Terrorists continue carrying out attacks across the world. Some terrorist organisations view Australia and Australians as targets. This threat extends to Australians travelling overseas.
Before you travel overseas, it's important to understand the risk of terrorism worldwide. Especially in your destination. This helps you make informed decisions about where and when you travel and what you do there.
Explore this page to learn about:
- knowing the risks before you go
- common local targets for terrorists
- high-risk destinations for terrorism
- when terrorists may attack
This page is for Australians preparing to travel overseas. If you're already travelling and need help, see our advice on what to do if there's a terrorist situation nearby.
The Australian Government is limited in how and when it can help Australians overseas. It's important you understand our limits. Read the Consular Services Charter.
Know the risk before you go
International terrorism remains a threat to Australians living and travelling overseas. Many Australians have died in terrorist attacks while travelling.
Terrorists can strike anywhere, anytime, including destinations that are typically at lower risk. Be prepared for the possibility, no matter where you go.
Terrorists increasingly use different methods of attack, including knives and blunt objects, firearms, explosives and vehicles, targeting both locals and foreign tourists. Many attacks have been by lone actors or small groups.
Learn more about terrorism from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
Before deciding where to go
- Research where you're going before you book. Find out which destinations have a higher risk of terrorism. Read the travel advice for your destination and subscribe for updates.
- Check the advice level. Understand what our advice levels mean. Take our travel advice seriously, including where we advise against travel. This may include border areas or other locations within an otherwise low-risk destination.
- Decide if you feel safe travelling to your planned destination. Especially if our advice level is 3. If the risk is high and you decide to go anyway, you'll need to take extra precautions. If it's at level 4, just don't go.
- Identify high-risk locations. Know which specific places terrorists are likely to target. You may want to take extra precautions if you visit or avoid it altogether.
- Be aware of key dates and current affairs in your destination. The risk of terrorism increases around specific events. Take extra caution if you're travelling around these times.
- Get travel insurance before you go. Some insurance covers you for cancellations before you go. However, understand that most insurers exclude claims relating to acts of terror while you're away. Check the fine print.
- Know how to get help in your destination. See the emergency contact details in the travel advisory for your destination.
If our advice level is 3 or 4
Level 3: Reconsider your need to travel
Avoid non-essential travel. If you do travel, take extra precautions to protect yourself from security and health risks. At level 3, there are serious and potentially life-threatening risks.
Level 4: Do not travel
At level 4, your health and safety are at extreme risk. This may be because of a high threat of terrorist attack, conflict, violent social unrest or critical levels of violent crime.
If you're travelling to a higher-risk destination, there's more you must do to be prepared. As well as the tips above, consider the following advice.
- Get security advice. If you're travelling for work or volunteering, ensure your workplace has suitable security arrangements. If travelling independently, you may need to engage a private personal security firm.
- Get specialised insurance. Most standard travel insurance policies won't cover you. Make sure your employer provides adequate cover and that it covers kidnapping and death. If travelling independently, shop around. Cover is likely to be very expensive.
- Get a security plan. Ask your security provider to undertake a formal risk assessment.
- Establish security procedures. Ask your security provider about their security procedures.
- Know what to do when there's a situation. Know the emergency actions in your destination. In 'do not travel' destinations, local authorities may not be able to help. You may have to rely on your private security provider.
In most 'do not travel' destinations, the Australian Government is severely limited in how it can help if there's a terrorist situation overseas.
Locations terrorists often target
Crowded places are attractive targets for terrorism. Attacks on large crowds fulfil multiple aims, including casualties, public fear and media attention. They're also easier to target using simple weapons.
Stay alert when in a location more likely to be targeted, especially in destinations that experience more frequent attacks and during times of heightened activity.
Common targets for terrorist attacks include:
- crowded places, such as
- train stations
- sports arenas
- shopping centres
- major events
- nightclubs and other venues
- tourist attractions, especially those popular with foreign tourists
- places of worship, such as
- airlines – for both hijacking and bombing
- government facilities, including office buildings and military facilities
- identifiably foreign interests, such as
- oil and gas infrastructure
- multinational company buildings (including employee residential compounds)
- international schools
- places where foreigners gather, such as
- other entertainment venues that cater to foreigners.
Destinations with increased terrorist activity
Africa, the Middle East and Central and South Asia are most affected by terrorist attacks. Most destinations affected by terrorism in these regions have an overall advice level of 3 or 4.
However, even level 1 or 2 countries can experience terror events. Read the travel advice for all destinations you are planning to travel to.
When terrorists may attack
Terrorists can attack anywhere, anytime. Some attacks come without warning, others after a well-publicised threat. However, the likelihood of an attack may increase at certain times. These can include:
- national holidays, such as New Year's Day and independence days
- religious dates or observances, such as Christmas, Easter, Ramadan and Eid
- significant dates and anniversaries, such as Bastille Day or 9/11
- during elections, especially at political events such as rallies.
Terrorists have also conducted attacks in response to broader international events that may be viewed as offensive to ideological and religious beliefs.
'Listed' terrorist organisations
The Australian National Security website lists terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code.
Some terrorists operate independently of a major organisation. Sometimes as a small group that share an extreme ideology. Other times, it is one person operating as a lone actor, often referred to as a 'lone-wolf'.
For more, see the Australian Government's information on listed terrorist organisations (Australian National Security).
- Read our general advice on reducing your risk of piracy and kidnapping.
- We may initiate a crisis response if a major terrorist situation impacts many Australians.
- See our advice on what to do when there's a terrorist situation nearby.
- Learn more about fighting terrorism overseas (Australian Federal Police, AFP).
- Learn more about terrorist threats (INTERPOL).
- Read the US State Department Annual Terrorism Report for details of trends in terrorist attacks (US Government).