Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in Europe? What are some of the challenges you've faced and how have you dealt with them? Are there places women should not travel alone? How do you stay safe?
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Street Harassment in Istanbul -- BEWARE
Hi! I'm a seasoned female traveller (and travel blogger). I recently had a bad experience in Istanbul and wanted to warn other women travellers about this city. Street harassment is very prominent. It happened to me during New Year's Eve and once I got home, I found articles detailing that this is a common experience for most women in Istanbul. The Washington Post has a great article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/01/14/in-istanbul-street-harassment-is-a-constant/
Istanbul Hollaback! is an organization that fights this type of treatment of women and you can follow the status of their fight here: http://istanbul-en.ihollaback.org/
And I detail my own travel experience here: http://internationaltravelchick.com/2013/01/01/istanbuls-dirty-little-secret/
I just wanted to warn female travellers and provide you with the appropriate information for you to make an informed decision on whether to visit (and to be prepared for this type of thing if you do).
Atlanta, GA USA 01/15/2013
Travel Club with lots of women!
I belong to a travel club for adventure and photography lovers and its mostly women! I love traveling solo too but its also nice to make new friends and not have to worry about all the planning sometimes. They go all over the place but usually do at least a few trips throughout Europe each year (Italy, Greece, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, & France were all on the calendar this year). Check em out if you're interested: http://www.photoflytravel.com/
Lexington, MA USA 10/25/2012
I'm 65, have been for 10 years solo, with a girlfriend and cruising. they all have their benefits but solo will give you the best cultural experience. I do stay in hostels often. Do try them. I've been solo in Argentina (the most difficult) and most of E. Europe ( a breeze.) Get past your comfort zone! It keeps you young and interesting.
katie van hees
sun valley, idaho USA 04/22/2012
I have been to the UK, France, and several countries in Central Europe, all in large cities, and never once did I feel threatened or unsafe in any situation. I am young(ish), short, and speak only English, Spanish, and a small amount of German. I have always been treated with politeness and patience.
I would highly recommend Germany, Austria, and Hungary as very safe (and FUN!) places for solo female travelers.
I've been taking one solo trip to Europe each year since 2000 and have never really had any problems. As was mentioned below - use a money belt and be alert. When I arrive at a hostel or hotel, I ask the desk clerk if the area is safe, particularly at night. I have had a few men flirt with me but they easily take no for an answer. Don't let worry curtail your travel - take the same precautions that you would at home.
Abbotsford, Canada 12/20/2011
Traveling alone has been the best experience! I'm a female in my 30's and I've traveled in France, Germany and Italy alone. In Germany I got some street harrassment from Middle Eastern men, but very little and nothing physically dangerous. In Italy men were very forward. Im very pale with blue eyes and two-toned black/red hair, so I got some special attention. Next time I'll bring a water pistol. Lots of beautiful men in Italy so it was a mixed bag. ;) I did have one incident in Rome with a man trying to peak into my hotel room window. I'd advise keeping the shutters closed. Mostly its common sense, using your intuition, getting to know the area beforehand and being confident that will keep you out of trouble and having the experience of a lifetime. A sense of humor and adventure helps as well!
Boston, MA USA 11/26/2011
Poor Ending to a Great Trip
I just came back from a solo trip to Paris, and I loved every minute (I am a senior). However, I left in a taxi 3 1/2 hours before my flight for home, and I still missed it. The expressway was standing still, so I had the taxi driver take me to the train station. I went to the wrong terminal at the CDG airport. Next time I would just plan to take the train directly, and know exactly where I was going.
Laguna Woods, CA USA 10/23/2011
I just travelled with 3 other women to Italy! the 4 of us had a blast!! we were all aware of our surroundings at all times, kept our money close to our bodies, but talked with everyone & loved the Italian people & their culture! dont listen to people just go, be aware, stay together & make memories!!
Northport, NY USA 10/12/2011
Absolutely! Go there and love it. Do your research and be conscientious. I have been living, working and traveling on my own for 25 years and have only had a few rare instances of potentially dangerous situations. Anything can happen anywhere so just keep your eyes open and carry on. I just came upon a wonderful, new travel safe option for women, www.Dovetailtravelinpeace.com, which features travel safe body bands worn effortlessly on the body protecting your travel essentials so you can travel relaxed and enjoy your trip. Traveling alone can be brilliant and it is always easy to meet other travelers if you want some company!
