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Travel Advice after Terrorist Attacks

Armed military personnel and tourists walk along the CHamps-Elysees during Carnival. A ferris wheel is seen in the background.

Photo via Manu Sanchez / Unsplash

It’s natural to feel unnerved and anxious ahead of international travel. And it's important to travel with the proper preparations and expectations.

Peace of Mind: Traveling Amid the Fear of Terrorism

It’s natural to feel unnerved and anxious ahead of international travel. Terrorist actions and threats affect nearly every corner of the globe and make headlines in world news.

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 responsibilities 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 New Zealand, London, Istanbul, Brussels, Paris, Mali, Jakarta, Burkina Faso, and the United States over the past several 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 International SOS MyTrips platform and update it if plans change.
  • Monitor trusted news sources and sign up for International SOS alerts via email or the Assistance App.
  • 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. Then call International SOS at +1-617-998-0000 or connect through the Assistance App to confirm your safety. International SOS can provide medical, mental health, and/or security advice and support, if needed.

Pre-travel advice & resources

If you have concerns before traveling abroad, email our international safety & security team at international_safety@harvard.edu for advice.

You can also research your destination and sign up to receive International SOS alerts via email or the Assistance App.