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While Europe remains a popular tourist destination, there are risks that travelers need to be aware of. Here, Global Guardian’s intelligence analysts offer information and guidance for travelers who want to stay informed before their trip.

BY Joe Chafetz, Junior Intelligence Analyst & Zev Faintuch, Senior Intelligence Analyst


With the scenes of unrest, sometimes violent, coming from many countries across Western Europe, many travelers are asking whether it’s safe to travel in Europe now. Between the conflict in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine still raging, and various lone wolf incidents of terrorism to contend with, it’s a reasonable question. While Europe as a region is consistently amongst the least dangerous in the world, there are huge discrepancies in security between different countries, cities, and even neighborhoods that travelers should be aware of.

Regardless of one’s destination, visiting an unfamiliar environment leaves travelers vulnerable to risks not encountered at home. These risks are compounded by language barriers, unknown customs, unfamiliar spaces, and criminals or opportunists who prey on the vulnerability of travelers. 

With all this in mind, it’s important to have a reasonable understanding of Europe’s overall safety, and how any risks that do exist can affect your travel there. 

Is it safe to travel in europe now? 

Yes. Overall, traveling in Europe won’t pose many threats to the individual traveler. But part of the onus is on you to stay informed regarding evolving threats. To safely travel to Europe, all travelers should keep an eye out for the following: 

Unrest Regarding Israel and Palestine 

The conflict in the Gaza Strip and Israel significantly heightened protest activities and sporadic political violence across Europe. Notably, there were demonstrations in over 350 distinct locations in Europe during the month of October 2023. In Germany and France, there were instances where demonstrators flouted outright bans on pro-Palestine protests, prompting police interventions at numerous events. Subsequently, France's highest administrative court overturned the ban, although some restrictions persist in Germany. 

Particularly in Germany, and most notably in Berlin, some pro-Palestine demonstrations escalated into violence. On 18 October, prolonged clashes with the police in Berlin resulted in the detention of at least 174 individuals. That same night, an attack on a synagogue in Berlin involved the use of Molotov cocktails, though the assailants remained unidentified. There were also significant confrontations between pro-Palestine protesters and police near a pro-Israel event in Amsterdam on 15 October and close to the Israeli embassy in Athens on 18 October. Some of the major protests have resulted in clashes between protest groups — the protest in London on 11 November (Armistice Day) resulted in over 90 arrests. Protests have and will continue to cause significant travel and security disruptions as they block transportation hubs — either directly or indirectly — and provide targets for extremists.  

As part of the same groundswell of socio-political energy, there has been a dramatic increase in the rates of hate crimes. In London, for example, ethno-religiously motivated crimes against Jewish people rose by more than 1,350% and those against Muslims by 140%. In Paris, Stars of David and anti-Semitic slogans were graffitied on buildings in a move reminiscent of the persecution of European Jews in the 1930s and ‘40s. In Lyon, a Jewish woman was stabbed and a Swastika painted on her door. More, and more dramatic, instances of hate crimes are likely in the coming months. 

Threats of terrorism 

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a microcosm for political, religious, and other identity-related grievances and will continue to galvanize actors — both lone wolf terrorists and organized groups — to attack and intimidate other groups in their respective countries. Travel risks to Americans, and Jews specifically, have already increased in Europe. European cities crowded with tourists make attractive targets for violent non-state actors, from ISIS to right-wing extremists. Soft targets including demonstrations and holiday celebrations, provide an opportunity to inflict mass casualties and promote fear. Already, around a dozen airports, and several schools and tourist sites have been evacuated due to bomb threats.  

The rise in lone-wolf attacks has also heightened security concerns, with European authorities linking these incidents to broader developments in the Middle East. A particularly alarming instance occurred 13 October in Arras, France, where a former student originally from Russia's North Caucasus region fatally stabbed a teacher and injured three others. In a separate incident on 16 October in Brussels, a Tunisian individual fatally shot two Swedish soccer fans and injured a taxi driver. Both assailants declared their allegiance to the Islamic State.  

What’s more, on 31 October, Parisian police neutralized a veiled woman who was issuing death threats at a train and metro station. These incidents have also prompted the introduction of more stringent border controls within the Schengen Area, which traditionally allows passport-free movement, reflecting a growing trend towards enhanced security measures in response to an uptick in terror activities. 

While terrorist attacks are difficult to prepare for, keeping abreast of relevant developments can help tourists travel in Europe more safely. 

Theft, Scams, and Threats to Personal Safety 

Tourism is a major industry in Europe, and the beneficiaries are not limited to tour guides and hoteliers. Pickpockets, scammers, and thieves also cash in. There are roughly 5.7 million cases of burglary, robbery, and theft reported to European police annually — and those are just the cases that are reported. 

There’s an expectation that people visiting some of Europe’s dense tourist areas, from Las Ramblas in Barcelona to the Colosseum in Rome, will have valuables such as cash or jewelry on them and will be distracted by the sights or their family members — making them excellent targets for pickpocketing or theft. While outright attacks are unlikely, a thief might try to (or inadvertently) incapacitate you — and regardless, losing your wallet or passport can turn your trip into a nightmare.  

Travelers should also be on the lookout for common scams across Europe, including:  

  • The Petition Scam: This consists of a group or individual trying to get signatures for a “humanitarian cause.” The scammers will approach the target and occupy their attention while a coconspirator pickpockets them.  
  • Three Card Monty: Often set up near tourist attractions, the scammer has three cups and a ball or token under one of them. The scammer shuffles the cups around and will take bets from bystanders trying to guess which cup has the ball. There is typically a crowd of accomplices surrounding the scammer making it seem as though the game is fair, easy, and lucrative. When the victim attempts to make a bet, the ball is suddenly nowhere to be found. Attempts to get one’s money back can be met by intimidation or violence by the scammer’s associates. 
  • The Bracelet/Gift: A scammer will set up a merchandise stand near a tourist attraction and attempt to engage victims in conversation. During the conversation the scammer will tie a bracelet or foist an item upon their victim as a “gift.” However, if the victim tries to leave with the item the scammer will demand payment and will often call over other scammers operating in the vicinity to intimidate a victim into payment. 

