Rick Steves Talks About Safe Travel

Q: Is it safe to travel overseas right now?

A: Travelers should understand the risk of terrorism in a cold, logical, statistical way. Your odds of being killed by a terrorist overseas or in the air are 1 in 20 million (Washington Post and Time). Your odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 10 million (New York Times). Your odds of being killed by gunfire in the United States are 1 in 32,250 (New York Times).

Q: What about recently issued State Department warnings encouraging Americans to exercise caution?

A: Terrorists' targets are predictable. They lash out at high-profile symbols of our powerful and wealthy society: luxury cruise ships, high-rise hotels, embassies, and military bases. If you melt into Europe and avoid places like Hilton Hotels and Burger King, you'll avoid terrorist targets and have a more enriching vacation at the same time.

Q: Is there anything else Americans can do to stay safe when traveling overseas?

A: Well, it's futile to "do something" to be safe from terrorism. It's so random and localized, it's impossible to anticipate. But I always feel safer in Europe than I do in the US. Europeans have been safeguarding themselves against terrorism for years. Keep on top of the news, but keep things in perspective.

Don't be shy about asking questions. In any city, the folks behind the hotel desk are a great source of information and they want you to have a safe trip. And assure those who will worry about you that you'll call home every few days. It's cheap and easy to call back to the US from Europe these days.

Q: What about people who are just too nervous to travel? Whether it's a real threat or not, can't a fear of terrorism put a damper on a vacation?

A: If your fears are insurmountable, go ahead and delay your trip a year. Europe will still be waiting to welcome you with open arms. But personally, I refuse to let terrorists take away my love for travel.

Q: Why is traveling so important to you right now?

A: Travel is still a huge unifier - perhaps a more vital force for peace than ever. If you hate terrorism, the most effective way to fight it is to travel a lot, learn about the world, come home, and help our country fit better into this ever-smaller planet.