Travel

Is it Safe to Travel?

family-travel-suitcaseBy DJ Wilson – The recent terror attacks on Paris took the world by surprise, much like the terrible unfolding of events in America on September 11, 2001. On an unsuspecting evening in the ‘City of Light’, terrorists launched seven relatively simultaneous attacks on the city of Paris and targeted innocent people. Some were watching a soccer game, others were seated at a café, a number were enjoying pizza, and many were at a concert.  In the sad aftermath of the violent night, reminiscent of the tragedy of 9/11, we remain haunted and bewildered by the happenings. Americans currently in the throes of planning foreign travel vacations are left to wonder whether to keep vacation plans, change itineraries, or cancel trips outright. Travel at home feels a bit uncertain, too, for fear of vulnerabilities. Since we can’t live in shoeboxes, we must cautiously measure the safety of our travel plans and carry on with life as best we can.

  • With all the bad stuff happening in the world, is it safe to travel? It’s important to educate ourselves on the safety records of our destinations. Even if places are deemed safe, elements of risk may be involved. No one can accurately predict where terrorism may strike, but we can pay attention and be on alert.
  • Should government stability be a concern? Most certainly.  Countries with economic, political, and social unrest may be especially prone to violence.  Be sure to stay on top of the latest news and travel alerts.
  • Are some countries safer than others?   The government and law enforcement must possess the ability to handle and respond quickly to emergencies.  The protection of citizens and travelers should be paramount.  Countries with corrupt governments and those which lack enforcement of laws should be avoided as travel destinations.  Be wary of places which bear intolerances to freedom and beliefs.
  • Might ongoing problems in the world render travel more dangerous?   It’s essential to gain knowledge of international affairs.   Understand how foreign conflicts may affect your safety.  However, it’s important to differentiate between sensationalism in the news and what’s really happening.  Do your homework.
  • What are ways to avoid being a target of violence? There are valid ways to decrease the likelihood of becoming a target.  Choose your travel destination carefully, be sensible in your actions, avoid traveling in isolated areas especially after dark, don’t carry much in the way of valuables, and avoid large crowd gatherings where disruptions may occur.  These are just a few practices which may help to keep you safe.
  • Is there a website where U.S. citizens can go for travel advisories? The U.S. State Department will issue travel warnings for American citizens when necessary.  Keep watchful eyes on rising security alert levels.  This is a strong indicator that something is brewing.  Pay attention to Foreign Embassy news and alerts issued by the country to which you’re traveling.  As always, heed all warnings issued by the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.  The National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS, communicates information about terrorist threats by sharing information.  NTAS alerts can be provided.  Visit dhs.gov for more information.
  • Have you special advice for foreign travelers?  It’s advisable to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, otherwise known as STEP, operated as a service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. State Department.  The free service allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  Travelers will receive important information regarding their country of destination.  It will help the U.S. Embassy and family and friends to connect with you in an emergency.  The motto is “Stay Informed, Stay Connected, Stay Safe!” To learn more, visit: https://step.state.gov/
  • How do we know which hotels and resorts are the safest? Reading extensive reviews from multiple sources is a helpful idea, but be sure to get reliable referrals before booking.  When in doubt, contact a professional travel agent.  Choose an agent with bountiful resources and knowledge centered upon where you’ll be traveling.  At times, upscale hotels may be targeted by those wanting to harm international travelers.  For this reason, select hotels with appropriate security.
  • Does health fall under safety concerns when traveling? Of course!  Be aware of illnesses related to the region where you’ll be traveling.  Have there been recent outbreaks?  Learn how to protect yourself.  Know whether medical shots are required for travel to prevent infectious diseases such as mosquito-borne malaria.  Make sure you have medical coverage for foreign travel.
  • Any special advice for a trip overseas? Be sure to share your itinerary with trusted family or friends, along with providing your contact information.  If possible, establish an emergency contact in the country in which you’re traveling.  Often times, travel agents will have local people on the ground ready to help.
  • Should we create a travel contingency pack? It’s a useful idea.  Keep guarded copies of your important information (driver’s license, passport, list of emergency numbers) which you can leave in your hotel safe.  Include a list of medications which you are taking.  If you require daily medication, carry extra pills in case you’re unable to return to your hotel room right away.
  • Should we get travel insurance? It’s great for some travelers, but it’s not for everyone. Travel insurance can reduce financial risks involved with your trip.  Insurance may include coverage for illnesses, lost luggage, canceled tours, and more.  Supplemental insurance may be obtained for additional coverage and is often necessary when traveling to at-risk countries. Pay attention as some policies offer reimbursements, rather than coverage.  Costs can be expensive, as rates increase with age. Become informed by speaking to insurance agents licensed in your state, and shop around.  Avoid paying double for coverage provided by your current medical insurance.  Note that Medicare does not cover you overseas.
  • Have you some tips for traveling within a foreign country? Know where you’re going and follow travel routes which are deemed the safest.  Avoid areas and neighborhoods with higher crime rates.  Folks who travel solo may be easy targets of crime.  Group travel is often safer.  Hire a well-reputed travel guide to take you around.  They know the ins and outs of cities, and can share important cultural information. Make sure protection is provided by your tour group when traveling in less secure countries.
  • Is there any way people can help to deter terrorism? Absolutely! Random acts of violence can occur anywhere in the world, anytime.  Citizens are encouraged to report suspicious behavior to local law enforcement authorities. Visit the official site of the Department of Homeland Security (dhs.gov) to learn more about the “If you See Something, Say Something” campaign.
  • Should I cancel my overseas vacation? Many variables come into play when making this decision, so it’s up to each individual to assess risks.  We live in a world of uncertainties.  Exercise caution, but never let your fears define you.