Santa Cruz, CA USA 09/13/2011
Looking for SWF 50-ish
I am a SWF 55 and alive. Looking for a SWF, non-smoker, social drinker. retired teacher. I am a wolrd traveller and would like someone to share expenses with. Looking at New Zealand and Europe. Cruises are also an options. e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
Bokeelia, Florid USA 08/18/2011
Solo Woman Traveler
I am a 56 year old female and have traveled alone in Europe many times. London and Paris were wonderful and an easy introduction to Europe for me. Even though I do not speak French, I had no trouble in Paris and found everyone helpful and willing to point me in the right direction. Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Italy were slightly more challenging but quite doable. Scandinavia was wonderful and Turkey was amazing - I never felt unsafe during my two weeks there. Belgium and The Netherlands were so interesting..........just watch out for the bicycles in Amsterdam ! Get plenty of rest, eat well, have some caffeine to stay alert (and decaf in Europe is not very good anyway).............and wear the moneybelt. I resisted at first as I didn't like how it felt, but I am used to it now...............go forth and enjoy !!
Portland, OR USA 05/05/2011
Traveling solo as a female in Great Britain
As a female solo traveler, I did TONS of research.. up to 8 months before I went to York and London UK(being fully prepared is best). I bought Rick Steve's 2010 Great Britain guidebook and it helped me out A LOT. His tips on where to stay, eat and what sights to see were extremely useful. I bought my plane tickets and train tickets well in advanced to get the best price.Cheap-O-Air for plane and Eastcoast.co.uk for the train. I also started working out and eating VERY healthy 3 months prior to my trip. LOTS of fluids-water! That I found, was also extremely important, because you do A LOT of walking in these two cities if you are on a budget. Find GOOD shoes and break them in before the trip! I bought a pair of Born leather walking shoes and did not break them in properly. Luckily, another american guest staying at the same B&B brought along some moleskin self-adhesive pads. I recommend bringing those along in case your shoes start to hurt. I ended up buying a pair of walking boots while in York. As always, be vigilant of strangers around you, but I didn't have any problems. One last observing note: Do NOT be discouraged by sitting by yourself in a resturaunt when traveling alone. Yes, the waiting staff may treat you different, but at the same time it also shows that a woman CAN eat by herself. However, tip according to HOW well you think you were served!
De Pere, WI USA 03/29/2011
miscellaneous tips from my experiences
I am still a budget traveler who will put up with a lot of inconveniences if it means the difference between traveling or not traveling. I have traveled on flights with poor connections, weird times and have stayed in some of the worst dives imaginable. This was in my younger years. Getting there was more important than safety then. Quite frankly, some of my experiences were quite scarry. On my last trip, I was pick pocketed and it was largely because I wasn't paying attention. I was exhausted from traveling and from a couple of long layovers. That experience put me off traveling alone for many years. I decided if I'm going to travel, I'll have to do it alone since I can't find anyone to travel with. Twenty five years later, I have finally learned the difference between a value and a bargain.
R.S. Helpline has been most helpful. After a long flight, I like the idea of a private car meeting you at the airport and taking you to your hotel instead of slepping bags all over the place and looking like an easy mark. It is so worth it. Being well rested and well nourished is the best thing you can do for yourself. That's why a decent hotel with restaurant and shower is essential. I cut corners by eating picnic style and avoiding tourist traps. Locating a food market is really important. Hanging out where the locals go is much more fun and cheaper. Flea markets are great for meeting people and getting travel advice. Some museums are free at certain times. Riding a bus with no particular place in mind can be lots of fun too.Seeing some things at a distance is ok. I've even had fun watching foreign TV in my room. Sometimes just sitting in the hotel lounge can be entertaining and an easy place to meet other tourist. Once, in a hotel in Paris, a multilingual maid gave me some great information on good/cheap places to eat and also directions, told me which areas to avoid. She saved me from buying an over priced pashima from the hotel gift shop and told me where I could buy the same thing for half the price. Unfortunately, I met her during the last four days of my trip. Since I had packed too much, I left a few things for her including a jacket and some brand new levis,the most painful pair of boots ever and a very large tip. I even came home with a lot more money than usual. She was grateful but not as much as I for the great advice and for lessening my load. Another lesson learned; how to pack lightly and only necessities that are tried and true.Challenge yourself to see how many things you can elimate and then eliminate some more. Don't go crazy shopping or buying souvenirs. Postcards are great. Splurge on a good carry on bag and don't forget that you are already wearing an outfits. Locate a laudromat at least for the dryer. It took my jeans two days to dry hanging in the bathroom. I found the walking tours to be fantastic so make sure you are in condition to walk long distances. If you are mostly sedentary,a few months before you leave, start walking.Work up to three or more miles a day. This assures that you can handle most of the daily walking required say in Paris or London. Eat lots of fiber and drink lots of fuids. Once,I arrived too early to check into my room. When I finally checked into my room, I fell in to bed and woke up 16 hours later hungry and confused. Being desperate for food, I ventured out into the night to find food. A half mile down the street, I found a street vendor thus my first experience with french fries on a bun. Always be aware even though you are excited. Trust your instincts. To do this, you must be well rested.
nm USA 11/06/2010
I am solo woman traveler in my mid-fifties, and my best safety/health advice is to be sure to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep and the excitement of travel can lead to confusion and frustration, and that can lead you into compromising situations.When you go solo, you have no one but yourself to depend on or help out, so keep things simple to avoid stress. This may mean spending a few more euros on occasion- choosing a taxi over a bus,for example. I often ask strangers for help or directions, but avoid big crowds if I can./be choosy about who you ask. I like to go to bed early and get up early when I travel, and take the time I need to take care of myself, and avoid becoming intoxicated. I've never been ripped off or scammed in any way, and have never felt threatened or unsafe. When you keep a clear head by staying well rested, you feel calmer and more able to cope with whatever comes your way.
