If you’re in the market for life experiences that make you laugh, cry, throw up & also insufferable at parties, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the wonders of solo travel in Europe.
I mean… Traveling Europe on your own? With no one there to nag or navigate? It’s exciting. It’s empowering. Oh! And how can I forget? It’s scary. Very, very scary.
That’s what I thought anyway when I set off on my first European solo adventure at the clueless age of 21. Almost a decade of solo travel later, I’ve gotten scammed, lost, lonely, and one time, I inexplicably broke out in hives at 2am in a windowless Bulgarian hotel.
All that to say, solo travel in Europe is a wild ride. But one that’s as life-changing as it is terrifying.
The best way to fight the terror? Preparation! And research! Luckily you’re here, and if I haven’t scared you away yet, you’re very close to a full list of all the tips and must-knows I wish I had before my first solo Europe trip. Consider it a list of wisdom gleaned from mistakes I’ve made so you don’t have to.
… Although I still have no idea where the hives came from.
Anyway, read on for a list of my best Europe solo travel tips, and be sure to read my general Europe travel tips for other basics that I don’t have a chance to cover. Yes, against all odds I do have more to say on this topic. Wild.
Save this list of Europe Solo Travel Tips for Later!
You’ll be very glad you did.
1. Identify your anxieties & build confidence well before departure
Alright, let’s start with some basics. Truly, the most important thing when it comes to solo travel is to build up your confidence as much as humanly possible before you go.
And to do that, we have to play a super fun game called… confronting all our anxieties! Yay.
Truthfully, every traveller will have different comfort levels and anxieties around solo travel. Some might dread being perceived as alone. Some might fear solo navigating. Others (like me) fear having nobody to watch their laptop when nature calls at coffee shops.
Anyways, the point is: we all fear different parts of solo travel, and the easiest way to prepare for this is to identify what your main anxieties are (by writing them down) and building up confidence around those in a more familiar environment.
For instance, if your main anxiety is navigating and getting around, you can build your navigation skills by doing smaller adventures close to home.
Or if you feel nervous about being out on your own, you can try doing a solo meal or museum in your hometown.
Prepare for your first solo trip by building confidence around the areas that make you nervous and you’ll be golden.
2. Decide what kind of solo travel trip you want to do
Gone are the days that “solo travel” means only backpacking and sleeping in dorm rooms with 17 of your new closest friends.
Granted, solo travel in Europe can be that, but it can also be joining a group tour (like with Trafalgar or Contiki) if you don’t want to worry about logistics. Or checking into a luxe 5 star hotel to take advantage of a solo spa weekend. Or staying in a mid-range hotel and walking 30,000 steps each day until you’re limping back to your bed.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to solo travel, so before you start planning, really think about what your ideal solo trip looks like so you can plan accordingly.
3. Be strategic when picking your first solo destinations in Europe
Now, onto a big decision: where to go for your first European solo trip.
While I’m a huge advocate for simply going where you want to, there might be some destinations that are more ‘beginner-friendly’ for first time solo travellers. Which ones to choose though depends again on our favourite topic of discussion: your specific anxieties! Yay.
If you’re worried about being perceived as lonely for instance, then a bigger city like London might be a good fit, where you can luxuriate in the endless anonymity of the thousands of others who are out and about all on their own.
If you’re worried about being overwhelmed by change, then maybe pick a place where you can speak the language, or isn’t too different from what you know (e.g. if you’re from a big city, pick another big city).
If you’re worried about safety, then some more beginner friendly solo destinations include Nordic countries like Iceland, Norway, Sweden & Finland.
All that to say, lists of “best solo travel destinations in Europe” are wildly subjective, and picking the best fit for you will really depend on a) your bucket list and b) what fears you want to mitigate.
4. Learn the pros and cons of different solo accommodation types
As a solo traveler in Europe, your options for accommodation are just as plentiful as someone traveling with buddies or partners.
That said, picking the right accommodation for your trip is important, so here are some pointers based on personal experience.
If you’re hoping to meet new people on this trip, hostels are the way to go. If you want privacy, don’t fret – many hostels have single rooms these days so you can get the social atmosphere without being immersed in a snoring symphony every night.
If you’re not too bothered about meeting new people and are prioritizing comfort at the end of the day, know that many hotels in Europe actually offer single rooms for cheaper than double rooms, so that could be a great option if you want a hotel experience without paying for a giant room.
NOTE: My foolproof method of finding cheap hotels in Europe can help you find the perfect place.
