Over the years, the Balkans have become one of my favorite destinations that I try to travel to frequently. In fact, I can’t even count how many times I visited Balkan countries as each year I’m there at least a few times, visiting both famous destinations and less known places.
The majority of my Balkan travel (like 95%) has been solo. With so much experience under my belt, I can say that solo female travel in the Balkans is easily doable and there is nothing really to worry about.
But if you still have doubts about Balkans solo travel this post is for you. Not only I will share my experience, but I also asked fellow solo female travelers about their point of view so you can hear more stories.
When speaking about Balkans solo travel, I mean following countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania. Some of them have a better reputation than others, some are the victim of unfair prejudice, but all of the places are safe, and you shouldn’t be afraid to travel there really.
Table of contents
Is Balkans safe for solo female travelers?
In short: yes. There are not any special precautions to keep in mind, besides the usual ones: use your common sense and don’t do stupid things you wouldn’t do at home. But that applies to any place really.
Of course, petty crime happens there, like everywhere else.
The only time I was robbed during my travels was in the Old Town of Sarajevo. Do I blame the city and its people? No, this could have happened anywhere really, and I’m partly to be blamed too as I had a passport in my backpack and was walking the backstreet alone in the evening. But since then I visited Sarajevo a few more times, I was walking alone in the evening, and I was just fine.
You might get some unwanted attention as the macho culture in this region is still very much present. But again, these are just some incidents that might happen anywhere else really, and you should behave as you would at home, try to stay calm and in the worst case scenario ask directly someone for help.
You can also meet some weird people on your way.
After arriving in Tuzla late in the evening, I was picked up from the airport by the guy from the accommodation, and as we were driving towards the city, he was talking some real nonsense about Hitler, Serbs and other heavy issues. Since I was trapped in his car, the only thing I could do was to stay calm, don’t get too involved in the conversation and let him speak.
Another weird encounter happened in Ohrid, Macedonia when a random guy approached me during sightseeing (it was pretty clear I was a tourist) and started talking some quasi-philosophical things that lead to the conclusion that tourists are to be blamed for all the issues his town deals with. Later on, it turned out this guy is a rather well-known person in Ohrid, a local philosopher/clown that every city has. Again, I couldn’t really run away as I didn’t know what he is capable of, so I had to stay calm, somehow continue with the conversation and just end it as soon as possible.
In all these years these were the only two weird stories that happened to me, and funnily enough, I wasn’t traveling solo then. What I learned there and then was not to get too involved in the conversation that goes in some weird way but still stay nice, not to provoke the other person. But again, I don’t think these were even dangerous situations, just plain odd and annoying.
Knowing the context and some history is the key
As you probably know the Balkans, especially ex-Yugoslavia, was a very turbulent region in the 1990s. It’s good to know some history and context of the issues before traveling to the Balkans. You might very quickly get involved in a political conversation, and that never leads to anything good, especially in the Balkans.
When looking at people, it’s hard to guess their background so you might unintentionally hurt someone or make angry. Or you might put yourself in a very uncomfortable conversation and situation.
Speaking of the Balkan War – in many places, you will still find war remnants: destroyed, abandoned buildings, bullet holes, commemorating tablets, cemeteries with the graves from the 1990s… Remember about the turbulent past, be respectful but don’t worry, the war is long gone, and the Balkans are entirely safe to travel.
Your only issue might be landmines that are still present in Bosnia and Herzegovina. When you are out in nature, be sure to stick to the path or trail and don’t venture out to the field. In the areas where there are still landmines, you will most likely see a sign warning about them (it will say “Pazi – mine”).
If you like exploring abandoned places, as I do, you will find some excellent locations for urbex in the Balkans. My personal favorite spots are Kupari – the bay of abandoned hotel in Croatia (a perfect day trip from Dubrovnik), Mostar, and Sarajevo (especially the abandoned bobsled track) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kotor in Montenegro and Bitola in Macedonia.
