Learn how to assess security concerns when traveling to more “exotic” destinations and keep safe.
Some travelers maintain that tourist travel to certain countries is unsafe and to be avoided. At the same time, other travelers insist that such travel is safe.
Who, then, can a potential traveler believe? Every traveler is different and has varying travel interests and tolerance levels for risk.
Even within the same country, security concerns may vary widely as well. Before considering travel abroad, it is important to carefully evaluate possible security concerns for a particular destination, while keeping in mind your travel style and willingness to adapt to local ways.
Official Travel Warnings
Before considering travel to a particular country or location, it is advisable to check a variety of sources. This way, the potential traveler can compare the different security concerns that are expressed about a specific country.
A major reliable source of information about the security and safety situations of countries around the world are the dedicated travel sections of government-run foreign affairs offices like the United States’ Department of State, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office, and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. All three offices offer frequently-updated country specific information, travel warnings, and travel advice on their respective websites.
As government bureaus that watch out for their citizens’ safety and interests, the Department of State, the Foreign Office, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have access to a wide range of sources in the creation of these documents. However, some critics have expressed concern that certain travel warnings may be politically motivated.
Information From Other Travelers
Other travelers can be a great source of information. They may have recently gone exactly where you are thinking of going or they may have some first-hand information that is not readily available in guidebooks. On the other hand, they may have picked up unreasonable or unwarranted opinions or prejudices. The rule of thumb when seeking the advice of other travelers is to gain as much information as possible, but to take it with a grain of salt.
Online travel forums are an easy way to find other travelers who may be eager to share their travel experiences with you. Politely asking curious questions is a good way to get the conversation started. Alternatively, you may know someone in your extended circle of contacts who has gone to the place you are researching. You may ask them to coffee so that you can pick their brains.
Mode of Travel
How one travels can impact one’s level of safety and is an important consideration to keep in mind. For example, in a country where Westerners have been known to be targets, Western tourists traveling in a large group may constitute a security concern in certain areas. Traveling as a small group may attract less attention, but as a smaller group – or even those who travel individually – tend to be more approachable, they may be more susceptible to harassment or worse from unsavory elements of the local population.
Whether traveling as a large group, a small group, or individually, it is important to anticipate and balance current security concerns in the city and country you wish to travel to with the mode of travel you choose. If in doubt, contact your country’s local embassy or consular section for advice and information about the latest conditions.
Fitting in Promotes Safety
In general, travelers who try to respect the local customs through their dress, actions, and speech have a greater chance of ensuring their personal safety. As an illustrative example, a gay couple may openly kiss on the streets of Berlin, Germany; however, that couple would risk death for the same behavior on the streets of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A woman who dresses modestly and a tourist who speaks the local language are appreciated in many countries, or at least it may help the traveler to draw less attention to him or himself.
In certain cases a traveler will be immediately recognizable as a foreigner or tourist, such as black people in Russia or white ones in India, or if you are unable to speak the local language, which may draw unwanted attention, but attempting to emulate local dress, actions, and speech may make a positive difference in how the traveler is perceived or treated. So, read a book on the country’s customs. Take a language course. Put together a modest wardrobe.
To be safe, it is important to assess the conditions and safety concerns in the city and country you are considering travel to. Get as much information and evaluate it as you can, you need to carefully look at it, you can make an informed travel decision and have a good holiday while avoiding a potential tragedy.