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Can a solo female traveler carry a knife or pepper spray to be able defend of herself when she is on the road or when hitchhiking, or it is illegal?

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    I really doubt that being female is relevant to the answer. Mar 1, 2013 at 1:41
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    I don't deny it, but your question is whether it is legal. I'll be shocked if there is a Schengen country where carrying such weapons is legal for one gender but illegal for the other. Mar 1, 2013 at 1:46
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    gender is irrelevant as no country afaik (and certainly none in the Schengen area, Iran or Afghanistan my have such) has different laws for men and women.
    – jwenting
    Mar 1, 2013 at 10:45
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    @user37324 wasn't thinking exclusively about laws relevant to this question :) but good to know. And as to rape: the incidence of rape is quite low in most all Schengen countries. Sweden is a sad exception, and even there it's limited to certain cities (mostly Stockholm).
    – jwenting
    Mar 2, 2013 at 6:25
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    @jwenting: high rate of rape in Sweden is due very broad definition of rape there, which in other countries would constitute not rape, but sexual harassment.
    – vartec
    Apr 19, 2013 at 9:41

3 Answers 3

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This totally depends on the country, each country has different rules. Wikipedia has a page dedicated to Knife legislation. Check the countries you will visit before brining your knife with you.

Same thing goes for pepper spray, it is different from one country to another, again Wikipedia has a page dedicated to pepper spray.

Stun guns are a bad choice as they are illegal in most European countries.

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    and check current information for each country, not just wikipedia. Laws and regulations change quickly, and may even be different from one city to the next or different at night as compared to daytime.
    – jwenting
    Mar 1, 2013 at 10:35
  • @jwenting Good idea for an answer, please post an answer with links to all official authorities in the European countries. That indeed will be a great answer. Mar 2, 2013 at 7:17
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As @MeNoTalk already mentioned, the answer differs from country to country. I was expecting that the answer be that both are not allowed. Apparently even pepper spray is allowed in some EU countries.

Personally I would say both are really drastic measures to protect yourself and unnecessary. In general you would not need those to protect yourself.

In Europe self-defence is approached with proportionality. If some one would attack you without a knife or pepperspray and you would use either a knife or pepperspray to defend yourself, it could be that you end up being treated as the offender.

Those area's where you might be at risk, knife or pepperspray wouldn't help either. It is better to find out where the no-go area's are.

If you need to use a knife for any thing else then to protect your self, then it is allowed to carry a knife. If you are for example a scuba diver, you are allowed to cary double bladed knifes, BUT packed together with your diving gear in the back of your car.

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    Thanks! nice advices! I think it is better to forget hitchhiking! I like to travel safe not like a mindless traveler. I am adventurous and brave but not stupid! :) Mar 1, 2013 at 19:30
  • It is correct, at least in Central Europe, that proportionality is the test. It is even common to encounter urban legends along the lines of knife-only-against-knife. However, the law enforcement does not work that way. Proportionality does not mean that you must adopt the same methods and weapons as a potentional attacker to defend yourself. Self defense generally needs to be higher intensity than the attack in order to be effective. If the intensity of defense is blatantly higher even than what was necessary to avert the attack, such defense will fail the proportionality test. Nov 7, 2015 at 21:54
  • @PersianCat - Europe is generally extremely safe to travel in, including hitchhiking. I've been hitchhiking all across Europe as a teenager day and night, and never even thought of needing a weapon. You won't find stats specific to hitchhikers, but comparing the frequency of specific crimes (per 100000 people) and adjusting your safety expectations for the society in general is quite easy. Hitchhiking, you'll reach fewer places but more local people over the same travel time. This may be good for you or an absurd waste of time, depending on why you travel. Nov 7, 2015 at 22:05
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I answer about usage in France, not about legal aspects as I am not a lawyer.

Though urban life decreases the need for pocket knives, many people in rural areas still carry Opinel or Laguiole knives.

It is common also to bring a pocket knife when enjoying a picnic with baguette, charcuterie and camembert (yes it is cliché, but yes it still belongs to french way of life).

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  • Irrelevant but interesting! :)) Mar 1, 2013 at 11:16

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