How Do You Decide If A Travel Destination Is “Safe?”

How Do You Decide If A Travel Destination Is “Safe?”

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I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here, though I’m curious how others approach this topic…

My general philosophy on travel & safety

For many people, safety is a major concern when traveling. When planning travel, they may have concerns about the safety of the airline they’re flying with, as well as concerns over the destination they’re traveling to. Having flown millions of miles and having visited 100+ countries, here’s my general philosophy:

  • I don’t put any thought into airline safety, and am happy to fly any airline; that simply comes down to relative risk, and that even the least “safe” airline is safer than other forms of transportation
  • I’ve visited around 100 countries, and when traveling solo I tend to think that a vast majority of destinations are safe, especially if you just apply common sense and take some basic precautions (don’t have anything flashy, be careful where you walk, research scams in advance, etc.)

Admittedly everyone has different standards as to what’s “safe” and what isn’t. In terms of destination safety, there’s a big difference between Dubai, Paris, Sao Paulo, and Mogadishu, for example (roughly in that order).

Speaking of people having different standards, I have family friends who will always get in touch prior to booking a flight to ask if a particular airline is safe. “Is British Airways safe?” “Is Norwegian safe?” “Is JetBlue safe?” I always answer “yes,” of course, yet they keep asking. It just shows how we all have different standards when it comes to this stuff.

We all have different standards when it comes to travel safety

The challenge with researching destination safety

Let me pose my question in the form of an example. I’m considering two different trips that would take me through Abidjan, Ivory Coast (ABJ), and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia (VVI). I could just connect right through, or I could spend a day or two in each destination. Personally I always enjoy checking out a place I haven’t been to before for at least a day or two.

But of course I also don’t want to be totally reckless, or at a minimum, want to know what I’m getting myself into in terms of the precautions I should take. Can I just (carefully) roam the streets in the daytime? Should I hire a guide? Should I arrange airport transfers in advance? Is that sufficient?

While the internet is an amazing resource in general, I sometimes find it’s not terribly useful when it comes to establishing the relative risk of a destination:

  • Travel warnings are often overly cautious for destinations that I find to be quite safe, and that sometimes makes it tricky to determine if a destination is actually higher risk, or just has the typical disclaimers
  • While there are some online message boards talking about safety of various destinations, it can sometimes be hard to figure out if the people have a similar risk tolerance to you; some people seem overly cautious, while others will go anywhere
  • It seems that when you Google “is [insert destination] safe?” the answer is almost always the same, and mentions that there is at times violent crime, to remain vigilant, etc.

That brings me to my overall question for OMAAT readers — how do you decide if a destination is safe to visit, whether you’re planning it as a destination, or just as an extended stopover where you leave the airport? I’d of course welcome thoughts specifically on the above cities, but I’m more curious about the thought process that people use.

It can be tough to research destination safety

Bottom line

Most people consider safety when traveling to an off the beaten path destination. This is one of the things that it’s surprisingly tough to research, though, given that that everyone has different standards when it comes to safety, and government travel warnings often aren’t very useful.

So I’d love to hear from OMAAT readers on this — how do you go about deciding what precautions you’ll take when traveling, based on the destination?

Conversations (69)
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  1. sfimporter Guest

    More important than safety to me is how the country treats LGBT citizens. As a Gay American tourist - the worst thing likely to happen is to be deported, but a local found out to be Gay in some countries can go to prison or be killed.

    Why would I give my money to support a country with that type of law? If I hear one more person talk about how impressive Dubai is...

    More important than safety to me is how the country treats LGBT citizens. As a Gay American tourist - the worst thing likely to happen is to be deported, but a local found out to be Gay in some countries can go to prison or be killed.

    Why would I give my money to support a country with that type of law? If I hear one more person talk about how impressive Dubai is - or how pretty Jamaica is.

    Kids - you don't give a pass to a place because it's pretty or impressive. Know before you go and stop supporting countries that don't support us.

  2. Greg Guest

    Well first off if the country is full of guns and demonstrates extreme levels of racism I stay clear. The USA is a no go for me. I have been to 80 countries. I have never felt less safe than when I'm in the USA.

