The Ultimate Guide to travelling Europe alone

Most things worth doing in life are worth doing alone. International travel is widely considered wonderful for families to make memories and romantic for couples forging connections. However, both of these travel styles ignore one of the most important connections in our lives: with ourselves. 

Solo travel offers a new way to explore. Without people from back home, you will be fully immersed in the culture at hand. Of course, when travelling alone, it becomes all the more important to be prepared. You are the only guide you have.

What are the benefits of travelling Alone?

Solo travel is a unique way to explore without a travel companion. It can completely reinvent the way that we experience travelling the world. Going alone helps get you out of your comfort zone. 

Below are just a few of its benefits. 

Greater flexibility

A solo trip offers the best options for exploring things at your own pace. You can go sightseeing at the places that interest you most and avoid things you have no interest in. 

When travelling with others, you can begin to feel penned in. When travelling alone, your time is your own. If you want to spend an extra hour here or there, you are accountable to no timetable besides your own.

Affordable options

Travelling solo is typically cheaper than travelling in a group. However, there are certain aspects of a solo trip that can be more expensive compared to travelling with a group.

One such aspect is accommodation. When travelling with a group, the cost of lodging is usually shared among all participants, resulting in lower rates overall. On the other hand, solo travellers may end up paying more for the same amenities, but they also have the advantage of having a place to themselves.

You may also have the ability to take options you wouldn’t have otherwise. You can check in to an Airbnb or hostel that would be difficult for large groups to use. You can also budget specifically around the activities you want to do. 

Unique experiences

When you’re out of your comfort zone, you are forced to make new friends, meet people, and rely on yourself. Invariably, not having others to fall back on will expose you more fully to the nation you visit. You may connect with fellow travellers, find common ground with locals, and discover new things. 

Travelling alone means doing the things most interesting to you, which may be niche or boring to others. These can be historic walking tours, local arts, and more. The possibilities are truly, nearly limitless. 

To further encapsulate your journey, unplug from social media. Take all the photos you want, but don’t worry about posting a single one. Once you’re back home, you can take time to curate and show off your unforgettable experience.  

What are the best European countries for travelling alone?

When it comes to the best countries, there are a few things that make solo travel better. These include fluency rates in your native language, the number of tourists overall, and general safety. 

All three have gone into consideration in choosing the below nations. 

Switzerland

Switzerland is great for a solo trip for many reasons, one of which is its practicality. In Switzerland, nearly two-thirds of the population speaks English, and about two-thirds of that population uses it regularly. Wherever you travel, you will likely encounter at least one person who speaks English. 

The nation is also exceptionally safe, which can be a concern for travel destinations. It is also a remarkably safe nation for women, making solo female travel comfortable here. 

Spain

Spain is a popular solo travel destination for a variety of reasons. Wonderful food, bustling nightlife, and more make it an excellent place for travellers. On the safety side, there are pickpocket concerns in metropolitan areas, which is not unusual internationally. However, the violent crime rate, especially among tourists, is exceptionally low. 

France

Many of the greatest things about France, especially in metropolitan areas, can also be experienced by a solo traveller. A rich cultural, artistic, and culinary tradition means that no individual can see all the nation has to offer. Even years of travel may only begin to scratch the surface. 

As one of the world’s most frequented travel destinations, Paris is extremely tourist-friendly. Guidebooks make information readily available in English. The artwork, architecture, food, and wine hardly require a companion to enjoy fully. 

What are the best lodging options for travelling alone?

When travelling solo, one of the biggest decisions you have to make is where to spend the night. This influences where your central hub in a city will be, who you will meet, and more. There are a wide variety of options available to travellers.

Below are three alternatives to traditional hotels: Hostels, Airbnb, and pensions. These will help provide a unique backdrop for any excursion to Europe. 

Hostels

Sleeping in a hostel is a hallmark of journeys for any backpacker. Hostels tend to be high-capacity, meaning they will likely not sell out so long as you book them in advance. They are also, for solo travellers, a significantly cheaper option compared to a hotel room. 

Hostels also invariably bring people together. This can be a great way to connect with fellow travellers. You may find someone to travel and explore with where your interests align, whom you can leave as needed. This can be especially helpful if you find someone proficient in the local language. 

The drawback of hostels may also be found in their benefits. For those seeking privacy and total security, the group atmosphere of a hostel may be inhospitable. If this is the case, no worries, for there are numerous other options for travel accommodations. 

Airbnb

One of the most varied and versatile lodging options is Airbnb. These allow you to book with individuals rather than from large-scale hotels. From a human perspective, you can communicate with hosts for personalized ideas for activities and travel troubleshooting questions. 

Airbnb offers the most versatility in terms of where you can stay. You can book single rooms in homes, an entire apartment or house to yourself, or anything to suit your taste. Options to search based on price and amenities result in more distinct options than traditional living spaces. 

The negative side of Airbnb comes from what it can do when abused by property speculators. Here, real estate is bought and expansively, exclusively used for renters. This can be a boon for tourism but reduces the available real estate for people living in an area. This can make heavily touristed areas untenable for those who live there.

There is a partial solution to issues regarding Airbnb ethics. If one avoids renting in historic areas, it can help lessen the tendency for these areas to be filled with rentals. 

