Guide To Backpacking Europe: Safety And Security
Personal safety and security is often a major concern for people backpacking across Europe, especially for first time backpackers. While some unusual and alarming crimes have been reported by backpackers in Europe, the more common dangers you need to protect yourself from are simple thefts. Follow these simple tips to protect and secure your belongings and remember to never walk around at night without a friend. You may also want to carry some sort of personal safety device, like a can of pepper spray or a Coleman brass whistle, in case you find yourself in an unpleasant situation.
One of the most important pieces of gear you can bring along for safety and security is a collection of small combination locks with keys. It is much more likely for a thief to open your backpack and take just a few items while you are talking or making a purchase than for someone to run off with the entire pack. Lock the zippers of each compartment, or at least those containing valuables, to prevent this.
Napping on trains is a great way to get in some much needed rest, but it is also a good time for someone to steal your backpack without you knowing. It is a good idea to use a larger lock to secure your pack to the train’s luggage rack. Most hostels offer rental lockers to protect your valuables at night or while you are out. Make use of these as well. You may need to bring along a small lock for the locker, while some require the rental of a special lock.
While you are out enjoying the town with your backpack or your daypack, keep an eye on it at all times. If your compartments are securely zipped, and nothing valuable is stuffed in an exterior pocket, the only way a thief can get your things is to take the entire pack. Anytime you stop to eat or talk, or if you sit your backpack by your feet for whatever reason, remember to keep one foot through a strap at all times. This will prevent a crook from snagging the pack and running off.
Items like mobile phones or cameras are likely targets for thieves, but money and credit cards are typically what a crook wants. Keep all your important documents, like passports, rail passes, and airline tickets in a waist pack or in a stylish money belt. Money belts or money pouches are much safer than traditional fanny packs because they are worn closer to your body, making it less likely for someone to steal them. Carry your credit cards and money in the belt as well, but remember to keep some money and copies of your documents in a separate place too.
Be very cautious about the amount of cash you carry. Stores and restaurants in many major cities accept credit or debit cards, and ATMs are available as well. Check with your bank about any fees for international ATM usage, and if they aren’t too high, plan to use your ATM card and limit the cash you carry. Travelers checks are also a good way to keep your cash secure.