Travelling safely in Europe: our safety tips to brave the most dangerous cities

Are you planning a discovery getaway to European cities? Whether it be a city break in Barcelona, a “Made in London” shopping spree, a season of love in Paris, a romantic weekend in Venice, a pub hopping tour in Dublin, a museum marathon in Madrid, a business meeting in Vilnius or a university course in Hamburg...Europe awaits! Before you leave make sure you are a cautious and informed traveller by examining the risks entailed in a trip on the so-called Old Continent


The 10 most dangerous European cities

Twice a year, Numbeo* updates its ranking of the most dangerous cities in the world

This index is based on how the people questioned perceive their city. It is not the result of analysis or cross-referencing of official figures. It is established according to the answers given by web users on these different themes: feeling of insecurity, fear of walking alone at night, of being robbed, mugged, attacked, harassed, etc. 

Their latest criminality index has allowed us to plant a few red flags on our European map. 

Based on the general feeling of their inhabitants, higher caution is recommended in these 10 European cities: 

  1. Catania (Italy) 
  2. Marseille (France) 
  3. Birmingham (UK) 
  4. Coventry (UK) 
  5. Charleroi (Belgium) 
  6. Naples (Italy) 
  7. Montpellier (France) 
  8. Liège (Belgium) 
  9. Grenoble (France) 
  10. Nantes (France) 

*Numbeo is an updated data and information base on world living conditions. The input is provided by web users worldwide.

The European cities with the highest risk of pickpocketing.

"Attenzione, borseggiatrici! Attenzione, pickpocket!”… From TikTok to Facebook, as well as articles featured in the media, including the New York Times, videos of a Venetian woman loudly warning tourists of the presence of thieves on the streets of La Serenissima have gone viral. So is Venice the place where you are the most likely to have your wallet or mobile phone mysteriously disappear? If the risk is high, the Queen of the Adriatic is not the favourite spot of organised gangs. According to Quotezone - a British insurance comparator which has listed the testimonies of thousands of victims of pickpocketing during a trip to Europe- Rome and the surroundings of its major tourist attractions (the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon) hold this inglorious first place. According to this study, other Italian cities are also plagued by this scourge including Milan and Florence

Paris also features on this list, particularly around the Eiffel Tower where thieves easily blend in the crowd, better distracting their targets. On the Parisian subway, it is not unusual to hear the train operator warn travellers of the immediate presence of pickpockets on board.

Terrorist attacks: European cities under threat

The level of terrorist threat in Europe is high. Attacks have recently been carried out in several European cities (Arras, in France, and Brussels in Belgium, in October 2023) and in the current geopolitical context, terror acts are likely to happen again. 

As these types of attacks are impossible to foresee, it is absolutely necessary to remain extremely vigilant and follow the safety measures decided by local authorities. 

To find out more about the actions of the European Union against terrorism, you can visit the European Council’s website.

Natural disasters: the most vulnerable European cities

Extreme temperatures: the least prepared capital cities

According to the latest report (2023) of the WMO (the UN’s World Meteorological Organization) and the European network Copernicus, Europe is “the fastest warming continent of the world.” And contrary to what we might expect, the city where populations are most at risk of dying because of the heat is not Syracuse (Italy) which holds the record of the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe (48.8°C in 2021) or Valencia (Spain) which suffocated in 46.8°C in July 2023. No, it is Paris. According to the Lancet Planetary Health, in case of a heat wave, it is the deadliest city in Europe. So if you are considering a trip to the City of Lights during the summer, consult the recommendations and measures implemented by Paris City Hall (in French). 

On the opposite side of the thermometer and still according to the same study, it is in London that the biting cold makes the most victims in Europe every year. Before crossing the Channel or the Atlantic to have a cup of tea at Buckingham Palace, remember to read the official recommendations on the London City Hall website.

Natural disasters in Europe: where is it the most dangerous?

Rise of water levels, earthquakes, forest fires, draughts… Europe must also face natural phenomena caused by climate change. According to the website Statista, over 1,500 meteorological events occurred on the European continent between 1923 and June 2023, “with two thirds of them having taken place since the turn of the century”! 

Floods and storms account for the biggest share of natural disasters recorded in the last few years and represent the most important threat in the future. 

Rural and coastal areas are not the only ones affected. In November 2023, Storm Ciaran caused huge material damage and killed about twenty people in big European cities such as Le Havre (France), Gand (Belgium) and Madrid (Spain). 

Seismic threat must also be taken seriously, particularly in the densely populated Mediterranean cities where the consequences could be the most catastrophic. While the risk of earthquakes is insignificant in Scandinavian countries or the Paris Basin, it is much higher in Italy, the Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey

To find out more and to be kept updated on natural risks in Europe and in the world, you can visit the website of the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

Health: Be careful in these European cities

Food poisoning: in which European city are you more at risk?

Most of the time, travellers’ diarrhoea (also called “turista”) affects those exploring tropical countries but Euro-trotters are not spared by gastro-intestinal troubles. 

