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Traveling Solo In Europe: Tips For Getting The Most From Traveling Alone

Tips and advice for traveling alone in Europe. How to have a successful solo backpacking journey through Europe.

Helpful Travel Tips & Articles

[Updated: March 19, 2017. Originally Posted: February 2011] 

My first backpacking trip in Europe was a solo adventure. I was a little worried at first, but I soon found that traveling alone was one of the best things I’d ever done. While it did have some downsides, I still wholeheartedly endorse solo traveling to anyone (males and females). This guide will cover the positives and the negatives of traveling Europe alone and give you some practical advice on how to make the most of your travels.

Note: Looking for female-specific advice — check out our Guide To Solo Travel For Women in Europe

Positive Aspects of Solo Travel

Complete Control: When you travel alone you can do whatever you want. You can eat whenever, see whatever, and go wherever you want. You can’t fully appreciate this freedom until you travel with other people.

Food Freedom: From my experience, choosing where to eat can cause more stress than just about anything else– especially when you’re traveling with a group of people. When you travel alone you can choose exactly where to eat. Also, many restaurants in Europe won’t split up the bill so paying become a huge hassle in large groups.

Choose Your Itinerary: You can do the things you want to do. You don’t need to answer to anyone else. In a group, everyone has their own ideas of what to see and this can cause a lot of conflicts.

No Arguments: You’re bound to get into arguments or even fights with your travel partners. Travel can be stressful and you usually take out your frustration on your travel partners. I find that I get a lot less stressed when I am alone.

Total Focus: There is no one to “distract” you. You’re totally focused on whatever it is you’re experiencing.

Reinvent Yourself: You can be whoever you want to be when you travel alone. This is your chance to let loose.

Meet New People: I meet a lot more people when I travel alone. Groups tend, usually unknowingly, to put up a “wall” between themselves and other travelers, so this makes groups not as approachable. You also have an instant connection with other solo travelers — yes, there are plenty of other solo travelers.

Self-Growth: You have no one but yourself to rely on when you’re a solo traveler. You quickly learn to be self-reliant and I think that makes you a stronger person.

Disadvantages of Solo Backpacking 

Eating Alone: Many people feel really uncomfortable eating alone — especially in restaurants. It isn’t bad for breakfast and lunch, but dinners do get a little lonely. It really isn’t that bad and it isn’t too hard to find other people to eat with.

Unwanted Isolation: Staying in hostels is great because there are almost always tons of other people around to hang out with. But there will be times where you’ll find yourself alone.

I remember my very first night of solo traveling. I was in Dublin and the hostel was overrun by a large group of Spanish students. There must have been about 40 of them. I didn’t meet any English speakers that first night so it was pretty lonely. I was also a new traveler so I was pretty timid. Luckily, occasions like this were pretty rare.

No “Buddy System”: It can be nice to have a buddy to share your memories with and to help keep each other safe. Although I wouldn’t worry too much about safety because I never felt unsafe in Europe. A little common sense is all you need.

How To Successfully Travel Alone

Stay In Hostels: This is the most important thing for any solo traveler. Hostels are full of like-minded adventurers and most of them are extremely willing to meet new people.

Don’t Break The Unspoken Hostel Rules: Read the savvy guide to proper hostel etiquette.

Be Friendly and Outgoing: Smile and be the first person to introduce themselves. If someone new arrives at the hostel greet them. An introverted solo traveler can have a rough time meeting new people. I didn’t do a very good job being outgoing my first few nights and I had a hard time meeting people. But after the third night, I forced myself to be a little more outgoing and it opened up so many doors.

Beer: Buy some cheap beer and offer it to people. You’ll meet TONS of people this way. People will often do the same for you. Trust me, this will be the best €10 you can spend.

Cook Meals In The Hostel: You’ll meet so many people if you hang out in the kitchen around dinner time.

Hostel Planned Activities: Many hostels plan outings like free walking tours or pub crawls.

Couchsurfing and Couchsurfing Meetups: A great way to meet locals is by CouchSurfing because it’s common for hosts to take you to their favorite bars and some might even introduce you to their friends. The CouchSurfing organization also hosts regular meetups in bars/pubs in most major European cities. These are frequented by many expats, travelers, and locals so it’s a great way to connect with people.

Airbnb: If you rent a room in an Airbnb apartment it’s not uncommon for your hosts to take you out for a drink or to their favorite spots No all hosts do this but many do.

Safety First: Use your common sense. It probably isn’t the best idea to walk around large cities at night by yourself. Actually, I’ve done this many times and never felt unsafe. Just be sure to stay alert. If something doesn’t feel right then you shouldn’t do it. Always walk with confidence and act like you’ve done this a million times.

No Funny Business

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Helpful Travel Tips & Articles

  • Ace

    I’ve found these articles to be beyond informative and I’m sure they’ll help a ton when I leave for Germany later this year! From this article it sounds like solo travel really is the way to go however I was just wondering what’s your take on traveling with just one partner? No way am I going in a massive group but I’m thinking just one wingman would be nice..

    • TSB

      I think traveling with someone is great, too. It is important to sit down before the trip to make sure both of you are on the same page when it comes to your travel expectations. And it is always nice to have someone to go out with (especially at night) which I’ve always found a little tough when traveling solo.

      • Ace

        Thanks, one wingman it is then.

  • Payton

    Great article! Very helpful and I think you have helped me find the courage to do the same thing!