You might be interested in the post I wrote about exploring abandoned places as a solo female traveler.
Even if the war is long gone and the situation is somehow stabile some tensions still happen in the Balkans every now and then, especially between Serbia and Kosovo and Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even today, as I write this article, there are some significant issues between Serbia and Kosovo that made it to the news in Poland.
It’s wise to check the situation before you go so you will know which areas to avoid as hardly ever the whole country is a no-go zone.
People are the friendliest
People in the Balkans are the most welcoming and most hospitable. No matter where and no matter what situation they were always super friendly and ready to help (even when I don’t need it). I had so many cases when my trip went so much smoother thanks to people and their help.
My first trip to Albania (that took me 50 hours in total) wouldn’t have been successful if it wasn’t for locals who were assisting me, putting me to the right bus or even paying for my ticket. And all of that with a language barrier, before Google Translate was working offline.
In Croatia, I was trying to get back from Krka National Park to Sibenik, but there was no bus, and no one knew when the next bus will arrive. A friendly guy who worked at the park took me back to the city after his shift and recommended some excellent places to visit that I wouldn’t have found myself.
Or in Mostar when the owner of the guest house and her friend took me for a long walk around the city to show me more than just the famous Old Bridge and to tell me about the war times in the city.
Or in Serbia when it turned out I have the wrong ticket for the train the conductor allowed me to continue my journey to Uzice anyway (4 hours without a valid ticket!).
These are just a few of the great encounters I had in the Balkans but to be honest, during every trip to the Balkans I meet and talk to some amazing people and each of these conversations is special.
I’m aware that the fact that I travel solo only helps with interactions. So don’t be afraid of people, try to communicate with them even if you don’t know the language. After all, the smile is a universal sign.
Drinking in the Balkans
I don’t think I need to write about responsible drinking when traveling solo. But when you are traveling alone in the Balkans, especially in some less known places, and you meet some friendly locals you might get invited for a drink or two of rakija – a homemade fruit brandy.
Be careful, it’s an evil drink! It usually has 40% or more of alcohol and can quickly get to your head. Try to remember how strong rakija is and don’t get too crazy with drinking it.
The biggest danger
To be honest for me the biggest danger when traveling solo in the Balkans was my mind playing tricks on me, making me scared when there was nothing really to worry about.
Nothing happened, of course. These are really regular places, like everywhere else, where people mind their own business and don’t wait around every corner to hurt you.
As soon as I understood this (and fortunately for me that was very quick), I felt at ease when traveling solo in the Balkans. Yet another lesson that stereotypes are wrong and we shouldn’t listen to them.
Of course, you need to be aware of petty crime and pickpockets in bigger cities or touristy destinations as well as some scams. But in general, use your common sense, don’t do things that you wouldn’t do at home and everything should be fine.
Tips for solo female travel in the Balkans
If this is your first trip to the Balkans, these are some tips that can make it more comfortable and smoother one
- Even if distances are not too big, the journey time is something horrendously long. There are night buses, and I found them fine, but if you are not comfortable traveling overnight, take the day connections. It might take you long hours, but at least you will be able to see some beautiful scenery along the way.
- Try to stay in the central, touristy areas. Usually, there is plenty of accommodation to choose from and if you want some more social life find a good hostel. I typically book my accommodation through Booking.com, and always my main criteria is the location and reviews. When traveling solo, for the first time, I’d avoid apartments, not only for safety reasons but also sometimes it’s a lot of trouble to get the key.
- Many of the places are really touristy now, much more than you might expect. That means there are organized tours that you may join. It’s a great way to meet fellow travelers that you might go for dinner afterward or travel together for a day or two.
- In popular destinations, you can easily find people speaking English, but it’s better to download Google Translate to your phone. Languages in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia are very similar so having one of those on your phone should be enough. If you are planning to travel to Serbia, Macedonia or Bulgaria make sure to download the Cyrillic alphabet too so you can at least try to recognize what’s written around.
- Try to learn at least a few essential words in the local language. It will make a huge difference when the people see you making an effort and saying “thank you” etc. in their language. And that way you have them on your side.
- I find maps.me more accurate than Google Maps and it works perfectly fine offline.
- Try to get a local SIM card with internet data. Not only it will make your travel much more comfortable, but you will also be always connected to the network in case you need to do some local calls or ask for help.
Solo female travel in the Balkans
Since I don’t want to give you only my point of view, I asked fellow travelers from my Facebook group about traveling in the Balkans and bloggers about their experience traveling solo in the Balkans. Here is what they said.
I have traveled twice solo in Croatia and for me, it is my favorite solo destination. Everything is very easy to figure out, from the busses to trains and I also never had a problem when eating out in a restaurant or while swimming on the beach. I always leave my stuff near the water and nothing ever happened. I have my swimming ring with me so I can float and relax.
Same goes for Slovenia, I have been there solo for one week traveling through Bled, Ljubljana, and Piran and it was truly amazing. I even hiked alone to the viewing point Mala Osojnica in Bled. It was a bit creepy due to no phone signal and slippery due to rain the days before but I made it.
Traveling solo in Bosnia was also an amazing experience and I visited many museums to learn more about the history of the country. Through a group on Facebook, I met a very nice woman from Sarajevo who also loves to travel and one day we met for a walk through the park. It was lovely.
The prices are super good and in Mostar I had a 3-bed bedroom only for me! I took part in organized excursions and it was not a problem that I was a solo traveler, I just joined the existing groups.
I’ve been solo to Bulgaria twice and this summer I am coming again. I love Bulgaria especially the Bulgarian music. I even went partying there alone. It was an interesting experience but the club was very crowded. This time I will probably search online for someone to go to the parties with me so I have someone to talk to. Since the clubs are very full it is difficult to start a conversation there.
Last summer I traveled solo to Ohrid and Skopje in Macedonia and it was really great. I visited different beaches in Ohrid and again had no problems with leaving my stuff by the water. Food was delicious and people were truly welcoming. I would love to go again.
I can only advice anyone to go to these mentioned countries alone because you will not regret it. It is a unique experience and a good chance to learn more about yourself when you are not constantly around people.
I’ve traveled solo throughout the Balkans for several years without issue. However, there have been plenty of times when I received stares that made me feel uneasy. I didn’t expect to encounter cafes with predominantly male patrons (though this shouldn’t have been a surprise given that most of the region was once under the Ottoman rule).
Part of solo female travel is mental preparedness, so I think it’s helpful to simply anticipate you’ll probably get attention for traveling solo or having a physical appearance that differs from the residents of the
place you’re visiting. Or being the woman who orders a coffee or a sandwich in a cafe filled with men!
During my most recent trip to Albania, I had more peace of mind traveling with a local SIM card for
data and calls, and I also accepted free transfers to/from the bus station when offered by guesthouses.
– Ann from East Village Nomad
I traveled to every country in the Balkans solo. And I couldn’t have loved it more! I felt safe all the time and I made a ton of friends all around.
I was lucky enough to not only fall in love with the region but also with a Croatian, which made me move to sunny Split. It was the best decision ever!
The Balkans are really different than the rest of Europe –sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s Europe at all! But that uniqueness gives these countries a special character, and it’s amazing to witness.
My advice is to learn a few words of the local languages to make the most out of your solo trip. People are friendly to begin with, but when they see you’re making an effort, you’ll get a real friend. This is true in the bigger cities, but it becomes even more perceptible the more off the beaten path you go.
– Coni from Experiencing the Globe
I solo traveled through the Balkans in October 2018 starting in Belgrade and making my way through Skopje, Prizren, Shkoder, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Mostar, and finally ending in Split. There wasn’t a single moment I felt unsafe or vulnerable at all, and most of all, people were uber helpful wherever I went.