According to Forbes’s Holiday Sickness Index 2023, the least stomach-friendly destination in Europe is Benidorm in Spain. The results are based on the analysis of travel forum posts which reveal that it is in the popular Spanish sea resort, that tourists complained the most of digestive infections. 

Further north, London is the destination where visitors fell ill the most often during their stay. 

To avoid spending your holiday glued to your toilet, take the necessary precautions to stay clear of germs as much as possible.

What is the most polluted European capital?

The consequences of air pollution on our health are now well known. It can lead to or worsen many pathologies: heart problems, strokes, lung diseases, asthma, respiratory infections… 

According to a report published in March 2023 by the European Environment Agency, particle pollution killed at least 238, 000 people in the EU in 2020. In the ranking of the most polluted cities in the world*, Athens, which still features far down the list compared to big Asian or Middle-Eastern cities, was in 2022 the European capital with the highest concentration of particles.

For live info on air quality in the city you are staying, visit the website of IQAir

* Established by IQAir, a Swiss company specialised in the surveillance of air quality

Road accidents: which European roads are the most dangerous?

Over 20,600 people have died on E.U. roads in 2022 (EU report , published October 19th 2023). A slight decrease compared to the pre-Covid figures but they still remain too high. 

Based on the number of deaths per million inhabitants, Romania and Bulgaria take the lead of the sad ranking of the most murderous roads in Europe. Be particularly careful if you are driving in these countries. 

If most accidents occur in rural areas, cities are also risky places. Motorists but also and mostly pedestrians, moped riders, cyclists or users of PLEVs (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) such as scooters, gyropods and hoverboards are the most exposed. 

The latest statistics* concerning the most visited city in the world, Paris, confirm this deadly fact. In 2022, 12,597 accidents were reported in the French capital and its surroundings, killing 100 people, including 43 pedestrians. 1,611 cyclists were also injured. Be very careful!

 *source: Paris Police Prefecture

Our recommendations to travel safely in European cities

  1. Before you leave, make sure you have received the vaccination shots demanded or recommended by the country you are visiting. 
  2. Don’t forget your European Health Insurance Card which can cover possible medical expenses during your trip. 
    Nonetheless, bear in mind EHIC coverage is limited and does not replace proper travel insurance which includes sanitary repatriation and covers many other unexpected hassles you can come across during your stay abroad. 
  3. Write down the contact details of your embassy or consulate in the European cities you are going to visit. In case of emergency you can contact their assistance service. 
    Good to know: It is recommended to register your presence at your embassy or consulate in the country you are visiting. In case of natural disasters, local crisis or emergency situations in that country, your embassy will know to contact you. For example, if you are an American citizen you can enrol you trip using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP
  4. Remember the single European emergency phone number: 112 
  5. Keep your relatives informed on a regular basis of your different itineraries, accommodation addresses etc. 
  6. Keep a copy of your id documents with you at all times (leave the originals in the hotel safe if you can) and email a copy to yourself. This precaution will greatly facilitate administrative processes in case of loss or theft. 
  7. Follow the local news (media, social networks) of the cities you are visiting in order not to be caught off guard in case of strikes, demonstrations, weather warnings, etc. 
  8. Better be safe than sorry, better be a little paranoid than robbed! Always stay vigilant: 
    • Withdraw money during the day and at the ATMs located inside the banks. 
    • Stay on the look-out in touristic and crowded places (airports, train and bus stations, markets…) 
    • Don’t use your mobile on the street or in public transportation 
    • Use a shoulder bag if you can and carry it building-side not towards the road where it could be more easily snatched.
    • Don’t put your phone or wallet on the table in restaurants or cafés. A moment of inattention and it’s bye bye! 
  9. Trust your instinct and rely on your good wit, especially if you are travelling alone: 
    • Stranger Danger isn’t just for kids! However lovely Prince(ss) Charming seems, always stay cautious. Meet in public places and inform your relatives of your plans. 
    • Avoid dark and lonely streets. It seems obvious but always needs to be repeated! 
    • Never leave your drink unattended and remember to use a drink spiking prevention cover on your glass.
    • For women (but not just) travelling alone: don’t forget to download safety apps on your phone: The Sorority, SafeNow, TripWhistle Global SOS 
  10. Don’t leave without us! For your peace of mind and to enjoy the most comprehensive protection, choose our Europe travel insurance!

    Do you need a visa to come to Europe? AXA Schengen travel insurance meets all the requirements demanded by European authorities and guarantees comprehensive coverage.  

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What are the safest European cities when travelling alone?

Feeling safe is very subjective and depends on individual experiences. When comparing the results of several studies and surveys, Zurich (Switzerland), Lisbon (Portugal) and Madrid (Spain) feature on the first step of the podium of the safest cities.

Is it dangerous to travel to Eastern Europe?

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, you might feel wary about travelling to some Eastern European countries. Currently it is recommended not to visit areas bordering the conflict region, such as Moldova, Poland and Slovakia or if you do, to be extremely cautious. Before any trip, check the updated safety recommendations of your country.

How much is a Schengen visa travel insurance?

AXA provides Low Cost Schengen Area travel insurance that meets all visa requirements from as little as €22 per week.