There has been a growing concern as to how safe it is to travel abroad. This concern stems from the ongoing acts of terrorism and travel cautions issued by the U.S. Department of State.
In March of 2016, the U.S. Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution because of “information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens.” And in regards to travel to Europe, the U.S. Department of State says that they have “credible information that indicates terrorist groups continue to plot near-term attacks in Europe and that all European countries remain vulnerable to attacks from terrorist organizations.” European authorities also warn of the “possibility of attacks that could occur with little to no warning. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, aviation services, transportation systems, and public venues where people congregate.”
So the answer is not a simple one—it comes down to a personal decision.
There are risks that we face every day when we walk out the door—whether it be driving on the road, participating in high-risk sports activities, or simply going to a movie. So if your dream is to travel abroad, and you have made the decision to do so, here are some suggestions on how to put your apprehensions to rest.
First of all, you have advocates abroad—Embassies/Consulates and the U.S. Department of State. They are there to help you in time of need when traveling abroad. They are also a great resource. They provide country-specific information on entry/exit requirements, areas to avoid because of a high crime rate, suggested medical facilities, and much more. By registering in the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP) through the Department of State, they can quickly assist you in case of an emergency.
Learn as much as you can about the country you wish to travel to. Read guidebooks and check out reviews on lodging and tourist sights from people who have been there. Don’t rely on the beautiful, glossy brochures that are meant to entice you to visit. Get the facts.
And one of the best reasons for traveling?
You get to experience the culture of another country up close and personal. The people who live there will take on a whole new significance and you’ll find out just how much you have in common.
And the end result? The world becomes a smaller place. Meeting your kind neighbors on the other side of the world makes it feel like a safer place to live.
So arm yourself with the facts and make an informed decision that is not based on fear.
7 Ways to Alleviate Your Travel Concerns:
1. If you have reservations about the language barrier, either learn key phrases of the language or stick with countries that speak English. Learn about the local culture and what could be considered offensive. Plan your wardrobe to blend in with the locals. Be aware of what is going on around you and avoid looking lost. That may invite trouble.
2. If you know how most thieves and scam artists operate, you can usually outsmart them and keep you and your valuables safe. There are some common tricks used by criminals, and they love to target tourists, so know how to avoid their ploys. Use only taxis with a prominent logo and a telephone number and call for a taxi in advance. Make sure the picture in the cab matches that of the driver. The hotel concierge or desk clerks will usually be happy to give you recommendations on taxi services, restaurants, sights to see, and areas that are safe to venture into.
3. Keep your valuables (passport, important documents, extra credit cards, cash, etc.) locked in the hotel safe or carry them in a money belt. Keep copies in a separate bag. Leave anything that is hard to replace safely at home.
4. Do not access your financial or personal information on Wi-Fi.
5. If you plan on renting a car abroad, find out what the country’s laws and requirements are and be prepared for driving on the left side of the road. Remember this when crossing the street when walking. Rent a vehicle that fits in with the locals and be sure to have adequate insurance coverage. Find out if the country you are traveling to requires an International Driving Permit in conjunction with your driver’s license.
6. Keep yourself healthy and avoid food poisoning by knowing what foods and drinks you should not eat. Avoid buying food from street vendors since it may not be safe to eat.
7. Look into the option of purchasing Travel/Medical Insurance for trips abroad. If you need to cancel your trip (for covered reasons), you will get reimbursed for your prepaid expenses. The medical insurance will provide coverage should you become ill or injured while abroad. Find out what your current insurance policy covers for international travel. You may want to include Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage. The cost to transport you back to the U.S. in case of a medical emergency would be astronomical.
For more information on safety abroad, review my previous post on Staying Safe When Traveling Abroad: Beware of Thieves and Scams.
For insightful travel ideas, check out my book:
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad