I was exploring the old town in Lviv, Ukraine when I got a disturbing notification from my friend, Anice’s, Facebook post. A Cargo truck had just plowed into a crowd during Bastille Day in Nice, France. Anice, was just a few meters away from the truck when it plowed into the gathering masses causing injuries, deaths, and all sorts of hysteria. Weeks later, the Turkey and Brussels events caused further mayhem while I was exploring the rest of continent.
Europe is currently going through some crazy and turbulent times. While some of us are away and safe in our homes, the people living in Europe still get up every morning, go to work, and get on with their daily lives. It might seem scary to travel to a place where there’s a lot of negative coverage on the media. However, there are many upsides that should put things in perspective. You’re wondering if it’s safe or not and having doubts as to when to visit Europe. Here are compelling reasons why you should visit Europe right now.
1 – Euro down, Dollar up
Why would you visit Europe? The Euro is at an all time low and the Dollar is at an amazing high. In fact, the values are almost 1 to 1. When I traveled to the EU in 2013, it was 1.5 to 1 favoring the Euro. This makes the EU a great value than I have seen in years. Sure, there are cheaper places in South East Asia and other destinations but due to the current events in Europe and the upcoming uncertainty of the new US administration, now is a good time travel in the EU. You’ll never know what the future holds and the Dollar can’t realistically keep up its value.
2 – Cheaper airfare than ever before
I am not sure if the crash in crude prices has anything to do with it but international flights to Europe are cheap nowadays. A quick search on Skyscanner brings up some attractive deals! I have flown to Paris, Charles de Gaulle airport from SFO for only $340!
New competition from Budget airline companies like Norwegian, Air Shuttle, Airberlin, and Wow Air (among others) have brought airfare prices falling as well. You can now find flights as cheap as $550 Chicago to Paris, round-trip! WOW, airlines said it plans to start selling one-way fares from California to Europe for as little as $69. Imagine that!
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Legacy carriers in the United States are resisting any incursion into their business and are urging the Department of Transportation to limit the new budget airlines’ (like Norwegian) access to some airports. Quoting unfair competition, they dispute that Norwegian Air skirted labor regulations by using headquarters in Ireland (where laws are relaxed). Regardless, travelers win when airlines compete.
3 – Great introduction to varying cultures
What countries to visit in Europe? East, West, North, South and everywhere in between. Despite the migrant crisis, most Europeans are still tolerant to various cultures. Europe has more concentration of different countries and cultures crammed into a small continent. While there are differences, Europe has enjoyed relative peace since the early 2000s. You will get a dose of these differences from different cultures without overwhelming you.
You can be in a different country within a few hours if wanted to, unlike the United States where a state a thousand miles away still the same culture as where you are from is. First-time backpackers would enjoy its rich and varied history but is also a great place to explore for seasoned travelers.
4 – Fewer tourists than ever before
The Paris attacks have dwindled the number of tourists visiting Europe and dropped even more after the Turkey and Brussels events. You can go into some of the most famous tourist attractions and find it to be less crowded than a few years ago. Do not let these unfortunate events deter you from visiting Europe.
In fact, it may be safer now because the authorities are on extra high alert now more than ever. Traveling to Europe won’t increase your chance of bad circumstances.
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Most major tourist destinations now have heightened security in place, but since the attacks, this practice has increased. The heightened security might make wait times longer but there is less tourist to contend with. Bring your ID/Passport and do not carry an oversized bag to make your visit more pleasant.
5 – Cheerful locals
The overall attitude of Europeans seems to be friendly and open even after the Paris attacks. Other than Hungary, I was greeted with open smiles and was generally welcomed. While traveling in the High Tatras in Slovakia everyone I talked to was generally curious about who I am. For Europeans, travel is a way of life. You are sure to be greeted with open arms wherever you go.
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6 – There’s still a lot of hidden gems that you don’t know about
Have you heard of Vaduz? Vienne? Camogli? I didn’t think so. There’s still plenty of spots to be discovered. You’re never short on places that you’ve never heard of. Places that aren’t overrun by tourist.
7 – It is still one of the safest destination to travel to
From almost two years of travel in Europe, I have never once felt in any danger. In contrast, I have had my fair share of narrow escapes in Ecuador and El Salvador. In the wake of the recent attacks, the U.S. State Department has a Europe-wide travel alert in place until August 31, 2016. There is always a likelihood of terror attacks in Europe from unaffiliated individuals planning attacks inspired by a major terrorist organization like ISIS as long as these organizations exist. However, these attacks also happen in the U.S. In fact, there are more attacks on U.S. soil carried out with guns by a domestic terrorist than there is in Europe.
The truth of the matter is, you are less likely to be a victim of a violent crime in Europe than you are in the United States. There is a 4.8 per 100,000 people homicide rate in the United States compared to only 1.0 per 100,000 in France, 0.8 per 100,000 in Denmark and Spain, or 0.9 per 100,000 in Italy. You are worried that ISIS might get to you? Don’t be silly. A falling furniture is more likely to kill you than a terrorist. That is a fact. As long as you exercise common sense, you should be safe in Europe as you would in any other place in the world.