  3. SUNNY Guest

    Here's how I decide if someplace is "safe ".
    Would I let my mother go there alone?
    If the answer to that question is NO, then it's not safe enough for me and I'm not going.
    Easy peasy.

  4. Daniel Guest

    I grew up in an area in England that struggled with crime. It's been systematically neglected by the government over decades, so people turn to crime to get by. Because of that experience, I'd say I have better instincts than most in terms of my personal safety, and that means I'm comfortable pretty much wherever I am. I've traveled a lot, and only ever been the victim of a crime twice. Once when I was...

    I grew up in an area in England that struggled with crime. It's been systematically neglected by the government over decades, so people turn to crime to get by. Because of that experience, I'd say I have better instincts than most in terms of my personal safety, and that means I'm comfortable pretty much wherever I am. I've traveled a lot, and only ever been the victim of a crime twice. Once when I was pickpocketed on the London Underground, and the other time when I was lost with a dead phone in Savannah, Georgia. If I'm traveling solo, there aren't many places I wont go. I have a hardline rule against going to any place experiencing significant political unrest or active conflict. Like, as much as I would love to visit and see Kyiv, right now it's out of the question for me due to the war.

    However, if I'm traveling with my girlfriend there are a lot more considerations to take. In a lot of places simply existing as a woman is unsafe, and makes you a target. Traveling safely is as much about how you feel as it is about the reality of the situation. You could be in the safest place in the world, but if you FEEL unsafe, you won't have a good time. So if we're in a place where I feel safe and comfortable, but she is constantly looking over her shoulder because she feels at risk, it wont be a good time for either of us.

    In the second situation, we think about other places we've been together, what that was like, and how similar this new place is to those other places. We also consider our personal experiences and how that relates to the kind of risks that present themselves in these new locations. Is it a place with a lot of knife crime in urban centers? If yes, I grew up in a place exactly like that and I know, generally, what we need to do to stay safe and when a situation becomes unsafe and how to escape.

  5. Mark Guest

    I generally use the 38th parallel north rule: is the place south of it? Not safe, I won't go.

  6. Rob Guest

    I work in travel risk management as part of my day to day job - a huge element of what we look at during our travel risk assessment process is utilizing on the ground information from our teams operating in these areas. We also consult with security providers (such as International SOS and RiskControl) to perform an assessment of availability of local medical providers, safety of transportation networks, approve hotels, and approve security teams if...

    I work in travel risk management as part of my day to day job - a huge element of what we look at during our travel risk assessment process is utilizing on the ground information from our teams operating in these areas. We also consult with security providers (such as International SOS and RiskControl) to perform an assessment of availability of local medical providers, safety of transportation networks, approve hotels, and approve security teams if necessary. Our teams carry software in their phones that require them to check in daily, or if they move location so that we can contact them in the event of an emergency.

    Further to that, all of our employees who travel are required to go through travel security/abduction awareness training to ensure that they know where to avoid, what not to say, what not to carry etc. For higher risk areas, they are required to go through a travel security briefing (including for local customs) to ensure they do not draw attention to themselves when travelling.

  7. Andy 11235 Guest

    Country-level advice is only useful if there is political unrest or difficulties. Otherwise, it's really less about whether a place is "safe," and more about what you are willing to do in order to be safe when there. I live in a very safe neighborhood, but this doesn't mean there is no crime. A new-to-city-life neighbor decided it was a good idea to store wrapped Christmas gifts in their car. They were absolutely shocked when...

    Country-level advice is only useful if there is political unrest or difficulties. Otherwise, it's really less about whether a place is "safe," and more about what you are willing to do in order to be safe when there. I live in a very safe neighborhood, but this doesn't mean there is no crime. A new-to-city-life neighbor decided it was a good idea to store wrapped Christmas gifts in their car. They were absolutely shocked when a week before the holiday it was broken into and the expensive gifts stolen. Don't go about a city looking like a Christmas gift for thieves or scammers.

