52
votes

My dream is to spend a month in Europe after graduating high school. Based on my situation, I will have to travel alone since there is no one else here who would be able to make such a trip. I am an Eagle Scout, have common sense, and am used to being independent. My mom is worried that I will be in danger from thieves, muggers, or other unforeseen obstacles. I plan on visiting the U.K., Ireland, France, Italy, and Germany. Communication should not be a problem since I speak French fluently and will speak Italian and German fairly well.

Here's my question: Will I be relatively safe traveling in Europe on my own for a month? What dangers or obstacles in particular should I watch out for - are thieves, pickpockets, or muggers common in some areas? Given that I have a limited budget of ~$3000, would I have enough to purchase basic necessities such as food, train tickets, and hostel rentals for a month? What else, in particular, should I be aware of as an 18 year old traveling alone for the first time?

locked by RoflcoptrException Oct 25 '16 at 14:13

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

Read more about locked posts here.

  • 27
    As a British guy who has travelled the US (and has been to some other European countries), I can say that although culturally there are a lot of differences - there are also a lot of similarities, just like the US, rough neighbourhoods do exist and should be avoided, a bit of research will help out there. People are surprisingly nice, most of the time. I hope you enjoy it! – Joe Feb 21 '15 at 19:05
  • 31
    Your personal data isn't any more secure over here but at least our police won't shoot you. Your mother will naturally be worried about you whenever you go to new places and it will only get worse as she gets older. Parents are designed to worry. – cja Feb 21 '15 at 19:31
  • 13
    “Communication should not be a problem since I speak French fluently and will speak Italian and German fairly well.” – You do not speak English? – Wrzlprmft Feb 21 '15 at 20:43
  • 6
    @Johnny It's fairly obvious, if not from the tone then certainly from the ellipsis that TC1 was joking. The Fox no-go zones coverage was quite extensively ridiculed in British, French and American media. – Lilienthal Feb 23 '15 at 11:43
  • 6
    @Johnny I live in London, I thought it was absolutely obvious that I was joking. The British Twitterverse (and other media) was making fun of that guy for a week or so. The subtler point to that comment was that not everything one hears on the news is to be taken seriously, especially if the story makes cultural allegations about a whole continent. – TC1 Feb 23 '15 at 19:26

20 Answers 20

59
votes

I suspect your Mom hasn't spent much time in the places you're planning to visit, because the notion that these countries are dangerous is frankly ridiculous. I've spent most of my life living in Europe, including Ireland, UK, France and Germany and have never been the victim of any personal crime. Maybe I've just been lucky, but if you want something a bit more scientific than personal anecdotes, you can use this website to compare levels of crime in different cities.

Personally I would be far more concerned about crime in many parts of the US (e.g. Oakland, CA), than the European countries you've mentioned.

  • 8
    Traffic is safer in Europe too. – gerrit Feb 22 '15 at 5:24
  • 7
    I take she isn't worried specifically about these countries, but about travelling "in general". – o0'. Feb 23 '15 at 15:12
  • 6
    They have all seen Taken :) – JamesRyan Feb 23 '15 at 17:13
  • Yeah because there exists a crime ring specializing in kidnapping people in broad daylight in Paris. :P Human trafficking / sex slavery is real but the way that happens is most definitely not snatching naive girls like that. – chx Feb 24 '15 at 7:05
40
votes

I'm not sure where you are coming from, USA? Cities in Europe are like cities in the US, there are business areas, residential areas, entertainment districts with restaurants & theatres. In general you will be safe in Europe but you should probably get a guide book for each country you plan to visit, guides such as Lonely Planet warn of the rough areas to stay away from. The guide book will also warn you of such things as how severely drunkness or being possession of drugs are punished, and warn also of major cultural differences such as taking photographs of military bases or planes in, say, Greece could lead to being prosecuted for espionage!

Hostels should be fine, at least in Germany many of the guests are families. (I.e. not wild parties of university students on 'spring break'.)

