FCO Travel Advice is designed to help you avoid trouble by providing information on threats to personal safety arising from terrorist activities, political unrest, lawlessness, violence, natural disasters, epidemics, anti-British demonstrations and aircraft/shipping safety. It is also designed to help you make informed decisions about whether or not to travel to a particular country. The provision of Travel Advice often involves difficult judgements. We do not warn against travel to every country where there is a risk of terrorists operating. If we were to do so, it would cover a large proportion of the world, serving only to cause panic and disrupt normal life. That is precisely what terrorists are striving to achieve. People reading FCO Travel Advice must of course make their own decisions on whether or not to travel to a particular country, and how to carry on their lives abroad. Our job is to provide the best information and advice we can.
FCO Travel Advice uses four broad threat descriptors to inform you of the terrorist threat overseas. There is no exact formulation in deciding these descriptors but based on our best judgement using intelligence, open source and media reporting, local knowledge and diplomatic reporting, we assess that:
"A high threat from terrorism" mean a high level of known terrorist activity
"A general threat from terrorism" means some level of known terrorist activity
"An underlying threat from terrorism" means a low level of known terrorist activity
"A low threat from terrorism" means no or limited known terrorist activity
There is a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks. Attacks can take place in public areas, including those frequented by foreigners. In recent years, there has been an increase in attacks specifically against "Western" targets, including embassies, hotels, bars and businesses.
Additional Advice for British Businesses and organisations overseas is also available.
Despite the considerable military and law-enforcement successes against terrorist networks, the threat from terrorism persists. Attacks may include suicide operations, hijackings, bombings, kidnappings, shootings and attacks on commercial aircraft and shipping. They may also involve the use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials (see Chemical and Biological Agents). We know that terrorists have tried, some successfully, to get hold of such substances. Chemical and biological materials have been used successfully in the past by groups and individuals. For example, anthrax was sent in letters in the US in 2001 and a cult group in Tokyo killed a number of people in an attack on a subway in Tokyo in 1995. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that the overall risk of being involved in a terrorist attack is still low. Injury or death is far more likely through road accidents, swimming or alcohol-related incidents, health problems or natural disasters. However, the threat from terrorism is higher in some countries than others and you should read the Travel Advice for the country you are intending to visit.
It is rare that our government will warn British nationals against all travel to a country. When we do, we hope that you will heed that advice. But there is a range of other countries where terrorists have operated in the past, or where we believe they may find it relatively easy to mount an attack because of (for example) support among the local population, or lack of effective law enforcement. FCO Travel Advice describes what we believe to be the nature of the threat. This comes in a separate paragraph on 'Terrorism', immediately after the Summary of each country Travel Advice. This advice draws on the assessments that are made, and regularly updated, by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC).
What can you do to minimise the risk? Most precautions are common sense. Make sure you are aware of the situation in the country you are going to by checking this website and keeping an eye on the news, and, if in doubt, by checking in with the local British Embassy or Consulate when you arrive in your destination country. Look out for anything suspicious (for example an unattended bag at an airport, or a group of people acting suspiciously around an obviously 'Western' institution or gathering). Report anything that you think is suspicious to the local police – many terrorist attacks have been foiled by the vigilance of ordinary people [see Security & General Tips].