Is Europe Safe For Travellers?

Samantha Barbagallo  ·  6 / 4 / 2016

Recent events raise the very valid question: Is it safe to travel to Europe? The short answer is yes.

During the past year France and Belgium have fallen victim to tragic acts of terrorism that have generated a great deal of fear among potential travellers to Europe. Following last month’s attack in Brussels, the U.S State Department issued a European Travel Alert.

While it is perfectly normal to have a heightened sense of caution, we forget that politicians and the media tend to blow the risk of terrorism way out of proportion. So before you decide to cancel any of your travel plans to Europe, here are a few things to consider:

1. The State Department issued an Alert and not a Warning

A travel alert is not a curfew and it does not advise you to stay at home. An alert is simply a notice of caution when traveling and it merely advises you to be vigilant. A Travel Alert is different than a Travel Warning, which advises you to reconsider traveling to the affected country. In other words, the State Department is not even advising travelers to avoid Europe. Part of the motivation for the alert is simple bureaucratic backside covering. In other words, they don’t want to be in the position of not having issued an alert if another attack occurs. 

2. If you’re a savvy traveler, you already know to be vigilant

If you’re an experienced traveler you will already know that when you travel to Europe, or to anywhere else for that matter, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Normally this means being aware of pickpockets, money scams and protests, but nowadays this includes possible acts of terrorism. Of course all of this is true if you are back home as well. 

3. Statistically you are safer traveling in Europe than staying at home

Statistically speaking, you are more likely to die on your home turf than abroad in a terrorist attack. Using numbers from the U.S State Department, the number of U.S citizens killed as a result of terrorism since 1995 was 3,503. Of these deaths, 3,158 occurred in the United States. Meanwhile, by way of comparison, during the same time period over 815,000 Americans died in auto accidents. The reality is that you should be more worried getting in your car to drive to the store than you should be about exploring Europe by train.

4. There is almost always a travel alert in Europe, and probably where you live too

You may not know it but there is almost always a travel alert in Europe. Large cities such as London and Paris are always on a constant level of alert for terrorist attacks; you just don’t know it because the media does not tell you. And this is true for American, Canadian, and Australian cities as well. For instance, as I write this Australia’s National Terrorism Threat Advisory System rating is “Probable”. And the current U.S. Department of Homeland Security advisory bulletin states that they are especially concerned that terrorists are targeting public events or places within the United States. 

5. Don’t confuse the probability of a terrorist attack with the probability of becoming a victim

Unfortunately and sadly, it is likely that at some point there will be another terrorist attack taking place in Europe, as well as in the United States, Canada, and Australia. But while the odds of another terrorist attack are high, the odds of you falling victim to a terrorist attack are 1 in 20 million (Washington Post). Does this mean that terrorism does not matter? Certainly not. But it does mean that you should let fear of terrorism control your life.

6. Remember that most of the countries in Central Europe have never been affected by terrorist attacks

Countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria have not seen acts of terrorism for over 20 years and apart from terrorism; they remain some of the safest countries in the world. You are far more likely to be murdered in the United States than in these countries. These countries also have lower murder rates than Australia and Canada by the way.

If your fears are insurmountable and you still wish to cancel your trip to Europe this year then that is certainly your decision. Europe will still be waiting to welcome you if you change your mind. However we have had plenty of clients who decided to cancel their trips only to tell us later that they regretted the lost money, and more importantly, the lost opportunity to explore a new part of the world. And what made it especially frustrating was the realization that they allowed a hate-filled act of terrorism to prevent them from enriching their lives.

“Travel is a huge unifier – perhaps a more vital force of peace than ever. If you hate terrorism, the most effective way to fight it is to travel a lot, learn about the world, come home and help our country fit better into this ever smaller planet” – Rick Steves

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