On Monday, November 23, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert regarding the present increased risk of international terrorist threats. While the alert may provoke anxiety among some would-be travelers, it doesn’t mean that you should cancel travel plans anytime soon. Instead, here’s what you need to know.
An Overview of the Alert
The alert was issued as a result of the ongoing terroristic actions of groups including ISIL (also known as Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, and Boko Haram. Authorities also stated that there is an ongoing risk that people who are unaffiliated with any of these terrorist organizations may plan similar attacks inspired by the organizations’ actions.
This is hardly the first time the State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert. Since Sept. 11, 2001, similar alerts have been issued on a fairly regular basis. (This latest pronouncement is merely an update to past alerts.) For reasons that are not mentioned in the alert, this notice expires on February 24, 2016.
What It Means for You
The impact of this alert on your life depends mostly on your own personal feelings about traveling with such an alert in place. The alert does not advise against travel, even to those countries that have recently been targets of terrorism; it calls on travelers to be extra vigilant.
So how can you respond to potential travel risks in a proactive way? The State Department has issued several guidelines:
- Before departing for a trip, read up on country-specific information pertaining to your destination. The alert currently in question does not advise against traveling to any given country; should the State Department decide that it’s best to avoid a certain country altogether, they’ll issue a distinct warning.
- Expect even more scrutiny than usual at security checkpoints. Schedule in extra time for passing through security in order to account for these additional screening measures.
- Remain aware of your surroundings at all times when you’re in public spaces or using transportation. It’s also helpful to refresh your knowledge of basic travel safety before you go, especially if you’re traveling solo.
- Stay connected to local media sources in order to access the most up-to-date news for the region in which you’re traveling. It’s also helpful to keep the contact information for the local embassy or consulate on hand.
- If you have a specific and pressing concern about your safety, contact local law enforcement authorities.
- Make sure that your family and/or friends know where you’ll be traveling and know how to contact you in case of an emergency.
- For additional information, check the State Department’s travel website or follow the State Department on Twitter or Facebook.
When it comes down to it, you’re still more likely to be the victim of a pickpocket than the victim of a terrorist attack. This alert really calls for enlisting common sense whenever and wherever you travel. Practice basic travel safety and commit to staying alert, and you’ll be well on your way to a smooth, safe, and enjoyable trip.