Lastly, there’s of course vacation rentals like Airbnb. To be honest, I don’t think Airbnbs are great for solo travel, because there’s a lot of additional hoops compared to hostels/hotels like having to meet your host or even potentially share a space with them and other guests.
I personally think more standardized options like hotels and hostels feel safer, plus Airbnb has some outrageous fees these days, so I would stick to hostels or hotels if you can.
5. Prioritize accommodation in busier areas
Another important solo travel tip is to book accommodation somewhere busy. This will help you avoid unpleasant situations like walking back alone at night with no one around.
In addition to this, definitely do some research beforehand to identify safer parts of the city, and prioritize finding accommodation in those.
I like searching for hotels on Booking.com because they have a fun map view that allows me to view options based on neighbourhood.
6. Use Hostelworld for booking hostels
For hostels specifically though, I recommend using Hostelworld.
Back in my hostel era, they used to my go-to, and these days, they have a lot of cool new features like group chats where you can interact with the other people staying at your hostel at the same time as you. Can you imagine how many awkward convos this could have saved me? I’m genuinely angry this didn’t exist back in my day.
That said, if you don’t care about Hostelworld’s extra features, do know it’s pretty much always cheaper to book directly with the hostel itself. Most hostels will offer some kind of perk like free breakfast in exchange for a direct booking because that saves them the extra fees.
7. Make sure you have a good data plan
In terms of must-buys before your trip, I think making sure you have data access is crucial, not only for practical reasons like using navigation and translation apps, but also to stay connected with loved ones and keep safe.
If your phone plan doesn’t have a generous international option, then buying a local SIM card could be a great choice. Thanks to EU wide roaming waivers, you can actually get a SIM card in any EU country and use it across the EU, and some other countries without any roaming charges.
Very handy if you’re planning on visiting a bunch of countries!
8. Get a travel friendly credit card
Another important must-have is a good credit card you can use abroad.
I think this is especially important for solo travellers because (in the off-chance that your cards from home don’t work) you literally have no travel companions to milk for money. In other words, if your cards don’t work, you’re screwed.
I personally use my Wise card in Europe and love it because it saves me from pricey foreign usage fees. You can click here to get your first transfer free (up to 500 euro), and they even send you the card for free! I know it sounds too good to be true, but this thing has been a lifesaver.
NOTE: The reason I’d advise having a credit card over a debit card is because credit cards give you more recourse with false charges in case your card gets stolen. Plus, I’ve found credit cards to be more universally compatible, especially big names like Visa or Matercard.
9. Always schedule a daytime arrival
Now, in terms of planning your travel days, another very important solo tip is to plan so that you arrive in new destinations during the day.
Because you know what seems scarier and more stressful in the dark? Everything. Absolutely everything.
So, don’t plan for a night time arrival. Pay the extra if you have to! It’ll be well worth it.
10. Spoil yourself at the start of your trip
Next, if you’re anxious about arriving in a new place alone, my rule of thumb is to always spoil yourself at the start of your trip, rather than saving it for the end ‘as a treat’.
This is because you’ll always be the most stressed at the very beginning of your trip once you arrive, so if there’s any time to pay for a taxi or get a good night’s sleep, it’s then.
Trust me, you’ll feel much more confident after you ditch your bags and get some proper rest.
11. Splurge on first class trains (depending on the country)
Okay, another slightly boujee tip, but hear me out.
A great solo travel hack to know is that some train systems (e.g. the French train system and German train system) have 1st class trains that offer single seats you can book. This is ideal if you want to spread out and not fear elbowing someone else. It’s glorious, and well worth the splurge, especially for longer journeys.
I also find that first class cars tend to feel safer as well. You can learn more in my guide on how to takes trains in Europe.
12. Stay close to families and couples
Whether you’re choosing where to sit on a bus/train or simply feeling uncertain while exploring a new place, one way I always find comfort is by sticking close to couples and families.
Not to assume all families and couples are perfect angel-people, but generally if I need someone to watch my things while I head to the bathroom for instance, I can feel confident in asking a mom. This hasn’t steered me wrong yet!
13. Ensure you know your routes well in advance
Now, if you plan on walking a lot during your solo Europe trip (which duh, of course you are), then I need to be annoying and remind you that you and you alone are in charge of navigating… so be sure to prepare accordingly.