At 18 you can drink in many European bars, if this is a new experience for you be careful that drinking excessively can put you at risk of robbery. Precautions against robbery include not carrying all your money & credit cards with you, hiding money in a money belt, and having photocopies of your passport info pages to speed getting a replacement.

Enjoy your travels!

  • 14
    +1 for being careful with your drinking. I'd say that drinking and not paying attention to your belongings are the two main factors that can lead to crime. – Federico Poloni Feb 22 '15 at 17:13
31
votes

No problem, many people do it all the time.

Rick Steves, the travel writer of the 'Europe through the back door' guide books did it himself and that was years ago. It's arguably safer now.

Accommodation - hostels. Use sites like Hostelbookers to find accommodation (book early if possible, they can fill up). They're social, fun, and you'll find lots of other travellers to meet up and do stuff with. Safety in numbers ;)

Trains - look into a EuRail pass, for discounted travel around Europe. They're very easy to use. Alternatively, flights on RyanAir or Easyjet - they're cheap, not great, but they get you there. Often for less than the price of the train to the airport!

Most of those countries you've listed are the easiest and safest to travel in that I've ever been to. Yes, each one has some reputation after stories in the news, but the odds are so low really. Be careful, be safe, never put your bag down, keep your valuables out of sight - just like you'd do back home if you're aware of your surroundings.

I recently heard of a class in Texas(?) that the teacher actually got hold of Liam Neeson to get him to explain that Taken is just a movie, after over half the class's parents refused to allow kids on a trip to Europe. Movies give people a weird view sometimes. Hostel is one of the best examples - it makes Bratislava sound like the worst, most dangerous place on earth - and it's actually quite a nice town, with an impressive historical district.

If you're really concerned, you could look into a tour like Contiki or TopDeck, which will take you around with other 18-30 year olds. However, sometimes they do have a reputation as drinking all night, sleeping through the tourist sites in the day...so it depends what you're after.

Budget-wise, each person is different, but yes, it's entirely possible to manage quite well on that size a budget, especially if you're in hostels and taking low cost travel options and food.

Remember to have fun! It's a fantastic continent with so many differences, cultures and sights.

  • It's so strange that we human beings are more fearful after watching something like Taken, but we don't have nearly the same issues with the possibility of wizards and a group of dwarves showing up on our doorstep. – Wayne Werner Feb 25 '15 at 0:08
  • Having traveled (and worked) in all those contries is acan agree to this, and add that "common sense" is the key to anywhere you go -- you are at risk of having your creditcard stolen in Oxford St and you will find pickpockets at high-tourist areas like at the Coliseum, but that is really no different than the risk of going to New York or any other touristy place in the US – Soren Feb 26 '15 at 3:09
  • 1
    @WayneWerner: When you (or Mark, or other people in this thread) refer to external resources that not everyone may know about, it would be helpful to add a link :) I spent quite a while pondering how in the world anyone (let alone so many people) could possibly figure travelling in Europe is dangerous from watching Taken, until I finally found out that apparently, you are referring to a movie of the same name. – O. R. Mapper Feb 26 '15 at 13:50
27
votes

You are 18 and travelling to Europe for the first time and want to know if it's safe, and what other things you should be aware of. I assume you are an American or Canadian. I also assume you will be unemployed and with few, if any, demonstrable ties to your home country.

Unforeseen Obstacles

The first and foremost thing to be aware of is the likelihood you will not be able to enter the country. Young, single, naive travellers can get 'bounced' fairly regularly (and their mom's become indignant and angry about it too). It happens to about 1 out of every 2,500 arrivals in the UK. For young people, most of the time it is down to three things...

  • appearing uncomfortable during the landing interview, mostly because they have never had a landing interview before and do not understand what's going on with all the intrusive and personal questions. This behaviour is seen by an IO as suspicious and gets their radar alerted.
  • having vague or unrealistic plans. If, for example, you say the purpose of your visit is "...to check it out...", that will get them worried. Have at least a minimal itinerary that shows how long you expect to be in the country and what you intend to do.
  • saying something stupid in the landing interview, like indicating an intention of planning to work as casual labour or indicating an intention of planning to settle or worse, saying that the USA is too screwed up politically and you want out. However innocently uttered, those sorts of things will result in detention and a bounce.

