Black Travel Budget Travel Europe Travel Tips

Why More Black People Need to Travel Around Europe

Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes

Kotor, Montenegro
Flexin’ for the ‘gram after beasting a climb up a mountain in Kotor, Montenegro

If you’re already reading this with a defensive edge because of the title, understand that this article isn’t only for black people, but rather about black people, so that anyone who reads this can gain perspective as to how more of us traveling abroad could enhance the experience for others in the future.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: There are two completely different experiences you have traveling abroad as an American and traveling abroad as an African-American (or a person of color). And you can read about some of the unfortunate downsides of that here for context.

A diamond in the ruff. Get it?! T'hehe. #hereallnight
Never a tourist, but ALWAYS a character

But there are enough articles floating around about some of the negative aspects of being black abroad (racism, discrimination, prostitute labels, etc). And while it’s important to be prepared and aware of that very raw reality, here are the reasons why more Blacks should be gracing the European continent with our presence, spirit, and energy.

1. It will normalize our existence to Europeans who’ve never traveled outside of their country.

A couple guys asking for a selfie in Pamplona, Spain. Happily obliged and was probably too tipsy to care. #DayDrinking

Yes, it’s true. There are actual living people who don’t believe black people exist outside of Africa. How do I know this? Because I got into an unfortunate argument with a man who insisted I was born in Africa, and any other explanation was impossible.

And for the people that are aware of Black Americans, they’d never met or seen one up close, so they’re sometimes incapable of adulting controlling their gaze of wonder and curiosity. That gaze can sometimes (but not always) be accompanied with touching and uncomfortable kisses on the hand. I know, stay with me here. It gets worse better.

You will take selfies with strangers. Many of them. Prepare.
You will regularly take selfies with strangers. Many of them. So prepare. These boys from the Czech Republic asked nicely 🙂

If black people weren’t so rare in some regions of Europe, it’ll normalize the fact that we coexist on this planet. You won’t find yourself stopping traffic as you, the walking exhibit, make your way down a street of unexpected gazers who are trying to figure out the who, what, where, when, and why of this situation.

2. You’ll come to find you get preferential treatment in most scenarios.

One of five free cocktails on the night in Parga, Greece

This might apply more to just women, but I can really only speak from my experiences and the ones shared with me by other Black American friends. But since black women are hardly seen in some European cities or ever at all, getting free drinks will start to become a regular occurrence.

Unlimited drinks at bars, free rides on yachts, handmade bracelets, and home-cooked meals are just some of the hospitality I’ve experienced for being the first black person someone has met. And yes, they are so excited to share with me that I’m their first. The name’s Glo, just here to pop your black encounter cherry. *ahem* As you were…


While this also comes with its fair share of hand-kissing, skin rubbing, and dumbfounded gazes, more often than not, people are just simply fascinated by the black skin color and want to let you know how soft and beautiful it looks to them. And however creepy their deliverance of said statement can be, just smile and run carry on, because they mean well.

Invited into this private beach lounge and thirst quenched with free cocktails upon entrance. Please, somehow save me from this atrocity!
Invited into this private beach lounge and thirst quenched with free cocktails upon entrance. Please, someone save me from my misery!

They’ve seen us in movies, they know we exist, but just like a dinosaur, if one appeared in front of your face unexpectedly, you too, would stare and want to know more about this figment of your imagination coming to life. So yes, sometimes you are a dinosaur. So be a f*cking Tyrannosaurus Rex and wave those tiny stub arms in all your black glory.

Not to mention, if you just slightly resemble a world-famous tennis athlete, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself on Facebook with this brilliant caption.

No big deal, just posing for the camera and signing tennis balls off of it.
No big deal, just posing for the camera and signing tennis balls in between Wimbledons and Grand Slams. I could get used to this.