Some handy tricks for navigating solo like a pro:
- Use Google Street View to get a sense of your route before your arrival
- Download the Google Map of your destination so you can use it offline, in case you’re left without data (you can do this by typing ‘ok maps’ in into the search bar)
- Star your accommodation on Google Maps so you always remember where it is
- Ask for a business card or something upon check in so you have your accommodation’s address in the worst case scenario that your phone is stolen or lost
- Download the local language on Google Translate for offline use in case you need to ask for directions, translate signs or anything like that. Be sure to check out my list of Europe travel apps for more recommendations.
14. Pack light
One of the greatest woes of solo travel in Europe (especially for weak-armed gremlins like me) is that you and you alone are in charge of carrying your bags.
While kindness from strangers can sometimes go a long way, you’re better off assuming that you’ll have to carry all of your bags by yourself every time.
This endeavour can get especially difficult if you’re using public transport, because hauling multiple suitcases on/off buses and Metros is truly one of the sweatiest and most horrible tasks on Earth.
As such, I’d recommend only packing as much as you can carry yourself in one go. For me, this means one carry-on sized suitcase and one backpack. If that sounds like a struggle, be sure to check out my minimalist packing list and my list of general packing tips.
15. Bring a book or journal
For those who fear being left alone with their thoughts, it’s always a good idea to have a book or journal handy for those little pockets of solitude.
… Which can be frequent by the way, when you’re travelling alone in Europe!
I find that having a book or journal feels much better than just scrolling mindlessly on your phone, so be sure to have one on you (or another solitary activity that you enjoy).
NOTE: I do love physical books but if you’re planning for a long trip then having an e-reader is a much more efficient use of space. I love my Kobo E-reader because I can link it to my library card and check out eBooks for free, so that’s a great hack for a long trip.
In addition to solitary activities, you should also consider bringing a social item if your goal is to make friends at some point. Having a deck of cards or a fun easy game makes for a great icebreaker!
16. Bring a portable charger
Another important must-have for solo travel in Europe?
… Not the drinking kind. The chargey kind. These days, having access to your phone and internet is so important, especially when you’re on your own.
So, having a portable source of power is essential. This one for instance is the slimmest one on the market.
17. Pack a plug or outlet extender
If you’re planning on staying in hostels, you should also consider some kind of plug or outlet extender.
Often there aren’t enough outlets to go around, which can be tricky if you need to charge your phone, laptop, camera, etc. so having an outlet extender can be a lifesaver.
… It can also help you make friends very quickly.
18. Bring good noise cancelling headphones
I’m not usually one for expensive gear, but one of my most prized travel possessions (that is 100% worth the money) are these headphones.
Screaming baby on the plane? Blocked.
Snoring neighbour? BLOCKED.
Noisy street party outside my window? Blocked! Beautifully.
I’m not being dramatic when I say that having a good set of noise cancelling headphones can absolutely transform your trip, so I’d highly recommend splurging on a pair.
NOTE: For safety reasons, when walking around in public, make sure you never have your headphones at full volume.
19. Making friends? First impressions really matter
Alright, now let’s tackle some social tips for solo travel.
The most important (and inconvenient) truth to keep in mind is that first impressions matter a lot when it comes to meeting new people.
So, when you are entering new situations whether that’s a hostel or a tour, be VERY aware of the initial vibe you put out.
If you act like a frigid meanie at the start, it’ll be very hard for you to reverse that impression and make friends later once your caffeine has kicked in. So, be friendly and approachable right off the bat – this will make your life a lot easier.
20. Wear some kind of identifiable icebreaker
Now, if you’re shy, then here’s a solo travel hack that will help draw friends to you…
Simply wear or carry something (whether that’s a sticker on your laptop or a pin on your bag) that hints at a passion or hobby of yours. That way, similar minded people will find their way to you. Yay.
21. Book (niche) guided tours to meet new people
Aside from staying in hostels, I’ve found the best way to meet new people is on guided tours… especially ones that bring likeminded people together like an x filming locations tour, or an activity where you have common ground (e.g. a cooking class).
NOTE: You can also try places like Facebook groups and Bumble BFF.
22. When in doubt, offer to take someone’s photo
Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret…
One of the easiest hacks in solo travel land is this: if you want to interact with strangers in a non-weird way, simply offer to take their photo when you’re in a touristy place!
The key here is pick someone who is probably on their own as well or in a group of friends. Offering to take a photo is an easy icebreaker that can lead to further conversation, and (at the very least) a nice photo of yourself in return. Double win.
