Last updated: 02:53 PM ET, Thu March 24 2016

What You Should Know if You're Traveling to Europe Today

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | March 24, 2016

What You Should Know if You're Traveling to Europe Today

PHOTO: Brussels remains under high alert. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016, many are wondering if it is safe to travel to Europe. Unlike the Paris attacks, there have been fewer calls to a swift return to normal operations in Europe as concerns about security linger. The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert, advising Americans to be vigilant, saying that terrorist groups “continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants and transportation”

However, no one has indicated that visitors cancel trips to Europe in the near term. And the State Department’s travel alert expires on June 20, before the busy summer travel season.

The warning does advise travelers to take caution, however.

“U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places. Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events,” advises the State Department on its website.

In order to be safer, the State Department advises U.S. citizens to follow a few simple steps when abroad: 

Follow the instructions of local authorities, especially in an emergency.

Monitor media and local information sources and consider updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.

READ MORE: Rome Hotels Expect Rise in Easter Cancellations in Wake of Brussels Attacks

Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
Register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This program allows travelers to advise local U.S. embassies and consulates of your trip, provides important information about safety conditions in your destination, helps the U.S. Embassy get in touch with you in case of an emergency and helps family and friends reach out in an emergency as well. 

Airport Closure

Brussels’ Zaventum Airport remains closed at this time. A statement on its website indicates that the airport will remain closed through Sunday.

“Because the forensic investigation is still under way, we currently have no access to the building. Until we can assess the damage, it remains unclear when we can resume operations.”

While Sunday is the official projection at this time, the airport could remain closed for a longer period of time and travelers should check the status of all flights landing at Zaventum.

Other Belgian airports, including Brussels South Charleroi, Liege and Antwerp airports, are currently open but they remain under heavy security.

Around Europe, increased security remains the norm at airports. Expect heavier scrutiny if you are traveling through European airports, especially major hubs such as London, Paris, Frankfurt and across The Netherlands.

The European Commission, which is the executive arm of the EU, will host an aviation security meeting with members from 28 EU states on March 31 to discuss ongoing airport security measures.

Getting Around Brussels

Brussels is trying to move on from the attacks and return to normal. Attractions, stores and museums in the city, according to its tourism website, have mostly reopened and have resumed regular operations.

The following museums are open in the city of Brussels: AutoWorld, BOZAR, the Belgian Comic Strip Center, La Fonderie Bruxelles, the City of Brussels Museum, the Museum of Costume and Lace, the Sewers Museum, Horta Museum, Ixelles Museum, WIELS, Atomium and ADAM, Choco-Story, Belvue Museum, Van Buuren Museum, Art & Marges Museum, the Brussels Museum of the Mill and Food, CINEMATEK, La Centrale and the Toy Museum.

READ MORE: Terror in Brussels: Travel Agents React

Public transport has resumed normal service, but does have some changes and travelers are advised to double check the status before traveling.

Train service is more deeply affected. As of this report, the following stations remain closed to the public: Brussels-National-Airport, Brussels-Congrès, Brussels-Chapelle, Merode, Simonis, Delta, Brussels-Schuman.

Again, it’s important for travelers making their way to Belgium, and Brussels in particular, to check their travel plans before departure.

Across Belgium, the terror alert level remains at its maximum, level 4, and all of Europe is on heightened security. Travelers should expect to see an increased presence of officers at attractions, airports, train stations, bus stations and all public spaces in an effort to keep people secure.

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