Europe travel guide: what you need to know


Best time to go, health, safety, crime, emergency numbers.


  • Best time to go
  • Health and safety
  • Emergency contacts
  • Making a complaint

    Best time to go

    Most parts of Europe are open for tourism all year round so there really is no right or wrong time to go. The climate varies greatly from the north of the continent to the south. Depending on when you're planning your holiday, check the average temperature and rainfall in the region you're travelling to.

    • Summer (June/July) is the peak season when most Europeans take long holidays. Prices are likely to be higher and bookings harder to come by, particularly during school holidays.
    • Christmas and New Year is a peak season across all of Europe.
    • If you don't like crowds, consider the shoulder seasons when you'll find cheaper flights and accommodation, and fewer people. If you're lucky, you'll catch some nice weather in spring or autumn.
    • Weather can affect roads and public transport, particularly in northern Europe where the winters can be severe, and in the UK, where the infrastructure can't always cope with extreme weather.
    • Remember that the further north you travel in Europe, the fewer daylight hours you'll have for sightseeing in winter (and the more hours you'll have in summer).
    • Winters are mild in southern Europe, so the off-season can be a great time to find a bargain, however many hotels and resorts may be closed.
    • The ski season varies throughout Europe.

    Health and safety

    For the latest country-specific advice on the risk of natural disasters, conflicts, terrorism and disease outbreaks, check smartraveller.gov.au.

    Most parts of Western Europe have a high standard of medical care. The quality of care in some Eastern and Southern European countries may not be as high, and there may be a greater risk of contracting water-borne diseases and travellers' diarrhoea.

    Reciprocal health care

    Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Malta, Slovenia and Norway. This means Australians can access the public health systems of these countries in an emergency.

    If you're travelling to one of the above countries, you’ll need your Medicare card, along with your passport, to prove your eligibility.

    • A reciprocal health care agreement doesn't mean you'll receive free medical care. You'll still pay the same amount as locals do for treatment and medicine.
    • Health care is only available in emergencies. You won't be eligible for ongoing care.
    • No matter where you're visiting in Europe, you'll still need travel insurance.

    Is it safe to drink tap water in Europe?

    Albania – not safe
    Andorra - safe
    Armenia - not safe in all areas
    Austria - safe
    Azerbaijan – safe in some areas. Bottled water recommended in Baku and the lowland areas of Azerbaijan
    Belarus – not safe
    Belgium – safe
    Bosnia And Herz. – safe in Sarajevo, but drink bottled water outside of the capital
    Bulgaria – safe in major cities and towns. In rural areas check with locals
    Croatia – safe
    Cyprus – safe, but highly chlorinated and tastes bad
    Czech Rep. - safe
    Denmark - safe
    Estonia - safe
    Finland - safe
    France - safe
    Georgia – not safe in some areas
    Germany - safe
    Greece – safe in Athens and major cities but check with locals on the islands
    Hungary - safe
    Iceland - safe
    Ireland - safe
    Italy – safe
    Kosovo – not safe in some areas
    Latvia – safe
    Liechtenstein - safe
    Lithuania - safe
    Luxembourg – safe
    Macedonia – safe
    Malta – safe
    Moldova – not safe in some areas
    Monaco – safe
    Montenegro – not safe
    Netherlands - safe
    Norway - safe
    Poland - safe
    Portugal – safe
    Romania - safe in the cities but be careful in rural areas
    Russia - not safe
    San Marino – safe
    Serbia - safe in the cities but be careful in rural areas
    Slovakia - safe
    Slovenia - safe
    Spain - safe
    Sweden - safe
    Switzerland – safe
    Ukraine – not safe
    UK – safe
    Vatican - safe

    In some countries, the tap water is safe but has a foul taste so ordering bottled water is the norm in restaurants and cafes.

    Can I take my medication to Europe?

    Medications that are legal in Australia may be restricted in some European countries (for example, codeine is considered a narcotic in Greece.)

    Check with the embassy of the country, or countries, you're travelling to (or transiting through), particularly if you're taking pain killers, sleeping pills, cold and flu drugs or ADHD medications.

    No matter where you travel, always carry medication in its original packaging, along with the original prescription or a note from your doctor.

    Do I need vaccinations to travel to Europe?

    Crime and scams

  • Crime rates and scam risks vary from country to country in Europe.
  • Always keep your belongings close and consider using a money belt to avoid pickpockets or bag snatchers.
  • Certain areas of cities may be best avoided at night. Ask a trusted local, such as your accommodation provider, for advice.
  • Bank card skimming and credit card fraud is a problem in Europe, as it is in Australia. Keep an eye on your statement and let your bank know if you see any unexplained transactions.
  • Be careful using free Wi-Fi hotspots. Follow our travel tech tips to keep your device safe from hackers, and avoid doing internet banking on untrusted connections.

More about using credit cards and ATMs in Europe.

Emergency contacts

EU and most of Europe (including UK)

All emergencies: 112

Russia, Ukraine, Belarus

Ambulance: 03
Fire/rescue: 01
Police: 02

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ambulance: 124
Fire/rescue: 123
Police: 122

  • Operators may not speak English, so try to have an interpreter with you, such as an employee from your hotel. Alternatively, ask in a clear voice if there is an English-speaking operator available.
  • In a medical emergency, it's best to contact your travel insurer as soon as possible.

EU assistance numbers (not yet available in all EU countries)

116 000 – hotline for missing children
116 111 – helpline for children
116 123 – emotional support helpline
116 006 – helpline for crime victims
116 117 – non-emergency medical assistance

Consular assistance

To find your closest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate, go to dfat.gov.au/about-us/our-locations/missions/.

24-hour Australian Consular Emergency Centre: +61 (0)2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 or SMS +61 421 269 080

Making a consumer complaint

Consumer protection laws vary from country to country in Europe, but in the EU there is unified legislation ensuring consumers receive fair treatment, products meet acceptable standards and consumers have a right of redress if something goes wrong.

  • If you have a complaint relating to a flight into or out of an EU country, follow this advice from the European Consumer Centres Network.
  • For other complaints (if you've been unsuccessful coming to an agreement with the business or service provider already) find the appropriate EU ombudsman at ombudsman.europa.eu.
  • Outside of the EU, contact the country's consumer rights organisation or the official tourism board.
  • You can also seek advice from CHOICE's UK sister organisation, which.co.uk.
  • If your gripe is with an Australian or international tour operator, airline, or booking site, follow the usual procedures for making a complaint or seeking compensation.


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