3. You will experience the strangest encounters that will make for great stories when you return home.

Just minding my own business until I looked up and saw cameras snapping ferociously at me.
Just minding my own business until I looked up and saw cameras snapping ferociously at me.
Then out of the blue comes another.
Then out of the blue comes another. Ma’am, are you a ninja? Where did you come from?!
Here's my awkward grin after they decide it might be slightly uncomfortable to be the subject of a photo taken without permission. So they finally ask to take one WITH me as well.
Here’s my awkward grin after they decide it might be slightly uncomfortable to be the subject of a photo taken without permission. So they finally ask to take one WITH me. Only took 30 minutes and 3,000 photos for them to be satisfied. Next time I’m bringing my tip jar. #HustlersMentality

From the 6-year-old boy who found it necessary to rub dirt on my wrist and inform me that they’re basically the same color, to the Greek man who insisted on grabbing my arm and exclaiming the discovery of the contrast of our skin colors. However offensive or disturbing, there is always an opportunity for at least one person to come away from the experience more enlightened. Spoiler Alert: It usually won’t be you.

Being hoisted in Pamplona after running with the bulls for being the only "morena" in the arena.
Being hoisted in Pamplona for being the only “morena” in the arena after running with the bulls.

We’re an enigmatic and multi-faceted group of people who can learn a great deal from the other side of the world just as much as they can learn from us. Not referring to the time the Russian woman at the club grabbed my ass and said I wasn’t shaking it nearly as hard as I’m capable of. Oh, stereotypes. I must not be pressured to live up to thee!

Nevertheless, the European culture is so dynamic and eclectic, and so are black people. But how else will they know unless we visit the very countries deprived of our soulful flavor?

Being sophisticated in Vienna, Austria. #rare
Being sophisticated in Vienna, Austria. #rare

If we gradually started increasing our presence around Europe in a variety of roles like teachers, managers, receptionists, nurses, and everyday tourists, think of how much their perspective of us will change. We are educated. We are talented. And all of Europe needs to know it.


The best hospitality I’ve ever experienced came from Romania, Croatia, Montenegro, Belgium, and Scotland. So I invite my fellow Black Americans to give these countries a try first!

Have some awkward stories about your black abroad experience? Share them in the comments and then share this article with a friend to inspire their next adventure across the pond 😉

  • So much of what you’ve written speaks to what I just experienced during my solo vacation to Istanbul! OMG, the staring!! I had to remind myself that some people have never seen people who look like me and to try to remember how it would feel if I was in their shoes and saw a “real live unicorn”. Nonetheless, the solo travel bug has bit me and I’m SO looking forward to my next adventure. I hadn’t thought about Scotland but I’d LOVE to go there. Adding it to the list! And thanks for being such an inspiration on IG. 😉

    Safe travels,
    Dayka Robinson

  • Kerwin McKenzie

    Good post :-). I enjoy my “celebrity” status when I travel :). People are people and we are curious about people. I read where other travelers get upset that others are staring; so what? I embrace it, say hello to people take selfies. people in China give me their children and take photos of me; in London people take secret photos on the train of me; in Kazakhstan, I had children and adults taking photos of me. We had a blast in the train station one day it was was much fun.

    The media only show Black people doing mostly bad things or getting arrested, so its good when others see that this is not how everyone is.

    Just go with the flow and do what your heart tells you.

  • …I don’t really mind the staring because 1) Spaniards stare at everyone, and 2) If someone is staring, I almost never notice…But I must say that the only “offensive” thing that happened to me was when some random guy I passed on the sidewalk referred to me as “esta puta negra”…

    • …I can’t wait to observe more of how this “fascination” operates in different countries–I’ve heard interesting things about Croatia, Turkey, and Scotland (and if a Jamie Fraser look-alike found me interesting, I would NOT take offense, ;-)…

  • Danielle Petway

    Great piece! What’s interesting is that I’ve encountered this while living and traveling around Africa as well (go figure!). In Angola, the moment they hear that I speak English their first inclination, after the moment of surprise, is that I must be from South Africa or Nigeria. When I tell them I’m from America they absolutely can’t comprehend it. They know about Denzel Washington and Beyonce. They even know about this little thing called slavery because the slave trade happened there as well. However, they still don’t really get it and seem to think I’m some kind of unicorn!