  8. Scanditino Guest

    Bolivia here, lucky! Nothing to see in Santa Cruz! Hire private transport to Samaipata or fly to the Salar de Uyuni or to La Paz or to Sucre! Bolivia is generally safe for tourists but Santa Cruz is definitely not worthy

  9. Daniel Guest

    Unsafe designated destinations are not always dangerous for tourists and vice versa.

    Rio De Janeiro is for example very unsafe for tourists, because the are seen as easy prey and directly targeted and it can be quite violent,

    Contrary in Cali the violence is mostly related to internal gangster feuds.

    Barcelona is ripe of pocket thiefs but they are usually non-violent.

  10. Max Guest

    I look at ethnic homogenity, social cohesion, how white the place is and if it is a high-trust society. These are factors that indicate safety.
    'Diversity' and low-trust societies on the other hand are indicators for unsafe places.

    1. Speedbird Guest

      lol have a good time in backwoods Michigan

  11. Antonio C. Guest

    I will go with friends advice and people I know are as cautious as me.

    After leaving 3 years in Santa Cruz I cannot recommend it enough, specially for single or solo travellers. Friendly people you can count with, English speaking hotel staff, great wine and food overal.

  12. Mark Guest

    I am nearly 60 years of age and have twice been the victim of a random assault in Sydney; I've been mugged in Barcelona and Paris; I've avoided trumped-up charges by paying off corrupt police in Colombo; and I was in Bali when 202 people were killed in the terrorist bombings. In my experience, nowhere is really safe. Life happens. Live it.

  13. Jared Guest

    It depends on the type of risk, perception of the risk and one's personal risk threshold.

    As a journalist, I regularly go to parts of the world considered risky by most standards. However, there are still people living in these regions and traveling to these regions.

  14. JetSetFly Guest

    Check US and UK state department websites. I only stay at five star hotels unless one isn’t available. I have hotel pick me up from airport. I always hire a local guide through hotel concierge. I don’t stay out late. After dinner, I go straight back to hotel unless I’m in a city that’s relatively safe like Tokyo or a city I know well like nyc. Thank god clubbing days are over for me so no more 2AM adventures.

  15. Carrie Member

    My perception of safety has changed over the years. The risks I took as a younger traveller changed considerably when I had young children, in tow or left at home. Now my children are all adults, my perception of safe travels has once more altered and I will consider safety issues in a more generous light.

    I suspect that every traveller has a different perspective of what is 'safe' based upon their own peculiar life...

    My perception of safety has changed over the years. The risks I took as a younger traveller changed considerably when I had young children, in tow or left at home. Now my children are all adults, my perception of safe travels has once more altered and I will consider safety issues in a more generous light.

    I suspect that every traveller has a different perspective of what is 'safe' based upon their own peculiar life experiences but there are so very many reliable and verifiable resources available that making an informed decision is much easier today than when I commenced travel to far flung lands as a young woman.

    1. JD Guest

      I don't go if the destination has a death penalty or imprisonment for being gay. I don't go if guns are visible on the street, " visible carry " laws included. I don't go if the hotels have armed guards. I won't stay in a hotel that a local tells me is not safe to leave after dark. I seriously consider whether to travel to a country that has had armed rebels invading its capital within the last two years.

    2. Jim Lovejoy Guest

      "I seriously consider whether to travel to a country that has had armed rebels invading its capital within the last two years."
      Just because DC is like that doesn't mean that someplace 2500 miles away isn't safe.

  16. JML Guest

    I've been to 35+ countries. The places I felt the least safe were Johannesburg, and Cape Town. I spent 4 months in Cape Town and there was a constant element of danger lingering around the most beautiful natural landscapes I have ever seen. The only place I got successfully scammed was Turkey (friendly guy asked me to photograph him, we went to dinner, he drank, flirted, then he wanted to go to a "belly dancing"...

