Six Safest Places To Travel in Europe: Covid & Beyond

Six Safest Places To Travel in Europe: Covid & Beyond

As European countries begin to reopen their borders, Europe can again be enjoyed as a top tourist destination. In the wake of COVID-19, though, travel safety has become a top priority for many travelers. Those eager to travel again may wonder, what are the safest destinations in Europe?

In addition to COVID-19 and public health measures, a country’s safety is also determined by crime, pollution, and drinking and bathing water quality. While Europe has some of the highest safety standards in the world, several countries stand above the rest.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenia’s capital may not be at the top of every traveler’s list, but its Athens-inspired architecture and lakefront views make it one of Europe’s best-hidden gems. A walker’s paradise, most of Ljubljana is closed off to cars, allowing pedestrians to roam freely throughout the historic city.

Ljubljana also has the lowest homicide rate in Europe, making it one of the safest destinations for travelers. This is true for the entire country of Slovenia, meaning tourists can enjoy all it has to offer. Slovenia has no shortage of adventures, from the Adriatic coastline to the Balkan highlands.

Some of Europe’s Best Drinking Water

For many travelers, potable drinking water is one of their primary concerns. However, this will not be a concern in Slovenia, which hosts more than 7,500 springs. The water that emerges from these springs is naturally filtered by the mountainous surroundings of the Soča Valley. This mineral-rich water fuels the city of Ljubljana, where there’s a clean drinking fountain on almost every corner.

Marbella, Spain

As one of Europe’s most luxurious destinations, yachts and supercars are much more common sights in Marbella than any kind of crime. With very low levels of violent crime and theft, travelers can feel safe walking around Marbella day and night. In addition to Marbella’s safe streets, risk-weary travelers will enjoy its year-round sunshine and warm microclimate.

COVID-19 Measures

Like most European countries, travel restrictions have been lifted, meaning foreign travelers will no longer have to provide proof of vaccination or negative tests. Travelers should make their health a priority, though, and consider travel insurance. Recommended by the CDC, travel insurance will cover visitors in case of illness or injury abroad. 

Basel, Switzerland

The culture-rich city of Basel boasts the lowest overall crime rate in the entirety of Europe. This is no surprise, with Switzerland standing out as one of the safest countries in the world. More popular Swiss destinations like Zurich, Geneva, and Bern are also excellent options due to the safety standards upheld by their host country.

In addition to low crime rates, Switzerland is historically a country free from international conflict and political unrest. Terrorism is a rarity within Swiss borders, primarily due to high border security, tight firearm restrictions, and a significant stateside military presence.

Algarve, Portugal

While Switzerland's crime rate is remarkably low, Portugal comes ahead, according to the Global Peace Index. Considering the level of societal safety and security, the extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict, and the degree of militarization, Portugal ranks as the sixth most peaceful country in the world. Portugal’s safety can also be attributed to a stable government, a strong economy, and low unemployment.

Each of Portugal’s major cities is considered safe, but Algarve is among the most desirable (especially for retirees). In addition to its safety and year-round sunshine, Algarve is landmarked for its seaside cliffs and caves. 

Amiens, France

Its low pollution levels set France apart from the rest of Europe. France is one of the least polluted countries in the entire world. Touted as the fourth-greenest city in France, Amiens is the perfect city to enjoy clean air. Its gothic architecture and long canals make it an ideal destination for tourists looking for long, scenic walks.

Register With STEP

Even when traveling to Europe’s safest destinations, additional safety precautions must be considered. One of the best resources for U.S. Citizens is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) provided by the Department of State. This free service allows travelers to register their vacation details with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their destination country. Benefits of this program include:

  • Information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country
  • The ability of the Embassy to contact travelers in such emergencies as a natural disaster or civil unrest
  • Easier access for family and friends to get in touch with travelers in an emergency

Leuven, Belgium

While Belgium has excellent health care and low crime rates, Leuven stands out due to its high scores in accessibility, social diversity, solidarity, tolerance, and respect. For these factors, Leuven earned the top spot on Europe’s most “Open-Minded Destinations.” This makes Leuven an excellent choice for people of different cultures, religions, identities, and abilities. A contributing factor is the presence of Leuven’s prestigious university, where students have shaped the progressive, multicultural identity of the city.

Is Europe a Safe Place To Travel To?

Europe is home to some of the safest travel destinations in the world. European countries consistently rank highly in such measures as the Global Peace Index. In 2022, 21 of the GPI’s top 30 safest countries were European countries:

  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Austria
  • Portugal
  • Slovenia
  • Czech Republic
  • Switzerland
  • Hungary
  • Finland
  • Croatia
  • Germany
  • Norway
  • Slovakia
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • Spain
  • Romania

Does Europe Have any COVID-19 Restrictions?

Until recently, EU member states required either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from international travelers. These restrictions have since been lifted, allowing travelers to enter the EU without such proof. It should be noted that the CDC rates most EU countries as “Level 3” High-Risk countries. While travel is still considered safe, the CDC recommends vaccinating all travelers.

What Do I Need To Travel to Europe?

ETIAS has an expected arrival of 2023 and aims to make Europe even safer than it currently is. This electronic visa-waiver program will require all non-EU citizens to pre-register before traveling to Europe. Non-EU travelers, including U.S. citizens, will continue to be able to travel throughout the EU visa-free; however, ETIAS will be required every three years.

Will ETIAS Make European Travel More Difficult?

Similar to the U.S. current system, ETIAS will create a safer, more efficient system that will benefit travelers, customs agents, and EU citizens. While non-EU travelers will be faced with the extra step of ETIAS registration, it will ultimately decrease the wait times at EU borders. This is because crucial information will be shared beforehand, expediting the in-person verification. Furthermore, ETIAS is valid for three years, and approval usually takes less than one minute.

How Will ETIAS Increase Safety in Europe?

By requiring non-EU travelers to register electronically before entering Europe, ETIAS will provide border agents with a database of who will arrive each day. Before ETIAS, such information was not known beforehand, creating an imperfect identity verification system. With ETIAS, border agents can quickly verify each traveler's identity, creating a safer and more efficient customs experience.

Conclusion

Europe is one of the safest places one can travel to. In addition to top-tier healthcare and low crime rates, many European countries feature pristine drinking water, minimal pollution, stable economies, and modern ideologies. Additionally, Europe was one of the safest places during the COVID-19 pandemic, as each EU member state takes public health protocols very seriously. 

With the arrival of ETIAS, Europe’s safety will only increase. Travelers planning a trip to Europe should find out how ETIAS applies to them

 

Sources:

COVID-19 Travel Recommendations | CDC

Best Open-Minded In Europe | European Best Destinations

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program | Department of State

2022 Global Peace Index | Vision of Humanity

Slovenia's nourishing waters | National Geographic