Business Insider Edition

The riskiest vacation hot spots in Europe, ranked

Kat Tenbarge , Business Insider US
 Jun 29, 2019, 04:24 PM
Louvre Pyramid By The Architect I.M. Pei At Night, Paris, France
Insights/UIG via Getty Images
  • Before you plan your European vacation, it's worth checking out which countries are the most dangerous and why.
  • The US State Department ranks countries as Levels 1 through 4, from least dangerous to most dangerous.
  • Twelve European countries are ranked Level 2, and the agency recommends American visitors exercise increased caution when visiting them.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

Europe may include some of the most popular travel destinations for Americans, but the US State Department advises that several countries on the continent may require extra caution for those looking to vacation abroad.

The State Department uses four levels of travel guidance to offer Americans advice, set boundaries, and describe the risks of each country:

Level 1 - Exercise normal precautions

Level 2 - Exercise increased caution

Level 3 - Reconsider travel

Level 4 - Do not travel

Eleven European countries are ranked Level 2, but apart from regions in Russia designated as Level 4, there are no countries the State Department warns against visiting altogether.

Elsewhere, there are several countries in Africa, Latin America, South America, and the Middle East ranked Levels 3 and 4. These include Venezuela, multiple regions in Mexico, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea.

Here are the travel advisories for every country in Europe, ranked from most to least risky based on the State Department's designation levels.


Germany - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department warns American travelers that terrorist groups may "continue plotting possible attacks" in Germany.

Since October 2015, there have been 13 significant incidents regarding terrorism in Germany. These include a high-profile December 2016 attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, when a lorry struck and killed 12 and injured 48. Earlier that year, during one July week, a teenager hacked at train passengers with an axe and knife in Wuerzburg, and a bomb detonated outside a bar in Ansbach, injuring 15 people.

The Islamic State claimed the above attacks, while others were orchestrated by right-wing German extremists against refugees and Kurdish extremists against Turks and Turkish organizations.


Italy - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department advises caution in Italy due to potential terrorist attacks that may target popular tourist locations and both public and private spaces.

In 2018, a right-wing extremist terrorist seriously wounded six African immigrants in a drive-by shooting in Macerata. In 2016, Italian authorities arrested suspects in connection with a plot to attack the Vatican and Israeli Embassy in Rome on behalf of the Islamic State. The attack was never carried out.


Spain - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department warns US citizens that terrorist groups may continue to plot attacks in Spain and asks tourists to exercise increased caution.

In August 2017, a jihadist terror attack in Barcelona resulted in 15 deaths. A van driven into pedestrian street La Rambla killed 13 and injured at least 130 others, including one person who died of injuries later. The attacker killed another person in order to steal the victim's car for escape. Later that day, a van operated by men believed to be part of the same terrorist cell drove into pedestrians in Cambriis, killing one and injuring six others. All attackers were killed by police.


Belgium - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department advises increased caution in Belgium due to potential terrorist attacks.

Since 2014, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for seven terrorist attacks in Belgium, including the three coordinated March 2016 Brussels bombings. Twin bombings in the Brussels airport and one at a metro station in central Brussels killed 32 civilians and injured over 300 others. The bombings were the deadliest terror attack in Belgium's history.

Other terror attacks in Belgium include several stabbings, including in May 2018 when a prisoner on day release stabbed two police officers, took their guns, and shot and killed them.


France - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department advises that American tourists exercise increased caution in France due to terrorism and civil unrest.

The yellow vests movement is one major protest force in France supported by more than 80 percent of French citizens and, at its height, brought a quarter of million marchers into the streets. The movement started in October 2018 with provincial workers protesting a hike in fuel taxes, with literal yellow high-visibility vest-wearers camped at traffic circles.

The movement has since spread to wide swaths of French citizens protesting President Emmanuel Macron and perceived economic injustices. Protesters have include far-right extremists and known anti-Semites, according to CNN, but also far-left individuals. Macron has responded to some complaints, eventually abolishing the fuel tax rise.

Demonstrations in Paris and other major cities are expected to continue in the coming weeks and may result in property damage, including looting and arson, along with reckless disregard for public safety.

Police have responded with "water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas," and the State Department advises visitors to avoid major French cities on the weekends.

Since, the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that left 130 dead, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for six other terrorist incidents. A packet bomb explosion in May in a pedestrian zone of Lyon that injured 13 people has yet to be claimed.


Bosnia and Herzegovina - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department suggests that tourists in Bosnia and Herzegovina should exercise increased caution due to the threats of terrorism and land mines. Minefields and land mines are present throughout the country, and while suspected hazardous areas are usually clearly marked, several people are killed and injured each year by land mines.

The war within the country from 1992 to 1995 resulted in around 2 million landmines and unexploded munitions left within the region in over 28,000 locations. Government agencies and NGOs along with NATO military units have been clearing mines since 1996, with initial plans to rid the country of them by 2019. That goal has not been met, with over 80,000 uncleared mines left today. Experts predict at least another five years will be needed for the efforts.


