Friday, July 24, 2009

Black travel experiences in Europe

Photo and copyright: Lola Akinmade
How do black people experience travelling in Europe? Do they feel stared at, feel welcome, or is it a bit of both. And in which Western European countries do they feel most comfortable?

To find out I sampled the experiences (2008 and 2009) from Rick Steves’s Minority Travelers Forum. Most experiences are from African-Americans who visited Europe.

I could have asked photographer and travel writer Lola Akinmade about her travel experience, but on her blog are all the answers. In pictures and in stories. See Lola's blog Geotraveler's Niche. So I stayed on Steves's forum.

To get a big picture of all the experiences I placed the reactions in the categories negative, neutral and positive. Negative means when someone felt being treated negatively. Neutral means, no problems. Positive speaks for itself.

Click on the image to enlarge

1. In England or the UK – Most travellers had a great time. No stares, hardly any discrimination. With 2 negative and 9 positive reactions the absolute winner.

2. Germany – Second best with 1 negative reaction, 1 neutral and 3 positive reactions.

3. The Netherlands – One traveller felt very race conscious in the Netherlands. With 2 negative reactions, 1 neutral and 3 positive reactions third place.

4. France - Very mixed responses. Most black travellers liked it, but the French language barrier remained. Most Americans had neutral feelings about France, but over all they weren’t negative. With 2 negative reactions, 7 neutral and 4 positive reactions fourth place.

5. Italy – Here things started to get dramatically negative. Some loved Italy, others were less positive. Some reported being stared at. To put it in perspective, 4negative reactions, 2 neutral and 3 positive. Fifth place

6. Spain – This country is considered the worst Western European travel destination by most African-Americans on the forum. Most travellers see Spain as a very racist country. However one traveller was aware of racial climate in Spain, but still went. He had a great time in Spain. With 6 negative reactions, 2 neutral and 3 positive reactions it’s a country that leaves a lot of black travellers with some bad memories, but with good ones as well.

Countries as Belgium, Zweden, Austria, Creece and Ireland I didn't include because there were just one or two reactions.

Of course you can’t get a good impression if you have nine responses or less of each country. And it also depends where travellers had their experiences: big city or country side.


Lola Akinmade is using her blackness to experience traveling to the max. In an interview she explained why she loves traveling as a minority. "Being able to seamlessly move because people automatically assume I’m a local impoverished immigrant allows me to observe and immerse without sticking out like a sore thumb in some places. I get to experience the true attitudes of locals towards others very different from them – both great and bad.

I have experienced everything from utmost rejection to gawks of fascination that a lot of bright-eyed backpackers could never endure. It is at the low times I question the purpose of travel and then Mark Twain’s quote always comes to mind….“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."…… Mark Twain."
Read the whole interview here


  1. A good comprehensive review of the people's experience to Europe.

  2. Zweden, Creece, Wat? :S

  3. If a vacation is in your near future, the first step is to find a great travel guide. I have always found to be the most informative, great articles and even better imagery.

  4. Interesting post! Someone should do a bigger survey! But I find interesting because I heard a lot from people about Spain..and Iived there and experienced myself..but I tried telling Spanish people about it...and they said they never heard it from an American....but I was like..well I'm not any American...I'm an African what people tell me about Spain before I different from my White American counterparts... It's not all bad...but it's definitely not all golosinas (like gummi candies), sangria and paella! lol

  5. Great review! I think you can only find the answer if you do it both, and you can based your experience to their experience. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    Travel Visa

  6. I've been in Seville in Spain for 2 months and I love it here. I have noticed one or 2 stares when I wear my Afro loose, but very rarely. (I'm sharing my experiences on IG [at]crissidares). Last night at the reggae club in Seville I got told I look like rhianna and Serena Williams - I dont and it's purely because I'm black, but I didnt take huge offence.
    Crissidares xx

  7. I've been living in Almeria for a while and have faced a lot of stares. I wrote about it here.


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