how to get to your hostel before you arrive. If you’re familiar with how the public transportation works or what route to walk, you’ll remove much of the stress of traveling. Additionally, planning ahead keeps you from wandering around aimlessly — which thieves pick up on very quickly.

I also try to find out where the more dangerous parts of town are so I can be sure to avoid them.

Take it Easy on Yourself and Relax

Traveling is stressful. You’ll make mistakes. Things will go wrong. You’ll feel defeated at some point. It is natural, and all travelers go through it. I hit a wall after about 3-4 weeks of traveling, but I powered through it and I felt better after having a few bad days.

I recommend doing something nice for yourself or doing something “normal.” Go see a movie. Have a bit of retail therapy. Sign up for a cooking class or a wine tasting. It will help rejuvenate you.

Do an Open Top Bus Tour

I know it sounds corny, but I like to use one one of those hop-on/hop-off bus tours the first day I arrive in a major city because it allows me to get a better idea of how the city is laid out. Then when I’m exploring the city by foot, I have a little better idea of where I am in relation to other sights.

Ask People to Take Your Picture

ASK PEOPLE TO TAKE YOUR PHOTO! I have a thousand photos of Europe, but I’m only in about a dozen of them. I didn’t even realize it until I got back home and started looking through my pictures — I still regret not having more. People are more than willing to take your photo, but you just have to ask.

Pack Light

The more stuff you drag along with you, the more difficult traveling becomes — especially when you’re traveling alone. Check out this traveling Europe packing list for women for tips on what to pack.

Safety Advice for Solo Women Travelers

The main reason females don’t travel alone usually boils down to safety concerns, and it is smart to be vigilant when you’re traveling alone. European cities are much safer than most US cities. I know I felt safer walking the streets in Europe than I do in the US. The advice in this section is all pretty common sense, but it is a good idea to read through these things so they’re fresh in your mind.

Be Aware

The best safety advice I could give a solo traveler, or any traveler for that matter, is to simply be aware of your surroundings. That doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid about everything, but it is important to have an idea of what is going around you.

Protect Your Bag or Purse

Probably the biggest threat to traveling women is getting your purse or bag snatched. I suggest keeping your bag in your lap. If you have a larger bag that is uncomfortable to keep in your lap, make sure you loop the shoulder strap around the leg of your chair so someone can’t run by and snatch it away.

Find a Buddy (or a Group) When Going Out at Night

It might not be fair, but women need to be more vigilant when they’re out at night. That is why I always went out with other people — usually from my hostel. Remember… safety in numbers.

Act Like You’re Supposed to be There

It seems that timid travelers are the ones who usually get taken advantage of. Their fear and timidness show through, and predators can pick up on this. That is why you need to always act like you belong. Act like you know exactly where you are going. Exude confidence! Walk with purpose — even if you are lost. As a female traveling alone, this is an important thing to remember.

Listen to Your Gut

When you’re traveling alone, it’s important to listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Personally, I had the most difficult time listening to my instincts when I was with a group of people. I felt a little uneasy about speaking up to a bunch of people I’d just met a few hours before in the hostel. But that is something I just had to get over.

Avoid Dangerous Situations with Alcohol

We’ve all done some dumb things while drinking, but we’re usually around friends. I don’t have to tell you that getting really drunk in an unfamiliar city with a bunch of people you don’t know very well isn’t the best idea.

Don’t Flash Money/Valuables

It is always smart to be careful about not flashing money and valuables around for people to see. Leave fancy jewelry at home, try to not use your phone alone on the street (especially at night or on public transportation), and if something feels wrong, try to hop into a store or get close to a group of people. The main thing is to not make yourself a target.

Pickpocket Proof Bags

I’ve never used them, but a lot of travelers like these pickpocket proof bags from Pacsafe. They have features like puncture proof and lockable zippers, steel mesh is sewn into the bag’s fabric the bag can’t be cut open, and a few other anti-theft features. For more information about pickpockets, read our guide to pickpockets in Europe.

Be Careful When Using the ATM

As a solo traveler, one of your most vulnerable moments will be when you’re withdrawing money from an ATM because you don’t have anyone to watch your back.

For example, when I was in Paris, I was approached by a group of 3 gypsy kids while I was using the machine. They started tugging at my shirt and putting a paper in front of the screen to block my view. Just then, I saw one of them press the button to withdraw 300€. Luckily, I knew what was going on and was able to grab all the cash from the machine before they had a chance to get it.

