Europe travel guide: what you need to know


What's the emergency numbers in Europe, best time to go to save money and avoid the crowds plus travel sized tips for health, safety, emergency contacts and more in Europe.

Europe 3

Europe overview


Emergency numbers in Europe, when to go to save money and avoid the crowds, plus travel sized tips - download the Europe travel guide.

Travel-size tips

  • There are no direct flights between Australia and Europe. Most Australians fly to Europe via Asia or the Middle East.
  • Australian tourists don't need a visa to visit most countries in Europe for up to 90 days.
  • You'll need an international permit to drive in some European countries.
  • Electrical plug types vary throughout Europe, so you may need a universal adaptor.
  • The euro is not the only currency. Many countries still use their own currencies and won't accept euros.
  • Always check smartraveller.gov.au for the latest advice and safety alerts on the region you're travelling to.

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 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.
  • 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.
  • Christmas and New Year is a peak season across all of Europe.
  • The ski season varies throughout Europe. Check skiresort.info for the opening and closing dates of ski fields and resorts.

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.
  • 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 these countries, remember to pack your Medicare card. You'll need it, 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, and you won't be eligible for ongoing care. So no matter where you're visiting in Europe, you'll still need travel insurance.
  • Tap water is safe to drink in most European countries, with the exception of Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Montenegro, Russia and Ukraine, and outside of the major cities in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Spain. (Tip: In some countries, the tap water has a foul taste so ordering bottled water is the norm in restaurants and cafes.)
  • 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 transitting 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.
  • Crime rates and scam risks vary from country to country in Europe. See our article about tourist traps for tips on avoiding common scams, or search forums such as tripadvisor to read warnings from other travellers.
  • 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 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 these 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.

Do I need vaccinations to travel to Europe?

Emergency contacts

Most of Europe

All emergencies: 112

UK and Ireland

All emergencies: 999 (112 will redirect you to the 999 service)

Russia, Ukraine, Belarus

Ambulance: 03

Fire/rescue: 01

Police: 02

Switzerland

Ambulance: 144

Fire/rescue: 118

Police: 117

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ambulance: 124

Fire/rescue: 123

Police: 122

Macedonia, Montenegro

Ambulance: 94

Fire/rescue: 93

Police: 92

Bulgaria

Ambulance: 150

Fire/rescue: 160

Police: 166

Albania

Ambulance: 17

Fire/rescue: 18

Police: 19

Gibraltar

Ambulance: 199

Fire/rescue: 190

Police: 199

  • 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.

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 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. They also have a handy app that translates the EU consumer rights from English to the local language when dealing with travel problems like cancelled flights.
  • 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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