Europe travel guide: health and safety


Vaccinations, drinking water, scams, emergency numbers, travel insurance.


Health care and diseases

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.

Rabies is still a problem in some parts of continental Europe, as are some diseases spread by ticks, mosquitoes and other insects.

Do I need vaccinations to visit Europe?

Your vaccination needs will depend on your own health status, where you're travelling to, and when, so speak to a doctor with experience in travel health. Always make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date before you travel.

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.

Know before you go

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

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.

    Travel insurance

    Travel insurance is essential no matter which country you're visiting. Buy your insurance at the same time as you book your trip, that way you'll be covered if you have to cancel for some reason before you go.

    Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Malta, Slovenia and Norway but these are not a substitute for travel insurance.

    For more information read our buying guide and to choose the best cover, see our travel insurance reviews.

    Tips:

    • If you're planning on skiing, bungee-jumping or doing anything else potentially bone-breaking, make sure your insurance covers it. Most policies won't, so you'll probably need to purchase extra cover.
    • If you're planning on driving, check what your travel insurance policy covers so you don't end up paying for the same insurance again with the car hire company.
    • Remember, anything that happens to you while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is unlikely to be covered by insurance.
    • Keep a print-out of your travel insurance details with you at all times while on your trip.
    • Share your insurance details with family or friends before you leave.

    Have you bought insurance yet? Check our free, comprehensive and independent travel insurance reviews to find out which policy is best for you.

    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've been unsuccessful coming to an agreement with the business or service provider, contact the appropriate EU ombudsman at ombudsman.europa.eu or seek advice from the European Consumer Centres Network.
    • 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.

    More about Europe


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