5 Ways to Travel Safer in 2016

5 Ways to Travel Safer in 2016


By Robert McGarvey




As a people we are busy crossing huge chunks of the world – just about all of the Continent – as simply too dangerous for 2016 travel.  Mistake.  The hunger for safety makes perfect sense of course, but there is no need to pull the blinds tight and declare the world a no go zone.


Five steps will make your travels safer.


And none of them involves crossing off Europe.


But some are hard and some – definitely – are new for 2016.


Such as?


Some countries are better at this than others.  You will hear from the optimists, “Belgium has to be a lot safer now.”  (Substitute name of the place of the latest atrocity.)  You won’t hear that from me.  When a country has utterly failed in its anti-terror and, in particular, when it has failed against predictable strikes, it will not raise its security performance to world class in a matter of short days. Nor weeks. Nor months.  It takes time to get good at security. London is very good but it has been at this for 40 years.  New York City is very good but it had 911 to deal with.


Don’t ask travel security people where they recommend not going. Most will mumble about North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and a few other places you have no interest in visiting anyway.


Ask them instead: where won’t you personally go?


And also ask: where wouldn’t you let your 15 year old daughter go?


You will get interesting responses. One consultant told me he had crossed off Argentina and Brazil (due to crime, not terror).  Another said to avoid Bali.


The long way to get these insights is to pore over the State Dept. travel warnings and alerts. Tips are there, although often buried.  The same from the British Foreign Office is also worth a look.


Consider this about Belgium from the Foreign Office: “There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including on public transport and transport hubs and in other places visited by foreigners.

“Brussels hosts a number of international institutions (EU and NATO) and government and foreign embassy buildings which are sensitive locations.”

To me, that says stay away – and if you must go, steer clear of international government buildings.

Cross off the right countries to not visit and you will be that much safer.

In Europe now, to me that means avoid Belgium, France, Netherlands, and Bulgaria. Sorry. But that is how I read the tea leaves, at least right now.


Avoid public transit. I hate typing that. But it is clear that terrorists have identified mass transit – especially subways – as points of vulnerability.  


Buses are probably fine, although large bus depots are also high risk.


The safest way to get around: walk. It’s also good for your health and there is no better way to really see a city.


Watch for Patterns. In assessing real risk in a destination, don’t look for single incidents, hunt for patterns, that is, multiple terror incidents. See a pattern and you have a right to be creeped out.


Use Google News to search for terror incidents in any prospective destination.  See a pattern? A frequency? Don’t go.


Some experts point to Turkey and Bali as places where real patterns seem to be forming. That is not good news.


Stay in  modest hotels – or even better Airbnb.


Terrorists target hotels, especially branded, American upscale hotels.


That’s why there is greater safety in modest, locally owned properties.


But even better probably are accommodations found via Airbnb and similar sharing economy networks.


Bomb a five star hotel and there are headlines.


Another plus of local accommodations: there likely will be fewer Americans. That’s good because often we are in fact targets.


Get out of town.  Terror attacks have centered in big cities – occasionally at high end resorts – there is no interest in tiny towns.
Go there.  Not only will you get an authentic travel experience – I learned more about Ireland in a week in Donegal Town (population 2607) than I did in weeks in Dublin – but you are likely to be much safer, not just from terror but also street crime.


Don’t hide from Europe in 2016. Go. Just go with your eyes open.