Traveling to Europe: Safety Tips

After Australia, Europe is the world’s second smallest continent. But with over 750 million inhabitants it is also the third most populous. And with nearly 600 million visitors annually since 2021 (and counting), Europe remains one of the top tourist destinations on the planet. The continent also consistently ranks as the safest in the world — whether based on the Global Peace Index, crime rates, or general health concerns.

But with 50 countries sharing it (44 of them sovereign states or nations and 27 of them in the EU), the actual level of safety varies greatly from country to country. So if you’re planning a trip to Europe, AXA has compiled a general overview on how to ensure that trip is a safe one.

General health concerns in Europe today

Generally speaking, Europeans are both quite healthy and know how to enjoy life. That said, smoking, alcohol and substance abuse, malnutrition, obesity, and lack of physical exercise are cited as the most common health concerns in EU nations. As a result, circulatory and respiratory diseases and various types of cancer are the leading causes of death among Europeans. The recent pandemic has also had quite a negative impact on people’s both physical and mental health — especially among the young.

For visitors to Europe, however, the health risks will obviously vary on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, they will depend specifically on where you’re going, where you’re coming from, and when.

The Weather

Climate change gave Europe its hottest summer on record in 2022. So, for example, if you’re planning a summer getaway down south — heat stroke and dehydration can be serious issues. On the other hand, European winters can still get achingly cold. So if you’re hiking or skiing the Alps in February —bundle way up. To help you plan how much clothes to pack and/or sunscreen and water to bring, the EU’s official European Severe Weather Database is a great resource.

Food and Drink

Every region has its own unique cuisine too. And while the amazing food is one of Europe’s main attractions, food poisoning and/or food allergies are, unfortunately, not uncommon among tourists either.

Alcohol is generally much cheaper than in English-speaking countries too — so be careful not to overindulge in those artisanal European beers and fine wines.

Meanwhile, tap water is generally safe to drink, especially in Western Europe. However, even this can vary from town to town. So be diligent and — if in doubt —drink bottled water.


And since Europe is a glorious melting pot of countless urban, rural, and natural landscapes and climates — every region will have its own unique blend of potential infections, diseases, and illnesses. Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) has been a recent concern in Croatia, for instance.*

Natural Disasters

European mother nature in general can get moody sometimes too. So from time to time, different parts of the continent experience droughts, wildfires, storms, landslides, floods, earthquakes, avalanches, and so on.

But don’t panic — Europe is still mother nature’s safest continent. And for added peace of mind, you can also consult the UN’s and the European Commission’s official Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

*HELPFUL TIP: The EU’s official Centre for Disease Prevention and Control website also provides detailed weekly info about issues that may affect travelers’ health — including disease outbreaks, mass gatherings, natural disasters, and everything in between — by specific destinations.

Current COVID and other vaccination requirements for Europe

Depending on where in Europe you’re going, you might want to update your tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, meningococcal, influenza, and pneumonia vaccines.

And for Eastern Europe, both the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also recommend vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, and rabies.

And as far as the recent pandemic goes — travel restrictions implemented to control the spread of COVID-19 in the EU have all been lifted. In fact, the EU’s official ReOpen EU was set to be discontinued as of July 1st, 2023.

Nevertheless, you should double-check with the embassy and/or official website of your destination of choice to have all the latest info regarding the vaccinations required for entry.

Common safety risks for travelers to Europe

Safety concerns other than general health issues are also as diverse as the continent itself.

For example, the dangerous trend of balconing — i.e., the act of jumping from a balcony into a swimming pool — is rapidly increasing in places like Spain and the Balearic Islands in recent years.

And binge drinking (and all the other dangers it entails) is also not uncommon for both locals and visitors. It is, however, most prevalent in Northern and Eastern Europe (sometimes referred to as “the Vodka Belt”), and less common in the south of the continent — i.e., France, Italy, Portugal, and the Mediterranean (aka “the Wine Belt”).

In other words, it’s best to do as much research as possible regarding the specific dangers involved before visiting any given place. Meanwhile, here’s a general breakdown of some of the more typical risks to be aware of while in Europe.


Pickpocketing, theft, and various financial scams are not uncommon throughout Europe, especially in top tourist destinations like France, Italy, and Spain. As are some more serious crimes, unfortunately — such as human and drug trafficking (primarily in Eastern Europe). However, violent crimes are generally uncommon.

Still, the individual levels and types of crime vary greatly — with EU countries like Iceland and Luxembourg consistently having the lowest statistics, and the Balkan states having the highest.

The European Commission’s official “Eurostat” page provides detailed, up-to-date statistics concerning crime throughout the EU — which, thankfully, show that most crimes have generally decreased since 2010.


Terrorism, unfortunately, does remain a serious threat to most European nations these days, mostly from jihadist or right-wing attacks. In 2022, for example, sixteen attacks were successfully carried out in the EU — with four people tragically losing their lives.

The EU’s law enforcement agency Europol, however, remains diligent and unwavering in ensuring that Europe and its visitors remain safe at all times. Moreover, it consistently provides clear, detailed info and trend reports regarding terrorism to keep the public informed.

Political Unrest

Demonstrations, protests, and strikes reflect the political climate of every European nation. And certain countries are therefore safer than others in this respect.

