Terrorist acts occur unpredictably, making it impossible to protect yourself absolutely. The first and best protection is to avoid travel to areas where there has been a persistent record of terrorist attacks or kidnappings.
Most terrorist attacks are the result of careful planning. Just as a car thief will first be attracted to an unlocked car with the key in the ignition, terrorists are looking for the most accessible targets. The chances that a tourist, traveling with an unpublished program or itinerary, would be the victim of terrorism are slight. In addition, many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, may not be looking for American targets.
Nevertheless, the following pointers 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.
- Schedule direct flights if possible, and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas.
- Be cautious about what you discuss with strangers or what others may overhear.
- Try to minimize the time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Move quickly from the check-in counter to the secured areas. Upon arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible.
- As much as possible, avoid luggage tags, dress and behavior that may draw attention to yourself.
- Keep an eye out for abandoned packages or briefcases, or other suspicious items. Report them to airport authorities and leave the area promptly.
- Avoid obvious terrorist targets, such as places where Westerners are known to congregate.
- Watch for people following you or "loiterers" observing your comings and goings.
- Report any suspicious activity to local police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Formulate a plan of action for what you will do if a bomb explodes or there is gunfire nearby.
- Select your own taxicabs at random. Don't take a vehicle that is not clearly identified as a taxi. Compare the face of the driver with the one on his or her posted license.
- If possible, travel with others.
- 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.
- Check for loose wires or other suspicious activity around your car.
- Be sure your vehicle is in good operating condition.
- Drive with car windows closed in crowded streets. Bombs can be thrown through open windows.
- If you are ever in a situation where somebody starts shooting, drop to the floor or get down as low as possible. Don't move until you are sure the danger has passed. Do not attempt to help rescuers and do not pick up a weapon. If possible, shield yourself behind a solid object. If you must move, crawl on your stomach.
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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).