Peace of Mind: Traveling Amid the Fear of Terrorism
With terrorist actions and threats headlining the world news and affecting nearly every corner of the globe, it’s natural to feel unnerved and anxious ahead of international travel.
It's important to keep in mind that, proportionally, the likelihood of being involved in a terrorist incident is very small. However, there are a few simple steps that concerned travelers can take to further lower their risk. The most significant risks facing travelers are accidents—specifically road traffic accidents—and becoming ill. We travel for many reasons—to explore and experience another culture, to study, to research, to conduct business, and to build relationships. Those reasons should remain a focus.
Two of our duties in GSS are to help Harvard travelers stay safe abroad through proper preparation and to support them in times of need following any type of critical incident, whether it's an accident, an illness, a natural disaster, or an attack. Our international safety & security team closely monitors events around the globe via private, commercial, and government sources. We use this information to track patterns, advise travelers, and respond swiftly when incidents occur.
What travelers should know:
- We'll continue to monitor the situation around the world.
- Attacks in London, Istanbul, Brussels, Paris, Mali, Jakarta, and Burkina Faso over the past two years demonstrate that serious incidents can occur anywhere.
- The potential for future incidents exists.
- The likelihood of being involved in a terrorist incident is very, very small.
What travelers can expect:
- Higher security warning levels
- Tighter border controls and travel delays
- Increases in military and police personnel at large-scale events, airports, rail and metro stations, tourist locales, and high-profile locations
What travelers should do:
- Register all international travel in the Harvard Travel Registry and update it if plans change.
- Monitor trusted news sources and sign up for Harvard Travel Assist alerts.
- Register your travel with your embassy.
- Have a communications plan that includes regularly scheduled check-ins and what to do and whom to contact in an emergency.
- Carry proper identification at all times.
- Allow extra time to pass through security.
- Remain calm, flexible, and aware of your surroundings.
- Familiarize yourself with your neighborhood and place of work or study.
- Practice visualization exercises by mentally walking through "What if?" scenarios to plan how you would react. This preparation improves reaction time and mitigates shock and stress during a real emergency.
- Cooperate with local law enforcement and heed their advice.
- Avoid large protests and marches, even if they're peaceful.
If you're in the vicinity of an attack, seek shelter immediately and try to exit the area, if possible. Call the local equivalent of 911, if prudent to do so, and then call Harvard Travel Assist at +1-617-998-0000 to confirm your safety and to receive security and/or medical advice and support, if needed. If you can't call, email firstname.lastname@example.org with "urgent" in the subject line.
Pre-travel advice & resources
If you have concerns before traveling abroad, email our international safety & security team at email@example.com for advice.
- New York Times: How to use Twitter and Facebook for Emergency Travel Information
- Harvard GSS: travel risk ratings and travel resources
- U.S. State Department: Worldwide Caution