Travel is one of the best things anyone can invest in. Going to new places, learning new things, meeting new people, and pushing your boundaries can only help you grow. I think everyone would be well-advised to spend more on travel and experiences than on material items.
Traveling solo in general can be exhilarating, challenging, a little scary and unsettling, and wonderful all at once. Traveling solo forces you to come face-to-face with yourself. You are alone with your thoughts, your wants, your fears, and limitations. If you don’t do something you want to or you hold yourself back, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Traveling solo as a woman can add a new dimension or concern or precaution.
I have traveled solo as a woman myself and have loved every experience. In my opinion, not having to compromise with another person, going exactly where you want to go and when, seeing what you want, eating what you want and when is the height of indulgence and enjoyment. I have enjoyed delightful meals, midday naps in parks, and people watching while I leisurely stroll.
But, I have always been a bit more cautious and aware while traveling alone.
In Budapest, where I spent a few days alone, I had a marvelous time, but never stayed out late or went to bars alone. Part of this is pure personality; I’d rather spend all day out and about and walk miles to see a city and exhaust myself and call it an early night that see less during the day and take in the night scene. In a country where I didn’t speak the language, though many Hungarians in Budapest speak English, I didn’t feel very comfortable going out to bars by myself. But again, this was not a big deal to me as my preference was to walk around all day, exhaust myself, eat delicious food, and go back to my hostel and take a hot shower and proceed to sleep ten hours.
There is a big difference between pushing your boundaries and doing something to challenge yourself, say eating a meal alone or navigating a new city on your own, and feeling fundamentally safe.
Women travelers and solo women travelers should feel safe and comfortable traveling around Spain. It is, overall, an exceedingly safe country; I always feel safer walking around in Spanish cities than I do in the US. When I lived in Madrid, I walked home with female friends or alone at 2 or 3 in the morning, or later, and always felt safe. People tend to stay out later and urban areas generally feel much less deserted. Violent crime is much lower and gun violence is not a thing.
The biggest concern for travelers, male and female alike, is pick-pockets. One should always be very careful with their belongings. For women carrying a bag, I recommend a zippered shoulder bag with the zipper in front. I’ve heard of women being robbed on the metro when someone unzips their back from the back without them noticing and takes out their wallet or phone.
For evening outings or if you don’t feel like schlepping a large handbag around, a cross body bag works if it has a secure closing like a zipper, or a snap with a strap over it, worn in front of you. I recommend that when you’re on public transportation, like the metro, or in a crowded place that is rather touristy, like the Rastro market in Madrid, or Las Ramblas in Barcelona, that you keep a hand over it.
An important thing to note — pick-pocketing and these sorts of robberies are non-violent crimes in Spain, not that that makes them any less unsettling. They goal of the pickpocket is to get your valuables without you noticing and to have no confrontation.
I will add an important caveat regarding safety for female travelers — the one thing I would be cautious about are large festivals and parties, like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, La Tomatina, the tomato smushing festival in the region of Valencia, or Carnival in Cadiz. For American audiences, I think the most understandable comparison would be to very large, drunken fraternity parties.
If you’re a female solo traveler and this concerns you and you absolutely have to experience one of Spain’s famous multiple day fiestas, it’s worth nothing that I’ve never heard of harassment or assault issues in relation to the massive Gay Pride parade and celebration in Madrid. This giant several day long party happens every June in Madrid and is a good way to live the crazy Spanish fiesta.
I do not think this is the way it should be, obviously, and women should not have to seek out and heed advice to feel safe. However, until that changes, I feel that it is my responsibility to present the information I would want to know myself.
It is perfectly possible to travel solo and as a woman and enjoy Spain’s famous nightlife. Attending the large, crazy, famous festivals is not a necessity at all and, frankly, I don’t think they’re a good way to see Spain or get to know the country.