U.S. State Department Issues Summer Travel Advisory For Europe

On May 31, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Americans traveling to Europe this summer. In the travel advisory, the State Department warns tourists of the "risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation." Specifically, the advisory mentions two highly anticipated events: the European Soccer Championship and World Youth Day.

As everyone should know, the summer of 2016 follows more than a year of terror alerts in Europe due in part to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 and the Paris shootings in November 2015. These two events have left France in a perpetual state of vigilance and resulted in the French Army assisting Paris law enforcement in policing the streets of the French capital. After the two attacks in 2015, the U.S. travel advisory's inclusion of a French event comes as no surprise.

Adding to the need for a travel advisory are several other events. The bombings at Brussels Airport in March, the multiple shootings in Istanbul that occurred over the past few months, and reports of rapes and assaults in Germany and Scandinavia have forced the State Department to take the terror threat in Europe very seriously.

The first specific event mentioned in the travel advisory, the European Soccer Championship, is scheduled for June 10 through July 10, and it is being held at 10 stadia throughout France, including the Stade de France, which is best known outside of France as the site of one of the attacks on Paris in November 2015. The stadium's location is in the heart of the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, which has a large Muslim population. Apartments in Saint-Denis were also the focus of the investigation following the November shootings.

As mentioned in the travel advisory, French authorities have planned an increase in police and military presence at all UEFA match locations for the duration of the championship. In addition, as the two events share July dates, they have added extra security personnel to monitor the Tour de France route with the world's most famous cycling event slated to begin on July 2 in Mont-Saint-Michel and conclude on July 24 in Paris.

Also included in the travel advisory is World Youth Day, which is an event created by the Roman Catholic Church. This year's event is being held in Krakow, Poland. Beginning on July 25, thousands of faithful youth are expected to converge in Krakow for a chance to worship with Pope Francis and take part in a slew of events, including musical performances, a pilgrimage and afternoon shows. The event will conclude on July 31 with a Holy Mass celebrated by the pope.For those who have travel plans to Europe this summer, it is important to note that what the State Department has issued is indeed a travel advisory, not a travel warning, meaning that travel is not necessarily discouraged. Simply put, the U.S. government wants its citizens to remain vigilant during their travels, and several recommendations are included in the travel advisory.
  • Exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation.
  • Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities, especially in an emergency.
  • Monitor media and local event information sources and factor updated information into your travel plans and activities.
  • Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
  • Stay in touch with your family, have a plan if you are separated and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
Anyone who travels regularly, especially abroad, should always practice the first three points listed by the State Department in the travel advisory, as Europe is not the United States. Pickpockets and petty thieves abound in most European cities, so keeping valuables close, while keeping an eye on one's surroundings, should be standard practice. Also, all U.S. travelers should always respect law enforcement and other figures of authority, regardless of where they travel in the world, while also respecting the laws of the country in which they travel, many of which differ from laws in the United States.

As for the final three points in the travel advisory, it would be wise for Americans traveling in Europe this summer to remind themselves to remain calm and patient when going through immigration or customs. The added security, which has been put in place for the safety of all, will likely result in long lines and increased waits, but it is much better than the alternative.

For more information about specific destinations not listed in the travel advisory, Americans can contact the U.S. State Department. Those who have questions while abroad can contact U.S. consulates or embassies in the countries in which they are traveling. In addition, the State Department's travel Twitter account (@TravelGov) live tweets warnings, so Americans have the option to use social media to stay up to date on travel advisories as they are issued.

[Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images]