Every week it seems another deadly tourism headline splashes across the press. Tourists murdered, boats/planes/trains hijacked, groups robbed at gunpoint. It’s all enough to make you want to have that “staycation” and stay hidden under your duvet for a week. But that’s no fun, and we can’t live our lives in fear of going outside.
But how can you decide if a destination is safe?
You need to find a trusted, specific place to go for information. Government warnings are trusted, but they are rarely specific – if you look at some of the bulletins the Americans put out, they’d have you think pirates were running rampant as far north as Manchester. Not so.
Tourist boards are really a great first stop. They have a vested interest to bring folks on board as well as keeping them safe, and I’ve found they are usually one of the first to be honest about “well, you might want to go here instead.” Call them up – they all have phone numbers.
If you are visiting a location with a guide, then email them and ask them what’s up. Most reputable providers will be honest. Your hotel too can tell you what’s going on and what you should do.
It’s the opposite of the above, but please don’t buy into this hype that you see on TV and newspapers. So often I’ve seen misinformation distributed here. Newspapers print headlines that sell papers, which is not always the same as headlines that are entirely truthful. There are exceptions, but for the most part, go to the horses mouth – the people on the ground.
Social media is also a great place to hang out and find decent travel news. That’s because many of the folk who travel regularly (travel bloggers and journalist, round-the-world backpackers, etc) blog, tweet, and Facebook along the way. Drop a Facebook note and ask your friends for recommendations. Search on Twitter to see what folk are saying about the place you’re headed.
Forums are also great for this – Lonely Planet’s forum is a good one, but as with any review/forum site, you have to wade through a fair amount of opinion to figure out what is true and what isn’t.
I always advise a heavy dose of common sense in these situations. A lot of people get up in arms about something, but then under that scary headline they find out that the tourist(s) in question actually were doing something totally stupid, ignored prevailing advice of locals, and then got themselves into a sticky situation.
So, this advice is twofold:
Your personal safety is your number one priority when travelling. You can replace passports and woolly jumpers, but not you. So always make sure you take the time to properly assess your safety – it’s not fun, but it is important.
Photo Credit: Ben walther
Posted : Friday, February 11th, 2011 at 11:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.