    I've been to 35+ countries. The places I felt the least safe were Johannesburg, and Cape Town. I spent 4 months in Cape Town and there was a constant element of danger lingering around the most beautiful natural landscapes I have ever seen. The only place I got successfully scammed was Turkey (friendly guy asked me to photograph him, we went to dinner, he drank, flirted, then he wanted to go to a "belly dancing" bar. I don't drink and he drank a lot. The belly dancing bar charged $100 for each alcoholic drink and $20 for a soda. At the end of the night when the bill came it was like $800. I had 1 coke, so I paid my $20. The guy paid his tab of $780 and then when we left he was like "That was all my money! Can I borrow some money to get home to Cyprus?". At that point I Googled "Belly Dancing Scam Turkey" on my phone and saw it was a common scam. The guy spent like $100 trying to con me and he got $20 out of me.) Istanbul had a general feeling of if you are not from istanbul you are a cash machine to be squeezed. I understand because their economy has tanked and people are trying to survive. Whenever there is a huge disparity between the rich and poor, it creates violence. South Africa, NYC, Rio, and London have huge income disparities amongst their populaces, and it is within those areas I have felt the most palpable cruelty within the culture. That said, there are spots in almost every American city that are as dangerous as anywhere on the globe.

  17. iamhere Guest

    One general rule of thumb I like to follow is to research the best hotels in the destination and consider why they exist or who their customers are likely to be. This can tell you a lot about a particular place or a lot about the future prospects of the place. Not necessarily the case that I will stay there but it is useful to see. If the big hotel chains are there and if...

    One general rule of thumb I like to follow is to research the best hotels in the destination and consider why they exist or who their customers are likely to be. This can tell you a lot about a particular place or a lot about the future prospects of the place. Not necessarily the case that I will stay there but it is useful to see. If the big hotel chains are there and if some major airlines fly there it says something. Some of the smaller airlines may be more credible if they have some awards and/or are part of the big partnerships, etc. Generally I don't fly airlines that are not part of the big partnerships because of the price and because alternative options if there is a delay or cancelation. If I'm going on their only long haul flight and there is a problem I'm stuck. Travel warnings are very political. There is nothing that makes may destinations as unsafe as the US Department of State claims. I liked the comment below about the USA. I think many foreign citizens would not consider the USA because of safety issues. Even many New Yorkers are no longer taking the subway!

  18. Bob Guest

    I generally only care about imminent known issues from the US govts app smart traveler. Areas to avoid, health warnings that kind of thing. Beyond that it's just using good judgment. You stay in a hotel next to buildings with graffiti chances are you're not going to want to be there. I look at neighborhoods around the hotel with Google Street view. Cluster of Hotels in touristy areas I don't think you need to worry....

    I generally only care about imminent known issues from the US govts app smart traveler. Areas to avoid, health warnings that kind of thing. Beyond that it's just using good judgment. You stay in a hotel next to buildings with graffiti chances are you're not going to want to be there. I look at neighborhoods around the hotel with Google Street view. Cluster of Hotels in touristy areas I don't think you need to worry. The extra cost in those areas buys you some semblance of safety.

  19. Quiet_Joy New Member

    This discussion deserves a shout out to Singapore which is probably the only destination where you WILL be safe.

  20. docntx Guest

    A) Do not generalize. There are safer and less safe locations literally everywhere.
    B) "Read the room (or the location.)"
    C) Balance your adventurous instincts with risk assessment.
    D) Drink alcohol or use mind altering substances at your own risk.
    E) Be respectful and discrete.
    F) Do not assume everyone you see wants you there.
    G) Make some effort to grasp the culture.
    H) Express gratitude.

  21. Petri Diamond

    Just use common sense. I have lived in African and Asian countries. Visited more than 80 countries around the world, including wartime Syria, Iraq and Somalia. The only places where I have been robbed are Milan and Rio de Janeiro, at gunpoint and at knifepoint, respectively. Both incidents while on the property of a 5-star hotel. Just keep your eyes open and go everywhere, it is worth the experience.

    1. David Diamond

      You've been robbed at gunpoint in a 5 star hotel in Milan? What did the hotel say and did they compensate you?

    2. schar Guest

      im shocked. robbed at gunpoint in Milan? and what hotel were u at in Rio? Give us all the info!

