After this year’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, and the Paris attacks last fall, travelers are increasingly wary about traveling to places they used to think were safe. And European countries’ efforts to prevent and deter terrorist attacks—such as France’s hiring of more than 13,000 private security guards in advance of Euro 2016, the month-long soccer tournament expected to attract 2.5 million people—may amplify travelers’ worries about safety even as it underscores the commitment to security.
According to the U.S. Department of State, which has issued a travel alert for Europe that expires at the end of August, “large-scale sporting events and public gathering places throughout Europe” represent potential targets for terrorists. But that doesn’t mean that you should forego your European vacation.
The State Department cautions that travelers should exercise vigilance in public places or on mass transportation; monitor media and local event information sources; be prepared for additional security screening and delays; and find ways of staying in touch with your family, particularly if you’re separated.
Here are more safe travel suggestions, not just for travel to Europe, but to any country—particularly if the State Department has issued a warning or advisory.
- Log your travel plans with the State Department. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate. It makes it easier for you to be found in case of emergency; and for the government to track the number of U.S. citizens in a country at any one time.
- Ensure your mobile phone works abroad. Investigate your phone carrier’s international plan (some offer short-term international plans for business or vacation travel). Or rent a phone or buy a SIM card locally. If your phone needs to be unlocked to use an international SIM card, ask your carrier to do it before you leave.
- Program your phone with the phone number of the American Embassy in your travel country. You can find embassy information on the State Department’s travel website.
- Know your travel country’s “911” equivalent. Not every country uses 911 as its emergency contact number: the State Department provides a list of emergency contact numbers here, with the caveat that you won’t always get an English-speaking operator, of course. Facebook and free messaging services like WhatsApp or WeChat are also good ways of making contact.
- Give your family members or friends a copy of your itinerary. One of the simplest measures you can take is making a detailed itinerary for your family back home, including travel dates and flight numbers, hotels and hotel phone numbers, and travel agent information.