Nothing is more entertaining and enlightening than travel. Visiting exotic places, relaxing by a far-away beach, meeting new people and understanding other cultures are part of life's delights. Yet travel has its risks; some areas have high crime rates or threats of terrorism or on-going warfare. How can you travel where you want to go, but do so safely?The Australian Government provides information about travel safety by issuing travel recommendations and alerts. These alerts are based on comprehensive analyses of conditions all over the world. Four levels of alerts are used to help travelers make decisions and plans on ensuring their own safety. They are merely alerts, not mandates.
The lowest alert level is "exercise normal safety precautions." This sensible advice simply means you should act just as you would at home, prudent but unworried. The next level is "exercise a high degree of caution." Areas such as Belize, Bolivia and Brazil may carry this recommendation for reasons varying from a high risk of violent crime to concerns about unstable weather. The third highest level is "reconsider your need to travel" and applies to countries like Haiti where multiple risks exist including cholera outbreaks, hurricane-ravaged areas of the country, and a high risk of kidnapping and other violent crimes, especially against foreigners. Finally, some countries are labeled as "Do not travel" meaning you simply should not visit that country or area at all if you can help it. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are considered "do not travel" countries. The Government reviews and recommends these alerts regularly and can change from time to time.
While planning a trip, travelers should consult these advisories and review the detailed information provided about the country or area in question. Sometimes one area of a country is considered safer than another, so it makes sense to be specific and selective about your destination. The reasons for your travel are important, too. If you are vacationing, a safer site is a better choice than anywhere on the "do not travel" list; on the other hand, if you have urgent business in a dangerous country, you may have to go but will make special arrangements for your personal safety. The Government also encourages citizens to register their trips and sign up for email alerts, so that you can remain informed.
An important tool for safe travel is obtaining travel insurance. Be sure to read any policy carefully for what is covered and what is excluded. Some policies, for example, cover even extreme risks such as being the victim of terrorism, while others cover only travel delay or interruption.
Be informed, be prepared and enjoy your trip!