Safety is an essential factor in deciding where and when you want to travel. Considering recent media coverage of terrorist attacks and riots throughout Europe, many travelers are concerned about whether or not going to Europe is still safe.
Is it safe to travel to Europe? Overall, Europe is a safe place to be, but you should still take safety precautions to ensure your personal health and safety as you would for any other new, unknown destination you visit.
If you’re concerned about your safety while traveling to Europe, one of the things you can do that can give you peace of mind is researching European countries. Start by recognizing which countries are the safest to visit. From there, plan your trip and the precautions you should take while visiting. The following information provides a helpful starting point for your research!
Safest Countries to Visit in Europe
If you plan on traveling alone, with young children, or are just concerned about your overall safety on a European trip, consider visiting one of Europe’s safest countries according to World Population Review.
The following countries have a trend of exhibiting lower crime rates and political instability, fewer violent conflicts, less money spent on military expenditures, and more trust in their nation and government compared to not only countries throughout Europe but also the world:
How to Stay Safe While You’re Traveling
However, going to a country considered “safe” doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will be 100% safe while you’re there. For that reason, it’s still important to take the following precautions while you’re traveling, no matter where your destination is.
Pay Attention to Local News
National instability is a common concern for foreign travelers, especially in the case of large scale protests and acts of terrorism. However, by staying knowledgeable and up-to-date with local news, you can easily avoid areas of social, economic, or political unrest.
Protests & Strikes
Local news will inform you of any planned protests or strikes in the area. Having this information is useful so, you at least know what areas of town to avoid; the last thing you will want is to be around if a protest or strike escalates or becomes violent.
In instances of terrorism within a nation, many State Departments issue travel advisories for those wanting to travel to those destinations.
The United States, in particular, has two types of travel advisories: the Travel Alert and the Travel Warning.
- Travel Alerts are usually issued in response to a specific event or other temporary conditions, such as a severe storm, disease outbreak, planned protest, election periods, or significant sporting events. The Alert is meant to inform travelers of conditions that may affect their stay within a country.
- The Travel Warning, on the other hand, is much more serious and is usually only issued whenever officials have declared that a country is so unstable to the point that traveling there may be dangerous. This is more often the case in situations where a nation is experiencing civil war or a significant increase in crime.
Keep an eye out for these advisories starting from before you plan your trip, and continue monitoring them throughout your stay. This way, you know when it is officially safe to travel to a country (or if you need to avoid going completely), and if you need to plan an early, emergency departure.
Essentially, you want to make sure you don’t scream “I’m a tourist!” through what you wear and your actions to avoid sticking out as a potential target for thieves and criminals.
Adapt Your Wardrobe
Try to wear clothing that matches what the locals typically wear. Avoid clothing with your home country’s flag or political statements.
Embrace the Culture
It also helps if you learn a little bit of the primary language of the country you’re visiting. Knowing at least a few simple phrases (such as questions you may need answers for) and polite words (such as “Please” and “Thank you”) will be enough to help you communicate effectively with fluent speakers. While you’re at it, learn some of the country’s social customs as well to ensure you don’t stick out like a sore thumb!
Ask for IDs
If you’re approached by a stranger in uniform that isn’t recognizable, there’s nothing wrong in asking to see their identification. This way, you’ll be more at ease about their intentions and whether or not they’re someone who can be trusted.
With that said, never show your own ID or passport to anyone on the street. If someone claiming to be a police officer requests it and shows a badge, simply offer to accompany them to a nearby police station instead before giving out your personal information.
Be Mindful of Where You Keep Valuables
Avoid taking important valuables with you when you leave your hotel room; the last thing you want is your bag or backpack to become lost or stolen with your phone or passport inside!
If the hotel you’re staying at has security deposit boxes or lockers you can rent, keep your passport there; that will be the safest place for it during your travels. Alternatively, if your room comes with a room safe, be sure to use it! Don’t leave it in the hotel room out in the open where it can be vulnerable to disgruntled hotel workers or even fellow travelers.
Read more about keeping your documents safe here: Best Family Wallets
You will most likely need to carry your money with you when you’re leaving the hotel to visit a destination in mind. Make sure you keep your money in a pocket or wallet stored in either a small cross-body bag or backpack; having your bag practically strapped to you makes it more difficult for thieves to snatch and run away quickly. Also, invest in a small travel lock to keep your backpack or bag’s zippers closed.
Make sure you keep your phone within your reach and in a secure pocket in your bag, similarly to where you plan on storing your money.
If you plan on only carrying your phone and wallet with you, avoid keeping them in your back pockets; instead, keep them in a front pocket, or store them in a sturdy, small pouch that can be kept around your neck and under your shirt, hidden from view.
If your camera comes with a neck strap, wear it in front of you and under your shirt; only remove it if you’re actively using it.
