As terrorist attacks often take place without any warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate, proactive steps to increase their security awareness when traveling. We encourage U.S. citizens to read Country Specific Information pages, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts on travel.state.gov before planning a trip. In addition, prior to departing the U.S., we urge travelers to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages about terrorist threats or security incidents. While abroad, U.S. citizens should monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Qa’ida, their associates, and those inspired by such organizations, are intent on attacking U.S. and Western citizens around the world. Extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons to strike U.S. interests, but many are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack to more effectively target crowds, including the use of edged weapons, pistols, and vehicles. Extremists are increasingly assaulting “soft” targets, such as:
- high-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
- hotels, clubs, and restaurants
- places of worship
- shopping malls and markets
- tourism infrastructure
- public transportation systems
The following recommendations may help you avoid becoming a target of opportunity. These precautions may provide some degree of protection, and can serve as practical and psychological deterrents to would-be terrorists:
Airports and Air travel:
- Schedule direct flights if possible, and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas. Country Specific Information pages often highlight such locations.
- Minimize the time spent in the public area of an airport. Move promptly from the check-in counter to the security screening section to gain entry to the secured area of an airport. Upon arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible. Arrival areas are typically less secure than departure zones.
- Keep an eye out for abandoned packages or briefcases, or other suspicious items. Report them to airport authorities and leave the area promptly.
- To the extent possible, avoid drawing attention to yourself.
- When possible, avoid or minimize time spent in the “soft” targets listed above. When in such locations, be alert for suspicious or unusual activity.
- Recognize that Western-branded venues or Western-like facilities may be attractive targets for terrorists.
- Report suspicious activities and individuals (e.g., loiterers or potential surveillants) to the local police, as well as the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Identify potential safe areas, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Formulate a plan of action of how to respond if a terrorist attack or security incident takes place.
- Remember the “run, hide, fight” rule during a terrorist attack or similar accident: whenever possible, immediately depart the area; if retreat is not an option, conceal yourself from would-be assailants; as a last resort, and only if necessary, yell and fight off an attacker.
Taxi Cabs and Personal Vehicles:
- If possible, travel with others.
- Carry a charged, cellular telephone with you at all times. Note departures and arrivals via SMS/text messages or phone calls to family, friends, or colleagues, if necessary.
- Select your own taxicab at random. Do not use an unlicensed or gypsy cab. Taxis, Uber or Uber-like vehicles should have photo licenses clearly displayed (compare the image to the driver) and include identifying information for the driver. Record license plate information in your phone as a precaution.
- When operating rental or personal vehicles, periodically inspect the exterior of the vehicle for suspicious items or marks.
- Drive with car windows closed whenever possible.
- Keep your vehicle in good operating condition, with at least one-half a tank of gasoline.
- Review evacuation and shelter-in-place plans after accessing your hotel room.
- Be sure of the identity of visitors before opening the door of your hotel room. Don't meet strangers at your hotel room, or at unknown or remote locations.
- Refuse unexpected packages.
- Report suspicious activities to the hotel’s front desk or security office.
Police and Security Services:
- Follow the instructions provided by the police and security services during an emergency.
Learn About Your Destination
Contact us in an emergency: Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens. Visit the websites of U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad for contact information, or search by country name on our Country Information page. You may also contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs for assistance with emergencies by calling 1-888-407-4747 (from the U.S. or Canada) or 202-501-4444 (from overseas).