23. Use recommendations as an icebreaker
If you’re stuck for a conversation starter, another trick is to simply ask for someone’s opinion from a curious POV and get recommendations.
You could always say for instance, “oh I actually just arrived yesterday! Do you have any recommendations for x?”
People love sharing what they know, and this is an easy way to get the ball rolling in terms of conversation. If the vibe is right, you could also start talking about other recommendations you’ve heard from others, and maybe suggest you do it together.
24. Be openminded with who you become friends with
Lastly on the friends front, I want to emphasize how important it is to be openminded when you’re travelling solo.
Here’s the harsh truth: among the friends you make while solo traveling, you’ll probably only see a small percentage of them again. With that in mind, you’re not necessarily looking for lifelong friends… so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone you wouldn’t necessarily befriend back home, whether that’s due to gaps in age or interest.
I’ve had some of my nicest solo travel interactions this way!
25. Always look up local scams
Now let’s move onto solo travel safety tips. The first is to become an expert in the local scam scene.
The truth is, no matter where you go in Europe, there will probably be a common scam or two. The other truth is? You can probably learn all about these scams by simply… Googling them.
So, do your research ahead of time and make sure you’re familiar with the common scams of your destination. My guide on how to avoid pickpockets in Europe may be a good start.
NOTE: You should also have an idea of the rougher areas of your destination to avoid. While I think reports of sketchy areas can often be overblown, when it comes to travelling alone, it’s always better safe than sorry.
26. Walk around with confidence
Another must know for solo travelers?
I don’t care how scared, lost or nervous you are… always strut around with purpose and confidence. The more confident you look, the less likely you are to deal with unwanted attention.
If you do need to look at your map or check something on your phone, do so by pulling over somewhere safe rather than stopping in the middle of the street in a cloud of confusion.
BONUS TIP: Some solo travellers swear by wearing a wedding ring when they’re avoiding attention from potential suitors.
27. Keep someone from home updated on your plans
Another very important solo travel safety tip is making sure someone from home knows where you’re headed. In addition to providing someone with a copy of your itinerary, you should also be checking in every so often to let them know everything is alright.
If that sounds too hands on though, you can also look into apps that allow you to effortlessly share your location, like with…
- The built-in ‘Find My’ app on iPhones (very simple to use)
- Life360, a location sharing app that shares your whereabouts with trusted individuals
28. Opt for a public location if meeting anyone
These days, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are over the whole ‘never trust strangers from the Internet’ thing, so I’m here to offer some realistic advice: it’s okay to meet a date or friends from an online group when you’re travelling solo, but if you are, then please please please make sure you’re meeting them in a public location.
I don’t care how long you’ve chatted for, how many times you’ve Facetimed, or whether you’ve declared your love for each other already – when it comes to solo travel, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
So, meet in public. And again, be sure to let someone know where you’re headed.
29. Never post on social media in real time
An oft neglected solo safety tip is to never update your social media in real-time.
This means if you’re gulping up cool cocktails at a bar in Budapest, you shouldn’t post and tag that bar until you’ve moved on.
Or if you’ve just arrived at your hotel, this means NOT showing the view from the balcony or your room number (seriously, I’ve seen people do this) until check-out.
There’s a ton of different reasons for this. First off, even if your account is private, you don’t know with 100% certainty that all your followers can be trusted with your exact whereabouts, especially when you’re abroad and your home is left vulnerable to intruders.
And if your account isn’t private, then every time you use a location tag, your story (and therefore location) is publicly visible to everyone on the planet. Which really isn’t the safest way to be existing.
So, remember: leave the social updates for after. This will also help you live more in the moment.
30. Avoid getting too drunk
No, I’m not done with the buzzkill tips. Here’s another one: please imbibe responsibly.
Especially when you are new to your destination and don’t quite know your way around yet, getting drunk on your own is a recipe for disaster. At the very least, save the big nights out for when you’re more confident in knowing your way around.
Needless to say, you should also never leave your drink unattended.
31. Have backups of everything
Next, be sure to always have backups of everything, whether that’s copies of your passport and important documents, or backup cards and cash stored in other bags of yours in case your stuff gets stolen.
Make sure you also have emergency phone numbers written down as well. Remember, you should be actively preparing for worst case scenario so that in the off-chance it does happen, you’re not completely screwed.
This same principle applies to backing up your photos like to iCloud or Google Photos in case your phone gets broken or stolen. Try to do this every day, because trust me, you’ll want those memories!