Comment below:  Has a recent increase in violence had an impact on your travel plans?


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Mary
6 years ago

The Smart Traveler program will not accept either user names or passwords. A neighbor and I have both attempted to create an account with no success. Ideas?

PaulE
6 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Since it’s a government run program and this is a holiday weekend, they may have inadvertently taken down one or more parts of the system. So you might want to try again on Monday after all the federal employees are back and the system is likely restored to full on-line operational status. Just a thought.

Mary
6 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

Thanks for the reply. I will try the site tomorrow.

Adelheid
6 years ago

Yes Jim CYA,,was going on Xmas Trip with my Grand Daughter to Europe leaving Dec 13th.all planned out and almost paid for ,except the Cities that we where to visit ,like Munich,Innsbruck,Strassbourg,France ,Freiburg ,Germany and Lake Titisee,,well a Busdriver and Tour Director would not be able to keep 30 plus People safe ,specially when Miss Angela Merkel let in 930,000 into Germany,and 95,000 came into Austria already ,since Hungary got smart after what they saw coming in and closed their Borders ,of course Switzerland is the smartest of all European Countries ,the keep their People safe and don’t let in anyone they don’t want .Even do I speak german ,my Grand Daughter does not .And we don’t get all the News from and about Refugees here ,when the first Load came into Germany (Passau)the first thing the young once’s shouted no Passau but Munich ,they left a Mess where they where keeping them .So take a good Look at the Refugees ,they have Money dressed to kill just want someone else support them ,and after a while the Countries will be working for them .So after Mr Obama send Saudi Arabia home with 89 Million of our Money (we don’t have)they Saudi Arabia wont let them in.So yes it effected our Plans ,but as they say better safe than sorry.

PaulE
6 years ago
Reply to  Adelheid

Smart move Adelheid. Read my comments below to Kate and you’ll get a sense of growing frustration the European people have with what their governments have signed up their countries for. You would be surprised at the interviews on local German TV that had refugee after refugee saying that the only thing they wanted from the German people was all the “free stuff” (housing, food, transportation, etc.) they have heard about in the Middle East. No interest in working or supporting themselves. No interest in being assimilated into European culture. They expect the European people to instead assimilate to the Islamic culture. Very frank dialogues, night after night on the local news, that would never be shown on American TV. That is why so many European people quickly turned from initially having an “open, welcoming arms” view of the refugees to one of “we have to stop this madness before it is too late”. At one hotel I was staying at, they had a 20,000 person protest going on right outside the hotel. Peaceful by our standards with about 1,000 police to keep order, but none the less not the environment you want to be in.

Kate
6 years ago

Cruise to France, Belgium, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Norway canceled. Too much unrest. Too many non-Christians. Don’t feel safe.

PaulE
6 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Well Kate, with the European Union committed to taking in millions of Muslims from Syria, Libya Turkey, Iraq, and various parts of Africa over the next decade, don’t expect parts of Europe to look like they do now. At least not for long anyway. The demographic shifts across most of Europe will be startling. So don’t expect the safety issue to improve going forward. From the refugee interviews I watched on the local TV stations in Europe, none of these refugees has any intention of ever returning from the country they’ve come from. I was recently in Germany and Austria and I can tell you the German and Austrian people are generally NOT in favor of millions of so-called “refugees” being permanently trucked into their country and then put on lifetime government subsidy programs for them to support indefinitely. They have concerns not only about security, but of what this will do to their countries both economically and culturally over time. Typically Muslims that have gone to Europe have not assimilated well into society and instead have formed separate enclaves like the ones that surround Paris. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t go to France a few months back. Good decision on my part.

