Stay Safe: Avoid These 10 Mistakes When Traveling in Europe

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As you prepare for your European adventure, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with local laws and etiquette. This knowledge can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. An online discussion on a subreddit asked, “What should people avoid while traveling to Europe?” Here are some insights from seasoned European travelers on what to steer clear of on your next vacation.

Beware of Europe’s Sly Pickpockets

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Pickpocketing is a common issue in major European cities, with unsuspecting tourists often falling prey, particularly in tourist hotspots and on public transport. One commenter warned, “Be vigilant for pickpockets in Western Europe. Despite the reputation of Eastern Europe, cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and Barcelona have higher incidences of pickpocketing.” Remember, a city’s glamour doesn’t guarantee safety. Always stay alert to protect your money and valuables.

Avoid Tourist Trap Restaurants

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Steer clear of restaurants that aggressively coax you inside. These establishments often overcharge, provide poor value for money, or manipulate situations to their advantage. One commenter described the typical scenario, “They’ll insist you ‘come sit down,’ thrust a menu at you, talk fast, and offer freebies, all to make you feel guilty about refusing.” Another user suggested a way to identify such places, “If the menu is translated into several languages not native to the country, it’s likely a tourist trap.” Opt for less touristy spots to get better value and quality food.

Respect Bicycle Paths

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In major European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, cycling is a way of life, not just a leisure activity. Distinct bicycle and pedestrian lanes are a common sight. If you’re on foot, stick to the pedestrian lanes. As one commenter advised, “Don’t walk on bicycle paths if you visit the Netherlands.”

Beware of Europe’s Cunning Scammers

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Street scams are prevalent in European cities, often starting subtly and innocently. One reader suggested researching common scams before your visit. They shared, “Scams vary, so it’s best to read up on them beforehand. For instance, costumed individuals, particularly Roman centurions, may insist on taking pictures with you and then demand an exorbitant fee.”

Other scams include people forcing items like flowers or bracelets into your hands and demanding payment, or someone asking for directions while their accomplice steals from your bag. One user advised, “If you’re a tourist, no local should have a legitimate reason to approach you. Anyone trying to engage you in a major tourist destination is likely a scammer.”

Navigating Europe’s Cobblestones: Choose Comfort Over Style

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Walking on Europe’s cobblestone streets in heels can be a nightmare. While European women may seem to effortlessly strut in heels, they’re accustomed to it. One commenter humorously warned, “Please, don’t wear stilettos in Germany. You risk slipping and becoming the laughing stock of the crowd, including children.” Opt for sneakers, espadrilles, or other comfortable flat shoes while exploring the cities.

Avoid the Pitfalls of Renting a Car

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While driving from one European country to another can be straightforward, it’s best to plan thoroughly before renting a car. One user advised, “Don’t rent a car if you’re staying in a major city. Public transport and occasional Ubers are more practical.” However, if you’re exploring rural areas, a rental car can be beneficial. Another user cautioned about cross-country car rentals, “You’ll face hefty fees if you rent a car in one country and return it in another.”

Respect Sensitive Historical Laws

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Certain historical topics, like the Holocaust and Holocaust denial, are sensitive and legally protected in Germany and other European countries. One user warned, “Don’t make ‘Hitler salutes’ in Germany, even as a joke – it’s illegal. Holocaust denial is also illegal in 18 European countries.”

Another commenter added, “Nazi and communist symbols are banned in Latvia, Lithuania, and parts of Ukraine. It’s not just illegal; locals frown upon it. You risk arrest, and public sympathy will be with the police.”

Consider the Limitations of Your American Devices

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Locked American phones may not work with European SIM cards, potentially leaving you reliant on expensive roaming services. One user shared, “This is why I always buy an unlocked phone rather than one from my service provider.”

Embrace the Diversity of European Countries

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Europe comprises 50 countries, each with its unique culture and laws. Don’t assume that what applies in one country applies to all. One commenter advised, “Don’t think that what goes for one country goes for all. There are all sorts of differences in cultures, laws, etc.” Stay open-minded, educate yourself about the different laws and cultures, and embrace the diversity.

Don’t Neglect Basic Courtesies

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While it may seem obvious, always begin conversations with a greeting. This is standard etiquette in many European countries, and neglecting it may lead to being ignored. One user advised, “In France, at least, always exchange greetings before asking for anything. In other words, say ‘bonjour’ before asking where the toilet is.” Learning basic phrases in the local language before your trip can be beneficial.

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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.