Carnivals in Rio, Venice, New Orleans, and other exotic destinations are high on many travellers’ wish lists, but the large crowds and associated risks are also a source of concern.
Incidents such as 2016’s horrific vehicle attack in Nice, the arrest of suspected terrorists planning an attack at the 12-13 February 2018 Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, and the deadly explosion of a gas tank at a Bolivian carnival (not terrorism-related) on 10 February make it clear that extra precautions are required.
We maintain our belief that the risk of terrorism is not high enough to warrant staying home. It’s still highly unlikely that we will be directly affected by terrorism, and with a little awareness and preparation, we can make every journey a lot safer.
You’ll notice that many of these tips are similar to those for Christmas market safety that we provided a few months ago, but there are a few additional points to be aware of.
Unless you’ve been living underground, you’ll have noticed increased security over Christmas and New Year, and many events and attractions have now made these checks part of their standard security.
There was a lot of extra security at the Notting Hill Carnival, for example, and we’re sure this will continue, but be aware that not every festival will have the same measures in place so it’s a good idea to do your research and be on the safe side.
What To Look Out For
- Are vehicles barricaded/prevented from entering the carnival area?
- If not, are there blockades or bollards on the pavements to prevent a vehicle from driving into a crowd?
- Remember, these won’t all look like barricades – concrete benches, pillars and statues on the pavement can all be “designer” forms of security.
Are there enough exits and are they easy to get to?
- Would a crowd be able to leave easily in case of a fire, for example?
Is the ground even/easy to walk on?
- Tripping hazards are even more of a hazard when you’re in a large crowd.
- Cobbled or muddy streets generally aren’t fun, but large crowds make these more of a hazard, especially if you need to exit quickly.
- Tarred roads and wide pavement areas are easiest to walk on.
Have authorities announced security measures?
- They’re unlikely to divulge full security plans, but many will advise that extra security is in place for large events.
- Remember that this will often include uniformed and plainclothes personnel, so a lack of uniforms doesn’t necessarily mean police aren’t around.
- Look for security points when you arrive and carry emergency contact information with you at all times.
- As always, report any suspicious activity or items – and report anything that looks dangerous such as unattended fires.
Don’t overdo the alcohol
- We know festivals like Mardi Gras are all about the party, but it’s important to have some sense of where you are and what’s going on around you.
- If you’re inebriated it’s difficult to think quickly in an emergency, and a lot harder to find an exit.
- Have fun, but please do so responsibly!
- Carnivals are notorious for pickpocketing, mugging, and other crimes.
- Don’t carry expensive/heavy items, and keep your money safe – not in a pocket.
- Don’t fight an attempted theft and risk injury.
Run, Hide, Tell
If there is some sort of attack, this is still the best advice.
Run – Get away from the incident if it is safe to do so. Don’t hang around or take photos!
Hide – Find cover somewhere secure – solid brick walls, a lockable room, etc. are the best option. This may not be possible at an outdoor carnival, but look for walls and other places that offer protection.
Tell – Alert the police or security personnel as soon as it is safe to do so.
Find The Right Information
There will be official websites for most festivals and carnivals.
If you can’t find specific details of pedestrian-only zones or other safety features, look for photos of areas without cars, or for bollards and other safety initiatives. You should also be able to download a map of the festival area to see exits and general layout.
Travel websites and blogs about the carnival you’re planning to visit will often have comments on safety and security.
Check Your Destination
For general safety information about a specific destination, check the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice web pages for the latest safety information, as well as any advice against travel. You can also check our weekly safety round-ups for summaries of each week's FCO notifications.
What If Something Goes Wrong?
As we explained previously, your travel insurance will probably cost the same whether you purchase it when you make your booking or the day before you depart. The big difference is that when you buy it in advance, you’ll be protected for things that can go wrong before you leave. This is particularly important if you need to cancel – due to illness or a natural catastrophe, for example.
With the appropriate travel insurance policy, you’ll be covered for these and various other issues that could make you unable to travel. And with Safe Journey, you’ll be fully covered for terrorism* too.
Be prepared, and make your next festival or carnival even more of a celebration!
*Safe Journey terrorism travel insurance includes cover for cancellation if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your destination, up to 6 weeks before your departure. For full details of inclusions, exclusions, terms and conditions, please read our Policy Wording.
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