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In light of the terrorist events this year, we thought we’d address a difficult question: Is it safe to travel to Europe? On May 31, the U.S. State Department issued a “Travel Alert” for Europe. An “alert” is much different from a “warning”: An alert is issued to inform us about short-term events that have occurred or are occurring in a country or region, where a “warning” is issued in light of a civil war, frequent terrorist attacks or “intense and ongoing crime.”
And where a “warning” warns people against traveling to a country or region, an “alert” simply advises them to be “aware.” The State Department has not issued a warning for Europe, meaning they are not advising people to cancel plans or to not travel to Europe.
Reasons for issuing a Travel Alert might include “an election season that is bound to have many strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1; or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks.” In fact, you might be surprised to find out that the British government warns its citizens against travel to U.S. states that border Mexico, citing, “Crime associated with the illegal drugs trade is a major issue in Mexican states bordering Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Some foreign nationals have been among the victims of crime in the border regions.” And New Zealand warns its citizens about travel to the United States, stating that “domestic terrorism” and “violent crime and firearm possession” are to be considered.
Of course, the decision is an individual one, and it’s up to you to decide how comfortable you are. If you do decide to travel to Europe – or anywhere – here are some tips that may make you feel more secure:
- BENROLL IN “STEP” — STEP is the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It will send you updates when countries are placed on the Warnings list as well as let you register your visit with the U.S. Embassy. This way, should something come up and put you in a place of danger, the U.S. officials know how to contact you and your loved ones to ensure that you have the knowledge you need for decisions you may need to make.
- BKNOW WHERE THE U.S. EMBASSY IS AT YOUR DESTINATION — Wherever you are traveling, you can find out the address and phone number of the U.S. Embassy there by going to the state department’s travel website.
- BKNOW THE COUNTRY’S EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBE — Just as we have “911” in the United States, each country in Europe has its own emergency contact number. For instance, Italy’s is 112 and Germany’s is 110. You can find these numbers under the link above.
- BE VIGILANT WHEN IN PUBLIC SPACES — Just be aware of your surroundings, as you would in any large city in the U.S. Try to avoid crowds and high-profile events if possible.
- BPUT THE EVENTS INTO PERSPECTIVE — The terror events in Europe were horrible and unimaginable. And so were the events in Boston, Oregon and Orlando. It’s important for us all to put into perspective the likelihood of being where an attack will occur and then deciding for ourselves whether we want to travel or not.