I took a tour around Belgrade in a Zastava with a local and it was a fantastic experience. In Skopje I had to walk from the bus station to downtown in the middle of the night and yet there was no issue at all.
In Prizren people were so delighted to help me find my way around. At around 5 in the morning, without any daylight visible yet, I hiked to the Fortress and met a local that I had a very deep, thought-provoking conversation about the times Kosovo has seen and I felt as if I had known him all along. Such was the warmth, hospitality, and sincerity that I experienced from people. I never had any qualms about being solo or in any kind of situation that could be remotely dangerous.
In Shkoder as well, I took taxis by myself to get to the Rozafa Fortress in the evening without any hesitation or fear. My journey to Theth in a furgon was the most enjoyable and memorable experience as well.
In the Bay of Kotor, there’s nothing to worry about your safety at all, at least that is what my perception from my experience is. Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Mostar, and Split were just as delightful regarding traveling solo.
In fact, because I was traveling by myself, it was more of an immersive experience since I was more freehearted talking with the locals and there were more open to interacting with me even if our conversations included profound and difficult topics like socio-economic and political issues and challenges.
– Manjot Bal
While Serbia possesses plenty of natural beauty, plenty of it also lies in its architecture, from the chubby domes of Orthodoxy to the clean lines of Communist monumentalism and Art Deco. It’s a country you want to devour with your eyes, blinking at buildings that seem better suited to fairy tales than to an average-sized city.
Zig-zagging across the country to see these architectural jewels is surprisingly easy as a solo woman – or at least as easy as it is for anyone else. I rode the trains and buses, albeit slowly, across the country looking at monasteries and former mansions, never tiring.
In the evening, I joined the outdoor summer crowds for dinner, in cafes and restaurants or at street stalls – Serbian food is fresh, tasty and inexpensive, always a treat. Wherever I went, I felt welcome. Young Serbs often speak English, unlike the older generation, which tends to be shy about this language.
Enter Google Translate, which I used for both Serbian and Russian, the two most widely spoken languages in Central Serbia (your Hungarian will be useful in the north). It does delay conversations in real time, but it did enable me to have actual conversations with people.
The one drawback? If you’re not a smoker, you’ll have no escape, as smoking is permitted everywhere.
– Leyla from Women on the Road
I arrived in Mostar Bosnia late at night and did not feel safe at the bus station – not for my personal safety but I was worried about being pickpocketed as there were lots of people asking for money. Otherwise during the day there I felt like I was being stared at and watched but nobody ever approached me or said anything that made me feel unsafe. However, that may also have been my anxiety kicking in.
In the past few years, Croatia has become one of the premier destinations to visit, not only in the Balkans but in the entirety of Europe. And while the popular walled city of Dubrovnik or the Venetian charms of Istria seemingly make this the perfect couple’s destination, Croatia is an excellent place to travel solo as well.
While Dubrovnik attractions have been popular for years, Croatia’s other cities and natural sites are gaining traction amongst tourists, meaning that there will almost always be other travelers to meet when visiting Croatia. Most major cities have a number of hostels, which are a great option to meet other travelers and save money while in Croatia.
Croatia is also a very safe country and you need only to exercise basic common sense, such as not wandering around alone at night or getting excessively drunk, and it is highly unlikely anything bad will happen to you while traveling solo. Getting from point A to point B in this Balkan nation is also incredibly easy, as Croatia has an extensive bus network that connects most major cities and towns.
All in all, if you’re looking for the perfect Balkan solo female travel destination, then Croatia is a fantastic option for you!
– Maggie from The World Was Here First
Albania and Kosovo are relatively easy to get around and the locals were friendly without being at all hassling. It was the first time I’ve traveled (after years of solo travel in India, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt etc) that it felt liberating, that being a solo female did not create any extra burden or any extra attention. It was a real delight!