32. Screenshot everything
Continuing with the whole ‘worst case scenario’ doom-thinking, another tip I have is to assume you’ll not have Internet.
This is because data seems to (at least for me) have this magical way of crapping out in the moments I need it most.
So, make sure you have screenshots of all your important bookings, tickets, addresses, etc. so that you can access them even when you don’t have an Internet connection.
33. Get travel insurance just in case something goes wrong
Of course, having travel insurance is a no-brainer as well, if we’re rolling with this whole ‘worst case scenario’ thing.
With many travel-friendly credit cards, travel insurance is included as a perk, so be sure to look into that. I get excellent insurance through my Amex card which saves me a ton of money every trip.
For longer trips, I usually buy a policy with WorldNomads and have never had an issue with them.
34. Always a carry a lock & remember: better safe than sorry
One of my favourite little travel items to carry are these mini locks – you can keep one in each bag and use them for lockers in hostels, to lock up zippers in crowded areas, etc. etc.
I know this may sound overly paranoid, but as I mentioned before, when it comes to solo travel in Europe, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Trust your gut – if you feel that anything is even remotely off, then make sure your stuff is properly locked up… no matter how cool and trustworthy your new friends may seem.
35. Become a master of taking your own photos
Now, a lot of people assume that when they travel solo, they’re doomed to a camera roll of just selfies and landscapes.
Trust me, I love a good selfie, but there are so many ways you can take epic photos of yourself while travelling solo!
From portable tripod/selfie stick combos like this to just propping your phone up on a bench (obviously when people aren’t around), there are plenty of ways to capture yourself and get cool photos. So, be shameless and remember nobody will ever see you again, so you might as well get the shot.
NOTE: I find that waking up very early (i.e. sunrise) is ideal for this type of self-photography… because that’s when nobody is around, and at the end of the day, there’s nothing fun about getting your phone stolen while posing wistfully.
36. Embrace the perks of solo travel
Another random solo travel tip? Remember that solo travel comes with a ton of unique perks that you should definitely take advantage of, whether that’s scoring the last cheap ticket to a play, getting to do the single riders lines at theme parks, or simply being able to choose what you eat and do everyday, based solely on what YOU want.
Solo travel is an amazing gift, and the more you actively take advantage of its perks, the more fulfilling your trip will be.
37. Accept that you’ll have bad days
That said, solo travel isn’t always perfect.
Just like how you might wish you were alone sometimes on a hectic family or friend trip, there will be moments on your solo trip that you wish you had someone to share it with…. And that’s okay!
Solo travel can often be a rollercoaster of emotions, so if you’re having a bad day, let it happen and don’t feel guilty about it. Sometimes thinking you’re dumb for complaining can send you down a negative guilt spiral and make things 10x worse.
So, when you’re not feeling it, give yourself permission to wallow. You’ll feel much better after some rest.
PS: If you really need a break from hostel life (assuming you’re going that route), you can look into apps like DayUse which allow you to book a hotel at a highly discounted rate for the day rather than overnight, so you can get some proper rest without breaking the bank.
38. Opt for takeout instead of dining in
One of my favourite solo travel hacks as far as dining is concerned is simply grabbing takeout and enjoying it somewhere scenic.
This is an especially great trick if you feel awkward dining alone at a restaurant (which you shouldn’t, but still). There’s nothing I love more than enjoying good food with a side of people watching, so be sure to steal that trick and see what I mean.
39. Consider sitting at the bar
Or, another alternative is to sit at the bar when you dine out.
This way you can more easily strike up conversations with other patrons or at least the bartender…!
40. Load up on movies and TV shows filmed in your destinations
Another fun tip I’ll also add is to load your phone/laptop up with movies and TV shows filmed in the places you’re visiting.
Not only does this give you plenty of potential entertainment for your solo travel evenings, it also makes for a fun game recognizing locations once you’re out and about on your own.
41. Lastly: Keep cool and laugh things off when things go wrong
The only certain thing in solo travel is that things will go wrong at some point. Recognizing that this will eventually happen is pretty freeing!
Remember: at the end of the day, what matters most is how you react to a situation, rather than the situation itself. As such, just practice laughing things off.
At the end of the day, travel either makes for a good memory or a good story. View every mishap as a future story to tell, and you’ll be golden.
Did I Miss Any of Your Favourite Solo Travel Tips for Europe?
Let me know in the comments! Safe and happy travels 🙂