Travel Safety–Keeping it Real

Travel safety is a theme I see repeated often, and it appears in the vast majority of all questions I’m asked by readers. “I really want to travel, but I want to go somewhere safe.” I totally understand wanting to be safe. There are places that are definitely safer than others. When discussing safety it’s important to “keep it real.”

Travel safety

Statistically speaking, the highest risk of accidental injuries occurs within 5 miles of one’s home. If you go by statistics alone, you’re much safer traveling.

“I read that someone got killed there.” Yes, people do get killed all over the world. It’s an unfortunate reality in our world. However, keep in mind that the United States has 5 cities that fall within the list of the top 50 most violent cities in the world. It seems we rarely go a day without a news report of a new shooting.

Many people sadly buy the Media’s representation of Mexico as being a dangerous country, yet while we lived there I could go to the mall, cinema, schools, etc., without fear of being shot. I’m sure some exist, but I’ve yet to see a school in Mexico that requires people to pass through metal detectors to enter the building while they are becoming almost common place in many parts of the US.

Years ago when I first went to Paris, friends back home were quite nervous for me because on the news it seemed that Paris was on fire. I got emails and texts from concerned people and had a hard time discovering the local source for the concern. In reality there were some protests that covered one block of the city which has over 2 million urban residents. A single car had indeed been set on fire during the protests.

Hardly as bad and scary as the news back home was reporting.

Travel safety in Mexico

I find it interesting when people cite a single or a few incidents of violence in an area and therefore deem it unsafe while failing to remember some other safety issues: In the US, someone is killed in a traffic accident every 12 minutes. One American dies every 159 minutes from drowning, for a total of 3,306 drowning deaths a year. Yet people get in their cars every day to drive. People still go swimming. An American is killed every 29 minutes from an accident while in their own home. In 2010, there were 11,078 firearm-related homicides, and the US ranks as 14th in the world for gun-related deaths (per 100,000 population).

It’s understandable. We live in a culture of fear that the Media is only too happy to support. When you’re already on edge and hear about something happening in a distant land, it’s hard not to be frightened. Just remember that every place has its risks. Also, most of the time tourists are fairly safe from violent crimes. Usually the biggest risk is getting pickpocketed/theft.

There are not many places I wouldn’t travel with Tigger for safety reasons. My list of places we’ll be avoiding because of human rights and women’s issues is actually larger.

Travel safety, ready for flight

Places on my no list currently because of travel safety

  • The Congo (DRC)
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Darfur
  • Syria
  • Libya
  • Venezuela
  • Chad

Afghanistan and Yemen are on my wait-and-see list. I know people who have been to both countries and felt pretty safe, but none of them were traveling with a child. Obviously, there are risks I feel comfortable taking as a solo traveler that I can’t when traveling with a kiddo.

Generally speaking, most of the world is pretty safe and filled with incredibly generous and wonderful people. Travel safety is like anything else—Use common sense and pay attention, and you’ll usually be just fine. And really that applies to anywhere in the world.

Are there places you’re too afraid to visit? Which ones are on your no-no list for safety reasons?

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  1. I can understand the anxiety of being in an unfamiliar place … but imagine if every time a friend or loved one left home we asked, “Aren’t you afraid of something bad happening to you!?” The looks we’d get!

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  2. Great article here, and a very realistic view on travel safety. I have been to places that were supposed to be unsafe and they were quite safe. There are definitely a few no-nos though.

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  3. This can be quite a hard concept to get across especially to concerned family or fried who aren’t very well traveled! Recently there was an acidic attack in Zanzibar on 2 british girls, people in UK now when I even mention the place or that I just got back from there and plan to be back there in 2 months time look at me with horror! I get fear I am not without it, I am actually overly cautious even when I travel! But ipeverythg needs perspective, local Zanzibari are just a shocked that it happened, there hasn’t been another foreigner targeted incident in years, you can walk around at night there, and the hospitality is second to none yet trying to convey that is almost impossible! The chances of something happening to you there is tiny, possible but tiny I personally take my bets more there than I do in central londond. I feel when you try and explain relative safety to people you can come across as flippant but bad stuff happens everywhere. I feel safer in zanzibar than I do on tubes in london. We even had an acid attack in the uk recently but that doesn’t mean people are leaving the country! Why does the foreign appear so scary? It’s interesting thought!

    Anyway really interesting post!

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    • It’s akin to reading about a shooting in Chicago and therefore avoiding the entire US. Some of the people I hear complain about safety in other countries live in some of the most dangerous cities in the world. It is quite intriguing how they have a disconnect like that. Your Zanzibar example is perfect.

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  4. People always seem to feel safer in their home town just because it’s familiar to them. If they hear of a shooting they’ll often ignore it because it’s not in their part of town, so irrelevant to them. But if they hear about a shooting in another country they can become scared of the whole country. Another thing that amuses me is to see people smoking, drinking and stuffing their faces with junk food, and then saying they can’t travel somewhere because it’s not safe. LOL.

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    • I also love when people go on an on about food safety and fluoride in the drinking water while they’re smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and drinking diet soda like it’s going out of style. Things that make you go hmmmmmm. lol

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