I have been to all of those countries solo and loved them all! I did get my phone stolen in Belgrade — because I was in a tattoo shop and distracted by petting a dog — but that is not region-specific at all, and did not sour my love of Serbia or make me feel unsafe.
The only other weird encounter I had was getting pulled into a bar by a Montenegran policeman who clearly was asking me *something*, but since neither of could understand each other at all, we ended up just buying each other a glass of wine and I went on my way, slightly shaken up.
On the whole, I felt significantly safer in the region as a whole (the major cities, anyway; I didn’t explore much outside of them) than I do in cities of comparable size in the US, or even in a lot of Western Europe tourist hubs.
Safety aside, I also loved how cheap, safe and easy it is to get around from country to country (or city), so if you’re the kind of wanderer who doesn’t really plan very far ahead, you always have tons of options of where to go.
Super nice people everywhere, too — I feel like in most of the region, people are really proud of their country and genuinely stoked that you’re interested in it and sincerely want you to enjoy it. Basically everyone I met either spoke English and was happy to help you, or didn’t speak English but would legit bend over backwards to help you. I’ve had people who spoke no English, once they understand what I was looking for, grab my hand and march me down the street until I was in front of it.
I traveled solo in Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Greece. I must say I felt extremely safe in these destinations and every single person I met was super friendly and extraordinarily helpful. I met so many new friends and enjoyed the whole experience immensely. I tell everyone they should consider the Balkans, and I can’t wait to go back.
As a female born in Mexico and living in the USA, I am expected to travel with a male companion or at least with another female or females. Why??? I am an adult; a capable and smart human being. It’s unbelievable all the bad scenarios told to me, mostly from women who cannot even go to the bathroom alone.
I had too many people warning me about the danger of traveling alone to the former Soviet countries and more to the ones involved in the Balkan War. Thank God I never listen !!!
Traveling completely alone has been the most wonderful experience of my life. I have always felt safe and extremely happy with my decision. There is no more exhilarant and more character-forming experience. I am responsible for my decisions, I celebrate my successes, and I had to fix my mistakes, but, most of it, I have been humbled by the kindness, thoughtfulness, and help of the inhabitants of Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia.
They may not speak my language, but for sure, they had figured out a way to help me and made me feel welcome; and those who can speak with me had opened their hearts to tell me about their experiences, their fears, and their pain. They have shared something invaluable with me, their lives and they have accepted me as one of their own!
I sincerely miss my long walks, exploring all day, my sitting in parks at night, my river walks at night in absolute peace and safety. All that is something I cannot do in the USA.
I have enjoyed so much traveling completely alone that next month I will be traveling alone to Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo.
I went on a Balkan road trip with a couple of friends. In Shkoder, Albania, however, we split ways for a few days. They went for the hike to Thethi, while I chose to stay a bit longer at the lovely Wanderers Hostel. This gave me the chance to discover Shkoder better, and even go on a bike ride to the nearby lake.
I made some friends at the hostel and discovered together some new places to eat in town, and, in the evening, everybody from the hostel shared a bit of music from back home. The second day, together with those I met the day before, I went on a return trip on the Komani Lake ferry ride. Pretty, but also very long, so I enjoyed the company and avoided getting bored on the way back.
I felt very safe being on my own in Shkoder. I’m not sure this could apply to all of Albania, since in Tirana I was happy to be in a group. The men staring at me and the other girl in our small group made us feel a bit uneasy, which might have been even a bit scary had it been just the two of us.
I just traveled solo through Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina and everyone was so friendly and helpful. Even more so after I broke my ankle. I stayed a further 2 weeks and I felt so safe and was helped everywhere. From being piggybacked to being carried up and down gangplanks into ferries.
I remember it like it was yesterday. After a few weeks touring Central Europe by train in March, with a handful of adventures to tell on my return that included tobacco smugglers, snowfalls like I had never seen before, and great wisdom acquired about the nightlife of every city I had found in the way; I arrived in Bucharest, Romania from Veliko Tarnovo, in Bulgaria.