Be Familiar with Local Transportation
If you don’t plan on renting a vehicle while you’re traveling, make sure you become familiar with the types of local transportation that are available.
Make sure that the taxi that stops for you is driving a marked, legal taxi before getting inside. If you can, try to see if they have a meter near their dashboard that is turned on.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
One of the best ways you can ensure your safety is by simply being aware of your surroundings, especially in highly crowded areas. Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, or you feel uncomfortable, get yourself away from the situation.
Pickpocketing is among one of the most popular crimes committed against travelers. However, you can prevent becoming a victim to pickpocketing by doing the following:
Avoid Giving Money to Beggars
Although it may be tempting to help out a person in need, avoid giving money to beggars. Doing so will mark the location of where you’re keeping your money and wallet to observers, which can lead to later pickpocketing if you’re not careful.
Be Aware of Cardboard-Carrying Kids
A common trap set for travelers and foreigners is sending a group of kids to approach you with a piece of cardboard with writing on it. The cardboard is meant to distract you as they pick your pockets. If you see any sign of this, simply walk away.
Don’t give thieves a reason to steal from you. Avoid showing off any luxury or valuable items you have on hand, such as tablets or a roll of cash. Doing so only invites pickpocketing.
Avoid Walking Alone at Night
If you’re traveling alone, this is an absolute must. Just like you would avoid walking home alone at night, don’t try to walk back to where you’re staying alone at night, either. Doing so makes you an easy target for those with bad intentions.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Of course, you’re free to enjoy yourself with a few drinks while you’re traveling, but be sure to know your limits and reduce your consumption while you’re in unfamiliar territory. The last thing you want is a stranger to take advantage of you and your traveling group while you’re inebriated.
Be Ready in Case of Emergency
Although they don’t always happen, emergencies can happen, so it’s important to be prepared regardless!
Keep a Copy of Your Passport, ID, & Credit Cards
Before your trip, make sure you get a photocopy of your passport and ID, in addition to credit or debit cards you plan on carrying with you. In the event that any of these valuables are stolen or lost, you’ll be better prepared when trying to get replacements for these items from official sources.
Travel with Multiple Forms of Payment
You should travel with at least two credit or debit cards (having one of each is ideal). Also, be sure to bring cash with you (no more than $100-200).
There are select places in Europe where they may not accept cash, credit, or debit, so it is good to have alternative forms of payment.
Stash Extra Cash
If you have leftover or extra cash, keep it in a safe place alongside your passport in a locked safe or security box at your hotel. If you end up losing your credit or debit cards and cash you bring along with you on an outing, you’ll at least have some emergency funds waiting for you back at the hotel to help you get by for the time being.
Prepare Emergency Contact Information
Write down the names and contact information of your emergency contacts, and keep a copy on your person while out as well as your hotel room. If you experience any serious health issues during your trip, medical professionals will be able to contact the right people to inform them of your condition.
Final Tips to Stay Safe While Traveling
The following tips are other things you should keep in mind before and during your travels in Europe:
- Leave other valuables you don’t need at home. This includes jewelry and electronic devices, such as laptops and tablets.
- Spread any valuables on you around your body or in different bags. For example, keep your cash in your front pocket and your credit and debit cards in a zipped and locked bag; if the bag with your cards becomes lost or stolen, you’ll at least still have cash on you.
- When using an ATM, make sure you cover the keypad as you enter your PIN to avoid anyone behind you from seeing it. If the ATM ends up eating your card, call your bank right away to have them cancel the card or block it from future transactions, just in case a passerby manages to remove it while you’re not around.
- Invest in travel insurance. Things happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some travel insurance plans cover emergency flights from your destination, while others cover the medical costs of any illnesses or conditions you may develop while there. Some policies cover the theft of valuables and other items. There are quite a few travel insurance policies that cover all of the above!
- If you live in the U.S., look into the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By enrolling, you can receive regular alerts from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in times of trouble in the country you’re visiting. The program also allows family members to contact you during your trip in case of emergencies there and back home.
- If you don’t have a travel lock to close up your backpack, wear in front of you, within view, as opposed to your back. This way, you can keep an eye on your belongings and will be able to better detect if someone is trying to pickpocket you in crowded areas.
- Like back home, do not accept food or drink from a stranger.
- If you’re traveling within the country via train, make sure that you lock the door of your compartment if you have one. If you’re bringing luggage on the train, lock your bag to the luggage rack with a sturdy combination cable, if possible.
- Be wary of strangers who ask to help you carry your luggage. Try to carry your own things if you can, or travel light to begin with to avoid any issues.
Although Europe can certainly be a safe place to travel for work or a vacation, the best way you can ensure your safety and security is through your own precautions. Follow the above tips, and you’ll have a peaceful stay during your trip to Europe!