Popular Places to Be Careful or Avoid When Traveling in Europe 

Europe is a large place with hundreds of attractive tourist destinations. We can’t put down a blanket statement and say all of Europe is safe for travel now: Some areas, you need to exercise more caution, or avoid entirely.  

Popular European Cities: Where to Be Careful  

There are a number of European cities that receive a disproportionate number of visitors and merit specific attention regarding safety.  

Below are the top five most-visited cities in Europe and the areas to watch out for when visiting them. It is important to note that in all these cities, tourists are rarely targeted for violent crime. The most common crimes that tourists fall victim to are petty theft or other opportunistic crimes in major tourist areas, public transport, or crowded areas like public transportation hubs and markets.   

1. London

  • The most dangerous borough in London has consistently been Croyden.
  • However, tourists are more likely to find themselves in Hackney or Southwark, which also make the top five of London’s most dangerous boroughs.

2. Paris

  • The 19th arrondissement is generally considered the least safe. The area around the Stalingrad and Jaures metro stops, as well as Avenue Barbes, are best avoided at night.
  • Most pickpocketing and theft occur around popular tourist destinations, including the Eiffel tower, the Louvre, at Trocadero, and on bridges and quais along the Seine.

3. Rome

  • The Termini station and its surrounding areas can become sketchy at night, and the Trastevera area — including the piazza Trilussa — is known for occasional alcohol-fueled fights and opportunistic crime.

4. Amsterdam

  • Most of Amsterdam’s violent crime is confined to the peripheries of the city. But the Redlight District, and the area around Centraal (the central public transportation hub) host drug traffickers, occasional alcohol-fueled fights, and opportunistic crimes.

5. Barcelona

  • Barcelona, like Amsterdam, sees most of its violent crime confined to non-tourist areas.
  • The area along the beach, and the areas surrounding major tourist attractions such as the Sagrada Familia and La Rambla see the highest levels of pickpocketing. This analyst has even experienced this phenomenon first-hand. 

Where to Avoid Traveling in Europe  

Global Guardian strongly advises our clients, particularly American travelers, to exercise heightened caution and consider avoiding travel to certain European countries altogether. These recommendations are based on a thorough assessment of current geopolitical and security situations. Among the countries identified, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus are of particular concern due to ongoing political tensions and potential security risks and should be avoided. 

In addition to these Eastern European nations, caution is also advised when considering travel to eastern Moldova and southern Turkey. These regions may pose specific challenges, ranging from political instability to localized security issues. It is essential for travelers to stay informed about the latest developments, adhere to any travel advisories issued by relevant authorities, and consider alternative destinations if possible. 

How to Prepare for Your Europe Trip

Graphic depicting the three main considerations before you travel: awareness, knowledge, and preparationHere are some simple steps to follow to mitigate the prospect of a trip-ruining, and possibly life-altering, event.   

  • Maintain awareness: Awareness is paramount to mitigating risk — and avoiding a potentially dangerous predicament. As a rule, it is always best to blend in when possible. Sticking out — by being loud or wearing very different or expensive-looking clothing — can make someone into a target for theft or worse. In general, don’t walk alone at night. If you’re in a crowded space, indoors or outdoors, always know where the nearest exit is. Finally, most crimes are opportunistic. Traveling in a group deters most petty criminals from targeting you.
  • Do your research: Take some time to research your planned destinations. Get a sense of what’s going on politically and pay attention to front page news stories. While you’re at it, check your healthcare coverage, and make sure to bring your medications in their original, name-identified bottles, as some prescriptions (for depression, anxiety, ADD, and painkillers) won’t be available to refill. If you know a local, ask them about areas or places to avoid or practice caution. Just like in North America, the summer in Europe is wildfire season, so be on the lookout, especially for destinations in the south, for heat warnings as they often precede fires that could create adverse health conditions or disrupt flights and other transportation.
  • Prepare for all outcomes: Our unofficial motto here at Global Guardian is “have a plan.” Know where to go if your passport is lost or stolen and write down critical phone numbers, addresses (think embassies or hospitals, locals you know) or health card information on a piece of paper (but don’t include any passwords, social security numbers or anything else that could compromise you) in the event your phone is stolen. Labor action is practically a national sport in many European countries, making strikes affecting public transportation possible. Have a backup plan for getting from one stop to the next – you won’t be the only person scrambling to get a ride-sharing service, train, flight, or boat in the event your primary mode of transportation is delayed or cancelled.

Ultimately, travel to Europe can be as safe as you make it. If you know what to look for, where to avoid, what to do in certain situations, pay attention to the news, and have a plan in place for untoward events, you can insulate yourself from the vast majority of travel risks. But if you are apprehensive, having trouble figuring out where to start your preparations, or would like specific advice and recommendations, travel security firms can be a powerful resource. From stolen passports to terrorist attacks, firms of this nature also have the capability to assist you in real-time for almost any issue that may arise. 

StandinG By to Support

The Global Guardian team is standing by to support your security and medical requirements when traveling to and staying in Europe, including:

  • Duty of Care Membership
  • Custom Intelligence
  • Executive Protection and Transportation
  • Air Ambulance Medical Evacuation

To learn more about our pre-trip and crisis response services, complete the form below or call us at + 1 (703) 566-9463.

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