I wrote some articles about visiting the UK and getting bounced (links removed due to expired domain) which can provide you (and your mom) with more information and a greater sense of comfort. In summary...

  • expect and prepare for an intrusive line of questioning in your landing interview;
  • don't say something stupid and don't bad-mouth another country;
  • have on hand a sound and feasible itinerary

Also note:

Personal characteristics of a passenger, such as their age and stage in the life-course, can sometimes act as a possible trigger for further questioning. Middle-aged people, established in their careers, or older retired people tend to be seen as lower risk, less likely to try and seek employment under the guise of being a visitor. On the other hand, young people, particularly those who are unemployed or who have highly transferable skills − such as waiters, hairdressers, or builders − may be questioned more thoroughly about their plans, to ensure that they are not entering the country in order to work. Where these young people have clear and ongoing travel plans, however, for example backpacking around the world, they tend not attract the attention of the IO, as long as they have sufficient funds for their travels.

Source: Home Office Report

These tips would fully apply in Schengen as well as the UK and Ireland.

Safety Conditions and Emergencies

Going further on the assumption that you are American, the US Department of State sponsors the so-called Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

  • Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country,
  • helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
  • Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
  • Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

American consulates also operate a "Warden System", when you enter a country and plan to stay for more than a week or so, you can always send the warden for that country an email advising of your whereabouts. Each country has a web site giving the contact details for the warden, for example France.

If you carry a mobile, you can register it with Google Location History and give your Mom access to the account so that your location history will be readily visible.

Incidental Dangers

As far as incidental dangers, if you have experience in US metropolitan environments and know what to avoid in the US, you'll be fine in Europe. The language skills you mentioned are an additional asset in navigating metropolitan areas safely as well. Show this answer to your mom and hopefully she will be more comfortable.

Adding

Owing to commentary, 1 out of every 2,500 refers to arrivals from the USA. As of September 2014, the precise figure is 1 out of every 2,219. For Canada, a refusal at port occurs even more often at about 1 out of every 1,500 arrivals which roughly equates to about 1 out of every 4 inbound flights.

Commentary suggesting that these odds compare favourably to being struck by lightning and hence people should ignore them are abysmally fallacious. Lightning does not conduct an interview and give the victim an opportunity to produce evidence beforehand; immigration procedures do. Lightning doesn't care if you thought beforehand to bring sufficient documentation, immigration procedures do. etc etc...

  • 6
    I wonder whether, for a high school leaver, carrying proof of university acceptance back in the US (in addition to your ticket home) would help convince the authorities that you are planning to leave. Assuming that's what you're doing, of course. – Steve Jessop Feb 22 '15 at 18:00
  • 1
    1 in 2500 is not fairly regular! – Thorst Feb 24 '15 at 8:57
  • 3
    As far as I can read it is 1 out of 2500 of all travellers. The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime is roughly 1/3000. Generally not something I would worry about. And this is even before considering the demographics of these odds, such as the risk of a young white american/canadian citizen being denied entry, compared to a young middel eastern citizen. – Thorst Feb 24 '15 at 11:28
  • 1
    I guess it's best to not start the trip in the UK then, if they are as unwelcoming as the US ;) – Carsten S Feb 24 '15 at 15:09
  • 2
    @GayotFow, I think your warning is valuable but makes the problem seem worse than it is. – Carsten S Feb 24 '15 at 17:34
18
votes

One thing I haven't heard anyone else mention is your clothes. You can help avoid being singled out by pickpocketers by not dressing like a naive American. For example, don't wear shorts, sleeveless shirts, baseball hats, or even tennis shoes. Get a GOOD pair of nice walking shoes; if you can buy them over there even better. Nice slacks, with a belt, instead of jeans, and a button down shirt. Just a little bit of blending in helps.

Also, no significant bling. A cheap watch is good, so you can avoid taking out the phone to check the time. No gaudy jewelry or expensive electronics.

