Trusting Your Gut: Female Solo Travel In Europe
I’ll be honest. When I decided to study abroad in Europe my family and close friends were excited but slightly concerned for my safety. Then I decided to spend a week in Denmark solo and then they really started to have some reservations. I totally get it! Deciding to venture out on your own in this world can be a bit scary when you’re a woman, no matter how you look at it. It is better to be brutally honest with yourself about how the world looks at you than to “think the best of people” sometimes. Female solo travel is one of those situations. Thanks to my grandparents, I’ve been several places in Europe in the last few years and they allowed me a few solo adventures whilst traveling with them. Nothing extraordinary, but little tests of my courage to get me out of my curiosity comfort zone (which is pretty small some days). Having lived in small towns and big cities, I’ve gotten a taste of what it means to be safe but still explore on my own. Here’s a few tips that I’ve shared over the years with many of my friends about traveling solo in a variety of places.
Exploring Gigantic Cities versus Countryside Towns
There is a considerable gap between exploring a big city and traveling through the countryside. Big cities tend to set me more on edge when I’m traveling by myself for a few reasons. I could be a target for pickpocketing, sexual assault, harassment, or anything at all. This, of course, is extreme, but it’s at the back of my mind. A couple of things that help me stay comfortable and safe are:
- Having a purse with lots of zippers. Make sure you place the strap across your body instead of just across your shoulder. Hold onto where the zippers close so you always have a solid grip on your bag.
- Dressing like the locals. Sometimes, despite my desire to be comfy, I try and dress like the locals. Looking like a tourist in your Nikes, backpack, and Canon camera hanging from your neck, makes you a target. Try and stow away your camera unless you absolutely need a photo when outdoors walking around.
- Looking for other tourists, especially other female tourists. Make friends with the people in your tour group, hostel, or transportation! Look out for each other and you’ll automatically feel so much safer.
- Countryside towns in Europe are great for exploring native history and rediscoveing little local gems. I tend to feel secure in these areas because they tend to have low crime and not a lot of tourists on a regular basis. However, looking like a tourist can still make you stand out in these areas. Be respectful and polite wherever you go, and people are more likely to help you and have a good impression of your home country!
Finding Safe Places and Who to Trust
Safe places include well-lit streets, city centers, and common areas for eating and travel lodging. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel safe, it’s probably because it isn’t. If you’re uncomfortable with the lack of people, the type of strangers, or general feel of the area you’re in, don’t talk yourself out of it. Leave and find somewhere else. This is especially true at nighttime. This is the time and place to stay in your comfort zone.
I’ve found that finding places to explore, eat, and sleep on TripAdvisor is the safest way to ensure what and where you’re going is safe and well-reputed. While this might not be as useful in smaller towns and villages, it’s definitely true for cities throughout Europe.
During the day, try and check in with some people from home. I tend to send my Mom my itinerary (even though it might change) so that someone has an idea of where I am. It’s always a good idea to have some people thinking about you while you’re adventuring.
For the most part, I tend to try and talk to the people who are running the front desk at my hostel, tour guides, and fellow travelers who also seem to have the same disposition as I do. If you get sketchy vibes from any of these people, it’s okay to leave the conversation. Your safety is more important than being overly polite.
Do not talk to random people on public transportation or on the street just because you haven’t talked to anyone all day. And do not give out your personal information such as your full name, where you’re staying, or where you are keeping your valuables. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard sweet American girls on the bus just start talking to random people and give out their private information! The person you’re talking to may be completely harmless, but you never know. It’s better to be safe now and not sorry later.
Please don’t let these tips keep you from traveling by yourself! Solo adventures are some of the most fulfilling and introspective experiences you can have while studying abroad. Let this advice give you confidence in yourself to be a curious and safe traveler.
Where’s the next place you want to travel by yourself? Comment below! (Mine is Austria!)