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Germany Safety

I'm planning to travel to Germany for Xmas. Will be visiting Frankfurt and Berlin. Now after the attack in Berlin I'm wondering whether I should cancel the trip. What do you think?

Posted by
1817 posts

This question gets asked after every attack. Sadly, it is becoming a common question. There are two possible answers.

  1. Yes. If you will be ill at ease, worried, unable to relax and enjoy yourself, then cancel.
  2. No. You are no more likely to be at risk now than you were before the recent attack in Berlin.

Statistically speaking, the most dangerous part of your trip is the drive to and from the airport.

Personally, I would not cancel, but only you can really decide whether recent events should affect your travel plans.

Posted by
3200 posts

NO!!! Don't cancel your trip at what, hopefully, will be an isolated instance. Security will be heightened all over Europe and the US. Yes, it's possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but the chances of being a victim of a terror attack are less than being injured while driving to the airport to catch your flight. Be aware of your surroundings and what is happening near you but go and enjoy your trip.

Posted by
2644 posts

I'll be in Frankfurt in a few weeks. No thoughts of canceling.

Posted by
15433 posts

If you cancel your trip, you will have to go to work.

More people die driving to work every day than on terrorist attacks. Also the stress caused by work is deadlier than ISIS.

Posted by
1843 posts

The first sentence of Keith's response made me think. Hmmmm, I wonder if any terrorists monitor sites like this to see if their actions are having any impact on our attitudes and behavior. Sorry for the off topic random thought.

OP, as others have said, only you can decide what to do. It all depends on your assessment of the risks involved and the level of risk you are willing to take. As for me I would go.

Posted by
5837 posts

I would feel safer in Germany than in NYC's Times Square at New Year's Eve. But that doesn't count in that I don't like crowds and would go out of my way to avoid Times Square on New Year's Eve where the objective seems to be being part of a crowd. So far ISIL and the like haven't targeted cross country ski tracks or other outdoor venues.

Basic US State Department European Travel caution seems appropriate:

U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when attending large holiday
events, visiting tourist sites, using public transportation, and
frequenting places of worship, restaurants, hotels, etc. Be aware of
immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds, when possible....

Posted by
476 posts

Easy for me to say because I do not have a trip planned. But if I did have a trip planned, I definitely would go. As others have noted, statistically your chances of being affected in any future terrorist attack are extraordinarily small. We are talking lottery odds. And bad things can happen anywhere at any time.

And then there is the opportunity to personally honor those recently attacked by going ahead with your plans.

Now, if you are so concerned about your safety that you will not be able to enjoy the trip, that may be a different matter. But on several levels, I wish I had a plan planned.

Posted by
11294 posts

"None of us here knows where or when the next attack will take place. All we can be certain of is that such attacks are being planned, though some will be abandoned and others thwarted, thankfully."

Unfortunately, this is the new reality - worldwide. So, if going to Germany now makes you uncomfortable, cancel your trip - but don't have any illusions that this somehow "protects" you from terrorism. Paris, London, New York, Oklahoma City, Brussels, Istanbul, Madrid - unfortunately, the list of places where attacks have already occurred is long and keeps growing. If avoiding one (or all) of these places makes you feel better, you certainly can do that. But you can't predict the next target - and neither can anyone else.

Posted by
333 posts

We travelled last year to Germany two weeks after the attack on Paris. We didn't run into any problems. We did see heightened security and it was appreciated.

I would sign up for the STEP program through the State Dept and register your trip. You can also follow the it on facebook/twitter and get travel alerts.

But some things to consider.

  • Pay attention to your surroundings
  • Know where the exits are
  • Have a game plan in case of emergency (Including emergency phone numbers programmed into your phone)
  • Have a meet up spot and time incase you get seperated
  • If something does go wrong, keep calm, take a deep breath and assess the situation calmly.
Posted by
18569 posts

I think Lane put it best. If you will be in a state of mind where you can enjoy it, then go. Otherwise do something else. There is no way you can actually measure the threat level. You would need the CIA, KGB, MI6 and a massive computer system. For me, I just categorize things into acceptable or not acceptable. Right now Germany for me, personally, with my tolerances, is Acceptable.

Posted by
650 posts

We were in Paris in June. Our daughter 19 year old daughter visited Brussels on a side trip without us. We didn't worry, but we did notice heightened security.

