Know Before You Go: Travel in a Time of Terrorism


The attacks that took place in Paris on November 13th have left the world reeling, and I know I speak on behalf of the entire Wanderful community when I say our hearts are with The City of Light.

Unfortunately, these kinds of crises are not infrequent around the world, and as travelers, there is a possibility that some of us may one day be in a place where tragedy strikes. So, my goal this month is to equip you with some important resources and advice that can be helpful – and potentially even life-saving – if you should find yourself in such a situation.

A huge thank-you to our partner, Global Rescue, for providing us with their expert advice (and for providing information and life-saving missions 24/7) and to members of the Wanderful World group on Facebook, who have been weighing in on this topic in the wake of the attacks.

Image by Flickr user Alain Van den Hende
Image by Flickr user Alain Van den Hende.

Getting Prepared: Before You Go

Of course, none of us know when an act of terror is going to occur. But there are some basic steps that are always smart to take that will help you be more prepared in the case of a crisis.

Your first step, as recommended by Global Rescue, should always be to research the country you are going to and subscribe to any travel alerts for that region. You’ll also want to read up on travel insurance options, making sure you find one that covers all of the activities you plan to do.

Once all of your travel paperwork is in order, Global Rescue recommends printing color photocopies to have on hand and also leave with your family at home in case yours are stolen or lost.

Be sure to share your plans and itinerary with at least one friend or loved one, so they are generally aware of where you are on a day-to-day basis. The Global Rescue app actually helps track your whereabouts, so it’s a great resource to download before you go!

The U.S.  State Department provides an awesome checklist here of other smart steps they recommend, including having the number of your country’s embassy or consulate programmed into your phone.

Another tool from the State Department is their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which is a quick and easy way to register your trip with the government. If something does happen while you are enrolled, this will allow the State Department to reach out to you directly and help connect you with your family.

If Tragedy Strikes

While it’s hard to make blanket statements about how to respond to an act of terror, there are a few guidelines Global Rescue and the Red Cross generally suggest.

If you are in the vicinity of an attack, immediately attempt to find a safe space. The UK’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office recommends first trying to run away and escape the danger. If that does not seem possible, try to find a sheltered area. Once you are in that safe space, do not move until you are able to communicate with authorities.

Global Rescue emphasizes the importance of keeping your phone charged and stored with important numbers at all times. This way, you are able to establish communication with authorities and your family as soon as you are safe.

Image by Flickr user Intel Free Press.

If an attack occurs and you are not in the immediate area, your best practice is still to seek a safe space. Assuming you are far from your hotel, Global Rescue suggests heading into a secure public space, such as a library, a museum, or even an upscale hotel.

In the Aftermath

In the days or even weeks after a crisis, legitimate information may be hard to come by amidst rumors and panic. Again, both the Red Cross and Global Rescue stress the importance of staying in regular contact with your local embassy or consulate, as they will be your best resources when it comes to next steps.

While your first instinct is probably to head home, the country’s security protocol may not allow for that, as countries often close their borders after attacks. Make sure you account for a place to stay as soon as possible if it is at all a concern that you will not be able to leave on your reserved flight.

If your need to leave is urgent, Global Rescue can be a resource; we encourage you to reach out and take advantage of their guidance and services as a member.

Your Advice

When Wanderful member Ashley Hufford posted about her concerns traveling to Paris after the terror attacks, I was incredibly impressed by the community response, so I wanted to make sure to share it with all of you.

An overwhelming majority of replies focused on how powerful it can be to visit a country reeling from an attack to show your support and share your love. One astute commenter smartly suggested following agencies like the State Department on Facebook and Twitter –this way, you are constantly able to see up-to-the-minute news.

Of course, all also noted the importance of staying alert during travels to conflicted areas and making sure to be prepared for extra security checks. Another point raised that I feel is incredibly important is to make sure that you are respectful of the tragedy and the impact it had on the country you are visiting, particularly when interacting with residents.

How to stay safe during a crisis is a such a vital conversation to have. If you have any additional advice, experiences, or knowledge you think could help your fellow travelers, please share in the comments!

Featured image by Graham Crumb/ via Wikimedia Commons.


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