  • Sylvia

    This is great! Thanks

  • Sylvia

    This is great! Thanks

  • Klaus Lenoir

    Really useful, thank you! 🙂

  • Klaus Lenoir

    Really useful, thank you! 🙂

  • mike

    How old were you when you first backpacked alone? I’m 20 years old and i think I’m ready for it, but i dont know if my age will result in any restrictions?

    • Caliban

      The US is one of the only place where being under 21 results in some restrictions 😉 In most European countries age of majority is 18 (you can drink, book hostels and train/plane tickets without a problem). I have friends that backpacked in Europe (and other countries) when they were 17/18 and had no problems because of their age. You’ll know when you’re ready and I hope you’ll have a great time 🙂

  • mike

    How old were you when you first backpacked alone? I’m 20 years old and i think I’m ready for it, but i dont know if my age will result in any restrictions?

    • Caliban

      The US is one of the only place where being under 21 results in some restrictions 😉 In most European countries age of majority is 18 (you can drink, book hostels and train/plane tickets without a problem). I have friends that backpacked in Europe (and other countries) when they were 17/18 and had no problems because of their age. You’ll know when you’re ready and I hope you’ll have a great time 🙂

  • Eliezar

    This is very helpful… Thank you !…

  • Eliezar

    This is very helpful… Thank you !…

  • Guest

    Hey, not sure if you’ll see this because this article is very old, but did you have any trouble meeting people when traveling solo? I’m planning to travel for a few months in Europe on a gap year, and I was planning on spending a little time travelling solo but spending the majority of the time on a tour (Contiki or Topdeck), but since then have read many negative reviews of the tour system (specifically that it’s a very poor way to see sights and explore cities). The only problem I have with travelling alone is that it seems that it would possibly be very lonely and difficult to meet people (I’d be happy travelling with a few friends, but all of my friends are going to university already). Any thoughts?

    • savvybackpacker

      If you stay in hostels you’ll have no problem meeting people. Just hang around the common areas and there will be tons of people hanging out.

    • Kartik Thakkar

      Hi, I have been planning to take a euro tour for a while now, but something or the other has been putting it off. Now I don’t wanna push it further and travel alone if required. I was wondering if there are these groups that plan a tour around people who are by themselves and travelling alone. Here in India there are companies who do it for regions in North India. Please let me know if there is something like this for Europe as well.

    • Gueeest

      Dude do a mix. Start with a tour. Get your bearings, make some friends. Allocate some time off in the middle before doing another tour, like a week or two or three. Book one night at a hostel to get yourself going but by then you’ll have mates from tour and you’ll want to stay where they are.
      I’d heard loads of horror stories and thought it would be lame but it was the best thing ever. I wish I’d given myself more time after tour before my flight home though, only regret. Contiki #noregrets

  • Guest

    Hey, not sure if you’ll see this because this article is very old, but did you have any trouble meeting people when traveling solo? I’m planning to travel for a few months in Europe on a gap year, and I was planning on spending a little time travelling solo but spending the majority of the time on a tour (Contiki or Topdeck), but since then have read many negative reviews of the tour system (specifically that it’s a very poor way to see sights and explore cities). The only problem I have with travelling alone is that it seems that it would possibly be very lonely and difficult to meet people (I’d be happy travelling with a few friends, but all of my friends are going to university already). Any thoughts?

    • savvybackpacker

      If you stay in hostels you’ll have no problem meeting people. Just hang around the common areas and there will be tons of people hanging out.

    • Kartik Thakkar

      Hi, I have been planning to take a euro tour for a while now, but something or the other has been putting it off. Now I don’t wanna push it further and travel alone if required. I was wondering if there are these groups that plan a tour around people who are by themselves and travelling alone. Here in India there are companies who do it for regions in North India. Please let me know if there is something like this for Europe as well.

    • Gueeest

      Dude do a mix. Start with a tour. Get your bearings, make some friends. Allocate some time off in the middle before doing another tour, like a week or two or three. Book one night at a hostel to get yourself going but by then you’ll have mates from tour and you’ll want to stay where they are.
      I’d heard loads of horror stories and thought it would be lame but it was the best thing ever. I wish I’d given myself more time after tour before my flight home though, only regret. Contiki #noregrets

  • Inam- ul-Haq

    Good to read

  • Inam- ul-Haq

    Good to read

  • Hi guys. Great website. I’m a 59 year old guy. I look great for my age but I get tired easily and am physically tax easily. I get really really tired if I’m not getting enough rest. I want to travel the Netherlands on a rented scooter (I’m an expert bike rider / scooterer) LOL So I’ll be confident on the roads but I want to plan a light weight (baggage) backpack trip and travel from town to town and then down through Belgium to France over to Calais then to Dover and down the coast of England. Then to return to Amsterdam (or not). In each major town I’ll want to rent a gas powered scooter and stay at Hostels. I’ve never done this before. I’m from San Diego California and have traveled enough to take care of myself but I may want to opt for Hostel + meaning higher end hostels a little more money but still cheap. Any advice for us slightly older dudes? PS I honestly believe I get tired because I’m bored out of my mind here in San Diego. I think travel will cure many head-issues that come with SoCal lifestyles. Many thanks and I look forward to your post. Regards Bill Zimmermann

  • Also, when you are travelling alone, the impression of the seen – is only yours. no one can impose their opinion

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