I knew about this scam as I had read about it when I was researching my trip, but it still took me off guard — especially since this happened in the middle of the day on a street with a lot of foot traffic. (Tip: Try to use an ATM that’s inside a bank.)

Pay Attention in Confusing Situations

Thieves rely on creating confusion to get you to let your guard down. They’ll do things like putting a newspaper in front of your face while someone else takes things from your bag, or a group of people will all push onto a Metro car at the last minute while they try to pickpocket you, or a cashier will purposely give you the incorrect change back. There are all kinds of things thieves will do. Your best defense is keeping calm and making sure you know what is going on.

Write Down the Address of Your Accommodation

It is a good idea to write down the name and address or take a business card from the hostel, hotel, or apartment where you’re staying. This is important because it is pretty easy to get lost in many European cities — their streets don’t use the grid system, so finding your way home isn’t always easy. Plus, good luck trying to tell your taxi driver to take you to 27 Scheepstimmermanstraat (yes, this is a real street name).

Arrive in New Locations During the Day

Whether it’s at a train station or an airport, one of the most confusing and frustrating moments of traveling is when you first arrive in a new city. But things get much more difficult when you arrive at night. Help desks are often closed, most other travelers are gone, and people seem a little more sketchy. That is why I try my best to arrive during the day.

I made this mistake once when I visited Bruges for the first time. I arrived around 11 pm (mainly because I missed a train connection earlier in the day). I knew the address of my hostel but didn’t have a map of the city, so I didn’t know where to go. I decided to just start walking until I found the city center… well, I went the wrong way. So I came back, finally found a map posted outside the train station and headed into town. I think I wandered for about an hour (which is terrible when you have a heavy backpack on), but I finally found the hostel. And it was locked for the night and there was no one at the front desk.

So I was stuck. I walked down the street a bit and found a hotel but they wanted€150 for the night. It was already almost 1 am, so I thought I would rather sleep in the train station than pay €150 for a hotel that I had to be out of by 10 am. And that night I found out how much sleeping on a bench in a train station sucks.

If I had arrived during the day, I would have found the hostel in about 15 minutes and could have spent the night enjoying a great Belgian beer.

Make (Digital) Copies of Passports, Credit Cards, and Other Important Documents

You’ve probably already read about the importance of keeping a few photocopies of your passport. Additionally, I like to email myself a scan or save a copy to my Google Docs. That way you have a copy of it easily available if you somehow lose the physical copies. This also works great with any other important documents or credit cards.

Choose Accommodation in a Popular Area

As a solo female traveler, I always feel safer when my hostel is located in a fairly popular part of town. I’d much rather be walking around in a busy neighborhood than totally alone. This is something to watch out for when booking accommodation because some of the cheaper options are in less desirable locations.

Know Your Neighborhood

Before you head out for the day, take a look at a map to get familiar with your route, the areas you’re visiting, and the neighborhood you’re staying in.

Female-Only Dorms (Optional)

Most hostel rooms are mixed gender, but many offer a few female-only rooms. Personally, I always felt completely safe in hostel dorms because there was always a pretty equal mix of both sexes. But if you feel safer in a female-only dorm, you should choose that option.

Getting Hit On by Men in Public 

As a solo woman traveler, you will get hit on by men — more so in some countries than others. It is inevitable. It is usually pretty harmless (some might even find it flattering), but some men can take it too far. If you don’t want to deal with it, there are a few precautions you can take to ward off those unwanted advances.

Put a Ring on It

The most common piece of advice is to wear a fake wedding band as this will deter most would-be Rico Suaves.

Wear Sunglasses

One thing that took me a while to realize is that looking a stranger in the eye is often a sign that you’re interested or flirting with them. Even an accidental glance gives many guys the impression that you want to chat. The easiest way to avoid these situations is by wearing sunglasses… but you’re on your own when you’re inside or at night.

Cut the Chit-Chat

If some guy starts talking to you (and you’re not interested in talking to him), then you should simply ignore him. When I first arrived in Paris, guys would nonchalantly talk to me on the Metro and I would respond mainly out of courtesy. The fact that I responded was their “foot in the door” and they would continue trying to chat me up. If you’re not interested, I suggest just completely ignoring them — most will get the hint. A lot of women I’ve talked to suggested wearing a pair of earbuds (without music actually playing) while on public transportation as this is a clear sign that you don’t want to chat.