Rick
6 years ago

Good information except–do not rely on anything that comes of out this government as a US citizen is their last priority unless you are of a certain race or religion. Latest EG, “the” President said look out and report suspicious things–a teacher reports a timing device (clock) brought into a school by a Muslim child and now the teacher is being pursued as racist!!
Check with a Rotarian in the country to which you are traveling–you will receive true and factual information. Get a name of a Rotarian from anyone where you live.

Jim
6 years ago

Very timely. Good advice to follow the State Department notices AND do our own homework. Hate to say it, but the State Department’s blanket warning seems more like a CYA. Not surprising for an administration that considers ISIS “contained” and “degraded”.

Paule
6 years ago

Considering the State Department just issued a broad travel warning for all Americans looking at potentially traveling abroad to a number of countries, I would have to say NO. Especially when we have a President who considers a terrorist attack as “a setback” and has shown repeatedly no interest to Americans either taken hostage (Iran) or killed (Paris). Sorry if it’s not the PC response you may have been looking for.

Ivan Berry
6 years ago
Reply to  Paule

No and Hell no, PAULE. It ain’t even safe here at home; not anymore. Too much of that homeland insecurity at bay; FEMA, and all that alphabet soup of the central government.
Before stirring the pot and bringing it to a boil in the Near and Middle East, it was pretty simple to travel around and interface with the real citizens, eat what they ate, ride buses and trains and taxis just like them. Been everywhere and made it back ok.
Sure wouldn’t try that today. But that doesn’t constitute fear; just prudence. Oh, in the sixties it was wise to be careful in Greece, what with their problem with the Communists. There was a repeat in the seventies in Greece that kept me close in and non-venturing, but otherwise travel before our attacks in the middle east was pretty simple and safe; nothing like the risks we take anytime we enter some mega-city’s mixmaster. Been to Dallas lately?

PaulE
6 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

Ivan,

People in places around the world that used to pose potential threats for Americans used to stay well clear of Americans in general. Simply because they feared what American government might do in response to harming or killing an American. Great deterrent that allowed Americans to travel freely and feel safe abroad up until 9/11. Now the world knows the American government won’t lift a finger should any harm come to the average American. Sure some U.S. government official will give some half-hearted speech about “we’re always concerned for the safety of our citizens traveling abroad”, but those are empty words and the world knows it. So Americans have to be much more self aware of their surrounding when traveling and steer clear of countries that are either unstable or have segments of their population known to want harm Americans. It’s just good common sense.

By the way Ivan, did you

PaulE
6 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

By the way Ivan, did you read the reply I sent you regarding your question on AMAC?

Ivan Berry
6 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

Yes PAULE, I not only read it, I just reread it and find that it was well thought out. However, that does not lessen the frustration.
I understand your sense of diversity and am willing to concede that my opinions and ideaology may be more reactionary than yours (maybe less than RIK’s). Still, any departure from the Constitution irks me to no end.
I also read what you posted about the Alinsky article and find that although the article was way too late and incomplete (that’s too little, too late), it was a refreshing departure from previous pap.
Sure, it would be great if we could all think alike–that is, until we didn’t. None should want a cookie cutter society. That’s what the left is designing.
The back and forth that we have conducted these past months has been enjoyable and interesting for varid viewpoints. Still, that we agree on so many things having lived such different lives in dissimilar environments and under different State governments and employment backgrounds remains surprising.
So long as we don’t become PC (and hoping AMAC becomes in the meantime less PC), continuing on this journey will likely be a pleasure.

PaulE
6 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

I would love for this country to return to its Constitutional boundaries Ivan, but I fear the American people are generally too soft and too spoiled at this point to ever realistically consider it. While most people (hopefully) would agree with the notion that government has grown too large and powerful and that it is actually invasive into almost all aspects of their lives, too many of these same people also seem to think scaling back the federal government can’t include any agency or program from which they get some benefit. That is of course hypocritical on their part. You can’t have it both ways, but that is reality we seem to face. If you looked at what people, in general, expected from the federal government 100 years ago and then contrasted it with what most people seem to expect today, you would see just how far we’ve drifted to the left in that timeframe. That is also why we have a federal government that has grown to over 600 different agencies to date and shows no sign of slowing down.

Ivan Berry
6 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

PAULE, and another “agree.” Sadly.

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