Chicago, IL USA 11/05/2010
Hi. This female traveler went to Sicily last September (Palermo, Castel di Tusa, Taormina, and Ortygia/Siracusa). Full trip report (the good, the bad, the ugly) at: http://www.travelmusings.net/sicily-2009/ p.s. The Rick Steves Sicily podcasts were very helpful
Chicago, IL USA 09/15/2010
traveling the world
I have traveled in Morocco, Turkey and all over Europe on my own. I am a woman my late 40s and have been traveling for 10 years. I found Turkey to be one of best countries for traveling alone. Very safe with a fantastic public tansportation system. The people are very honest and will help with finding just about anything. I found Italy and Spain to be the most stressful! So many thieves. You must be on your gaurd every second and it gets old quick! Although Italy has the best hostels. I will return to Italy because the art is so fantastic.
tx USA 08/27/2010
How to be a Damsel in Distress... safely
I've been backpacking solo since I was 17. I'm almost 25 now and still going strong so I would heartily recommend it, provided you're savvy. During a recent trip to Lyon, my suitcase was lost on the flight from Gatwick. Given my non-existant French skills, it took me quite a while to fill out the necessary forms to file a claim for my bag. I was due to meet a friend during her lunchbreak at Interpol and realized I'd be late but was having trouble figuring out the country codes (essentially how do you dial France from within France on a UK mobile?). Given that it was broad daylight (and that my phone isn't worth stealing), I smiled at the young man seated across from me on the bus to town and asked if he spoke English. He did; a moment later, he was dialling my friend for me and we spent the rest of the trip talking about which sights I had to be sure to see in Lyon. Long story short (the rest of it can be found at http://katrichterwrites.wordpress.com/page/8/), when we arrived in the city center, he walked me to the Interpol bus stop and helped me purchase my ticket. Without his help, I would probably still be standing at the bus stop, trying to read French. Moral of the story: don't be afraid to be a bit girlie and talk to strange men as long as you're not alone and it's not too late. They just might turn out to be the perfect gentleman.
Philadelphia, PA USA 07/18/2010
Debacle in Paris
This is why you always use a moneybelt. I was traveling alone (I'm a 57-year-old experienced woman traveler) and I arrived at midday at the Gare du Nord in Paris. I was exhausted from travel that day and was fumbling with my purse at the metro ticket-buying machines. One minute I had my wallet, the next minute it was gone. I lost all credit cards and most of my money. Fortunately I still had my passport. However, imagine this situation: I was alone, knew *nobody* in Paris at that particular moment, had no credit or ATM cards and only about $20 cash. In addition, I had no hotel reservation but was planning to stay with a Parisian family (whom I did not know). Their address was in my stolen wallet! Thank *god* I could speak French. I went to an info kiosk in the train station and explained my predicament and they suggested I go to the post office to try to get the address of my hosts. The post office was closing in 5 minutes. I managed to get to the post office and again explained my predicament and asked if I could please have the address of my hosts (again, thank *god* I knew how they spelled their last name, because I no longer had any written information on them). I was told the post office could only give me their phone number. Well, this would do. I called the family on the phone, again explained my predicament and received directions to their home. Within 15 minutes I was at their doorstep and help had arrived! By the was, every French government employee I spoke with was kind, sympathetic and helpful. I left Paris feeling very different about French people after that. But what a frightening way to gain such insight! And yes, I was wearing a money belt, but for some reason that day I had put all my credit cards and most of my money in my wallet. Never, ever again!
Los Angeles, CA USA 05/15/2010
Woman traveling alone in eastern Europe
Last August I traveled alone from Krakow to Budapest, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Llubljana and Lake Bled, with day trips to Bosnia and Albania. I had wondered about traveling alone in eastern Europe, but I had a fabulous time and met such nice people. Like the Polish doctoral students I shared a couchette with on the overnight train from Krakow to Budapest. They were so friendly and nice. And the Australian couple I shared a train compartment with across Hungary. One thing I do is to stay in centrally located hotels where there are lots of people at all hours. I try not to walk alone in deserted places, especially at night. I also try to blend in and be a "temporary local." I loved eastern Europe and enjoyed the freedom to come and go exactly as I pleased, and to meet great people.
Calif USA 03/12/2010