5 Tips for Traveling in Dangerous Countries

28 September 2012
5 Tips for Traveling in Dangerous Countries
Tips for Traveling Dangerous Countries

People travel for all sorts of reasons: for fun, for learning, for business, and more. Some travel to explore new cultures and environments. Some travel to volunteer at disaster sites. Some travel to relax. Some travel to expose themselves to experiences and challenges they can’t get back home.

While there are inherent risks to traveling anywhere – you can be robbed in your own hometown after all – some countries are recognized as highly dangerous as a result of any number of factors: political strife, natural terrain, weather conditions, violent gangs, and more. Still, each country of the world offers its own special allure to travelers and travelers still want to go.

The following is a short list of countries that are currently considered highly dangerous for travel:

  1. Brazil – one of the most beautiful countries of the world, Brazil also sports an epic crime rate with murder rates as high as four times that in the U.S.
  2. Russia – highly popular for the striking architecture and Eastern culture experience, Russia has also seen a rise in violent hate crime and travel to the southern states is risky because of political unrest and terrorist activity.
  3. Zimbabwe – one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations with its stunning Victoria Falls and big game parks, Zimbabwe is also highly volatile, prone to political upheaval and suffering deteriorating economic conditions that leave many locals desperate.
  4. Haiti – with some of the most striking natural settings in the Caribbean, Haiti is also home to rampant violent crime and kidnappings with many victims reporting beatings and rape.
  5. Kenya – a natural wonder and home to Nairobi National Park, this East African country offers some of the best game viewing in the world. Kenya is also one of the most crime-ridden countries of Africa and its tourist destinations are home to pickpockets, carjackers, armed assailants, and terrorists.

Of course, this is just a few of the countries where travelers are recommended to avoid anywhere from all travel to just non-essential travel. These are also countries that many travelers desperately want to visit.

Let’s review some steps you can implement to keep yourself as safe as possible while traveling in or through a dangerous country.

1. Plan your route carefully

Traveling very dangerous routes can be seen as courting disaster for its own sake, and public transportation in some countries doesn’t come with the same safety standards that travelers expect to find in the U.S.

Where carjackings, unauthorized roadblocks, and armed abductions are common, a traveler may be safest avoiding ground travel altogether or relying on well-known and secure tour services.

In all cases, you should research the risks and have alternative route planned. Proper route planning is something every traveler should pay attention to as a way to avoid running into a known risk.

2. Learn how dangerous it really is

While useful for broad information, the mainstream media is not the best resource. Not all of Brazil is overrun with bloodthirsty criminals after all. Spending a little time sorting out when and where it is actually dangerous can leave you with a lot of safe places you can enjoy.

Up-to-date guidebooks and online sites like the following usually have extensive information on the current risks for the region to which you are traveling:

The U.S. State Department’s International Travel site also offers country-specific information as well as travel alerts and warnings.

3. Get properly prepared

A well-prepared traveler is the one who knows where they’re going, what their risks are, and has put together a plan of action for those risks.

  • Traveling to a country with health risks like mosquito-borne diseases? Pack long, light clothing, plenty of repellent, and anti-malarials. Get your yellow fever vaccination in plenty of time.
  • Traveling to a country with political strife? Determine where the risky areas are, have the embassy information on hand, choose a hotel with good security, and avoid crowded gatherings and demonstrations as they can turn violent.

Of course you should always be prepared by leaving a copy of your itinerary with someone back home. Check in with that person often enough that they know you’re safe, and:

4. Don’t flaunt anything

Not your watch, not your camera, not your politics, and certainly not your body – don’t flaunt anything.

  • While you may not consider yourself rich by any means, the simple fact of owning more than one pair of shoes implies significant wealth in some parts of the world.
  • While you may be interested in the architecture for purely aesthetic reasons, many places forbid the snapping of photos for reasons of terrorism and more.
  • While you may love your home country and believe that every other political system is corrupt or worse, keep your opinions to yourself.

Every country has different deeply ingrained cultural rules that govern proper attire for men and women. Learn what the expected rules of attire are and do your best to accommodate them. Dressing improperly in some countries can land a person in jail. Again, it’s their country, their rules, and you’re the visitor.

5. Be sensible and respectful

Most tourists who find themselves in tricky situations got there because they made a bad decision or two, but you can go a long way by using common sense when you’re traveling, including:

  • Be sensible about your alcohol intake. Not only because it puts you at a reactionary disadvantage, but in some countries drinking is a religious and politically charged issue.
  • Be respectful of religion. Learn a little about the local beliefs and avoid scenarios where you may cause offense. It’s their land and their religion after all.
  • Be smart about the rules. If a country has a curfew, obey it. If there’s a lot of crime at night, get inside before sunset and stay put.
  • Be aware of your situation at all times and be extra vigilant when the situation warrants it.

Travel anywhere in the world can be a planning challenge, but travel to a dangerous country requires even more effort. Do everything you can before you to to realistically assess and mitigate the risks you’re likely to face and your trip could go off without a hitch. Fail to do this work, and you might not come back (or at least not with all your stuff).

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