As 2016 begins we are aware, perhaps more than ever before, that the world is a beautiful, terrifying, unpredictable place. Since 9/11, terrorism that specifically targets civilians has been on everyone’s radar but 2015 proved to be a particularly dire year with two high profile attacks in Paris and terror suspects arrested in other European countries.
But what does this mean in terms of travel? Below we try and address some of the most common concerns people have when thinking about visiting Europe.
Is it safe to travel in Europe right now?
Safe is always a relative term but statistically, the odds of being killed by a terrorist overseas or in the air are 1 in 20 million. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 10 million. So probability-wise, you are twice as likely to be hit by lightning as killed through terrorist activity. Just think about that for a second. Has the possibility of a thunderstorm ever put you off taking a vacation?
It is also worth noting that in 2015, 78% of all deaths from terrorist attacks and 57% of the attacks themselves occurred in just five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. So while watching the news it may look like Europe is a hotbed of terrorist activity, the figures tell a different story.
Are some countries safer than others?
Terrorism is, by its very nature, random and localized meaning it is impossible to anticipate (hence the perceived effectiveness by the perpetrators). Keep up to date with current world events in the lead up to your trip but be sure to keep things in perspective.
To help with this, here are five things that are, statistically, a greater threat to US citizens that terrorism:
- Perscription Painkillers
- The Police
What would happen if there was a terrorist incident while you were visiting?
Europeans tend to maintain a stiff upper lip with regard to threats of terrorism and continue to go about their day to day lives so as not to let terrorists achieve their goal of spreading fear and panic. However this absolutely does not mean the situation is not taken seriously or strenuous precautions taken. Police and security forces remain on high alert and all major cities throughout Europe have emergency procedures in place to respond to an attack.
It is advisable to look up the address and local contact information of your country’s embassy in every country you plan to visit. In the unlikely event that you are caught up in a terrorist incident, the embassy will provide as much assistance as required to get you to safety. To this end, all US Embassies have a 24-hour hotline.
This seems like a bad time to travel; maybe I should wait until next year?
Terrorism is intended to make people feel afraid, so it’s perfectly natural to feel nervous about taking a trip. However it is also important to remember all the good that can come out of travelling. Firstly, it is incredibly eye-opening to see things from another’s perspective and experience their ‘normal’. For example the odds of being killed by gunfire in the United States are 1 in 32,250, a statistic that shocks many Europeans yet for most Americans this is just a part of everyday life.
Secondly, there is something to be said for standing up against terrorism. By refusing to let threats overly influence our decisions, terrorism losses its ability to take away our power and agency. Thirdly, sad as it is to say this, there is no guarantee that things will improve. While we can hope things do not get worse, it may be prudent to accept that this is now the world we live in and regrettably the threat of terrorist activity is a part of it.
Words by Jules Sanderson