The safety of a destination is always a crucial factor in deciding whether to travel to a location. And I hate the idea that there are any places we should not travel but the reality is that they do exist. However, that said, I think that many places that people put on the “Do not visit” list can be travelled to provided the right precautions are taken. Now that being said, this is just an opinion and I may have a higher (or lower) risk tolerance than others. And your risk tolerance is certainly a consideration.
When I review the risk of visiting a given place I consider how I am traveling, solo, as a couple, with a few friends, small group tour, large group tour etc. To me this is a consideration for so many reasons. As a woman, I may not want to travel solo to a country with a reputation for men sexually harassing women. I may want to reserve that trip for a couple’s trip or friends trip or small group tour.
Similarly, I may prefer to travel solo or with one or two others to a country with a history of buses being hijacked or significant terror threats. A country like this, I would prefer to avoid large groups. Does this guarantee safety. Certainly not. But if you consider these things you are already being proactive and aware of your surroundings. In my opinion, this is a chief factor in staying safe at home or abroad.
Another precaution I recommend is researching a place. Specifically, what type of crime occurs frequently. One place to find this information is on the State Department website. Here you will find all travel warnings and restrictions. You may look at these warnings and think, ‘I’ve traveled here before and never felt unsafe.’ That may be. I personally have had that experience. However, I urge you to read on and find out why the location has the warnings. Many times, it is due to high rates of pickpocketing and other petty crimes against tourist. Frequently, they are not violent crimes but having your wallet stolen or being passed counterfeit bills in a foreign land can put a real kink in your plans. It may even spoil your view of that city or country.
Another feature of the State Department website is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This allows you to submit your travel itinerary to the State Department, so they may use it to locate you in an emergency situation. Many people are not fans, of giving the government more information than they need but I admit I have used the program. One feature of the program that I like is they send you alerts while you travel. This came in handy on a cruise. I was notified of a Labor Strike in Athens a day before we arrived. The cruise line had not made any announcements at that time regarding any trip modifications. I was able to think ahead and needed to since I had booked my shore excursions separate from the cruise line.
STEP program can also alert you to conditions that may prompt you to cancel your trip all together. I couple years ago, there was a bombing in Turkey the day before I was to fly to Istanbul. If I had “cancel for any reason insurance” rescheduling may have been an option.
It is my belief, that an informed traveler is a prepared traveler. Of course, you can’t prepare for every situation but there are many things, such as being the target of a would-be pickpocket that you can prevent. Likewise, you can choose how and with whom you travel to lessen your chances of being a mark.
Travel Smart. Travel Safe.