While I enjoy solo traveling and find it incredibly liberating, I recognize the idea can be daunting to some. It may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. There’s no “one size fits all” to travel. When I talk to people about solo travel, particularly women, one question I receive often is “how do you go out and have fun at night if you’re by yourself in a foreign country — isn’t that dangerous?”
When I first started traveling solo, I did all of my exploring in daylight because the experience was still new to me. I had the desire to go out and have a few drinks at bars but I was nervous and uncomfortable with the idea of posting up at a bar alone somewhere unfamiliar. It’s also important to note that going alone to a bar as a woman often has different connotations than when a man does. In some countries, those connotations are even more extreme. Safety and peace of mind first, always!
After a few solo trips, I was of tired missing out on the night scene so I started to search online for available options for an upcoming trip in Zurich, Switzerland.
My search led me to a pub crawl. The pub crawl cost 20 Swiss Franc and included a welcome drink at the meeting point, a free shot at each bar we visited, and free entry to a nightclub. At the end of the crawl, you could either enjoy one more drink at the club or party for the rest of the night. I decided to go for it!
Within the first few minutes of the crawl beginning, I was already having small talk connecting with people from all over the world. I expected the crawl to be touristy, which it was, however, to my surprise there were quite a few locals who joined the crawl as well. By the second bar, I found my core group of locals and one other American who I ended up dancing with the rest of the night. After we left the nightclub, we walked to get sandwiches together from a late-night convenience store and continued to walk around chatting. The locals even helped me get a taxi back to my hotel by hailing a cab in Swiss-German when I decided to call it a night. While I didn’t know anyone going into this experience, I had a blast and even exchanged Instagram handles with some of the people I met that night. We are still connected today!
After such a successful first international pub crawl, I decided to make these a part of most of my solo trips. I’ve taken part in several in Europe and Asia. Usually, crawls are hosted by local hostels and many people who take part are also solo travelers trying to meet new people on a night out just like me. Because there is a sense of organization and community, it has proved to be a safer and easier way for me, in my experience, to meet people without feeling awkward out alone at night. Also, if you sign up for a pub crawl on the frontend of your trip, it gives you the opportunity to connect with people you can later make plans with if you so choose. You can even use a pub crawl as an opportunity to scan the city at night and make note of additional bars to visit later in your trip… perhaps with new friends you’ve made on the pub crawl!
I realize this may not be the most local experience of a city’s nightlife scene, but I think it’s a great way to get started and gain comfort abroad when you’re alone. I feel much more comfortable doing my own thing in cities now than I previously did. Even with my newfound comfort, I find pub crawls to be so entertaining, I will continue to mix them in regardless of how seasoned of a solo traveler I become.
If you want to travel alone but you worry that means not experiencing the nightlife because you’re not in a group, I highly recommend giving pub crawls a try. I now feel like I do not have to sacrifice ‘turning up’ when I jet off to a new place alone. My solo trips are just as well-rounded and exciting as my trips with friends now that I’ve integrated pub crawls into my plans.
Have you taken part in a pub crawl abroad? What was your experience like? What city has the best pub crawl you’ve ever experienced?
Would you be open to partying with strangers abroad? Let me know in the comments!