If you’re a U.S. citizen headed to Europe, you’ve probably heard media reports of the recent Europe Travel Alert issued earlier this week by the State Department. You may be wondering whether there is anything you can do to assuage your anxieties and protect yourself, short of cancelling your trip.
The alert, both ominous and non-specific, says:
“Recent, widely-reported incidents in France, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom demonstrate that the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS or Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates have the ability to plan and execute terrorist attacks in Europe.”
In concluding, it warns travelers to “exercise additional vigilance… in particular during the upcoming summer travel season when large crowds may be common.”
Unfortunately, there are few places totally immune to terrorism – either in Europe or closer to home. Of course, each individual has to weigh their fears and the potential risks of a terrorist event against the personal and societal benefits of travel.
Travel not only enhances our lives personally but also lessens the distance between people and cultures.
The most recent Europe Travel Alert wasn’t the first. In fact, GOT co-publisher Irene wrote about a similar Europe Travel Alert on MoreTimeToTravel in March 2016. In that article, she mentioned some common sense tips for travelers routinely suggested by the U.S. government, the media, and industry publications.
These six tips still remain timely:
- Before leaving home, register online with STEP, the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. The website offers updated information on the destination(s) to which you are traveling and enables the U.S. Embassy, family and friends to contact you in the event of an emergency.
- Leave yourself sufficient time at airports for additional security screenings and brace yourself for lines and unanticipated delays.
- Stay abreast of the news, before you go and after you arrive. Make sure you have a cellphone with an international connection and sufficient battery backup.
- Bring along extra cash, preferably in local currency, so you can flexibly change plans if you decide to.
- Have a communications plan in place with friends and/or family members so they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency. Bookmark Facebook’s Safety Check, a tool to inform them that you’re safe (let them know about it, too).
- Be especially vigilant in public places that attract tourists, at large events and festivals, in crowded places, and when using public transportation.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain