Ideally, I would not need to write this post. After all, when was the last time you saw a travel article titled “Tips for Solo Male Travelers”? Never. But when it comes to being a lady on the road on her own, well, things get a bit more tricky.
When I came to Barcelona in 2005, I came alone. When I tell people that they always ask, “Did you have friends here?” No, I didn’t. “Did you come for love?” No, I didn’t (anything but!). “Had you been to Barcelona before?” No, I hadn’t.
Honestly, I knew little about the city and had exactly zero connections. But I wanted to be here, to live here, to give it a shot.
Coming to Barcelona was not my first solo journey. Prior to hopping over the Atlantic I had lived in Central America for three years, and had traveled extensively around the area and Mexico. Usually I traveled with friends, but at times I also traveled alone. I was a “solo female traveler,” (a term made popular by blogresses such as Kate and Jeannie), but didn’t really realize it.
When I compare my time living in Guatemala to my years here in Barcelona, one of the biggest differences is how I feel as a “solo female traveler” or just a “solo female.” In Central America I had more problems and even a few scary run-ins with shady characters. While I don’t want to paint Guatemala as dangerous, it is not as safe for women as Spain… not by a long shot.
This is something I love about Europe. I have more freedom here than I would in other countries and feel safer. Barcelona is not a dangerous city. As a “solo female” I can walk home at 2 a.m. and it’s no big deal because there are people on the street and it’s acceptable for women to be out late.
Still, here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re a woman on your own in Barcelona:
1. Don’t stay in El Raval
I’ve been harassed countless times in El Raval on busy, well-lit streets. About a month ago some guy tried to lift my skirt as I walked by him on Carrer Pintor Fortuny; I thought he was trying to rob me but then realized he was just a perv. He did this while a whole group of men looked on. I wondered, Don’t you have sisters? Mothers? Why don’t one of you tell this freak off?
But instead I did the telling off and then rushed away angry and flustered. I’ve also been robbed in El Raval, as have many other people. If you’re going out in El Raval (which is fun) keep your wits about you and stay away from dark alleys. Better yet, get someone to walk with you up to a main street.
2. Recommended safe places to sleep
Do stay in any of the following hostals which are safe for “solo female travelers”:
Uptown/Diagonal: Astoria Hotel
City Center/ Pl. Catalunya: H10 Cataluyna Plaza
La Ribera/ El Born: Hostel Orleans
Take a tour, or a class, or if you’re in town a bit longer join Meetup.com and check out the plethora of groups listed for Barcelona. Staying in a hostel also increases your chances of linking up with fellow travelers.
Safety on the beach
This could apply to “solo female travelers” or anyone really. It’s a drag but you can’t leave your belongings unattended at La Barceloneta beach (or any of the beaches in Barcelona) because they will probably be stolen.
You’ve got a few options: 1) skip the beach and go to Park Ciutadella instead, 2) find a friend to go with, 3) leave everything of value at your hotel, including the key at the reception and go with stuff that you don’t mind losing (I doubt they will steal your flip-flops, but you never know), 4) ask the person on the towel next to you to watch your stuff for you while you swim…
Paella for one?
It’s Spanish rice and it’s delicious. Sadly, most restaurants have a two-person minimum for paella orders. This means if you’re “solo” you’re out of luck. Solution? Just have tapas, they’re good, too, and “solo-sized.”
The metro is safe in Barcelona. However, I have had a couple unpleasant experiences as a “solo female” on the metro late (after 10 p.m.) in the outskirts of town. Stick to the center if it’s late at night and avoid distant stops like Besos or empty metro wagons. Issues with far-off metro stations late is another good reason to book a hotel in the city center.
Getting cat called
I don’t think sexual harassment is that bad in Barcelona. However, that’s not to say it won’t happen, and it takes places more frequently if a woman is alone.
Deal with it however you like. As it is usually in the form of whistling or some guy coming up real close and whispering some obscenity, more often than not I choose to completely ignore him or tell him where to shove it. It’s probably better to ignore him.
Honestly, compared to a lot of destinations Spain is an easy option for women traveling alone, as is most of Europe.