Do a search to read up on the scams that you might be targeted for. One I was surprised with was the "sign the petition" scam. If you tell them you are not a local, you've just given them some important information about yourself. They'll claim it doesn't matter, and try to explain they just need your signature. That's where they can either try to pickpocket you or learn more about you, where you're staying, and who is travelling with you. Just politely decline and walk away.

Above all, remember that your passport is your most valuable item. If you're staying in a hotel, and it has a safe, I think that's fine, but don't leave it laying out in the open in your room. If you're sleeping in a common room in a hostel or on a train, it should be on your person, in a pocket that someone cannot pick while you're asleep.

Do your research and I'm sure you'll be fine.

  • 1
    THIS IS FANTASTIC ADVICE about clothes. Excellent. Best comment here. – Fattie Feb 24 '15 at 4:18
  • 1
    Consider wearing your scout uniform. It is a great conversation starter, and it will help attract the right people. A few years ago, during a familiy holiday in Scotland, we met a German boy scout about your age, travelling alone on low budget. Some of our kids were scouts, too (Royal Rangers), so there was an instant connection, and we invited him to spend a few days with us. – user24582 Feb 24 '15 at 8:52
  • 2
    Interesting. I lived in Germany as a child and it seemed like most people wore jeans, even my relatives. Although I will agree that sneakers were unusual; walking shoes or sandals (in warm weather) were much more common. – David Feb 24 '15 at 14:41
  • 1
    I think by now the most common type of American tourist in my neighbourhood of Berlin is more of the hipster type ;) – Carsten S Feb 24 '15 at 15:13
  • 1
    It might also be worthwhile to mention that the advice I gave for not standing out as an obnoxious tourist was not just to avoid being a target for crime, but it also helps in your dealings with the locals to just not come off as an entitled, ignorant American. Dressing appropriately shows respect for their culture and mannerisms. – Random Feb 24 '15 at 15:15
13
votes

Try out https://www.couchsurfing.com/ you will save some $, meet great people and get an experience of a lifetime. Europe is a lot less scary than your mom thinks, I lived in Amsterdam for many years and visited lots of the places on your list without any issues.

13
votes

Feasible, and highly recommended.

I traveled alone for the whole year when I was 18 -- and not just around Europe, but also South and Central America, Central Asia, and North Africa. The biggest lesson I learned was that people everywhere are pretty much the same. One of the things that means is that if you have common sense in the US, it'll apply elsewhere. So understand that there are bad parts of town overseas just as in the US, and you'll be able to recognize them. Then, if you find yourself somewhere sketchy, you'll be smart about it, and go somewhere safer. Get a good guide book (I prefer Lonely Planet), and you'll mostly know where these places are ahead of time. Staying in hostels, you'll probably make friends, and be walking around with them anyway, and there's added safety in groups. Be aware of ordinary danger, but don't let it rule you.

I hadn't traveled on my own before my year abroad; hadn't traveled anywhere at all other than to visit our old family home in Ireland; hadn't even gone camping. But I had gotten itchy feet, and wanted to see the world. My mom was completely freaked out -- she was sure that I was going to die because I was too young and naive. I took that whole year off to travel, and have taken another couple since then. To this very day I still haven't died!

But I came back, finished college, and even got my Ph.D. I'm older, wiser, and wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. I'm also contented. I'm happy with my life and who I am as a person because I've been there / done that. I can still travel to quirky destinations when I want, but I'm just as happy enjoying the simple comforts of home. And I'm even happier to be starting my own family now -- hopefully to be filled with kids who will scare the bejeezus out of me nonstop.

Your mom is worried about you because she loves you, and there's no need to change that. But I would suggest to her that this will actually help get you to the place she wants you to be in life. You'll be more mature, confident, well rounded, and happy. The things you're talking about really aren't dangerous (as long as you don't intentionally pursue danger). She was crying when I left, but after I came back safe and happy, my mom agreed that going was absolutely the right thing to do.

