Another terror attack in London and the Hague sparked concerns for my family and raised the question of whether or not acts of terror alter our travel choices.
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Terror in London, Knife Attack in the Hague
The last couple of days have brought terror to the streets of London and the Hague. On London Bridge, a convicted terrorist (who had served half of his 16-year term on terrorism charges) murdered unarmed civilians at the famous attraction and wounded others before being killed by police. He was wearing a fake suicide vest at the time.
In the Hague, a homeless man attacked three minors with a knife (all survived) before escaping into a shopping area and triggering a manhunt. This occurred just hours after London’s incident.
Proximity Has Brought This to Our Attention
We happened to be in Manchester, England at the time and had discussed going to London for the day. We’ve been down to the capitol plenty and were quite comfortable with an early train out and a late train back, we have a very specific route to see the sights and show them to our daughter, Lucy.
We would have almost certainly been near London Bridge with our daughter at some point in the day. It was one of those cases where we absolutely could have been in the area at the time of the attack and could have been victimized ourselves. Thankfully, we had skipped our day trip and were not even in the same city that day.
Sometimes It Changes Our Mind
Terror attacks at a tourist resort in Tunisia scuttled plans for us to visit some years ago and also shelved nearby Morocco. We’d always had a great time in Morocco but we didn’t recall feeling overly safe on our last visit so a follow-up after the attacks on tourists in North African neighbor, Tunisia, kept us from returning.
Paris has had a number of attacks on civilians as well. We hadn’t returned to the city of lights in many years and part of it was due to unrest. The other part was paté – I’ll pass. For some time it seemed the news coming out of Paris was either masked, yellow-vested protestors throwing things at police or civilians running from terror events. That’s a vast overgeneralization, but it wasn’t just in the back of our minds, it was in the forefront.
Sometimes It Doesn’t
Manchester, England was the site of a terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena a few years ago. We were guarded when we last returned last year but found excellent safety measures in place and plenty of security. Our familiarity with the destination may have been a factor.
We certainly aren’t afraid of moving through territories that have been recently unsafe, I took a mileage run to Hong Kong a few weeks ago and it was fine. However, I am quite certain that many are avoiding the city now for the same fears of hostility and proximity to violence.
I also live in the United States and while foreign terrorism hasn’t been as applicable lately, domestic terrorism has. That said, I still travel to places where acts of violence have taken place, like Odessa, TX and Chicago which has had serious issues with gun violence.
For my family, it’s a mixed bag. We aren’t signing up to visit Iran any time soon as Matthew has (though that seems to be mostly safe right now) but we also aren’t avoiding places where terrorism or civil unrest is active. We try to be vigilant and aware, but unafraid. There are always moments where we realize things could have gone worse for us, like our skipped day trip to London this week, or when a British Airways 777 caught fire in Las Vegas a week after we made our only emergency landing. We count our blessings and take nothing for granted.
What do you think? Do you avoid places where terror has taken place or your safety may be at risk? What are your deciding factors?
When I was a kid, we frequently altered our travel plans due to terrorism in that we specifically visited cities and countries where specific large attacks had occurred. My father’s approach was that such locales were going to be on high alert, decreasing the risk of additional attacks, while tourists still stayed away, decreasing crowds and prices.
Admittedly, this was in the 70s and 80s, when both terrorists and the attacks they perpetrated were more focused on their targets and less effective in carrying out large attacks, but the approach delivered. We stayed in amazing hotels and toured incredible cities and countries. Only once did we ever come close to being victims and that was in a city that wasn’t having that much terrorism at the time when we missed the IRA’s bombing of Harrods food halls in 1983 by just a couple of hours.
I tell my friends to not visit the USA until the government gets serious about stopping Christian jihadists and their political backers. This white terrorists problem in the USA is out of hand.
And we definitely need an immediate ban on Narwhal tusks for public security.
Yes. On my “no go” list is Egypt, Syria, Colombia, Israel. On my heightened awareness is the UK, USA (NYC, Washington DC), France (Paris). Other places I might be cautious about crime but not terrorism.
