Safety from Terrorist Attacks
While moral reaction to terrorist attacks is certain, the behavioral responses of travelers vary greatly.
Some will say travel to Europe or to a large city anywhere now involves too great a risk. They will cancel future travel reservations or prevent their children from taking educational trips.
Others will counter that the terrorists are pleased when these heinous crimes disrupt the flow of tourism, and that cancellations actually encourage future attacks.
How will you shape travel plans? It is important to consider your budget travel strategies in light of what is happening.
This is not a political forum, so analysis of why these attacks continue will have to be found elsewhere. It is clear these attacks are likely to continue, sad as that might be to consider.
But don't make the mistake of thinking because the likelihood of future atrocities is high, your odds of becoming a victim also are high. In fact, the odds of injury or death resulting from a terrorist attack are minuscule.
Your chances of dying in a car crash on hometown streets are far greater than fatal injury from terrorist attacks as a traveler. Some have calculated odds for the latter scenario at one in 20 million.
While your death or even injury might be highly unlikely, your travel almost certainly will be affected if you have the misfortune of moving through a city that is attacked. Click the right-facing green arrow and consider the logistical impact of terrorist attacks for travelers on the ground.
Terrorist Attacks and Travel Insurance
After a terrorist attack, investigators descend on the affected areas in search of evidence. It's important work. It often involves slow, painstaking examinations. If the affected area is connected to transportation, as was the case in Brussels, train trips will be canceled and flights will be grounded. Borders could be closed to thwart the possible escapes of suspects.
If you're prone to complain, think twice. These actions are rooted in public safety and the pursuit of justice. But you'll still have to deal with the economic realities of being stranded for hours or days.
On any trip involving long distances or big expenditures, travel insurance is a necessity rather than a luxury. Available policies could provide financial assistance after a terrorist attack.
Trip cancellation insurance can protect you when something unforeseen occurs. Trip interruption insurance and travel delay insurance can protect you from financial loss involving circumstances after the trip has started.
Years ago, a volcanic eruption in Iceland lifted ash into the skies above Europe. The ash clouds threatened the operation of jet engines, so scores of flights were cancelled and tourists were stranded for days in multiple cities. Travelers stranded after the fact could file successful claims.
The same is true of a terrorist attack. You need protection if a situation crops up after your trip has begun. Be aware that such insurance might not be available right away for trips through a city recently victimized.
Another kind of policy covers "cancellation for any reason" and therefore usually is identified as CFAR insurance. Feeling skittish about your upcoming trip? If you have CFAR coverage, you'll be able to cancel and recoup a percentage of your non-refundable expenses. Beware: this coverage can be quite expensive and it usually contains a lot of fine print that calls the phrase "for any reason" into question. Shop carefully and ask questions.
What about precautions that don't involve insurance? Consider some safety strategies.
Travel Alerts and Warnings
Most travelers are familiar with government warnings issued to travelers. In the U.S., the Department of State maintains lists of alerts and warnings for travel to every country. It is their job to point out possible problems to traveling diplomats. They will always err on the side of safety, and some travelers find their advice too cautious.
Although these warnings might not change your travel plans, they are well worth reading. The information will raise important considerations. Are there heightened political tensions in the region you'll be visiting? Have tourists been the targets of violent acts?
The warnings also will provide information about demonstrations. Some adventurous travelers, when they see a demonstration, are eager to investigate. This generally is a dangerous impulse. Walk the other way, even if it means postponing plans for an afternoon of sightseeing. Too often, demonstrations will turn violent and draw innocent people into the crossfire.
Finally, it's wise to collect information about residential areas that might be risky for travelers. Most of these places are of little interest to tourists anyway, but you might find yourself changing trains or stopping for a rest in areas that are dangerous. Ask locally for updated information about troublesome areas, as this information changes rapidly in some destinations.
Assessing the Threat to Travelers
As has been mentioned, heading into an area immediately after terrorist attacks is not advised. Travel insurance is unlikely to cover your extra expenses, and investigators have work to do. Airlines typically are understanding and will at least waive change fees as you attempt to reschedule the trip.
After weeks have passed, is it still smart to cancel a planned trip to such a place?
Take a look at the official threat level and consult the government websites for your destination. Consider that the new normal in Europe might be heightened threat levels.
The threat might remain elevated above the pre-attack level for many months, but move beyond classifications and speak with people. Government leaders and travel providers are likely to give you a fair assessment of how your trip would be impacted.
Consider postponing if major sites you want to see will be closed or tightly restricted.
But if it's simply a matter of fear, think again about the long statistical odds of becoming a victim. Think about the innocent, hard-working people who depend upon tourism for their incomes. Consider the message your fear sends to the despicable murderers who plan and execute these attacks.
If fear will ruin your enjoyment of the trip, stay home. But if you are able, keep your plans intact. Send a message that it's business as usual in Brussels, Paris, or any other victimized destination.