    • Melissann

      LOL! Funny. In America, I’m seen as a latina (Dominican republic precisely). I’m actually African-Nigerian. In South Africa, I was seen as American.

      Really local/sheltered Africans are not fully aware that there are many black people outside of Africa. They understand that the white skinned man is from abroad and people who look more like them are from the same place as they are, or same continent.

      I assume you engaged with very local/sheltered Africans. The average African is very aware of black people elsewhere.

  • Love your blog post on this topic. I can say traveling Europe as an Asian American has been interesting, too! It’s always great to have a positive outlook on all that can happen. LOL – I totally understand about the free drinks. Safe travels and let me know if you get back to Greece 😀

  • Mzungu

    I enjoyed reading your piece, however it fails to take note that there is most likely a big difference between how Black Americans are treated in Europe compared to Black Africans -as my white Africans most likely get good treatment as being considered expats- this i know from experience. Also, first, the fact you hold an American passport in of itself enables you to travel to many parts of Europe without the need to have a visa. Already there is on big aspect you do not have to deal with as a black African. Second, the visa process according to where in Africa you are differ, and the treatment of some of the visa offices, don’t even get me started – don’t get me wrong i am not saying all of them are bad. By your looks and accent, the Europeans can tell you are American. However, take someone from Nigeria with a Nigerian accent, more prominent african features and see if they shall get the same treatment you did. I highly doubt. Maybe thinking of changing the title to why more Black American should travel to Europe, as it seems to focus on a Black American experience in Europe and aimed at Black Americans. It is a good read and i have encountered similar treatment as you, however not in Europe but in North America.

  • Tonya Russell

    Yes! In Korea, I received a million stares, and the Chinese tourists snapped a million photos of me. Nobody was rude or unfriendly, and after a while, the gawking didn’t even faze me. I am open to going ANYWHERE where I’ll be safe-which basically means if there’s no civil war or constant kidnapping of tourists, I’m there!

  • Chic Noir

    This made my night. I need to return to Paris.

  • Alistair Kefilwe

    Nice piece of writing there Gloria, but it sees more like this is directed towards African Americans, I know probably because you are an African American yourself…but now i ask a question, what about us Africans in Africa who love adventure and travelling and so eager to explore different cultures and countries

  • Go for it sister. I totally agree. That’s one of the reasons that I like going to Eastern Europe. One becomes quite the novelty and as a professional trainer, I’m not above “teaching” people how things ought to be done LOL!
    Having said that, I once had an enounter with some local women in Vietnam. I was travelling solo and it was all quite interesting as they were amazed at how dark my skin was (is). I took no offence and they all gathered around. In the end, I even whipped out my phone with photographs of hubby and son which they loved. I had hooked up with some Australians along the way and they kept looking around to see why all the women were running forward. They were grossly disappointed when these women were found to be running totowards me instead of (unsurprisingly in my eyes) them!

  • I’ve written posts that are very similar to this except they’re about traveling as an LGBT person. I love that you’re putting your experiences out there for other people to see and process. The best thing we can do is create teachable moments for those around us.

  • JustGoPlaces

    too funny! but at least you take with a dash of humour! I had kids in Warsaw follow me around 20 years ago (before it became popular to go there) beyond curious as to my skin colour. In Japan, I had kids touching my skin to see what it felt like. whatever – I can’t take it seriously as anything then what it was – curiosity about someone different.

  • Cassandra Le

    I love this article! I’m Asian American, and I’ve had a lot of different slurs thrown my way. Usually, I try to ignore these awkward stares, but sometimes it gets to be a bit much. I’m all about the idea that more people of color should travel through Europe! We’re here! We’re doing things, and we exist! High five!!

