You want to have as much of a worry-free experience while exploring Europe as you can. Culture awareness and respect for local customs is a great start. However, safe travel begins at home first — by doing your research. Study up on your chosen destination before you go. Learn about local laws, customs, weather trends, how they handle emergencies, and much more.
To help you get started, here are 5 tips to travel safely in Europe:
1. Know the safest places to travel in Europe
When it comes to choosing a destination where safety is high on the list, knowing how areas are actually ranked is a helpful place to start. According to our research, the following travel destinations are considered the safer of the European areas, and are based on the last few years of reporting. Factors include quality of life, reported scams, theft and crime rate, and how they rank on the Global Peace Index:
- Reykjavík, Iceland (the most peaceful country in the world.)
- Basel, Switzerland
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland
- Scandinavia — Denmark, Norway, Sweden
- Vienna, Austria
- Porto, Coimbra, and Lisbon, Portugal
- Zagreb and Split, Croatia
- Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Brasov, Romania
- Warsaw, Poland
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Malaga, Spain
- Corfu, Greece
- Dublin, Ireland
2. Stay informed — enroll in STEP
Give yourself peace of mind by knowing what areas are under travel alerts and advisories as dictated by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
- Start by knowing the difference between a travel alert and a travel advisory.
- Before you travel, be sure to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to stay updated with information about safety conditions and travel advisories or alerts for your chosen destination. The program also assists the U.S. embassy in contacting you if there is an emergency back home.
- Know how to contact the American Embassy where you are traveling. In a major event, they work to try and identify people who may need assistance. Find out the 9-1-1 American equivalent for your destination and put it in your phone.
3. Travel smart — follow European travel safety practices
Once you’ve chosen a destination, be aware of safety practices while traveling in Europe. Keep these things in mind during the planning stages and while traveling.
- Be vigilant when in public places and using mass transit. Scan your surroundings and always know where an exit is located. If approached by a stranger, always ask for an ID.
- Don’t assume keeping your wallet in your front pocket is safe. Pickpockets have gotten very good at snatching wallets and purses on foot, on scooters, and even as a group of kids holding a cardboard sign (designed to distract you while they get away with your belongings).
- Have a plan for how to handle money safely, how you’ll divide it up, and plan for a bit of wiggle room in your budget in case you need to change plans if something doesn’t feel right. See our tips on how to hide cash while traveling and tips for using credit cards, debit cards and ATMs in Europe.
- Share your itinerary with trusted family or friends, and have a way to check in with them during your trip. Provide them the U.S. Embassy information in case of an emergency.
- Make back-up digital copies of all your vital ID information and print out reservations, rentals, tickets and other documentation. Don’t count on your cell phone to always be reliable.
- Always keep your essentials on you, especially identification and cell phone. Upgrade to an international phone plan in case of emergencies.
- Avoid acting like a loud tourist, it’s not only annoying to the locals, but also makes you an obvious target. Stay low key and aware of your surroundings. Avoid large cameras and fanny packs that cause you to stand out.
- Avoid accepting offers from random people on the street. Scam artists and pickpockets look for tourists that seem unprepared, unaware, and generally distracted by everything around them. See Rick Steve’s Europe for more tips on how to recognize possible theft and scams.
4. Consider safety in numbers — European tours
Travel groups and tours are a great way to meet new people and leave the details to someone else.
There are many tour companies out there, so do your research to find a good fit. Research the costs and group size, choose a tour geared toward your stage of life and activity level (and balanced schedule), and check the company’s safety and reputation (shoot for 4-5 star reviews).
A few suggestions to get your research started:
- Adventures Abroad tours to Western Europe, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe.
- YMT European Vacations and Tour Packages
- Rick Steves' Europe Tours
- Best ranked European tour companies by Retirement Living
- Globus Journeys escorted tours, river cruising, and vacation packages
5. Purchase travel insurance
Unfortunately, no travel is guaranteed to be risk-free. The advantages of travel insurance when traveling abroad are many. Plan for the unexpected and protect your financial investment by purchasing travel insurance. Our Travel Select and Travel Basic plans offer a wide variety of coverage according to your specific needs. Compare your options and get a quote with us. We are here to help put your mind at ease.
Now that you’re armed with some know-how, let the research and planning begin. We wish you the very best of memories as you dream and explore. Travel on, friends.