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European Safety - Tips for a safe trip to Europe

Is Europe safe? We have tips to minimize the hazards.


Over the roofs of Cefalù - Sicily
An Lumatic image/Moment/Getty Images

Safety Defined

Safety is "the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss." according to Merriam-Webster Online. We're going to apply this to street crimes in Europe and tell you how you can minimize their possibility.

Easy Stuff First: Violent Hurt or Injury

You are far less likely to be the victim of a violent crime in Europe than you are in the US. But even in the US, avoiding bar fights eliminates more than half the possibilities of violent crime being committed against you, or so I've heard from a lawyer who should know. I'm not telling you to avoid bars in Europe, because it's a great way to socialize. Just walk away from confrontations.

Statistics aside, there are reports of increasing violence in parts of Europe associated with large concentrations of tourists. As desperation increases with the world's economic woes, we can expect more of this.

We'll start with some common thievery things to watch out for and leave you with ways to minimize the hazards as you roam around Europe.

Personal Loss

Yes, there are many ways a thief can separate a tourist from his or her money--and Europe has a large share of excellent thieves and pickpockets. Whatever story you'll hear, you can bet that "I didn't feel a thing" is part of it.

Hazards to watch out for on the streets of Europe

  • Pickpockets - In major tourist destinations like Rome, Florence, and Barcelona you will likely see or hear about someone having their pockets picked or their purses picked or snatched. Women : abandon the whole idea of purses. Men : don't carry your wallet in your back pocket. All of you: carry your valuables (money, passport, credit cards) in a sturdy, below-the-belt security wallet like this one (buy direct). (Why below-the-belt? There has been a recent flurry of reports of under-the-shirt "security" pouches being razored off of tourists caught in crowds. Remember, it's not liable to be that clean of a surgical procedure if it happens to you. If you must wear a pouch above the belt, make sure it's hidden and doesn't bulge out with your pecs under that tight t-shirt you insist on wearing.)
  • Bugged by Vespas - The little scooters, whose exhaust pipes are lacerated by youths wanting them to sound even more annoying than they were designed to sound, can hold a team of snatchers. Watch out for them weaving through areas heavy with foot traffic--they can be eying that camera bag of yours. Clutch your bag tightly (you should never just let it hang) and be prepared to kick the bike away--if it's not going too fast. Don't forget to let go if they've managed to grab on. Whatever is in there isn't worth losing an arm over.
  • Cardboard Gypsies - If you see a group of unwashed kids coming toward you carrying a piece of cardboard with gibberish written on it you'd better batten down the hatches--the cardboard is to distract you while they pick you clean. It's ok to push them away.
  • Beware of women with over-swaddled babies in the heart of summer -If you're on a crowded subway next to an overdressed woman holding an equally overdressed toddler, it's likely that all that excess cloth is hiding her wandering hands. Don't be distracted by the cute, sweating kid. Move.

Click to page two to learn about how to develop "street smarts" to deal with petty crime on European streets.

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