Final Thoughts About Women Traveling Solo in Europe

If you can find friends to travel with, that’s great, but don’t let the lack of a travel buddy deter you from taking the trip you’ve always wanted to take. You just have to take a few precautions and you’ll be safe. If you’re still uneasy about traveling Europe alone and don’t have a travel partner, you can use a tour company like Contiki Tours, Busabout, and a few others that cater directly to younger travelers.

No Funny Business

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Helpful Travel Tips & Articles

  • Sarah

    I really liked this information, but oh my gosh the typos!

    • savvybackpacker

      haha. I know. I need to go back through to fix them.

  • Cheryl

    Thank you for this! I really enjoyed reading the article from a solo-female-backpacker perspective.

    • Clara

      It is really not as scary or bad as you think. I love travelling on my own! Its really one of the best things you can do for yourself. Just hate being clique-ish and needy. So be brave! I did my first solo trip(im a girl) in southeast asia for 3 weeks when I was 20. Met amazing people, saw amazing things. Best of all, no restrictions by friends whatsoever! Last tip: JUST DO IT

  • Marlee

    Hi! Thanks for all the tips! I’m a sophomore in college (20 yrs old) and I was wondering how old you were on your first solo trip. I’m trying to decide if I should head out this summer solo or wait a few more seasons.

    • savvybackpacker

      The author was 22. When I’ve traveled to Europe I’ve met solo travelers age 20-35.

    • Emily Hefta

      Did you ever travel alone marlee? I’m 20 also

    • Amanda

      I’m also 20 and embarking on my first solo trip in June! Obviously I’m terrified but there’s something exciting about being on your own and being able to do everything you want, without worrying about someone else.

  • Raluca

    You are so right! I also discovered that traveling alone is more fun than it sounds. 🙂

  • Kelly Rogers

    I’m glad you included withdrawing money from the ATM. I think we should ask bystanders to leave before transacting business in the ATM. This way we won’t be distracted by people going near us.

  • TP

    Well, this was encouraging. I was planning on doing one this summer.

  • Nlyana Irwan

    I’m so excited of reading!!! Till forget to do my routine job..
    Thanks for sharing. Soon, I’m goin to travel alone to Europe and with all info might gives me clues on what to do and don’t..

  • Megan

    I’m going backpacking in Ireland this summer. I’m thinking of going for two weeks. What kind of backpack do you recommend? I’ve never been backpacking so I figured I should ask.

  • dalet

    I’ve reached retirement age and want to solo back pack the whole of Europe… I’m not planning on having a “planned” trip..just take each day as it comes as my time will be my own and I can spend a year backpacking if I wish.. Any recommendations from regular backpackers will be much appreciated.

    • Elsa

      I am also retiring end of April and will then solo Europe for 3 months. Fortunately I have friends all over Europe and will not be alone half the time.

  • bmitchell2014 .

    Hey I am an 18 year old and I was wondering what your advice would be for me going alone when I turn 19?

    • sologuest

      hello there; I’m 18, will be turning 19 while in my trip & an equally 18 year old girl hitchhiking solo through Europe was actually my inspiration.

  • Thanks for sharing all of this great info. I’ve considered traveling solo to many places, but have been slightly apprehensive. Your advice gave me more confidence and inspires me to travel alone as well as what to be aware of while I’m venturing.

  • Jess Egger

    I’m going on my first solo trip this fall to Europe too. I’ll be 25 when it happens and I couldn’t be more excited! This post was extremely helpful and provided some nice insight as to what to expect. As for those of you who are a little intimidated, DONT BE! Get out there! Experience life! Grab it by the balls and have a hell of a time! To be totally cliche, you only live once. Make the living worth remembering. 😀

  • Scardy Kit

    I’m really ready to get out there, and cant for the life of me find a commited travel buddy, its very discouraging. This seems like a great alternative… but frankly, Ive never been alone, I may at this stage in my life be too afraid.

    • savvybackpacker

      Just get out there and do it. There will be plenty of other people just like you traveling. Now is the time to travel. The more you wait the greater the chance that you wont do it. From my personal experience, the first two days were lonely but then I started meeting tons of people. It was great.