Ukraine - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department advises increased caution for Americans traveling to the Ukraine due to crime, civil unrest, and demonstrations that occur around elections. Tourists should take care not to travel to Crimea, due to "arbitrary detentions and other abuses by Russian occupation authorities," and should avoid the eastern parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts due to armed conflict.

The US government does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russian Federation forces and warns travelers that opposition forces within the region may suffer abuse from the Russian military.

Crimes targeting foreigners are common in the Ukraine, and demonstrations throughout the country often turn violent, especially nearing elections. Politically targeted assassinations, bombings, and violence by extremist groups have also occurred.


Russia - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department suggests that crime, terrorism, and arbitrary enforcement of local laws throughout Russia may put Americans in unsafe situations. The US government may have the delayed ability to provide services to US citizens in the Saint Petersburg area, and terrorist groups attack public and private spaces with little to no warning.

Parts of Russia have a Level 4 advisory, and the State Department asks US citizens to avoid traveling to the North Caucasus Region, including Chechnya and Mount Elbrus, along with Crimea. Local gangs in the North Caucasus Region have kidnapped Americans and other foreigners for ransom, and there are "credible reports of arrest, torture, and extrajudicial killing of LGBTI persons in Chechnya allegedly conducted by Chechen regional authorities."'

In March, an activist was sentenced to four years in Chechnya for drug abuses, a move that has been widely viewed as an effort to quell criticism of the Chechen government. Extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, and torture, including a "gay purge" of at least 40 suspected gay men and women in Chechnya have received international attention.

Chechen separatists have been responsible for multiple terror attacks in Russia, and a St Petersburg metro explosion in 2017 planted by a terrorist who has not been claimed by any group or regime left 15 dead and at least 45 injured.

Additionally, the US does not recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea, suggesting those who challenge the authority of the Russian Federation military presence on the peninsula may suffer abuse.


Netherlands - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department advises that terrorists may attack the Netherlands with little to no warning, and that American tourists should be extra cautious.

In March, a terrorist in Utrecht shot and killed three and injured five on a tram, and later said he acted alone.


Serbia - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department suggests Americans take extra caution in Serbia due to the high occurrence of crime. Violence is associated with organised crime and high-profile sporting events, including car bombings and assassinations by shooting in all areas at any time.

In 2016, a Serbian man killed five people and injured 22 in a shooting in a café in Žitište.


United Kingdom - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department advises increased caution due to terrorist threats that may potentially be ongoing, as well as a risk of isolated violence by "dissident groups in Northern Ireland."

Several high-profile attacks in 2017 included the May Manchester Arena bombing at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 and injured dozens. In June, the London Bridge van-and-knife attack killed eight and injured at least 48. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State.

In January, Irish Republican Army dissidents staged a car bombing outside a courthouse in Londonderry, but no one was injured or killed. Most Irish militants left over after North Ireland's 1998 peace accord have renounced violence, but small groups have carried out occasional bombings and shootings.


Denmark - Level 2: Exercise increased caution

The US State Department suggests additional caution for Americans traveling to Denmark, since terrorists potentially "continue plotting possible attacks."

In April 2015, two days of shooting attacks in Copenhagen left two victims and the shooter, who swore allegiance to the Islamic State, dead. Five police officers were wounded. The first shooting took place at an art showing and the second occured outside the city's Great Synagogue the next day.


Albania - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department recommends increased caution in the southern town of Lazarat, Albania, due to crime.


Moldova - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department advises Americans to exercise increased caution in Transnistria, an unrecognized state that split off from Moldova and remains in unresolved conflict with the country's central government.


Poland - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the ninth largest country in Europe.


Romania - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country home to the world's oldest human fossils.


Greece - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the picturesque coastal country.


Czech Republic - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country home to popular tourist destination Prague.


Portugal - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the oldest country in Europe.


Sweden - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country with one of the highest standards of living in the world.


Hungary - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the land-locked country that was once part of the Roman Empire.


Belarus - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country with a street named after Vladimir Lenin in every city.


Austria - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country home to Vienna, known as the Wine Capital.


Switzerland - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country that produces the most chocolate.


Bulgaria - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the only European country that hasn't changed its name since it was established.


Finland - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country with the highest consumption of both coffee and milk.


Slovakia - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the geographical midpoint of Europe with the most castles per capita.


Norway - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the birthplace of skiing.


Ireland - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country that originated Halloween.


Croatia - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country home to the Dalmatian Coast, where parts of "Game of Thrones" was filmed.


Lithuania - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the Baltic State that was the largest European country at the end of the 14th Century.


North Macedonia - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country home to the deepest underwater cave.


Slovenia - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country with over 10,000 caves and 90,000 beekeepers.


Latvia - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country with the tallest women on average.


Estonia - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the first county to use online political voting.


Montenegro - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the small Balkan country famous for its rugged beaches and tourism.


Luxembourg - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the second-richest country in the world.


Malta - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country home to Calypso Cave, which Homer is said to have written about in "The Odyssey."


Iceland - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country with some of the largest glaciers in Europe.


Andorra - Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

The US State Department doesn't have any alerts set for the country home to the capital with the highest altitude in Europe.

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