On a more practical note, your money situation sounds totally fine; excluding my two main flights (Chicago-Quito and Chicago-Dublin), I didn't have that much money for my whole year back in '98. HOWEVER, five countries in a month is really a lot. You'd probably get more from your experience if you try to narrow your list and/or extend your stay. You can always go back. As much as I love Ireland, it does take some time to enjoy it properly, which is less true of the other countries on your list. Plus, when you're older you'll want to travel with other people, and everyone wants to go to Ireland. So I'd vote for dropping it this time around.

In any case, my main advice is to plan the beginning (first two stops, maybe) of your trip very carefully, but leave progressively more flexibility in your schedule. At first, you'll need to get used to the basic logistics of traveling alone in new places. As you go along, you'll be more comfortable with the process, and get new ideas about what you want to do. For example, you might plan on going to Ireland last. Easyjet, Ryanair, or ferry tickets are cheap and easy to get last minute. But if you meet a nice girl in Paris, you might decide that Galway will just have to wait. The best experiences are the ones you can't plan for. :)

Enjoy.

12
votes

it's GREAT to hear of young people getting out there and doing things.

You literally couldn't be safer. You've listed the safest possible countries to visit. (Maybe Japan would be in the list, I can't think of anywhere else safer.) (Maybe Monaco??) So that's a non-issue.

My advice, I would actually encourage you to STAY IN ONE SPOT and really get to know that ONE SPOT, rather than trying to see lots of places.

So, you say one month. You should pick 3 cities and stay in each of them 10 days or so. (Forget London, it is too expensive, and crap.)

My personal advice to you: in fact just go only to Berlin for the whole month.

You can very easily rent accommodation within your budget for the whole month (try the obvious flat shares ... air-Bnb, holiday-rentals, etc) and just stay there.

Young man, you will become very sophisticated in that one month. It will serve you much better than just "looking around" europe, like a tourist.

Enjoy and good luck!

  • That's a great suggestion! Berlin is affordable and has endless things to do, and this would be a much more memorable experience than doing the typical superficial tourist trail for a month. – RemcoGerlich Feb 23 '15 at 9:15
  • I totally agree, Remco. ALL HIS LIFE he will be able to say "oh I lived in Berlin for a month or two...". What an amazing experience. (In contrast saying "oh I was on a holiday in europe" is really not much.) With modern dating sites etc he will live through a couple romances. He'll learn a few words of German. He will become intensely knowledgeable about the city...really he will become "European". (I'm assuming Alex is from the USA.) So I really hope he does it!! Cheers – Fattie Feb 24 '15 at 4:16
  • +1 I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of getting to know a place. Of course, there's also something to be said for not putting all of your eggs in one basket. Berlin isn't everyone's cup of tea, and it might be important for him to learn what's out there and what his own style is. Personally, Berlin's not my cup of tea; of this list, I'd spend a month in Paris. In fact, I did a couple times. :) – Mike Mar 12 '15 at 2:17
  • Hi Mike - regarding "which city", sure. But he just has to pick one! And go. (On the "which city" issue, Paris can be a bit expensive, but sure, EVERYONE has to live in paris for a few weeks, for sure. it's a great choice, he should do it.) – Fattie Mar 12 '15 at 2:48
11
votes

Here's a little data about the UK which will hopefully ease your security concerns:

London is one of the safest big cities in the world. It was ranked number 12 in personal safety by the Economist Intelligence Unit in their 2015 Safe Cities Index (see page 33 of http://safecities.economist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/EIU_Safe_Cities_Index_2015_white_paper-1.pdf )

This rates London safer than any city in the USA, but not as safe as Toronto in Canada.

Violent crime in the UK, which has always been less common than in the USA, is at a historic low at the moment: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27119689

All this said, you should obviously be careful as a tourist in any big city and watch out for pick-pockets in particular.