All crowded tourist destinations, and all economic centers, and all government offices, and all mass transit systems get more dangerous each year both in the U.S. and Europe. Holidays are more dangerous than other times of year. But, more dangerous does not mean dangerous like icy road dangerous, or wood chopping dangerous, or even getting on a ladder to clean your own gutters dangerous. Compared to many things we do all the time, visiting Xmas markets in Berlin is pretty safe.

But it's a risk you volunteer for, for fun. If the risk makes it unfun, don't go. If you merely want reassurance that going isn't crazy, go.

Posted by
4637 posts

At these times I would not go let's say to Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and so. But Germany? Or France? Yes, they had terrorists attack and people died. But so did they in our country plus danger of being shot by some wacko and we are not moving away.
To go or not to go? Everybody decide for themselves. Real danger is minuscule but what's really important is perceived danger. If you know that you would be fearful every day that something will happen, then the answer is obvious.

Posted by
6755 posts

"Now after the attack in Berlin I'm wondering whether I should cancel the trip. What do you think?"

I think you'll probably have a nice time. Everyone feels differently about these events. I'd personally prefer to avoid the Breitscheidplatz in Berlin altogether... not because I'm afraid of lightning striking the same spot twice, but because it's my vacation time, and I don't want to spend it pushing away ugly realities. But looking at all of Europe, Berlin is a relatively safe place. So is Germany. That said, Berlin's crime rate normally ranks in the top 5 German cities for crime, along with Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf.

Vacation time is supposed to be mostly carefree. Whether you come from a country with a relatively high crime rate (I guess the USA qualifies in the eyes of some) or a low crime rate (Iceland??) no one wants to worry much about their personal safety abroad - your biggest concern should be which museum rooms are closed now, or what kind of food to try tonight.

So IMO the US crime rate is hugely irrelevant to Americans making destination choices. What matters is my exposure while I'm abroad. Travel means you are more vulnerable than usual. First off, you're on the streets more often than at home. One pickpocket can ruin an entire trip if he gets your passport. Getting mugged is something I am far more likely to handle well at home than in, say, Paris, where I am completely ignorant about the language, what help I might expect from police or hospitals... And what an enormous burden on my family if I became a fatality at a Christmas market. So the US crime rate doesn't matter one tiny bit to an American traveling in Europe, whether he's from Chicago or Plano, Texas (one of America's safest cities.) He/She wants a nice, carefree vacation. It makes perfect sense to be thoughtful about recent events in the news - and if you have concerns, to make choices that seem safer, places where your level of concern won't interfere with your vacation time.

Have a nice Christmas, whatever you decide.

Posted by
262 posts

My wife and I have a European trip planned for next September and we are rethinking going to Berlin. Right now it is Berlin, Vienna and Lake Como, since Berlin is the only likely terrorist attack location on our trip we are thinking of dropping it and adding somewhere less likely to get attached, like Nuremberg, as a replacement. It is sad to have to think this way but if we want to "keep on travelin " in the years to come I'm going to think safety first.

Posted by
6755 posts

"...since Berlin is the only likely terrorist attack location on our trip we are thinking of dropping it and adding somewhere less likely to get attached, like Nuremberg..."

I'd be very interested to understand what facts "more likely" and "less likely" are based on. AFAIK there is no authoritative source whatsoever to tell us which of those cities might be in greater jeopardy.

September is a really nice month to visit Germany. There may be some logic in seeking out small towns over big cities if you believe large German cities will be targeted. Nuremberg, however, is not a small town - it's got 500,000+ residents and ranks just outside Germany's top 10 cities in population. You might instead look into places that are smaller yet. I'm very fond of Germany's river valleys, which in the fall produce local wine festivals and great natural scenery. Certain stretches of the Main River as well as the Rhine, Mosel, Nahe, and Ahr River are full of delightful old-world buildings and in places ancient castles.

Burg Eltz
Oberwesel wine fest

Posted by
14580 posts

" exposure while I'm abroad." Basically it's all matter of tolerable comfort zone. In Germany as a visitor in the legal sense, I'm on my turf, know it as well as Calif in getting around, back and forth, ins and outs, etc. True about crime stats on Düsseldorf. It has been some years I was at the Breitscheidplatz.

Posted by
451 posts

GO! You are more likely to be a victim staying home. There are more violent crimes in the States than in Germany or Europe as a whole. In the state of Georgia not the country, we had six police officers shot in six days recently. Our major trauma center in Atlanta sees more gun shot victims in a day than the average MASH unit did in Vietnam. It is one of the places the military sends medics to get training. I always feel safer overseas from violence than here. The last time I checked the statistics, my city had a violent crime rate 20 times higher than Paris, that included the nightclub and newspaper shootings.

