A Guide for Traveling in Dangerous Destinations

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As business and leisure travel continues to rebound, the world returns to what can feel more like “normal.” This can mean some people are traveling to dangerous destinations, or at least what we initially consider high-risk. 

Regardless of the reasons why someone is traveling and no matter their destination, people want to feel safe. 

Feeling safe can mean different things depending on the individual and where they’re traveling. 

We think of certain destinations as more dangerous than others, although some of this is perception and the media’s portrayal of these locations. 

Regardless, from choosing a hotel with top-level security to being mindful of your personal safety when you’re out and about, the following are things to keep in mind when you’re in a dangerous destination. These tips can also be helpful if you’re not in what we would think of as a traditionally dangerous area but simply traveling somewhere unfamiliar. 

Do Your Research

The mainstream media isn’t necessarily going to give you the information you need before you travel somewhere you aren’t familiar with. For example, you might think of Brazil as a dangerous location simply because of its portrayal, but the country isn’t filled with criminals. Like anywhere else, there are risks of traveling to so-called dangerous destinations, but often they’re not as significant as we might perceive. 

Start your travel research by visiting the government websites managed by your home country. 

For example, residents of the U.S. can begin researching with the State Department. The State Department offers country-specific information, travel alerts, and warnings to U.S. travelers. 

You can begin to learn the general level of risk for your destination and the specific threats to be mindful of.

There’s a big difference between your biggest risk being political unrest or strife versus a country where the biggest risk is crime associated with drug cartels. 

If you’re going somewhere with political strife, you can determine which areas are riskiest because it’s not often widespread. 

Your goal when researching is to gain a sense of perspective. 

Also, keep in mind that most of what you read will overstate the risk, including the information from your home government. 

If you have friends or co-workers who have traveled to the destination, they can be a good source of perspective. 

Choosing a Hotel

When you’re going to a dangerous destination, staying in a hotel is often your best choice. 

You want a hotel catering to international visitors, and you want to make sure they have onsite security at all times. 

If your hotel does cater to international travelers, they’re more likely to meet the security standards that those travelers expect. 

Security should be visible most of the time and always on the grounds. If you aren’t sure whether or not that’s something a hotel offers, get in touch with them directly to find out what their protocols are. 

A hotel with 24-hour reception is a must. If the lobby always has someone onsite, it reduces the likelihood of someone following you in. 

Also, if there’s always someone to contact, you’ll have peace of mind if you see something suspicious. 

Depending on your location and reasons for traveling, you might want to let the front desk know your plans each day and when you expect to return. Of course, you’ll only want to do this if you think you’re truly facing a risk. 

When you book a hotel, request a higher floor, but not too high. If you’re on the ground level, it’s easier for intruders to target you. At the same time, it’s hard to get out if you’re too high and there’s a fire or emergency. 

If you’re close to an emergency exit, even better when you’re staying in a hotel. These are things that you should consider no matter your destination. 

Leave a Travel Trail

If you’re going to a risky destination, you want to have a plan for everything you’re doing and leave a trail of this plan. 

First, notify the embassy from your home country at least two weeks before your trip. Then you’ll want to make color copies of your passport. Keep a copy with you, then leave one at your home, and exchange a copy with anyone else who might be traveling with you. 

Keep the copies of your passport separate from your actual passport. 

Leave an itinerary behind with someone at home or share a Google Doc with a trusted person. 

When traveling with other people, you should always have their phone numbers on hand with you, and you should share details of what each of you will be doing if you separate. 

Along with staying connected with people you might be traveling with, you should also keep in regular, consistent contact with at least one person back home. 

For example, maybe you let a family member know your general schedule and plan a set time to check in with them each day.

Stay Alert

Any time you’re in an unfamiliar place, whether you’d consider it dangerous or not, it’s critical to stay alert. Pay attention to what’s going on around you, and be mindful of how people behave around you. 

For example, if someone seems to be following you, try to make your way to a populated area. 

When traveling anywhere, but especially somewhere you consider dangerous, try to keep a low profile. You don’t want anyone to think you have a lot of money. 

Wear clothes that blend in with local people, and don’t wear your expensive jewelry or accessories. 

You also want to try and avoid places where people could target you based on where you’re from. For example, if there’s a bar where Americans go, it might be best to avoid that. 

Finally, don’t drink too much any time you’re traveling, but you need to be extra vigilant, especially if you’re traveling somewhere. If you drink too much, you aren’t going to be as aware and mindful as you may need to be to keep yourself safe. 

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