  • 5
    For values of "any city in the USA" which include only the five included in the study. – Ben Voigt Feb 23 '15 at 1:54
  • The article you posted about violent crime has a different definition of "violent" than is used in the US. In the US violent crime is defined as an event having the risk of, threat of or commission of violence in the act. The article you referenced was simply those incidents having and injurious outcome. – Mr. Mascaro Feb 23 '15 at 23:47
  • 4
    London has a population of 8.6 million people, about 5,500 people per square km, and a murder rate of 1.1 per 100,000 (last year there were 99 murders). Is there any U.S. city with a comparable population, density and lower murder rate? – bain Feb 24 '15 at 16:11
8
votes

In the UK, it's pretty commonplace for Students leaving High School at 18 to go travelling on their own in Europe - especially as part of a 'gap' year before going on to University.

Having said which most 18 year olds will go with one or two friends. As the whole thing is more enjoyable if you share the experience.

But there are pros and cons to going with friends (I know of several groups that fell out of friendship and split up during the trip).

I would say that you definitely need to have a plan - research where you are going to stay and how much that will cost so you have enough funds. Also, the best value places to stay get booked up so you will want to have something set up in advance. Maybe not for every night of your trip, but at least for the first night in each city. There are plenty of guidebooks and websites on this topic and you should spend time reading those - well before you go.

Like any part of the world, there are places you should avoid at certain times of day as they unnecessarily increase risk without adding enjoyment (again research online will tell you that), but from my knowledge of the UK at least, I would say you are pretty safe here.

Bear in mind that "Europe" is very diverse and each country has it's own distinct culture and norms - so you have to assess each country and indeed each city and locale carefully. eg Marseille is different than Paris, central Paris is different than outer Paris and even within Paris certain areas are known as hotspots for Tourist muggings.

But all this sounds very negative and I don't mean to put you off as mostly you will have a lovely time and not experience anything unpleasant.

You will also likely come across other travellers (especially if you are staying at the Youth Hostels) and it's not uncommon to make lifelong friends on such trips.

You don't say if you are male or female - I think females on their own do attract unwanted attention sometimes and that can be a consideration - especially if you are not used to handling situations like that (Eg a bunch of drunk guys on a night out will often verbalise if they cross paths with a young woman - it maybe harmless and ignorable or it may escalate) . But sadly that is true of any country I have ever been in. On the other hand, statistics show that a teenage male is more likely to be the victim of a mugging in the UK say, than a woman.

As for your being an Eagle Scout that may give you a practical advantage, but they streetsmarts needed to stay safe can be a different skill set altogether.

Maybe a more relevant qualification is , have you travelled widely in your own country first? If not, do at least SOME travelling to another state or distant city in your own country first - you will learn valuable lessons of what it feels like to be alone and away from home - and you can judge better whether this is the right thing to do.

These days the ability to carry a mobile phone and stay in contact with loved ones and the possibility to have a credit card to avoid having to carry cash also reduces risks to you personally . And having a phone with GPS on it could be a godsend as (for me at least) one of the big questions was where exactly am I? If you have the internet on your phone then you also have a way of finding out things about local travel timetables etc and so yet another problem about travelling is resolved.

If you have gadgets on you though, do take care of them and don't flaunt expensive gadgets in certain areas where it will make you a theft target .

Knowing a foreign language is extremely useful as you will often get a lot more help from locals if you speak in their tongue. It's not that they don't understand English (often they do) but they really appreciate your making the effort to be part of their culture and so won't write you off as 'just another tourist'.

So that's a mixed bag of advice there - but in summary - yes it's doable and your budget is not unrealistic if you are frugal with your choices of where to stay and book well in advance.

I think you will enjoy it a lot more if you can go with some others though and it does add to the safety factor compared to being on your own.

7
votes

If you use common sense, you should have not a problem at all. Being an Eagle Scout, I assume you are from the USA. Europe is in many aspects as safe or safer than the USA, I suspect there are too many movies like Taken which portray Europe as dangerous.

I think your most important problem will be money. Life is relatively expensive in Europe, so for lodging use hostels or couchsurfing and for traveling I recommend Interrail (which allows to use rail for a reduced price in Europe, google it). Public transport is excellent, I think you never have a problem to find your way.

