Sunday, October 3, 2010

State Department Issues Travel Alert for Europe

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe.  Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks.  European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.

According to the Alert, "Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests.  U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.  Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services.  U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling."

The U.S. State Department constantly monitors threats from international terrorism, including al-Qa’ida, across the world.  They work with  European allies routinely exchanging information in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats.  The U.S. State Department is responsible for U.S. citizens safety abroad.

Britain raised the terrorism threat level in its advice for citizens traveling to Germany and France to "high" from "general." It left the threat level at home unchanged at "severe," meaning an attack is highly likely, and said it agreed with the U.S. assessment for the continent as a whole.

Take Precautions When Traveling

Europe's travel industry has suffered substantially this year with the earlier declines due to the Icelandic volcano.   Now, once again, the travel sector in Europe may be impacted by the U.S. State Department alert.   The U.S. alert falls short of a more severe one in which the State Department might have warned citizens against traveling to Europe. Instead, the alert urges them to take precautions when they do travel.  That is something that should always be done, regardless of threat level.

"We're not saying don't travel to Europe. We are not saying don't visit ... major tourist attractions or historic sites or monuments," Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state, told reporters on a conference call.


Travel Warnings, Country Specific Information & Travel Alerts

U.S. Embassies (Websites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions)
State Department's travel registration website - register travel  with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate
Country Specific Information for each country you plan to visit
Tips for Traveling Abroad which should be followed regardless of threat level

 To obtain up-to-date information on security conditions:

1-888-407-4747 (U.S. & Canada)  or  1-202-501-4444 (world-wide) 


At a minimum, expect longer lines at security checkpoints across the globe.  You should allow extra time at airports, especially on international flights.   You will see heightened security presence at the airports, including armed law enforcement, dogs, and other security measures.

Additional security measures will be in force at key tourism locations.   If you carry a backpack or other bag, you should anticipate that it will be searched.   Be aware of your surroundings at all time.

Cruise ship security will also be heightened, so you'll need to arrive early to the port and be prepared to wait for boarding.   Here again, security screenings will take longer both at original embarkation and at ports, especially in Europe.

The cruise lines will be monitoring the situation and may adjust itineraries if the situation is warranted.   Federal and local officials will work closely with the cruise lines to ensure safety of all passengers.  

This Travel Alert expires on January 31, 2011.

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