Travelling in the wake of a terrorist attack: tips on how to stay safe abroad

After last weeks large-scale terrorist attacks on the french capital of Paris, the British government have made several announcements urging european citizens against travelling due to fears over safety. Although the majority of the warnings were aimed directly at those planning to travel in and out of France, many other countries across Europe and the rest of the world have now been put on high alert of terrorist attacks with Western travellers being at a greater risk.

Despite the worries associated with travelling abroad at the moment, you don’t need to cancel your holiday just yet, you just need to travel smart. So, if you’re planning on holidaying in the near future or are now re-thinking your original holiday destination, take a look at my following tips on how to stay safe abroad:

BEFORE YOU GO

Check the safety of your destination

Before booking your holiday it’s always a good idea to check what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has published about the country you’re planning to visit. You can do this by viewing the FCO’s official website https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice where you will find an up-to-date list of safety information related to all countries. This includes information and news of any political unrest and terrorism as well as the FCO’s official opinion on wether the country is deemed safe to visit. The website also offers users an email subscription which, if you chose to register, will send regularly updated travel news and advice through email alerts.

Plan ahead

Once you have chosen the country you wish to visit it is a good idea to identify safety points such as local police stations, hospitals and official buildings so that in the case of an emergency you know exactly where to go. It is always better to be prepared and know exactly where to find these places before you arrive in the country you can produce a rough ‘action plan’ of what you will do in the event of an incident.

Share your travel itinerary

Before you leave, its always a wise idea to hand over a photocopy of your travel plans or itinerary to a family member or friend. If possible, this should include your flight details, hotel or hostel address and any specific tourist areas you plan on visiting including the dates you will be visiting them. If (god forbid) something terrible was to happen, this will make it much easier loved ones to contact you and will equal benefit you. Do not however share your entire travel itinerary with everyone and their mum on Facebook, you never know how who will catch wind of it.

DURING YOUR STAY

Travel with someone

If possible, refrain from travelling alone and instead opt to travel with one or more persons to your chosen destination. As the saying goes, ‘safety in numbers’ and it’s certainly true when travelling into unknown territories in the wake of any kind of large-scale attack. Besides, having some company on your holiday will make for some fun times! If you absolutely cannot travel with someone else then I would highly recommend that you inform hotel staff where you are going when you leave your accommodation and when yo intend to return.

Stay connected

This is particularly important if your chosen destination ranks high on the terrorism threat list although it is still wise to stay connected with your family and friends at home when travelling to those deemed as low-risk countries. Utilise social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter and free apps such as Skype and Whatsapp to stay connected to your loved ones at home and let them know you are safe. Interestingly, Facebook have recently added a new feature to the site called ‘safety check’. The revolutionary new feature allows users who are in the country that has been hit by a disaster or an attack of any kind to mark themselves as ‘safe’ before automatically notifying their Facebook friends. Exercise caution though, as important as it is to stay connected to your loved ones whilst abroad, it is equally as important that you do not broadcast the specific details of your whereabouts 24/7 over social media as you never know who may be watching.

Stay mobile

If possible, keep your phone switched on, fully charged and connected to a cell network whilst abroad. If you are unsure how to do this or are worried about the costs involved with using your phone abroad then check with your local network provider for more information. In most cases, using your phone within Europe incurs similar charges to that of your home country. It is also useful to know the local emergency numbers of the country you are visiting and save them to your phone. Take a look here for a full list of emergency service’s numbers around the world: chartsbin.com

Stay in the loop

Practically every country in the world will offer news channels in either english or various other european languages so make sure you regularly tune in to your TV whilst abroad to keep up-to-date on any news surrounding both your home country and the country or region you are visiting. If you can’t connect to a TV then be sure to regularly check internet sites or download a news app for your mobile phone through the google play or iPhone app store. Take a look at the following suggestions and simply download for free: www.aljazeera.com, news.sky.com, play.google.com, news.bbc.co.uk

Passport

Taking your passport out and about with you on daily excursions can be quite risky and I would highly advise against this, opt instead to leave it in a security box in the hotel or behind the desk at hotel reception. There may however be times when you will need to show identification, especially if you find yourself in the throws of a crisis. Taking a clear and coloured copy of your passport around with you is a great idea and is something I tend to do with every country I visit.

Be vigilant

When walking around in public- in particular over-crowded areas or tourist hot-spots- make sure you stay vigilant at all times. Look out for any suspicious behaviour or noises and if you feel the need to report anything that seems unusual to police then go ahead and report it, you would be surprised how many terrorist attacks are foiled due to the vigilance of the ordinary public. Areas to be particular vigilant around include major hotels, restaurants, bars, events, concerts and embassies. Learn to recognise uniforms of authority such as the police, local army, ambulance etc so you know who to go to if needed. Speaking of uniforms, it is also a wise idea to think about the way you dress and try to blend in with the crowd. As western tourists are those who currently seem to be at the highest risk of an attack you may want to consider dressing in a way that will help you to blend in with the local crowds.

Stay in control

Finally, as much as we all love a good old tipple every now and then, a survey conducted by the ‘Know Your Limits’ campaign suggested that the average British holidaymaker consumes around eight alcoholic drinks a day, with more than a quarter of us drinking three times more than we usually would at home. After the recent events in Paris and the rest of the world for that matter, you may want to think twice about downing that extra drink as it’s better to be in alert and in control should a situation arise.

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