Europe is one of the hottest destinations this winter – countries all over the EU are experiencing a hot summer, and now is the best time to go! But one consideration you may not have made is for how to stay out of danger, what to do if you are in danger, and how to avoid it.
Many countries in Europe seem safe but actually are not! This can surprise some travellers but the best thing you can do is keep your belongings safe and secure, and think of you and your loved ones’ safety first and foremost.
Here are some tried and tested safety tips for a holiday in Europe!
But before we start – make sure you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy that protects you in the event of a robbery or assault.
1. Beware of crowds
It’s a no brainer that tourist spots are a hangout for thieves but other places where there are long lines (airports), crowds (subways and trains) and on beaches also have their share of petty crime. Know where your valuables are at all times and don’t let your guard down. You might like to wear your backpack on the front so you can see the zippers at all times.
2. Lock your zippers
You can get little luggage locks for your bag’s zippers or use zip-ties. Also be aware that most pickpockets work in teams. One person distracts you with a map or something similar, and the other person takes your money or valuables – sometimes these can be kids.
3. Injured beggars or baby toss
Some injuries are real but many beggars will fake their injury to get better donations. Or, some gypsies will actually toss their child (really a doll) into your arms. In the confusion, they will grab your valuables.
4. Fake taxi drivers
Dishonest cabbies will over-inflate prices or hand over fake bank notes of a lesser value. Make sure you research fares beforehand so you know how much the trip should cost in the local currency.
5. Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign and don’t use the safe
Hotels around the world pride themselves on having safes in their rooms but the fact of the matter is that at least some of the staff know the combination, and as trustworthy as they may seem, there’s always a chance they could access your stowed stuff.
Put the Do Not Disturb hanger on your door during your stay so hotel staff will leave your room as is. If you do need sheets changes etc, then by all means take it off, but the less people in your room around your belongings, the less of a chance that items will be stolen.
6. Unpack your important cards and documents
It’s tempting to just throw your everyday wallet in your handbag or hand luggage but don’t – be sure to take only the important cards with you and leave things such as your Medicare card and library pass at home. By only carrying 3 or 4 cards, you won’t run the risk of losing a whole wallet then frantically having to replace everything.
7. Be careful on Wi-Fi
When travelling, it is hard to find internet connections other than public ones at hotels, cafes and airports. “This connection is unsecured and others may see your information” is a common warning and the risk applies to anything you type into your keyboard while connected, such as email passwords and website logins.
Most of us can’t avoid using the internet while travelling so you just need to be smart about how you use it. Avoid signing it to your bank account, work emails and other sensitive accounts. If you have no alternative, use incognito browsing to ensure nothing about your browsing session is recorded.
8. Use bank ATMs only
Identity thieves have been known to install card readers in an ATM and access your card number and PIN. This happens most often at non-bank, “generic” ATMs (in hotels, convenience stores, etc.), which have less oversight and are therefore more vulnerable than bank ATMs.
9. Dummy wallet
Travel with a dummy wallet, i.e. one you don’t mind being stolen. Put in an expired card, some “filler” cards, and about $10 cash. Use this as a decoy in case someone attempts to steal or demand your wallet.
10. Use RFID anti-scanning pouches
RFID anti-scanning pouches protect passports and other cards that contain a Radio-Frequency-Identification (RFID) chip. They use a special multi-ply laminate material containing a security barrier that provides powerful RFID shielding.