Crime is in general a bit different in Europe. There are some zones you should avoid but that should not be a problem by informing yourself beforehand and/or asking locals. Mugging is extremely rare and only happens in secluded areas (then it could happen in daylight) or at night. Muggers almost never use guns, but either start a blitz attack (pepper spray or hitting ambush) or corner you using their majority or knives.

Thieves are another section. In contrast to the USA pickpockets here could be really,really good, so watch yourself. Unfortunately some pickpockets are children to avoid being punished for their actions.

The most problematic crime here IMO are rackets: In every major city in Europe you can see Three-card Monte or shell games which you should avoid like a pest (Even if you do not play, they are often working with pickpockets). In the Wikipedia there is an entire section of scam and confidence tricks which you should read. Americans are often too accustomed to politeness and scammers use this to their advantage by being extremely rude (Going into your vicinity without asking, touching you, aggressively pledging that you are obliged to pay money, whatever). Act like a local (using language) who knows that they are scams. You need to keep your distance, stonewall them or if they are getting really obnoxious, tell them to fuck off (really).

  • I grew up in New York City and shell games and that type of thing are not unknown there; I would say they're more common now than when I was young ... although it's by far more common to encounter street vendors selling "Rolex" watches and such. The area around the main branch of the library (as seen in Ghostbusters) was a major center of drug trafficking. Every city has some questionable areas and some questionable activity. Be informed and aware of your surroundings. – David Feb 24 '15 at 14:27
6
votes

I've been to France and Italy a few times and haven't had any dangerous encounters so far. I think that a lot of states in USA are actually more dangerous than these countries. People are actually very friendly, especially in areas profiting from tourism and will be delighted if you speak in their mother tongue.

It also depends on what kind of landmarks you wish to see. If you plan to travel to natural and historical landmarks you will have lesser chance of having a bad encounter, than some other areas - especially poor districts in some less tourist friendly cities and villages. Marseille for example.

5
votes

I hitchhiked around in France when I was 21 and only spoke basic French. No problems whatsoever. Regarding France (and probably other southern European countries, but less so in nothern Europe), as a single girl/women, picking up a map (or using a map app in a smartphone in an obvious way) in Paris and other major French cities in the evening or night is a bad idea. Basically everytime one does something like that (stopping and looking confused about which direction to take) you will get a more or less indecent "friendly" proposal about a ride or if you want company while walking.

5
votes

Yes, you can do this. I did almost exactly what you were talking about when I was 18, quite a few years ago. It's mostly extremely safe, but there are some potential places or people which might be possibly a problem, though you should be able to avoid most or all of those. I almost always felt completely safe, or at least able to deal with the situations I encountered, which were:

London:

  • I had a hotel room at basement level, and left my window open at night. Someone climbed down into the well outside the window and reached in and took something from my bedside table.
  • A bully at a video arcade tried to intimidate me into leaving the game I was playing before I was done with it. I glowered at him and he backed off.

Paris:

  • As in Italy (though not quite as severe), somewhat reckless driving, accidents, and pedestrian hazards. Crossing streets is about crossing when there is not a car coming, rather than about traffic rules. Drivers tend to be fast, alert, and often disregard stop signals.
  • Saw some light physical attacks by angry people. A woman I travelled with was briefly attacked by an angry woman for no reason. I also saw a pregnant woman kick the side of a moving car because it drove close by her.

Milan:

  • People driving cars on sidewalks to avoid traffic. Not actually really that dangerous.

Rome:

  • Strange characters approached me with various wild stories and suggestions.
  • Gypsies being aggressive/determined and/or weird about panhandling/begging. They were clearly very focussed on skills at getting money, and seemed best to avoid as much as possible.
  • Yelled at by passing drunken youth.

Copenhagen:

  • People offering to sell illegal drugs.
5
votes

Tell your Mom to not base her ideas about foreign countries on Hollywood movies such as "Taken". That's quite xenophobic, frankly speaking.

Also, Europe is not a country but a continent of many different countries with different cultures and standards. And these countries themselves are not culturally homogenous - they have cities, towns, villages, industrial areas, and so forth. These differences are much greater than the differences between the states that make up the US.