  • Phyllis

    Thank you so much for this info. I’m 60 yr old female, retired with the ambition of backpacking Europe. I’ve been there 3 short times and have a thirst for staying longer! I’m so glad I found this site! PS. I have two older friends that are doing the Santiago de Compostela(480 miles) and I passed this site onto them!

    • Mary

      It appears like many the solo female travelers are twenty something. Good for you! At 53 years old, I would love to backpack through Europe. But would only have 2 weeks at a time. It sounds so exciting!

  • Kimmy91

    I’m planning a 4-6 month solo backpack of Europe next year & I’ll be 25. I’ll be leaving behind a 7 year relationship (he’s terrible with money and I’ve already waited long enough to fulfil this dream) so I’m very nervous to say the least! But I’m keen to just break the mould and get out there, the married with kids and a mortgage life that all my friends are starting to do just isn’t for me, I was born to travel! Thank you so much for this article was very helpful and made me feel much more confident about my decision.

    • isabella

      Kim your situation sounds just like mine i can so relate!! I found this post so helpful and inspiring!

    • Jade Iskander

      I feel very much in the same situation, travelling and living abroad has been a dream of my since I was 18 (now 27). Started planning several times but things kept coming up and holding me back and recently a 3 year relationship ending after he changed his mind about wanting to go traveling with me. I think its just time to take the leap and just go finally.

  • Lara

    Like you, I was supposed to be travelling with a friend but my friend had to cancel and due to a non-refundable plane ticket, decided to go on with the trip anyway. I’m so glad I did! I only visited Berlin for a couple of days, but now I can’t wait to visit more places!

  • cheryl

    hi. my friend just cancelled the trip 30 minutes ago and I was in a panic thinking about travelling to Europe alone this summer. But thanks to this article, I feel better now, even though that fear is not gone completely.

  • Jordan

    These are some really great tips! I’m thinking of taking a trip solo next summer (I’ll be 20) and was wondering if you had any tips about planning a solo tip and where I should begin? Thanks! 🙂

  • Stephanie Brumfield

    This article made me feel so much more confident about my graduation trip around Europe! It’s not until early 2018, and I’ll be 23. I’m very excited!

  • Thanks for the great advice. I’ve learned a lot from this article. 🙂

  • Lynz22

    I loved reading this and agree with all of it. I traveled alone in Europe, stayed in hostels, couch surfed, did walking tours, pub crawls, and just randomly met people. Nothing was ever stolen, but I made sure my hand was always on my bag and it was in front of me. Guys would hit on me and it could be at the most inconvenient times. I definitely agree that confidence matters and well as being prepared. Don’t be afraid to travel alone!! You learn so much about yourself and it can be so freeing. Plus half the time I wasn’t really alone!!

  • Delfina

    Hey! Im 19, from Argentina, planning a trip to Europe next year on my own! This post is awesome! Really helpful and so complete, with every detail!! Perfect, love it. I will read it a few times and take all the tips cause its so helpful! X

    • Florencia Lanza

      Hola Delfina! Yo también soy de Argentina y estoy planeando un viaje para el año que viene sola a europa. Al final fuiste? Que te parecio?

  • thanks for this tips! all these travelling women need very essential and informatie advice

  • Christa Lazar

    Hello there, I’m so appreciative of this forum. My daughter is 17, and she is set to go solo traveling in Europe during the Summer of 2018, before starting university. She will still be 17 at that time. She saved up a few thousands of dollars which won’t take her very far unless she picks the cheapest destinations. She is looking at Bulgaria and around there. I am absolutely not comfortable with this, but she is adamant so I have to do my own research to be able to help her or talk her off of this plan. We are based in Toronto, Canada. Any input, tips, suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Christa Lazar

      I was wondering if there are any affordable organized trips for youth to see 2-3 countries in Europe, if anyone knows of anything like that.

  • Helen Wisniewski

    any recommendations for the mother of 22 year old single traveler. My daughter graduates college this spring, for the last four years has been talking about spending time in Europe before joining the workforce. Of course, I’m all for her exploring, glad she has the courage to do so, but….makes me nervous to let her go.

    • admin

      I met plenty of solo female travelers and they all seemed to be having amazing times. I can understand you being nervous but Europe is really quite safe.

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