im planning on travelling to europe for 6 weeks around december. Its my first time backpacking and will at times be with friends but mostly on my own. Just after some tips in terms of safety and travelling around as a young Aussie. I heard hostels near train stations arent a good idea. Should all stations be avoid at night or is it still cool to train then taxi to hostels? Im mostly going to be around london, paris, southern germany, switzerland, austria, and northern italy.
Being a student would i be happier sticking to the districts near universities?
thanks for any help
I've never travelled Europe as a backpacker (mostly cause I live there ), but I've lived in a few places around Europe and visited others and the area around trainstations are usually red light/drug districts. But there are always taxis just outside the train station which is always safe, so I wouldn't say that taking trains at night is dangerous per so. As far as accomodation goes, if you stick with hostels in the Lonely Planet or those recommended on the 'net somewhere you'll be fine. If you're planning on booking in advance, if they bother replying to your emails, they're ok to stay in.
Thing with hostels around stations is that they may be brothels/hire-a-room-for-an-hour buildings without it being visible from the outside, but again, that's only an issue if you just walk around on the street looking for a place to sleep, not when you deliberately go to a specific place you hear of or found in a guide book.
Furthermore, imo it's safe everywhere as long as you use common sense. If you go walking around dark alleys as a woman in the middle of the night all alone, you might feel unsafe but that's so in Frankfurt as well as Sydney.
London Kings Cross Station used to be very dodgy, but now I think its a nice(ish) area. Paris Gard De Nord is an ok area, never had any problems - there are heaps of heavily armed police walking about as well - so i felt relatively safe anyway. (Southern) Germany, Austria and Swiss are all probably the safer countries in Europe anyway. I couldnt imagine much crime at all in Swiss.
Vienna West Banhof is a nice area as well...no issues there. Other Austrian towns youll be fine. The Banhof in Innsbruck is a big dodgy by Tyrolean standards, but i never had an issue.
Cant help much with N Italy.
But really - the only dodgy peeps are drunks, and they are too drunk to really do much - just dont hang around the trainstations anyway. Get a cab if its late.
One piece of advice would be to make sure you know where you are going once you arrive at a train station. By looking unsure you are a prime target for crime. When i was travelling round Europe i made sure to get out of the train stations as quickly as possible at night time. Its not that they werent safe, jsut that i didnt feel it. If you are unsure about anywhere, try and arrive whilst its still daylight outside. In general Europe is quite a safe place to travel, and i never had any major problems - at least not in western Europe. Just take all the normal precautions and you should be fine.
I agree with the train stations being a bit on the dodgy side. But this is relative when we talk about small towns in Southern Germany. About midnight everything shuts down. Its earlier if it is a hamlet, later when it is a big town during the weekend.
Most alcohol addicts leave when the last shop selling alcohol closes, so if you are sure that a train station has no drug scene, hanging around there after that is just as safe as any other part of the city at this time of the day.
For me the most uncomfortable thing about being on a train station late at night is the cold and the chilly wind. If the night is warm, it is absolutely possible to sit with relative safety on the platform and wait for the first train in the morning. I've slept in and around trainstations in Germany while I travelled, and nothing ever happened. (It should be noted that I did this on train stations I knew and had been to before late in the evening.) My favourite place is Nürnberg (=Nuremberg), because there almost all trains that leave early in the morning are placed open and unlocked at their respective platforms. One only has to board the train and to find a place to stretch out for a nap.
Another thing - don't be too scared of the police and the occasional hooligans that travel by train to matches. Keep your wits about you, stay away from the trains the hooligans take (grab a later one if possible) and also steer clear of the police if it looks as if there might be trouble. (Otherwise you might get the stone that was meant for the policeman next to you.)