Go and have fun! You will enjoy it. It is definitely safer than driving to work!

Posted by
18569 posts

I thought we were talking about risks of tourism? I did some research that i am confident in. Despite recent news and recent tourist attacks, for a tourist to be murdered in the US or any Western European country the risk is less than 10 in Ten Million. Pretty low. Cant think of a place I would stay away from right now; although I would have some heightened awareness in certain circumstances.....

Since most of us live a life style represented by an income tax rate of 28% or higher I sincerely doubt that your life style puts you in a situation represented by the total murder rate of the US. Actually for most RS types to wear that mantel is sort of insulting to those that do battle on a daily basis with this gross inequity in the US. I find that disgraceful. I can check my zip code back 20 years and there has never been a murder; and I don't live in a unique situation.

What am I saying? Go have fun. If there is any difference between risks of tourism in any of these countries or risks between staying home vs traveling they are so insignificant so as to not matter. But you have to feel comfortable and that's really all that matters.

Posted by
18569 posts

In other words, the risk level to tourists from terrorism in just
about any country in the world including supposedly "extremely
dangerous" ones like Turkey are so infinitesimally low that it is
literally not worth worrying about

Kaeleku; in a word, my opinion is yes.

Posted by
1501 posts

"So IMO the US crime rate is hugely irrelevant to Americans making destination choices."

I respectfully disagree. To me getting run over by a truck or mugged is the same whether it happens in the US or Europe; and, it happens less often in Europe, Germany in particular. I do not choose to travel to Germany for safety reasons but am definitely glad that it is safer. The fact that I am safer walking German streets at night makes my vacation better.

Posted by
4637 posts

It looks like James is comparing apples and oranges. In the US he counts murdered foreign tourists (3? I remember 9 just in Florida).
But in Europe he is counting killed foreign tourists (obviously most of them are killed in car accidents). If we would add the number of killed foreign tourists in US, not just murdered, the number would be significantly higher.
Based on statistics you are objectively safer in Germany than in US. But for a traveler that is irrelevant. What is important is perceived danger. If you cannot enjoy your vacation because of fear then it's better to go somewhere else.

Posted by
18569 posts

It looks like James is comparing apples and oranges. In the US he
counts murdered foreign tourists (3? I remember 9 just in Florida).


Posted by
4637 posts

even if we don't have reliable statistics we can make an educated guess. Where could we expect more murders? In the nation which is armed up to teeth or in a nation where is very difficult to get firearms?

Posted by
1589 posts

Mrs Eb,

what is the source? 9 hours plus with no facilities?

"because there are no portable bathrooms"

Posted by
7506 posts

Actually, it seems like the "death by firearm injury" and "auto casualty" annual numbers are of similar magnitude in the USA, around 35,000 per year for each. Since most murder victims are acquainted with their assailant, it might be fair to say that use of murder statistics in not an ideal measure of public safety.

Another problem is that most American's imagine that their talent and caution in driving, as well as their giant SUV, will "protect them" on the road. But it's just that, imagination. As noted earlier, tourism to Europe is safer than staying home.

Posted by
15433 posts

Doing a Google News search for the last week or even more to infer the number of foreign tourists killed in any given country is, from the statistical validity point of view, the most ridiculous thing I've heard in many years doing statistical analysis and forecasts.

Posted by
9010 posts

Thank you for your very sane post, Roberto.

Day to day life has not changed one iota here in Germany. No one is fearful, no one is scared, no one has changed anything at all. Pretty sure other cities and countries are exactly the same and that includes Berlin, as I have many friends there who tell me this. They are doing nothing different.

Posted by
32247 posts


"What do you think? "

I think that I'd carry on with the trip as planned, but of course that's a decision each person has to make for themselves. There are no absolute guarantees of safety at any time during travels, but in all likelihood you'll have a wonderful and safe trip.

Of course there's always the possibility of pickpockets and scammers, so you might want to wear a money belt.

Posted by
15579 posts

I know that many of the conversations on this board can go off on tangents but this one is getting really absurd.

Terrorism, sadly, can strike anywhere. I never understood this notion that after a terrorist attack a certain place has suddenly become unsafe.

We all have to make the decision on what is right for us. It's our money, our time, and our lives.

If the anxiety any of us will feel going to a particular place is so bad we are thinking of canceling, then the best thing might be to cancel. I know that goes against what most people say but we can't know what is going on inside someone else.

