Europe is one of the safest regions for backpackers in the world. Most countries have a strong rule of law, a helpful police force, and security cameras on every city block. If you’re from the US or Australia, it really doesn’t feel that much different or more dangerous than home, which makes it easy to become complacent when it comes to safety.
But having lived on the street in Europe for almost a year, I’ve seen some pretty disturbing situations, witnessed some sickening scams, and met some pretty dangerous drug dealers. That’s why, like any other place you go backpacking in, you’re going to want to take some precautions.
Below you’ll find a list of some obvious and some not so obvious tips to keep you and your belongings safe while backpacking Europe.
1) Don’t Buy Drugs From Drug Dealers
Drugs and travel don’t mix. It I don’t recommend buying drugs at all. But if you’re at a festival or just dead set on getting obliterated for a night of heinous debaucheries, simply don’t buy drugs from proper drug dealers. First, they’re going to rip you off. Second, whether it be coke, weed, or pills it’s going to be garbage. Therefore, if you’re going to indulge ask the dreadlocked hotel receptionist if he has a connect.
2) Don’t Catch Babies Or Buy iPhones On The Street
Italy is renowned for it’s luxurious super cars, fine wine But what most people don’t know is that Italy is also home to millions of Harry Houdinis. And by that I mean professional scam artists. One common scam, often committed by ‘Roma,’ is the catch my baby so my children can pickpocket you. Another popular scam is the, “I’ll sell you this iPhone 6 for 50 euro but then switch the bags while you’re getting your money out.”
3) Don’t Get Wasted Alone
There’s nothing worse than being totally drunk and lost in a random city at 4am. Not only it is aggravating when you slowly start to regain consciousness, but it’s also really dangerous. I’ve spent too many nights wandering the backstreets of random cities. I’ve broken my hand and slept in poo. It’s a miracle nothing worse has ever happened. So if you’re going out and getting drunk be sure to make some friends before the night gets too out of control.
4) Keep Your Bags Where You Can See Them
I once went to the bathroom on a train between Genoa and Rome. When I returned to my seat just a few minutes later, my bag had been stolen. No matter whether you’re on a train or on the side walk, if you take your bag off, be sure to keep it in sight at all times. Fortunately my travel insurance covered the cost of the bag and everything inside.
5) Don’t Flash Your Cash
This is fairly obvious but it can make the difference between being drugged and robbed or having an awesome night out. When you’re heading out to the bar, only bring the cash you need and leave the rest in the hostel locker. That way, when you go to pay for a drink, potential thieves will only catch a glance of your measly singles and not a fat stack. As the expression goes, “out of sight out of mind.”
Although Europe is relatively safe, you don’t want to become completely complacent regarding safety. So be sure to heed the former precautions. Every summer thousands of backpackers traverse the European continent in search of good times, adventure, and romance. And every summer there will always be those in search of backpacker prey. Although chances are it won’t happen to you, it’s, as the cliche goes, better to be safe than sitting on a foreign street intoxicated, naked, and broke. For more info on staying safe on the road, check out How To Avoid Being Robbed On The Road. Good luck and safe travels!