On the whole, you should experience few problems travelling in Western Europe – even alone – as the region is well developed and relatively safe. But do exercise common sense.

  • Work out how friends and relatives can contact you in case of an emergency and keep in touch.
  • Scanning your passport, driving licence and credit and ATM cards and storing them securely online gives you access from anywhere. If things are stolen or lost, replacement is much easier when you have the vital details available.
  • Train stations in many Western European cities can be sketchy late at night.

Scams

Be aware of shopkeepers in touristy places who may shortchange you. The same applies to taxi drivers.

Never buy tickets other than from official vendors – they may turn out to be counterfeit.

Theft

Watch out for theft in Western Europe, including theft by other travellers. The most important things to secure are your passport, documents (such as a driving licence), tickets and money, in that order.

  • Protect yourself from 'snatch thieves' who go for cameras and shoulder bags. They sometimes operate from motorcycles or scooters and expertly slash the strap before you have a chance to react. A small day pack is better, but watch your rear.
  • At cafes and bars; loop the strap of your bag around your leg while seated. A jacket or bag left on the back of a chair is an invitation for theft.
  • Pickpockets come up with endlessly creative diversions to distract you: tying friendship bracelets on your wrist, peddling trinkets, pretending to 'find' a gold ring on the ground that they've conveniently placed there, posing as beggars or charity workers, or as tourists wanting you to take their photograph…ignore them.
  • Beware of gangs of kids – whether dishevelled or well dressed – demanding attention, who may be trying to pickpocket you or overtly rob you.
  • Pickpockets are most active in dense crowds, especially in busy train stations and on public transport during peak hours.

Drugs

Always treat drugs with caution. There are a lot of drugs available in Western Europe, sometimes quite openly (particularly in the Netherlands), but that doesn't mean they're legal (or safe). Even a little hashish can cause a great deal of trouble in some places.