Top Tips for Pedestrians Abroad in Europe

Call 0345 872 6666

Top Tips for Pedestrians Abroad in Europe

When holidaying in Europe, it's easy to overlook a fundamental aspect of travel - safety as a pedestrian. Europe's diverse cultures and laws mean that road rules and pedestrian behaviour can vary significantly from one country to another. This guide aims to equip you with essential tips and insights on how to be a responsible pedestrian while exploring Europe. After all, a safe journey is a more enjoyable one.

Why Pedestrian Safety Matters

You might wonder why pedestrian safety warrants special attention. The answer lies in the numbers. When you're in unfamiliar territory, the risk factors multiply. Language barriers, unfamiliar road signs, and different driving behaviours can all contribute to a heightened risk of accidents.

Moreover, being a responsible pedestrian isn't just about your safety. Your actions can impact drivers, other pedestrians, and the local community. For instance, jaywalking not only puts you at risk but also forces drivers to make sudden stops or swerves, endangering others on the road. In some European cities, pedestrian traffic is exceptionally high, especially in tourist hotspots. Here, a single irresponsible act can lead to a chain of events affecting many people.

Understanding the importance of pedestrian safety is the first step towards a safer, more enjoyable European holiday.

Understanding Local Laws and Customs

Navigating the streets of Europe requires more than just a basic understanding of "look left, look right”. Different countries have their own sets of rules and customs that govern pedestrian behaviour, and it's crucial to familiarise yourself with these to ensure your safety.

Zebra Crossings

In the UK, zebra crossings are well-respected sanctuaries for pedestrians. Drivers are required to stop when someone has moved onto the crossing. However, this isn't a universal rule across Europe. In some countries, zebra crossings are more of a suggestion than a strict rule, and drivers might not stop. Always exercise caution and make sure the way is clear before stepping onto the road.

Traffic Lights

Pedestrian traffic lights are generally straightforward, but it's essential to obey them. In some European cities, crossing the street against a red pedestrian light can result in a fine. In Germany, for example, you could be fined for jaywalking, even if no cars are coming.


The act of crossing the road in undesignated areas, known as jaywalking, is viewed differently across Europe. In the UK, while not encouraged, it's generally tolerated. However, in countries like Germany and Switzerland, jaywalking is illegal and could result in a fine. It's best to always use designated crossings to ensure your safety and avoid legal complications.

Cultural Nuances

Understanding the local laws is essential, but it's also important to grasp the cultural nuances that influence pedestrian behaviour. For instance, in Mediterranean countries like Italy or Spain, you might notice that locals often jaywalk. While it might be tempting to follow suit, remember that locals are familiar with the driving habits and risks in their area.

In contrast, Northern European countries like Sweden or Norway have a more disciplined approach to pedestrian behaviour. Here, jaywalking is rare, and pedestrians usually wait for the green pedestrian light, even if no cars are in sight. Observing and copying local behaviour can often be a good strategy, but when in doubt, always opt for the safer, more responsible choice.

Cultural nuances also extend to smaller details, such as the pace of walking. In bustling cities like Rome or Paris, the walking pace is generally faster, and dawdling could cause inconvenience to others. In more laid-back regions, a leisurely pace is the norm.

Practical Tips for Responsible Pedestrian Behaviour

Traversing the streets of Europe safely requires more than just an understanding of local laws and cultural nuances. Here are some practical tips to ensure you're a responsible pedestrian during your European stay.

Be Alert

The importance of being aware of your surroundings cannot be overstated. Keep your eyes peeled for oncoming traffic, especially when crossing the street. Remove your headphones and avoid looking at your mobile phone while crossing; distractions can be dangerous.

Use Designated Crossings

Always use zebra crossings, pedestrian lights and footbridges when available. These are designed to ensure your safety and make it easier for drivers to anticipate pedestrian movement.

Make Eye Contact

Before crossing, try to make eye contact with drivers. This non-verbal communication can often serve as an extra layer of confirmation that the driver has seen you and will stop to let you pass.

Use Maps and Apps

Make sure to use maps or navigation apps that offer a pedestrian mode. These can help you plan the safest routes, avoiding busy roads or intersections that may be dangerous for pedestrians.

Night-time Safety

If you find yourself walking at night, wear clothing with reflective elements to make yourself more visible to drivers. Stick to well-lit areas and avoid shortcuts through alleys or unlit parks.

Special Considerations

Certain situations and groups of people require extra attention when it comes to pedestrian safety.


If you're travelling with children, it's crucial to educate them about the importance of pedestrian safety. Always hold their hand when crossing the street and ensure they understand the significance of traffic lights and zebra crossings.

Alcohol and Pedestrian Safety

Enjoying a night out with a few drinks? Alcohol can impair your judgement and reaction times, making you a riskier pedestrian. If you've been drinking, consider taking a taxi or using public transport to get back to your accommodation.

Tourist Hotspots

Popular tourist areas are often bustling with both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Extra caution is needed in these areas. Stick to designated crossings and be especially vigilant for erratic or distracted drivers who might also be unfamiliar with the area.

By following these practical tips and special considerations, you'll not only ensure your safety but also contribute to a safer environment for everyone. After all, being a responsible pedestrian is a shared responsibility that benefits us all.

Talk to Us

To receive all the help you need to make an accident claim as a result of an incident that happened abroad, contact our holiday accident solicitors today. Simply call us on 0345 872 6666, or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.

Did you find this post interesting? Share it on:

Related Posts