Why should it? Given that I have no proof that my family and I are any less vulnerable to an attack here where we live, I don’t think it’s logical to assume that I am any less safe while on travel. Reports of high-profile attacks catch everyone’s attention, but it’s wrong to extrapolate from those and assume that they reflect the actual danger out there.
Now politics and crime might dictate that some places are less safe to travel than others, but I don’t see folding those realities into my travel plans as being the same as reacting to the sad events that came to unfold in London and Den Haag this weekend.
I was in Paris shortly after the Bataclan attack. I had scheduled the trip prior to the attack but refused to let terrorism dissuade me from going. Once in Paris, security was omnipresent but unobtrusive. I felt incredibly safe. Further, Parisians kept thanking me for supporting them and their country by not being afraid to visit their wonderful city.
Beyond that, living in the US I feel like I have a greater chance of being gunned down by some NRA-membership-card-carrying white nationalist who has a laundry list of people he thinks deserve to die. Add to that a growing distrust of police forces in the US due to apparent systemic racism/bigotry, protectionism of officers who commit crimes, and what seems to be general ineptitude across the “thin blue line” – and this comes from a combat veteran with multiple LEOs in the immediate family. Sadly, right now I’d say I’m probably safer outside the US in one of the more developed/progressive Western countries. Hoping things change.
My wife and I visited Barcelona and Girona this past spring. Catalan flags were flying proudly everywhere we went, yet, there were no concerns or worries. Walking past a Federal building, the machine gun toting, balaclava wearing military police were the only inkling we were in a “hot zone.”
We plan to visit Paris and LeMans next summer. Not a worry to be had there, either. (Though the US State Department website has every place shown as a hot zone, apparently.)
Why let some rare incident prevent you from visiting the world? As others have said, there’s plenty of danger available for anyone who wants it, locally, globally, wherever!
Only the balaclavas are new. Almost all Spanish institutions had automatic weapon toting Policía Nacional the first time I visited Spain in 1981 and they’ve been omnipresent on every visit since.
No, a terrorist attack does not deter me; if anything it makes me more likely to visit…it’s cheaper, more secure, less crowded. Of course I’m more aware of security, more vigilant but terrorism is not something that happens some place else: it has happened in my own neighbourhood, eg the owner of my local coffee shop was murdered by a terrorist in the street , just 100 metres from my home.
Of course. I put Paris, Turkey and Egypt on standby for a while. Will not put my family risk.
I have a few countries on my “do not visit” list due to social/political unrest, but do I alter travel plans based on generic terror attacks? Nah. If anything I might be more inclined to visit because it keeps the hordes away and the locals are happier to have you there. Now, I will sometimes stay away from specific attractions within an area when there are terror concerns, but for a different reason – the security theater that pops up in response can make visiting an unpleasant experience. Witness the Statue of Liberty in the post-9/11 era.
I met a survivor of the Brussels airport bombing. He lost most of one calf, severe burns over much of his body, still suffers from problems yet he tells people that you can either be a victim or a survivor. I refuse to put off anything that is not blatantly a bad decision, terrorists expect us to be scared and change our patterns.
As mentioned already, typically in most places after a terror incident people and officials are more alert and it’s generally safer than usual. Riots are another topic as they may continue longer. We were in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia a few weeks ago and the recent riots were not a reason to cancel the trip.
But if consider incidents like London and Hague, it’s more likely that you end up in a shooting situation in the US — 399 mass shootings in the US as of October 31st this year, 466 people dead, 1604 injured.
Very simple: I don’t play the lottery and by the same wisdom I’m not scared of terrorism.
I was in both London and Paris last week. I always feel safe in London for some reason, even at Borough Market (scene of 2017 and 2019 attacks). Paris I feel less safe in, maybe its because I dont speak French well and there are lots of migrants loitering around public transport. Someone also tried pickpocketing me at the Gare Du Nord.