The U.S. State Department issued a Europe Travel Alert March 22, one day after terror bombings at Brussels International Airport and at a Brussels underground metro station killed at least 30 and wounded hundreds.
“The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to potential risks of travel to and throughout Europe following several terrorist attacks, including the March 22 attacks in Brussels claimed by ISIL. Terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation. This Travel Alert expires on June 20, 2016,” the statement says.
It advises that U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation. “Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places. Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events,” the statement reads.
According to the State Department, U.S. citizens should also:
* Follow the instructions of local authorities, especially in an emergency.
* Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
* Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
* Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
* Register in the department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
“European governments continue to guard against terrorist attacks and conduct raids to disrupt plots. We work closely with our allies and will continue to share information with our European partners that will help identify and counter terrorist threats,” says the alert.
The State Department also updated its Worldwide Caution in the wake of the attacks, stating: “All European countries remain vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations. European authorities continue to warn of the possibility of attacks conducted by lone individuals inspired by extremist organizations that could occur with little to no warning. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, aviation services, transportation systems, and public venues where people congregate. All European countries remain potentially vulnerable.”
Several leading U.S.-based travel companies are assisting customers who have booked near-term trips to Brussels. One of the largest travel conglomerates, Globus, which operates the tour firms Globus, Cosmos and Monograms, as well as the luxury river cruise line Avalon Waterways, issued this statement: “Guests on any of our brands scheduled to travel within the next month (through April 22, 2016) on any cruise or tour that includes Brussels may rebook to any future 2016 departure date, or 2017 if their 2016 itinerary is not available.”
Major airlines scheduled to fly to Brussels airport, which remains closed, also have issued statements explaining their rebooking policies.
Meanwhile, travelinsurance.com, a comparison web site, issued the following tips and advice to Europe-bound travelers:
* Brussels-bound travelers – Many travel insurance plans offer trip cancellation coverage for terrorist attacks that are recognized as such by the U.S. State Department, provided the coverage is purchased before the attack. Typical cancellation coverage applies to travelers who are scheduled to travel in the next 30 days.
* Insured travelers bound for Brussels, or other destinations within close proximity, should contact their travel insurance provider immediately to see if their plan offers coverage. Most policies will extend to destinations within a set radius of the location of the attack: some cover a 30-mile radius, others a 50-mile radius. Unfortunately, cancellation coverage can no longer be purchased to protect against travel to Brussels.
* Europe-bound travelers – Trip-cancellation coverage will not cover travelers to other parts of Europe who do not have Brussels on their itineraries. Whatever their destination in Europe, travelers with concerns about safety might consider a trip cancellation policy with a Cancel for Any Reason benefit.
* Travelers Already in Brussels – For travelers with an existing trip-cancellation plan who are already in Brussels or have an existing trip to Brussels in their itineraries, trip interruption coverage might be available, if the traveler decides to end the trip early.