Europe is one of the best possible destinations for a backpacker. There are endless things to explore no matter where you go, and the region’s train networks make getting around very easy. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, culture, art, music, sports, or just pastoral rural beauty, you won’t have to go far to get your fix in Europe. To fully enjoy the experience, though, you want to stay safe. Here’s how to do that.
Be prepared for theft
Of course not everyone who backpacks in Europe will be robbed. But if you are, you’ll be really glad you prepared ahead of time. You want to have copies of every important item, just in case, and keep the copies separate from the originals. You should keep copies of the following:
Addresses and phone numbers
Hostel reservation details
Other forms of ID
If you have a copy of your passport ready to go, getting a new one at the nearest consulate or embassy isn’t too difficult. Without a copy, it can cost you a lot of extra time and trouble.
It should go without saying that you need a money belt to keep your most important items where thieves can’t easily reach them. If you ever carry valuables in a day pack, be sure to keep them in an inner pocket that securely closes. To minimize your chances of becoming a target, follow these tips:
Keep a few small bills in your pocket to pay for things, and never flash cash
Wear your bag on your front when moving through crowds or when distracted
Never, ever let your valuables out of your sight
Do not use hotel in-room safes
Remember that thieves can use commotion to distract you
When seated, make sure your things are under you, not beside you where they can be grabbed
Plan your packing
When you pack your bag, make sure you put the bulky items near the bottom. Leave room at the top for anything you want to access regularly, from hand sanitizer to sunglasses. That way you won’t have to stop and dig through your bag to get things, which gives thieves the perfect opportunity to snatch things off your person.
In addition, make sure you source some luggage storage facilities so you have a safe place to put your things when you want to spend time exploring.
Always check travel alerts
The United States State Department issues travel warnings and alerts whenever it is aware of specific threats to US citizens or general dangers in a particular area. Always check the State Department website before you go, and consider enrolling in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) which alerts the nearest US Embassy or Consulate to your presence.
If you’re part of STEP, you’ll get an alert if something happens in your area. If an issue arises, the State Department will help you get in contact with family and get the help you need.
Exercise street smarts
Always keep an eye on your surroundings, and if things don’t feel right, then don’t be afraid to leave. Never walk out blindly into a situation. If someone offers you help you didn’t ask for, don’t accept it. And be especially careful whenever using an ATM. If someone in uniform approaches, always ask for ID.
Dress to blend in as much as possible. Don’t wear loud clothing, lots of jewelry, or clothing with political statements or national flags on it. Dressing to blend in makes you less of a target, and it’s also a way to be polite and respectful of your host country.
Traveling is rewarding and exciting, and millions of people travel abroad every year without incident. If you’re smart and prepared, you’ll be one of them.