August 4th, 2015

Heading to Europe? Read These 3 Key Safety Tips First

Don’t let safety issues ruin your European vacation. Here’s what you need to know to ensure your trip is safe and memorable. 

There’s nothing quite like a European vacation: The variety of cultures, landscapes, and people you encounter almost guarantees you’ll have the trip of a lifetime—as long as you’re prepared. And a big part of that preparation is being able to feel safe and secure wherever you may be. So before you head abroad, educate yourself on any potential safety concerns in your specific destination. In January 2015, the U.S. Passports and International Travel department in the U.S. Department of State released a worldwide caution announcement that listed Europe as an area of concern for threats and attacks against American tourists. Though it sounds scary, Europe is primarily safe when it comes to violent crime; petty theft is a more common infraction. Fortunately, it’s also one you can work to avoid. Thousands of tourists have great experiences every day with their travels through Europe, and some basic preparation will help you do the same. Here are some of our top tips — and great gear — for protecting yourself while across the pond.

1. Carry The Right Gear.

Wear a money belt or neck wallet to actively protect your credit cards, cash, and identification when you’re out and about. A money belt that tucks into your waistband will make it so your credit cards and ID are out of the sight of peeping thieves, while a neck wallet will keep your important possessions within your own sight so no sticky fingers can sneak past your line of vision. For any valuables that may not fit in a slim belt or wallet, bring a day bag that has a lockable zipper on a compartment to keep everything as secure as possible (Aside from preventing theft, it’ll also help prevent things falling out of your bag when you’re not paying attention). When you’re in crowded areas, maintain a sense of awareness of your surroundings, and stay alert anytime there is commotion nearby — thieves often create a disturbance to distract you just long enough for them to swipe your stuff.

2. Prepare Yourself For Theft.

Though the protective measures you take will hopefully keep you safe, it can’t hurt to prepare for the worst just in case — it’ll save you a lot of headache if you do have to bounce back from a robbery. Make copies of all the important documents you will be traveling with — passport, ID, insurance, vouchers, addresses, transportation tickets — and keep them separate from the originals while abroad so you’ll have backups and proof if needed. In general, it’s a good idea to leave your most valuable items at home, but if you do bring anything expensive (like jewelry or electronics) with you, take clear pictures of it all before the trip so you’ll have proof of value in the event you’ll need to make insurance claims later.

3. Be Strategic.  

When you’re in crowded areas, maintain a sense of awareness of your surroundings, and stay alert anytime there is commotion nearby — thieves often create a disturbance to distract you just long enough for them to swipe your stuff. And put that gear you brought to its best use: Wear your waistpack or backpack in front of you in extra busy areas so you’re fully aware of your belongings, and always have the zippers aligned to the top of the bag, where it’s obvious to others if someone is trying to reach in. Whenever you’re seated, loop the straps of your bag around chairs, arm rests, or—most effectively—your legs, making it harder for people to swoop by and run off with your things.

You don't have to be paranoid while traveling, but it's important to be aware and be prepared while in Europe. And with the right gear and sensibilities, you can relax and have the trip of a lifetime. Do you have any other tips for travel safety? Share them in the comments!

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