If you go to a major city in Europe (Paris / London / Berlin), you should have the same level of precaution as if you went to NYC or Chicago. If you, for some reason, want to check out the roughest areas of those cities, then you would have to apply the same precaution as if you did if you went to the rougher areas of US cities. But even the worst areas in European cities are far from being comparable to Detroit or Baltimore, for instance.

And again, please understand that the stuff that you can see in Hollywood movies has nothing to do with reality - not even in the slightest way. That not only applies to movies about Europe but also to movies about space travel or toys that come to life.

If you really are a 18yo female, I reckon you will want to go to parties or clubs. Of course, you would have to apply the same level of precaution there as you would in the US.

3
votes

My opinion as a 26 Your old from the UK is this. Take a map and a good book. Dont worry about getting lost, injured, robbed etc, and don't rely technology like GPS to take you everywhere. A lot of the charm of travelling for me is the adventure and the getting lost and finding incredible places on backstreets that you would never see if you weren't lost.

Dont shield yourself but be sensible, The hardest part is saying Yes. If someone invites you our for a meal or offers you a place to stay then go for it!

FYI, I spend 3 months round Europe on a motorbike when i was 17. When i was 18 i went to Mongolia via Central Asia, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan.

Any questions or advice on places to visit then give me a shout. I have friends all over Europe who would love to offer a place to stay.

1
vote

For travel, you can buy special tourist train passes "EUrail" and "BritRail" that will give you pretty cheap train travel. I can't give you a good idea of price, since I'm in Europe and it's only for tourists.

Many cities also have effective public transport bus/tram/local rail, with day passes available.

Most cities are generally very safe, though standard big city precautions should be taken.

Cost of food in restaurants may be a surprise, coming from the US. Food here is a bit more expensive than I experienced when stateside. It would be worth reading up a bit on what to expect in each city, as well as local tipping custom before you get there.

1
vote
  1. Pick up an international phone to use on travel. Europe has carriers where you just pick up a SIM card or top it off. If you have a current carrier, you can consider a global plan from them but be advised that typical charges on voice can be upwards of $2/min and then one needs to be weary of data charges. One colleague of mine visited England on business, left data on accidentally but turned if off 3 days later. Due to GPS, adds, etc, had a $600 bill which he negotiated down to $200. This to say, you may be at more risk to be robbed this way than others. If you have a compatible phone for Europe, if not unlocked, your carrier should be able to do this (I believe now required by Fed laws) to allow you to swap SIM cards. then you buy one overseas or here ..
  2. Get a credit card or two, your folks can sign up for you or add a card (with your name) to their existing ones. It will also help you establish credit and reduce the amount of cash on hand. Most (for a fee) allow you to pull cash if needed.
  • Yes, for sure. Just buy a Lebara sim card when you arrive in Berlin. Click it in to your phone for local use. – Fattie Feb 24 '15 at 4:20
  • I actually think this is the best answer here. (Other than mine of course :) ) – Fattie Mar 12 '15 at 2:52
1
vote

In one sentence: absolutely go for it! Traveling alone has the advantage that you can always decide yourself what to do, and won't have to compromise..on the other hand, you're very likely to find people to travel with...this will provide invaluable input like destinations or sights you haven't thought about.. As far as security is concerned, don't worry... I went on an inter rail trip in southwestern and Western Europe when I was 17, and didn't feel unsafe anywhere, while sleeping in and in front of train stations a lot during the trip...

0
votes

Statistically speaking here is what you may be looking for:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate (Order the list by 'rate')

If you are used to a Luxembourg homicide rate of 0, you may be concerned. But coming from the US - and naturally there are great differences between its states as well - there is no reason to give grave concern towards this issue. Just take your usual prudent travellers caution with you whilst stay open-minded to enjoy your trip as much as possible.

  • Luxembourg is tiny, there is a 1 to 4 factor between good years and bad years, it's mostly a statistical anomaly and can easily go the other way. – Relaxed Jun 11 '15 at 5:46

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.