Safety

Europe is one of the safest places to travel in the world. However, even Europe has to deal with natural disasters, civil unrest, terrorism, health risks and events that could pose safety risks. Wherever there are humans, there is always some crime like theft, kidnapping or hostage taking.

The primary crime committed on unsuspecting tourists are pick pockets, especially in high tourists areas or large crowded areas like train stations and on buses and subways. Many work in groups so while one does something to distract you, another is pick pocketing your tote, purse or pocket. Be aware of individuals walking up to you asking for directions, information or to sign petitions. If they continue to pester you, walk away and keep your hand over your purse, bag or pocket securely. Some may hand you a wrist band or other object then demand payment, hand it back and walk away, always saying no thank you.

Beggars and peddlers…As in the US there are the homeless and disadvantage that beg for money but, most are not as aggressive as in the US. They usually do not verbally ask for money but, will have a hat or cup out to collect money in. Many will work the crowds and congested areas where there are a lot of tourists and commuters. There are also street peddlers selling souvenirs and gifts however, this is illegal in many cities. You will notice their goods are on blankets so when the police are visible they can easily grab all there goods in the blankets and quickly depart the area. This allows them to set up shop in a different local away form police.

Be aware of your surroundings and where you are…While in the big cities it is nice to get away from the big tourists areas to get a feel for the cities neighborhoods and people. Know where you are going before you go and how you are getting there. Know which bus line or subway you are taking and have a map or smart device with you in case you get disoriented. Ask in your concierge, guide or tourists office, in advance, where some of the good neighborhoods are to visit and that they are safe.

Fly under the radar…Try not to make yourself a tourist target by sticking out of the crowd.  Acting or dressing like a typical tourists will only draw attention to yourself. Leave the white tennis shoes, the “Don’t Mess with Texas” t-shirt and Yankees baseball cap at home. In Europe you are a foreigner, so don’t stick out in the crowd.

When Shopping…When buying items, it is best to keep your money folded backwards with small bills on the outside and larger on the inside and bring out your cash only when actually handing it over. Also, separate larger sums from smaller ones and keep the former hidden on your person.

Be polite…Don’t make loud rude comments about their customs and say “that’s not the way we do it”. Remember, you’re in their country and you should be there on their terms so think before you express an opinion about something. What seems odd to us, to them is perfectly normal. Sounds reasonable right? Do not argue over misunderstandings due to poor translating of the languages. Unfortunately, we see it happen on every trip, loud obnoxious people embarrassing themselves.

Public protests and events…Almost all European countries are open Democratic societies that allow freedom of the press and civil protest. In large cities you may experience public demonstrations. Do not get involve and participate in any demonstrations. Ask a police officer if there is way you can travel around the demonstration to avoid it. If you see any unlawful activity take place, leave the area immediately so you do not become confused with the perpetrators.

If you’re on your best behavior you shouldn’t you run into any legal problems but, if something does happen, contact the nearest US Embassy listed on our emergency page.

Most Europeans like Americans and will welcome you warmly but, there are always some who hate Americans, for the right or wrong reasons. Your good behavior and awareness will keep you safe.

Travel Advisory Levels…

Below are guidelines provided by the US Department of State for each country. Click on links for more detailed information on Crime, Demonstrations and Protests, Domestic Violence, Political Unrest, Scams, Strikes, Terrorism and Tourism.

The U.S. Department of State issues an overall Travel Advisory level for a country, but levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country. For instance, they may advise U.S. citizens to “Exercise increased caution” (Level 2) in a country, but to “Reconsider travel” (Level 3) to a particular area within the country.

Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions

This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.      

Level 2 – Exercise Increased Precaution

Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.  

Level 3 – Reconsider Travel

Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time. 

Level 4 – Do Not Travel

This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time. 

Ranking the Safest Countries in World…

The Legatum Institute in London surveys countries and ranks them in several categories of importance with safety & security being one. Below are the world rankings on European nations. With Switzerland being rank the safest country in the world, most European nations rank high, The United States ranked 58th and South Sudan rank 169th and last in safety.

🇨🇭Switzerland #1

🇳🇴 Norway #2

🇱🇺 Luxembourg #3

🇩🇰 Denmark #5

🇮🇸 Iceland #6

🇦🇹 Austria #9

🇸🇪 Sweden #11

🇳🇱 Netherlands #12

🇮🇪 Ireland #14

🇬🇧 United Kingdom #16

🇫🇮 Finland #17

🇲🇹 Malta #19

🇨🇿 Czechia #20

🇩🇪 Germany #21

🇵🇱 Poland #22

🇸🇮 Slovenia #23

🇮🇹 Italy #24

🇵🇹 Portugal #25

🇸🇰 Slovakia #27

🇱🇹 Lithuania #28

🇧🇪 Belgium #29

🇫🇷 France #30

🇭🇷 Croatia #31

🇪🇸 Spain #32

🇪🇪 Estonia #33

🇱🇻 Latvia #34

🇭🇺 Hungary #39

🇷🇴 Romania #40

🇬🇷 Greece #42

🇨🇾 Cyprus #43

🇷🇸 Serbia #44

🇲🇪 Montenegro #46

🇧🇦 Bosnia Herzegovina #51

🇧🇬 Bulgaria #61

🇦🇱 Albania #62

🇲🇰 North Macedonia #70

🇧🇾 Belarus #76

🇲🇩 Moldova #84

🇷🇺 Russia #139

🇺🇦 Ukraine #145

🇹🇷 Turkey #149

The countries of Andorra, Holy See (Vatican), Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Monaco & San Marino were not included in the survey.

Areas to Avoid..

When checking into your hotel ask the concierge or staff what if any areas of the city to avoid. Large cities in Europe do have areas where of crime and juvenile delinquency is present.  Some countries have areas of inherit racism as well as organized crime and corruption. 

Belarus…US relations with Belarus have been strained since 2008 when the US Ambassador was expelled leaving only a staff of 5 at the US embassy. There is little protection under the law for US travelers.

Russia…areas in the North Caucasus region are the most dangerous for travel. Russia overall is not welcoming to LGBT travelers.

Ukraine…Avoid traveling to the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Russian separatist have taken control of these areas with the presence of Russian backed troops. Over the last several years, serious fighting has occured between them and the Ukrainian army. Use cash in most instances when making purchases. Use only bank ATM’s to withdraw cash. 

Americans need to avoid travel, especially leisure tourism, to theses areas.