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Sara Clemence
November 24, 2015

It's just what you wanted to hear as the holiday travel season gears up. The U.S. Department of State issued a worldwide travel alert on Monday, warning travelers to watch out no matter where in the world they are.

A broader version of the country-specific alerts the State Department puts out on a regular basis, the warning came days after terrorist attacks killed dozens of people in Paris, Beirut and Mali, and in a Russian passenger jet in Egypt. It doesn't beat around the bush, saying that there is a continued threat of attacks from extremist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, as well as lone-wolf psychos. (OK, we're paraphrasing a little bit.)

Here's what travelers should know—and do:

  • This isn't the first time the State Department has put out such a blanket warning. The last time was in December 2014, when a self-proclaimed sheik attacked a café in Sydney, holding 17 people hostage and leaving two dead.
  • The alert doesn't mean that people can't or shouldn't travel, but it does urge them to be more careful and aware of their surroundings, especially in public places. Steer clear of crowds and busy hubs, if possible.
  • Travelers should consider signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which lets the State Department send you travel alerts and can help authorities find you in an emergency. Enroll a single trip or sign up for an account. The related Smart Traveler app gives you maps, U.S. embassy locations and more on your phone. 
  • If you're traveling overseas, know the local emergency number—911 won't cut it.
  • What to do in case of a terror attack? The U.K's National Counter Terrorism Security Office updated its recommendations this summer, and while it mostly comes down to run or hide, there are some more specific takeaways—like seek shelter behind heavy walls and turn your phone off to stay quiet. 

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