Reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad

How to minimise your risk, and what to do if there's a terrorist attack.


International terrorism remains a serious threat to British nationals living or travelling abroad. Although global counter-terrorism efforts against groups including Daesh (otherwise known as ISIL or ISIS) and Al-Qaida have reduced the threat in some locations, Islamist terrorism remains an ongoing threat.

Terrorists are also increasingly motivated by a range of ideologies, including the extreme right wing. The terrorist threat is rising across the world due to increasing global instability.

Impact of conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

The current conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories has led to heightened tensions around the world. Terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida and Daesh, have called on their supporters to carry out terrorist attacks in response to the conflict.  The conflict could also motivate individuals to carry out attacks, including in Western countries. 

Terrorist attacks could target Jewish or Muslim communities, or the interests of Israel and its allies. Attacks could also be indiscriminate and occur without warning.

Terrorism and travel advice

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Travel Advice aims to provide information and advice about foreign travel, including terrorism and other risks you may face abroad. This is so that you can make better-informed decisions about your own travel.

The FCDO constantly reviews the threat to British nationals from international terrorism using all of the resources and information available, including information gathered by the intelligence services. There may sometimes be constraints on how far public information can reflect intelligence information.

Terrorist targets

There is a high threat of terrorist attacks globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from those who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Terrorist attacks may occur anywhere in the world, usually with little or no warning. You should be vigilant at all times.

Public spaces are potential targets for terrorists. These include places like bars, restaurants, shops, places of worship, tourist sites and transport networks. Significant dates, including anniversaries, public holidays, religious festivals and political events may also be targeted.

There is a risk of British nationals getting caught up where local government or security forces are targeted. In many countries, as in the UK, the main threat is from self-initiated terrorists who are inspired by, but not directed or significantly supported by, terrorist groups. These terrorists are often self-radicalised, influenced by extremist content online, and could be motivated by a range of extremist ideologies. Their attacks are difficult to predict and disrupt, and could happen in almost any country.

Attacks by self-initiated extreme right-wing terrorists have mainly taken place in Western countries, and may target minority groups or perceived representatives of ‘the establishment’.

Terrorists sometimes call for attacks against British interests and those of other countries through social media, publications and other public messages. These calls are often intended to motivate sympathisers to carry out attacks.

Terrorist threat in Europe

The terrorist threat in Europe stems from a range of different ideologies, including:

  • Islamist Terrorism
  • Extreme Right-Wing Terrorism (ERWT)
  • Left-Wing, Anarchist and Single-Issue Terrorism

Some European countries have raised their national threat levels due to heightened tensions in the context of the conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The threat is mainly from individuals who are often inspired by online extremist material, or small groups looking to carry out low-key attacks using easy-to-obtain weapons such as knives. These individuals or groups can become violent quickly and without prior warning.

Islamist terrorism

Islamist terrorism is the main terrorist threat in most European countries.  This most often takes the form of knife attacks on civilians in a crowded location, such as tourist sites or shopping centres.  However, other types of attack may occur.  Islamist terrorists have previously used explosives, guns or vehicles to attack people.  They may also target specific groups, including police, military, religious targets, or the LGBT+ community.

Islamist extremists in Europe continue to be motivated by support for Islamist terrorist groups such as Daesh and Al-Qaida, and perceived acts of blasphemy, such as damaging the Qur’an.  Incidents like these have previously been a trigger for terrorists to plan attacks.

Extreme Right-Wing Terrorism (ERWT)

There have been a small number of successful attacks in recent years by extreme right-wing terrorists.  The threat is unpredictable because terrorists may have a range of motivations, most commonly including anti-Islam, anti-immigration, anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT+.

Left-wing, Anarchist and Single-Issue Terrorism

There is a threat from left-wing, anarchist and single-issue terrorism in some European countries.  This kind of terrorism generally presents less of a threat than Islamist terrorism or ERWT.  However, individuals may be inspired to carry out terrorist attacks for a wide range of reasons and beliefs, so the threat from this kind of terrorism can be unpredictable.  

Some terrorists may be motivated to carry out an attack to draw attention to a particular issue or cause, for example environmentalism, animal rights, or the anti-abortion or anti-vaccination movement.  This kind of attack often targets property or infrastructure rather than people, but attacks targeting people cannot be ruled out.

Flying and airport security

Aviation is a symbolic target for terrorists globally. Commercial flights may also be impacted by attacks targeting government or military interests at the same location.

No country can absolutely guarantee security standards at airports, but some airports may be less able to protect you against terrorist attacks than others. The UK and its international partners continue to work closely with many countries, and with the aviation industry, to reduce the threat. Additional security measures may be in place for direct flights to the UK in some locations.

You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports. If you see anything suspicious alert airport security staff.


Terrorists will continue to use opportunities to kidnap Western hostages, including British nationals. The Sahel remains the most likely location for kidnappings involving Westerners, but terrorist kidnaps have occurred across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The long-standing policy of the UK government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. Paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Find out what the UK government can do in a kidnap or hostage situation abroad.

Minimise your risk from terrorism

In many countries, the threat from terrorism is higher than it is in the UK.

You’re responsible for your own personal safety. Always be aware of your surroundings, and report any concerns to the local security authorities.

If you’re travelling abroad:

To minimise your risk from terrorism:

  • follow news and media reporting about the country and region
  • be aware of your surroundings, and be especially vigilant in public areas, including hotels, restaurants, bars and crowded places like markets, malls or sports events
  • be vigilant around significant religious occasions and public holidays
  • look out for anything suspicious, and if you see anything report it to the local police immediately. Many terrorist attacks are stopped by people being vigilant. Where appropriate, also report any concerns to your employer or your travel company
  • think about the routes you use, and have a plan to follow if an incident occurs
  • try to avoid routines that could make you an easier target. Vary the time and route of your regular journeys
  • keep your mobile phone charged and with you, with emergency numbers programmed in
  • consider whether you might stand out from the crowd, particularly when travelling off the beaten track or to out-of-town destinations
  • be careful on social media. Avoid sharing information about yourself and your travel and social plans
  • tell family, friends, colleagues, or trusted hotel staff where you’re going and when you plan to return
  • identify places where you could seek refuge in an emergency

Protect UK provides advice to the public on how to keep yourself safe if there’s a firearms or weapons attack (PDF, 178KB). Also read the Protect UK advice on staying safe abroad so that you can follow it if you are caught up in a terrorist attack abroad.

The National Counter Terrorism Security Office and the National Protective Security Authority also offer more detailed advice for people and businesses in the UK. Some of this advice on mitigating terrorism risk is also relevant to living and travelling abroad.

Published 22 March 2013
Last updated 22 November 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated due to the impact of the conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and with a new section on the terrorist threat in Europe.

  2. Guidance reviewed and updated to reflect current information about the global terrorism risk to British nationals abroad.

  3. Updated links to NaCTSO advice on keeping safe.

  4. Revised text on vigilance around religious occasions and public holidays,.

  5. changed to reflect urgent update to aviation security advice

  6. Revised 'Terrorist targets' section

  7. Updated and resequenced information

  8. Update to "Minimise your risk from terrorism" section

  9. Update and additions to the list of general tips on how to minimise your risk from terrorism.

  10. Corrected Topic and detailed guide categories.

  11. First published.