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Traveling in Europe as a 17 year old

I am 17 years old and am planning a solo trip to England, Germany, and Switzerland. Does anyone know of any legal issues I may run into traveling as a minor, and what I can do to prevent them? I am visiting friends in each location and will be staying in the homes of adults. My concerns are mostly about crossing borders. I am a U.S. citizen.

Posted by
2214 posts

Well, I wouldn't talk to the forum. I would communicate with the consular staff of GB, Germany, and Switzerland. Will you have a responsible adult in these countries that can be responsible for you? Things as a child (under 18) and as an adult are different.

Posted by
1136 posts

About 10 or 12 years ago my good friend’s 17 year old daughter was refused admittance to Ireland even though she had notarized permission from her parents to travel. They flew her 21 year old brother to Ireland to travel with her so that she could. For the last 2 weeks her mother joined her.
You might need some kind of official documents from your adult friends that they are sponsoring you and will be responsible for you.
Do not assume anything. I would find out everything you need from the respective consulates.
Good luck.

Posted by
16479 posts

Thus airlines are very picky these days about who they allow to board an international flight.

Posted by
27485 posts

congratulations on putting your trip together.

You may find that some of your airlines have a webpage on "Unaccompanied Minors". Because you can't make legal commitments yet they have special rules. Check there, call them if you can't find it, and check with the governments as mentioned above.

There will also be covid issues at each border and responsibilities that you must comply with. Some may not allow an unaccompanied minor to do so, some may.

Are you vaccinated?

Posted by
1117 posts

you need to contact the Embassy/Consulate of each country you plan to
visit

... and the airlines you plan to travel with. Some airlines have special requirements, for instance special forms you need to use.

This might be a useful website for you to read. Keep in mind though that neither England nor Switzerland are part of the EU, so you may have an entirely separate set of rules there.

Altogether, postponing this trip by a year would probably save you a lot of hassle...

Posted by
3664 posts

There is an alternative: Wait one year. Not what you want to hear. But however restless it makes you, that pause in your plans would eliminate the "adult age" concerns. Plus, Europeans will accept 18-year-olds as a full adult more willingly than back home. You also might save up more cash, which never hurts when on tour. I do applaud your eagerness to be independent and hope you keep at it.

Posted by
381 posts

Don't delay the trip! Just find out what you need to know, be vaccinated and go have your adventure.

I hitchhiked throughout Europe with another girl for six weeks when I was 18. We had a blast meeting people and having memorable experiences. Aside from some cousins in England whom I'd never before met, we stayed in cheap hotels with no advance reservations.

In my opinion, it's sad that many adults today are so negative about young people having adventures on their own.

Posted by
6540 posts

Big difference between 17 and 18. Its not being negative, its being legal. Countries are leery about letting in unaccompanied children because there is an issue with minors being sex-trafficked, used by drug smugglers, recruited by terrorist groups, or not being financially responsible and becoming an undocumented worker. All legitimate concerns.

Posted by
1770 posts

hey hey
thanks stan for your reply. totally agree with all you have said. mayh3 is NOT legal here or there. if that’s what you call negative then so be it.
how long ago where you 18 and free as a bird to wander around europe?
things in the world have changed a bit, and most places will not rent or book to an underage child. as others have mentioned wait till you are 18.
aloha

Posted by
381 posts

I looked this up online, and various authorities say that it's fine to travel in Europe as a 17-year-old as long as your airline and the specific countries you are traveling to allow this. There are no blanket legal rules against this in the EU - or in the US for that matter.

Posted by
1117 posts

various authorities say

So which authorities would that be?

as long as your airline and the specific countries you are traveling
to allow this.

Yeah. That's the point. Those are the authorities.

There are no blanket legal rules against this in the EU

No one said so. But there will certainly be a lot of rules to follow to be able to do it.

And again, two out of the OP's three countries aren't EU. So it all comes down to having to do a ton of research.

But I have been wondering too if the OP is still around...

Posted by
6540 posts

Yes, no blanket rules. But the immigration officers have a lot of leeway deciding who gets in, and who doesn't. And they get to profile people.

Posted by
1507 posts

Umm, my 17 year old would be staying home. The world certainly has changed and I agree with Stan.
Have a responsible adult travel with you or wait a year.

Posted by
1117 posts

Well, personal safety is another totally separate issue, and that would depend on how this trip is planned and how responsibly those adults she is staying with are taking care of her.

My cousin placed her fourteen-year-old son in a plane to Canada where her sister picked him up from the airport. Of course she got all that "unaccompanied minor traveling" legal stuff figured out for him, but that definitely was the safest trip that boy ever took. Unless he fell out of the plane, there was no way for him to get lost. That certainly was not the "adventure" type of trip Marcia described. :-)

Having said that, I certainly wouldn't recommend hitchhiking through Europe for any 17-year-old, neither back then nor now.

Posted by
27485 posts

then again you can look at Greta Thunberg and see what she can do, originally as a 15 year old... addressing COP 24 in 2018.

Posted by
16479 posts

Of course Ms Thunberg travels mostly by train, as she sees air travel as part of the problem she is concerned with. When she came to North America for a conference, she traveled by private sailboat. And she did travel with her father on a lot of trips.

Since airlines have been made the responsible for enforcing immigration problems, getting past the gate is the problem. If they think there is any issue with you being allowed into the country, they won't let you on the plane. If denied entry, they have to fly you back and they hate, hate, hate having to provide free transatlantic tickets. Not to say anything of fines.

Posted by
3 posts

Yes, I'm still here, just reading responses as they come in and doing my own research.

The general consensus from government websites is that unaccompanied 17-year-olds can enter the U.K., Germany, and Switzerland with a notarized letter of consent signed by the parents. This should include the planned itinerary and contact information of the adults the minor is staying with.

I don't yet know what airline I will be flying and will be doing thorough research into their unaccompanied minor policy before I book anything. I plan to travel through Europe by train.

My next step is to research covid testing and confirm that I can get tested while traveling without a parent being involved. I am vaccinated.

For everyone suggesting I wait until I turn 18: I agree, this would be ideal. However, the people I am visiting are living in Europe short-term and I won't be able to stay with them a year from now. This is a now-or-never trip.

Thank you all for your responses, you have been helpful!

Posted by
1117 posts

Hello mayh3, good to hear you're still around!

just reading responses as they come in and doing my own research

I am afraid that that's basically what all responses come down to: There's no way around actively doing your own thorough research for this. If border officials or airline staff are not satisfied with the documents you provide, I am afraid they won't even take "the embassy didn't tell me" as an excuse. :-(

Posted by
1277 posts

OP, good luck, I understand the "my friends are only there short term" complications

I, too, backpacked three countries at 23. That was a LONG time ago

About 4 years ago I flew to Mexico to connect with my neice who was finishing a semester abroad. Her roommate had been sick with high fever the last 4 days they were there, she told me how "grateful " she was to have an "adult " to fly home with, my neice rolled her eyes and reminded her that at 21 they were both legally adults..... I'm just saying it's also a matter of perspective.