It was late, it was cold and the surroundings of the station, gray and soulless. Only a few homeless people were still in the street at that hour. Nonetheless, as traveling alone had taught me, I ignored the situation and started walking one step after another. Soon I arrived at the boarding house where I was staying that night.
In the morning, I would continue on my way to Constanta where, after a month of traveling through the old continent, I would finally see the sea again.
Six trips to Romania later, I still cannot understand if it was the area, the low temperatures, the time, or the fact that there were hardly any people in the street what made me doubt for a second if traveling around Romania was a good idea.
I have fallen a thousand times for this country people. They are so full of life that it seems they belong where I do. And then, there’s all the rest of the wonders that the country offers its visitors. But that’s a story for another day.
Meanwhile, I encourage you all to visit Romania. I promise you that this country does not disappoint!
– Inma from A World to Travel
As a solo female traveler I felt Montenegro was one of the most easy-going and liberal countries in the Balkans. One of my friends told me that in this region Montenegrins are famous for being lazy. There certainly seems to be a very relaxed attitude about life that is slightly hedonistic at times.
Montenegro is not only used to see a lot of tourists in their country, they understand the desire of travelers to explore and enjoy whether they are women or men and whether alone or together. That is maybe the reason that Montenegro is one of the most touristic countries in the Balkans.
The good part about this is that gat English is more widely spoken than elsewhere in the region and there is a well-developed bus network. This makes traveling in Montenegro very easy for solo female travelers. The downside is that in summer it can get really crowded along the coast. Unwanted attention from men is rare but is most likely to come from other tourists.
That said, it is easy to travel off the beaten path. Once you go inlands you will mostly meet friendly locals that welcome solo female travelers with open arms.
– Ellis from Backpack Adventures
A few years ago I embarked on a train journey through Eastern Europe and one of the countries where I’ve spent the most time in was Bosnia & Herzegovina. I have a friend in Sarajevo whom I have always wanted to visit and this was the perfect occasion to do so. I traveled on my own, using only trains, with an Interrail ticket for the Balkans.
I had an amazing time everywhere I went. Because I have stayed in Sarajevo with my friend , I explored a local part of the town, half an hour away from the city center. Not many people there spoke English, but that didn’t make my trip any different, as they were as helpful as they could when I tried to ask how to get to certain places.
My favorite city in Bosnia was Mostar. I remember walking at dusk on the streets alongside the river or watching the brave men jumping in the water from the peak of the bridge. I even befriended two buskers who were staying at the same hostel as me. Both on my arrival and departure from Mostar, the owner of the hostel took me from and to the train station with his personal car, just because it was a little bit outside of the center.
I felt very safe traveling on my own around Bosnia & Herzegovina and I would love to go back someday.
– Joanna from The World in My Pocket
Slovenia, a whimsical land full of fairy-tales and tiny little cafes, making it one of the best places to travel solo as a female. For starters, it’s the prettiest place on earth teeming with local life, mountains and green rivers straight out of the movie Chronicles of Narnia and to a close second the Avatar movie set.
It is the kind of place where international hotels are nowhere to be seen, only local family houses with “farm to table” concepts and homestays scattered throughout the Alpine region. You can easily hike alone, chat-up with locals, spend the time reading by the largest Alpine lake or go for a dip in the emerald-green water. A 7-day visit in Slovenia is all you really need to spend your time in this little country of 2 million people.
It is a pristine wonderland, with a striking world of rocky mountains – the centrepiece of which is Mt Triglav (2864m), the country’s highest peak – as well as river gorges, ravines, lakes, canyons, caves, rivers, waterfalls, forests and Alpine meadows.
– Pashmina, The Gone Goat
If you have any questions about solo female travel in the Balkans feel free to join the FB group about traveling in this region – friendly members will for sure help you out!
Happy and safe travels!
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