Personal safety tips
Europe is the most beautiful continent where you can experience an exciting mix of scenic beauty, wonderful locales, culture and rich heritage. Many thousands of people travel to Europe each and every year for vacations and on business trips. While planning your trip to Europe, general safety precautions should be taken by every smart traveller. A little preparation before your trip can help you avoid some problems, give you peace of mind throughout your travels, and make sure you’re prepared if you do encounter problems. Do some research online at US Department of State, USEmbassy.gov and The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) about the places you are planning to visit in Europe.
First, know what your insurance covers. Does your health care plan cover you abroad? If you rent a car, does your credit card offer coverage in case of an accident? Does your credit card offer any kind of coverage in case of travel delays? Talk to your customer service representatives so that you know exactly what kind of protection you have and then consider travel insurance. While it may end up being an unnecessary expense, in the rare case of a lost or stolen passport or other major travel delay it can be a life saver. The decision to purchase travel insurance is an individual one based on your personal level of comfort and the value you place on reassurance and peace of mind. You can however make the decision wisely by knowing what your health plan and credit cards already cover so that you know exactly what additional benefits you gain by purchasing travel insurance. Then you may accurately compare the value and the costs and determine if it is the right decision for you.
Second, take a moment to prepare yourself for the worst. Look up the numbers for the police and hospitals in each place you plan to visit and learn the number to dial for immediate emergency assistance. You should also take a moment to find the address and phone number of your nearest embassy or consulate as well as their hours. On the “contact” page of their websites you’ll find both email addresses and phone numbers for citizen services as well as an emergency number for after hours. Make sure you have these numbers with you at all times.
Third, prepare a detailed route that includes all of your flight information, the addresses and phone numbers of your accommodations, and any other travel arrangements (rental cars, trains, buses, etc) and the dates for each. Include in that tour dairy the entire emergency and embassy numbers so that you’ll always have access to those phone numbers should something come up that alters your plans.
Fourth, make sure a close friend or family member has a copy of this itinerary including all of the phone numbers. Know whether you’ll have internet or phone access at your accommodations and establish check-in dates with your friends and family.
Fifth, make copies of all of your documents, boarding passes, tickets, itinerary, and passports and keep the originals and the copies in different locations. It is generally best to keep one set with you, in case your luggage is lost or stolen, and one set in your luggage in case you are pick-pocketed. The chances of both happening on the same trip are slim to none, so this should cover all of your bases. Most countries require you to carry some form of legal ID on you at all times and most countries will only accept a passport so you will need to keep the original on your person.
Sixth, Items like mobile phones or cameras are likely targets for thieves, but money and credit cards are typically what a crook wants. Keep all your important documents, like passports, rail passes, and airline tickets in a waist pack or in a stylish money belt. Money belts or neck pouches are much safer than traditional fanny packs because they are worn closer to your body, making it less likely for someone to steal them. Carry your credit cards and money in the belt as well, but remember to keep some money and copies of your documents in a separate place too.
Finally, familiarise yourself with your destination and take any necessary precautions. Some cultures may find particular hand gestures offensive while others require a certain kind of dress. If travelling to Europe, this may not be necessary, but any large city is going to have its share of crime and tourists are easy targets. Take a moment to read any safety tips on the cities you are travelling to on travel websites, books, and especially the city’s own tourism website. For some cities, main bus or subway routes or major tourist attractions also attract pickpockets and knowing a few trips or tricks to avoid them can save you a lot of hassle.
The number one recommendation of most cities is to avoid looking like a tourist. Dress like a local and avoid pulling out the huge tourist map or guidebook on crowded buses or subways. Belt packs and backpacks announce you as a tourist and backpacks are particularly easy targets as a skilled pickpocket can slit the bottom of the bag and remove items without you ever realising it. They are also quite skilled at slitting pants pockets as well so NEVER keep your wallet or any other documents in your back pants pocket. The safest places are an inside jacket pocket and then your front pants pocket. It’s also a good idea to keep some extra cash inside of your clothes as a back-up.
By making these few simple preparations and taking a few simple precautions, you will hopefully prevent most difficulties and you will put yourself in a well prepared position should something more serious happen. At the very least, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you have prepared for the worst so now you are free to enjoy all of the best your travels have to offer.