The sound of wood crackling on the fire and the smell of roasted chestnuts fills the air. It’s icy and cold outside but you’ve got that warm feeling because it’s that time of year!

What better way to get into the festive spirit than visiting a Christmas market? – and with over one hundred Christmas markets across Europe there are plenty to choose from. However, the vast number of visitors means they are a popular target for terrorist attacks. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has recently updated their warnings of terrorist threats at Christmas Markets.

Areas with High Alerts and What You Can Do to Keep Safe

France and Germany, in particular, have been highlighted as European destinations where terror attacks are likely to take place. In 2018, Strasbourg’s Christmas Market fell victim to a terror attack where 5 people sadly died and 11 more were wounded; the incident encouraged the French government to reinforce its own domestic and overseas security measures. Germany also increased security measures after a lorry was driven into a crowd at a Berlin Christmas market in 2016, 12 people lost their lives and many more were injured. The German government has since worked tirelessly to improve security and put precautions into place.

To keep yourself safe during the festive period there are a number of things you can do:

– Try to avoid overcrowded areas, but if the sole purpose of your trip is to visit a Christmas market where you know there will be large crowds make sure you remain vigilant.
– Research the destination you are travelling to and make sure you are aware of any warnings and risks.
– Stay up-to-date with the latest news and events and use various different platforms i.e. FCO, local news channels, social media.
– Know where the local help points are and check the location of hospitals and police stations when you arrive at your destination.
– Always follow the advice of local authorities.

Will my travel insurance cover me for acts of terrorism before I travel?

Generally, travel insurance policies will not cover you to cancel or curtail (cut short) your holiday due to a terrorist attack. Having said that, there are a few policies that will offer to cover cancellation costs if the FCO advises against travel to the area. In addition, if your policy offers cancellation for any cause cover, and doesn’t stipulate that terrorism is excluded, then you may be able to make a claim. It’s important to read your policy wording carefully before submitting a claim, or speak to your travel insurer directly if you are unsure about what cover is available.

If you have booked your trip as part of a package holiday, you will need to speak to your travel agent or tour operator. They may be able to rearrange your trip for a later date, amend the destination or offer you a full refund. The available options will depend on the company’s terms and conditions so it is best to speak to them directly.

What should I do if a terrorist attack takes place whilst I’m abroad?

If a terror attack takes place in the area you are staying in or your accommodation is affected whilst you are on holiday, your travel insurance policy may cover you to move to a safer area or return home. As mentioned most policies will not cover terror-related events, so check your policy wording carefully.
If you need medical attention following a terrorist attack, the cost will be covered under the medical expenses section of your travel insurance policy. It is recommended that you call your travel insurer’s emergency team as soon as possible as they will be able to liaise with the hospital and arrange treatment on your behalf. They will also be able to arrange repatriation back to the UK if necessary.

The FCO has put together a guide to help you in case a terror attack or threat of terror attack happens whilst you’re away. Here are some brief video clips that show you what to expect and how you should respond to a threat.

The main themes include

– How to Identify and Respond to Suspicious Behaviour
– How to Identify and Deal with Suspicious Items
– How to React to Firearms or Weapons Attacks

One of the basic procedures is a process called ‘Run Hide Tell’:

Run – to a safe place. This is more effective than attempting to surrender or negotiate
Hide – it is better to hide than confront. Barricade yourself in, turn your phone on silent
Tell – the authorities by calling the emergency number which is 112 for the EU. You can check for other numbers here

Making sure you are vigilant and aware of your surroundings is a vital part of travelling abroad.