For example, France saw a series of riots — particularly in Paris — throughout 2023, after the government pushed an unpopular pension reform act through parliament.

Moreover, there’s a rise in protests in countries like France, Germany, Portugal, Romania, and the Czech Republic (among others) regarding the growing cost of living, housing, and inflation in Europe.

So, with people taking to the streets, many European cities are experiencing an increased police and security presence — as well as disruptions to general infrastructures.

The Situation in Ukraine

The rise in economic difficulties of many European nations, meanwhile, is often generally attributed to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Popular European destinations remain largely unaffected by the conflict, especially in terms of tourism. However, Russia, Ukraine, its neighbors (i.e., Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia), and a number of other Eastern European nations are generally considered less safe at this point.

And since Europe is interconnected on so many levels — the future of millions, unfortunately, remains uncertain until this ongoing global humanitarian crisis is resolved.

Outdoor Activities

Depending on how adventurous your trip is — activities like skiing, cliff diving, mountaineering, canyoning, sailing, underwater diving, and even plain old swimming all obviously entail potential safety risks too.

Europe has some of the world’s finest forests, mountains, beaches, and so forth. But make sure to use plenty of due diligence and common sense when exploring them.

Risk of Driving (and other) Accidents

For the most part, Europe is generally safe to drive through. Still, each country has its own unique driving style, rules of the road, and road conditions.

According to data collected by the International Drivers Association, for example, driving is most dangerous in eastern and southeastern European nations like Romania and Bulgaria. But Western countries like Greece and Portugal can be tricky to drive around in too. Meanwhile, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Malta consistently rank as the safest.

Moreover, with the increasing popularity of e-scooters, segways, and e-bikes, major tourist cities like Paris and Barcelona have seen significant increases in accidents related to these in recent years too.

So, again (and to sum up) — how safe you are will ultimately depend on where exactly you’re going and what exactly you plan on doing there.

What documentation do I need to visit Europe?

In terms of the specific paperwork required for you to enter, it’s always best to double-check with your country’s of choice embassy and/or official website.

But in any case, you will at the very least need a valid passport (or appropriate ID card) and your itinerary (i.e., plane tickets, proof of accommodation, etc.).

If you’re traveling to the Schengen zone, you likely also need a Schengen visa. This will usually be determined by where you’re originally coming from (i.e., your nationality). If you’re not sure whether you need a Schengen Visa — worry not — AXA can help.

Meanwhile, if you’re visiting the U.K., you can check with their official government website whether you’ll need a visa.

Safest and least safe countries in Europe

According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, 14 of the 20 safest countries in the world in 2022 were within the EU — with Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, Austria, and Portugal being ranked the top five.

Meanwhile, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Belarus were considered the least safe.

You can view the whole list and learn more here (courtesy of the World Population Review).

5 safety tips for visiting Europe

And now that you have a general idea of what to expect, here are 5 essential safety tips for visiting Europe (courtesy of AXA):

Tip 1: Know Your Emergency Numbers

Dial 112 anywhere in Europe for emergency assistance (don’t worry — they speak English). But familiarize yourself with your country’s specific emergency phone numbers too.

Tip 2: Stay Informed

Stay up-to-date regarding all the latest news, laws, regulations, and developments about your destination of choice. And explore the websites above for further reference.

Tip 3: Do Some Cultural Homework

It never hurts to do some cultural research before your trip as well —including about local customs, behaviors, traditions, and basic linguistics (at the very least — “please,” “thank you,” and the often more powerful “no thank you”).

Tip 4: Try to Blend In

This one may be obvious, but not acting like a tourist greatly increases your level of safety anywhere — including in Europe. However, it is often easier said than done (that’s where Tip 3 will come in handy).

Tip 5: Get Travel Insurance

And possibly the surest way to prevent things from going wrong (or ”pear-shaped,” as the Brits say) is by properly insuring your Eurotrip.

How can AXA help make your European trip safer?

That’s where AXA comes in. As the leading provider of travel insurance in Europe (and throughout the world), AXA plans are both trusted and affordable. And purchasing one is quick and easy (and can be done online).

If you need a Schengen visa, AXA’s plans meet all the necessary requirements. And the AXA certificate — which can be downloaded and printed instantly — is accepted at all Schengen embassies and consulates.

Moreover, AXA plans cover you in all 27 Schengen territories, all 27 EU countries, and beyond.

So even if you don’t need a visa, an AXA travel insurance plan will give you peace of mind — not to mention ongoing and/or emergency medical and other support if something does go wrong — no matter where in Europe you are.

In other words, AXA can make the safest continent in the world much safer to visit in just a matter of minutes So get a free quote and learn more about an AXA plan that works best for you here.



What are the most common health problems in Europe?

The most common chronic health conditions in Europe are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure (CHF), and diabetes. Approximately 6% of the EU population have asthma, and 7% — diabetes.

Does Europe have an equivalent of OSHA?

Yes. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (aka EU-OSHA) is a decentralized agency of the EU, and its mission is to collect, analyze, and disseminate relevant information that can serve the needs of people involved in safety and health at work.

Which countries in Europe are the safest for tourism?

When it comes to tourists, Switzerland and Iceland consistently rank as the two least dangerous destinations. They’re followed closely by Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, and Norway.