There is one final option when it comes to lodgings. This one offers arguably the most extravagant option of all these listed living arrangements. 

Pensions

Pensions are a unique way to enjoy European hospitality that can simplify trip planning. Consider a pension similar to an upscale bed and breakfast establishment. They are often cheaper and more personalized than hotels. They also often host multiple guests in a given period. 

What sets a pension apart is that they offer breakfast and other meals. This may even include tea and snacks alongside regular meals. Meals may or may not be included in the price of the pension. They can often be cheaper than the cost of dining out, allowing you a moment’s rest indoors. 

What are the best transportation options for travelling alone?

If this is your first time travelling alone, navigating around may be an even bigger concern than safety. Thankfully, there are a variety of options available for European travel. Your ideal travel method depends on a couple of things. This includes the number of days you plan on travelling, the distance, and the length of your trip.

Trains

One of the greatest distinctions between Europe and other continents is the widespread nature and affordability of passenger rails. If you’re travelling between major cities, there’s nothing more leisurely than a train ride through the countryside. Some even have modern amenities like onboard WiFi. 

Railway lines become more infrequent the further east you travel in Europe but are most prominent in Germany. Germany has almost 40,000 kilometers of railway lines, nearly 12,000 more than second-place France.

The specifics of railway travel vary nation by nation. What doesn’t vary is the relative affordability of train travel. Tourists can buy Eurail passes, which allow for a given number of travel days in a given period. There is, of course, only an issue when travelling to more rural areas where trains may not directly go.

A train may be ideal if you plan to travel between major areas and stay within them for several days. Solo travellers will also not need to worry about space for multiple people on a given train. 

Buses

The bus does not have the rustic charm of travel by train or the freedom and agency afforded by a car. However, it is an exceptionally practical mode of transportation. 

Traveling by bus allows you to get from point A to point B quickly. The only downside is that you will have to deal with traffic, especially during rush hour. Buses can still aid intracity and intercity travel in places trains do not go.

Buses will also often be significantly cheaper than renting a car and are more environmentally friendly.

Car Rentals

Our last option is the most expensive, but also the one that offers the greatest freedom. A car rental lets you go where you want when you want. You can venture into major cities or across rural landscapes with ease. 

You don’t have to worry about train or bus schedules, delays, or anything else. In this way, getting a car rental can be among the easiest travel options for a price.

The downside of car rentals is that they can be significantly more costly than public transportation. Additional fees can cause this if you aren’t returning and picking up the car from the same place. You also won’t have a rest while travelling by car, whereas buses and trains offer opportunities to sleep.

Car rentals are not an option for the thrifty traveller. However, they are an excellent option if you want an expedient trip or to visit out-of-the-way places.

Tips for travelling alone

There are numerous other travel tips to help improve your travel safety. These are safety tips that, ideally, you shouldn’t need. However, they are here to protect you in case of emergencies. 

Share Travel Plans

You should find someone to share travel plans with whenever you visit a foreign country. This can be as simple as letting someone know your day-to-day or informing authorities about broader itineraries. 

It can be extremely helpful, for instance, to contact your local embassy before or while travelling. They can give you information about security and updates on immediate concerns. If something happens to you abroad, checking in with your embassy can help keep you safe.

Get Travel Insurance

Many things can go wrong on a trip, from the planning to the execution phase. It takes a significant investment of time and money and should be protected.

You can opt for travel insurance in the Schengen Area if you want to ensure everything is fine on your trip. Comprehensive travel insurance covers theft, injury, illness, and any expenses incurred from a cancellation. 

Usually, travel insurance costs between five and six percent of your overall trip cost. Like all insurance, you don’t want to need it, but it is incredibly helpful when you do. 

Have an Emergency Plan

Suppose the worst happens. Your checked bag gets mishandled, and suddenly all you have is your carry-on. You get robbed, and your wallet and on-hand cash is stolen. At the last minute, your lodgings are cancelled, and you are without shelter for the night. 

All of these are potentially disastrous if not planned for. However, all three have easy solutions. 

First, on the plane, ensure all your essentials are in your checked bag: cash, identification, toothbrush and toothpaste, shower supplies, and a spare set of clothes. With these items, you can get by while waiting for your luggage to be returned. 

In case of robbery or scams, you should never carry all your cash in one place. Carry more than you need, and keep the rest securely stored in your lodgings. Secure it with other valuables as well. This way, even in the worst-case scenario, you will never be totally without payment. 

If you find yourself robbed and cashless, you can contact your local embassy. Many are authorized to offer small loans for travellers experiencing precisely this need. The money is a loan, meaning it will need to be repaid, but this is significantly better than not having any currency. 

In the case of lodgings, keep a spare surplus of money on hand. This can help with emergency expenses like lodgings and the like. 

Do your research

A lot of potential pain can be saved by researching big cities and nations ahead of time. You should find out the fluency level of your spoken languages in the travel destinations you seek to visit. This can help you assess any special needs you may have when you visit.

If you are tracking a group tour, for example, make sure the language is one you understand. You may also want to research any safety concerns that may be present in the area. 

You’ll also want to make sure everything is in order. Examine the value of the euro compared to your own currency to better estimate travel expenses. If you haven’t already, and you want to travel in 2024, check if you need an ETIAS or Schengen Visa. This is necessary for many nations to travel to Europe.