  • saaamohhh

    Yasss! I agree! As a black woman I had a great time in Europe, despite older white people telling me to be careful in Europe. People over there weren’t racist to, they’re curios and it lead to great experiences!

  • Just discovered your blog from one of the fb travel blog groups but digging your writing style! High five from another POC! I’ve written about encountering racism as an Asian American traveler on my blog, but your experiences seem to have been more positive than mine — I’ve been spat at, yelled at, ignored, and some old guy even purposefully jumped out and scared me at a Chinese New Year parade in Paris because he thought it’d be hilarious.

  • Darryion Osborne

    OMG this article just explained my life for the last eight months. I have been bouncing between Europe, Egypt, Turkey & now India backpacking and working. And I’ll never forget walking into a Burger King in Barcelona and seeing everything literally stop as I placed my food order or being in Belgium and a old man marching right up to me touched my hair and declared I was beautiful lol. The best thing is the camaraderie I feel when I spot another black person traveling (I’ve only seen 10 black ppl in the last eight months and I’ve been to over 15 different countries). So I whole heartedly agree with everything in this article.

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  • I found this article fascinating and highly enlightening. Thanks for the insight! I am writing an interview series about studying abroad as a minority and one of the pieces I am interviewing some of my friends on their experience as students of color abroad. It was so interesting to hear about their experiences and while I felt uncomfortable at times asking some of the questions, it is nothing compared to what they felt. Thanks for writing this!

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  • Shari Amour

    I’m going to be traveling to Greece alone as a single, black woman and I nervous. I’m going to volunteer my way thru seeing the world… Workaway, teaching English in Vietnam. But for now Greece is my first stop where I will volunteer my way thru Hostel work. Excited to see the world. Thanks for all your infromative blogs. I am so happy I stumbled across a woman like myself whom I can learn from. Happy Travels.

  • Nikolean

    I love this! I studied abroad for 6 months in Cordoba, Argentina during undergrad and everyone I met was intrigued by me. I got free drinks, free taxi rides and free inquisitions. For example, you’re parents are Cuban or Dominican right? I had to educate my host family on the institution of slavery and explain that (Vill) Will Smith was in fact African-American and not Cuban or Dominican either. People were kind and I didn’t much mind being a walking museum exhibit. It actually helped me to make friends! By the way, I found your blog from the #GLT group and LOVE It!

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  • Maja Underwood

    Great post, I completely agree!

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  • Jack Dawson

    Nice blog. This is a very good blog on Europe trip. I would like to thank you for all the information you give. Its really important to choose the best travel guide to know the different place in europe as a guide. So thenks for the information you give.

  • john williams

    Just a few weeks ago I was in Berlin on a 4hr walking tour and suddenly two Asian girls ran up to me to take a picture then ran away, It was a cute yet surreal experience, lol.

  • john williams

    Btw, I love your post and zest for life. You’ve inspired my travels Greatly 🙂

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  • Melissann

    First off, bless you for having such a positive attitude towards people being fascinated with you because you’re black. There are sooooo many black people who get aggressively offended because they misinterpret their fascination and wonder for racism. I also blame it on their inexperience with the matter.

    On a second note, your experience is interesting to me (I’m black African), I have been to cities where I counted not up to 5 black people… but I’ve never received such blatant fascination as yours. Many a time, they think I’m a latina. Upon telling them I’m indigenous African, some have asked “why is your skin not dark”. In Dubai with a friend of mine, he’s VERY dark skinned, a Chinese man and the people he was with asked for a photo….. they paid me no mind.

    So I realised, it’s not only that they haven’t seen black people…. they have a one dimensional idea of what we look like. It’s sad and funny. I’m glad the curious people I’ve crossed paths with – through me – they now know that black people are so diverse in looks, and that AFRICANS travel too haha! – especially us Nigerians.


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