Personally, I don't let the threat of terrorism stop me from traveling. I think more about ways to prevent my phone or wallet getting stolen, then I do about whether or not some idiot is going to try to kill me.

Posted by
6755 posts

"Day to day life has not changed one iota here in Germany. No one is fearful, no one is scared, no one has changed anything at all. Pretty sure other cities and countries are exactly the same."

As I said above, I don't think visiting Germany or Berlin is particularly dangerous at this point. But is this really how every German feels about living there? I accept the notion that many Germans feel this way. But certainly not all. This evaluation reflects the stiff-upper-lip German response to terrorism rather than Germans' actual sentiments. No German wants the inevitable fear that comes with successful acts of terrorism... and so, the majority wants to appear stalwart and unscathed so that terrorists will find no reward. They don't want to live in fear and they don't want tourists to be afraid either.

But Germans are human beings with normal feelings. Many of them in fact do worry about terrorism and are changing their behaviors. And to Germans, a prosperous people with fewer tangible problems than most, terrorism in fact appears even more of a threat than to others. At least that's the conclusion of scientific surveys of German public opinion.

An August study by the reputable Allensbach Institute, published in Frankfurt's most respected newspaper, indicated that most Germans back then planned to continue their normal routines in the face of the terrorist threat. But 28% of Germans planned to avoid large crowds by avoiding sporting events, folk festivals, and airports:

"Zwar wollen jetzt, da die schrecklichen Ereignisse noch lebhaft vor Augen stehen, immerhin 28 Prozent der Bevölkerung künftig aus Vorsicht bestimmte Orte und Ereignisse wie große Volksfeste, Sportveranstaltungen oder Flughäfen meiden."

A November Ipsos study says Germans placed just slightly higher on the fear-of-terrorism scale than Americans - and just below the top 5 - Saudi Arabia, India, France, Israel, and Turkey.

This isn't to say that German fears are completely justified or realistic. Most fears are not. If everything I ever feared really happened, I'd have sold my powers of clairvoyance to the highest bidder long ago.

Who knows what people are really feeling now... but surely, it cannot be the case that the Breitscheidplatz Christmas attack suddenly brought German concerns down to zero.

Posted by
18569 posts

Kaeleku; on rare but pleasant moments, we agree. Thank you.

What went right over every overly defensive head was that my post was to illustrate the absurdity of the arguments that in western Europe to try to say X is more dangerous for a tourist than Y and all are less dangerous for a tourist than the US kind of nonsense. We are talking about single digits in TEN MILLION. You mentioned Ukraine, one of my favorite places. Among civilian tourists murdered it’s one of the more dangerous places - still in single digits and still within my level of tolerance; and what the Russians are doing there is disgusting. But I digress……

This has been pretty off topic and as a respected member of the forum reminded me last night, if the post isn’t doing the OP any good it probably should be deleted; and so it will be

Posted by
4637 posts

I don't see any reason to delete this thread. Now and then people disagree but that should not be a reason. Answers are on the topic trying to answer if it is wise or unwise to go to Berlin and why.

Posted by
169 posts

A great American writer invented the phrase 'pre-disasterized' and the 'world according to Garp rule' still applies: after a random terrorist attack, the safest place to be is that exact location. What changes is the degree of free movement, as security is heightened and access at airports, stations, borders, etc takes a little longer. So what? My German friends with whom I have enjoyed many previous Christmas markets large and small are all going to continue on principle. They need the joy that traditional markets bring in dark winter times. Join them, and the international crowds of visitors and students enjoying Germany. As RS says, keep on travelling. You may want to avoid less controlled crowd settings, but the DW site reports increased security will be in place in Koeln and across the country for New Year's Eve/Silvester events. What changes is the mood of Germans - they welcome our support.

Posted by
3879 posts

The Berlin attack happened one block away from where I stayed for a week in May 2016; I have a reservation there for a week in May 2017 that was booked well before the attack. The day after the attack, I wrote the owner to let her know that my travel companion and I will definitely be back in May. I love Berlin and figure the probabilities are strongly in my favor. Plus, the bad guys win if I stay away.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for your responses. I did listen to you who encouraged me to go and I went and just came back unscathed. I spent a couple of days in Frankfurt and then took a train to Berlin and spent a a few days there and every German I encountered was welcoming and friendly. I also visited a Christmas market near the Berlin space needle and it was full of people and felt safe than ever. But, like someone did mentioned before, safely is relative, and hence it's your call if you want to go or not.