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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.
female solo travel - friends
This was taken by someone I trusted on my trip to the highlands after I offered to take a photo of her.
  • 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 rdiscoveing 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.

female solo travel - Edinburgh
This photo was taken by a girl I became friends with on a tour of Edinburgh. We actually followed each other on Instagram afterwards and now I have a new Canadian friend!

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!)

Images are the author’s

Profile photo of Kendall Varin

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Kendall Varin

I'm a native Idaho girl who decided to branch out from my roots in the Pacific Northwest. The last autumn semester of my senior year I was very studious (and slightly adventurous) in Scotland. Having lived six places in the last two years, I don't plan to stop there. I'm convinced my life’s purpose is to meet and love as many people from all over the world as I can. Follow my blog as I post about confidently traveling solo, studying literature in a different country, and how little it takes to truly feel at home! For a little Scottish appreciation, make sure to check out my Instagram too!


17 comments

  1. Those tips are so helpful 🙂
    One tip I would give is that when you are traveling from one place to another with your luggages, be extra careful about pickpocket. Because they know there is a high chance you are a tourist but lower chance you will file a report if something went missing.

  2. Great tips! I agree with dressing like a local although it’s hard. I’ve had my camera hanging on my neck and worn Nike sneakers on all my trips this year, except 1 country. I stood out almost everywhere I went in Europe, countryside or city. Tripadvisor is definitely good for searching for reviews on places. Also Yelp, although it’s less popular outside of the US and not available in all countries yet.

    I would like to go to anywhere in Africa next or any Central America/Caribbean. Depends on flight prices.

  3. It´s always interesting to see what others think about Europe. I grew up in Germany and visited a fair amount of countries and never witnessed a crime or something.

  4. Yes, some very good tips here. Europe is one of the safer places in the world for all type of traveller, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vigilant! Gravitating toward other tourists is indeed a good way to feel assured, but don’t let that get in the way of interacting with the locals 🙂

  5. I just find big cities intimidating and overwhelming. I feel anxious and trapped if I see too many streets and traffic. That’s why I like to be prepared and focus on a small area of the bigger cities. I love travel around Europe. Even the small towns can be so worth your time.

  6. Really great advice for any solo travellers (not just women I think!)… I am always really aware of solo travellers when I am out exploring places with my toddler and husband. I seem to always notice when they are struggling to take a selfie in front of a cool landmark. The photographer in me thinks they might not be doing the scene justice with a limited arm length, and the traveller in me recognises that look on a travellers face that says “I want to remember this place, and this moment” – so I always offer to take a picture of them. I think because I’m with my little boy, it’s always an unthreatening moment and they always really appreciate the offer. Your tips on personal safety are very important to remember. I’m sharing this post 🙂

  7. Great article Kendall! I’ve only traveled Europe in big groups, so no fear felt… you’re a lucky girl to have all these (and future) adventures under your belt!

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