    3. Jared Guest

      @Petri - I am assuming gun point was in Rio since similar incidents have been reported around Rio's luxury hotels since they are magnets for foreign tourists.

  22. Phil Guest

    Do the research and use your hotel as a resource. One trick I’ve used in new countries that are a challenge is when you get in the can pretend you’re on a call with a local and “tell” then your etA and the cabbie info. Let the cab driver hear you and then tip well at the end. Cabbies can be leveraged by bad guys

    And I don’t fly on Russian made planes

    1. Indopithecus Guest

      And lots of Indonesians and Ethiopians would be terrified of flying on American-made aircraft!

  23. dander Guest

    I check out the state department website and I also try to look at the country's or region website.

  24. Kaj Guest

    I generally put two consideration foremost: are there any endemic diseases and/or health consideration? and what is the political situation? Neither one would necessarily strike a place from consideration, though I would want to take precautions.

    For example, when I was researching Myanmar, I found that polio was still endemic in parts of the country. Since I had last been inoculated against polio almost 50 years prior, I got a booster. At the time, Myanmar's...

    I generally put two consideration foremost: are there any endemic diseases and/or health consideration? and what is the political situation? Neither one would necessarily strike a place from consideration, though I would want to take precautions.

    For example, when I was researching Myanmar, I found that polio was still endemic in parts of the country. Since I had last been inoculated against polio almost 50 years prior, I got a booster. At the time, Myanmar's political situation was pretty stable, so I had no real concerns on that front, as long as I stayed away from the parts of the country still at war. I found people to be very nice, and it was an interesting place. I'm not sure I would make that trip today.

  25. Davis Guest

    As a global security specialist and lived lived in 3 foreign countries saftey should be a priority to all travelers. Too many travelers take saftey for granted and at times they become a statistic.

  26. Sean Guest

    In the broader sense, I feel like any country not actively engaged in war or having frequent terrorist attacks is safe enough to visit. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it meets my safety needs for any specific trip. There are other levels of safety I consider.

    1. General Crime. Am I going to want to be out alone at night? If so, there are some places where that's far less advisable than others. And...

    In the broader sense, I feel like any country not actively engaged in war or having frequent terrorist attacks is safe enough to visit. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it meets my safety needs for any specific trip. There are other levels of safety I consider.

    1. General Crime. Am I going to want to be out alone at night? If so, there are some places where that's far less advisable than others. And that certainly goes for my home city as well. The only difference being I know specifically where to and where not to go in my own city a whole lot better than some city I've never been to even if I do read up on it.

    2. Scams. What common sense tends to keep you safe from the majority of them? Sometimes it's just not something I want to have to deal with. I might want instead to be able to relax and enjoy myself.

    3. Peddlers/Harassment. Maybe it's not exactly safety that's an issue here (though you do need to keep a closer eye on pickpockets in these situations). But in some poorer countries, if you're not with a guide, you can't walk two feet without somebody coming up to you either trying to sell you something or trying to offer to give you directions for a few dollars. That's not necessarily something I want to deal with on every trip I go on. It can be exhausting, especially when they won't take a polite no.

  27. DenB Diamond

    Ignore all advice that refers to an entire country. No person who ranks safety in national terms is an actual traveller. I was mugged in Fort Lauderdale. Shall I warn my Canadian friends never to visit Sonoma at lunchtime because it's in the United States of America, where I was mugged at gunpoint at night? Countries aren't safe or unsafe. Districts are.

    2. Ignore all advice from people who carry purses, camera bags, fanny packs,...

    Ignore all advice that refers to an entire country. No person who ranks safety in national terms is an actual traveller. I was mugged in Fort Lauderdale. Shall I warn my Canadian friends never to visit Sonoma at lunchtime because it's in the United States of America, where I was mugged at gunpoint at night? Countries aren't safe or unsafe. Districts are.

    2. Ignore all advice from people who carry purses, camera bags, fanny packs, messenger bags and other external bait. Ignore people who wear jewelry and metal wristwatches and are shocked! shocked! when they experience criminal assaults. Such people get mugged in Buenos Aires a block from their hotel, but those who don't travel with such chattel do not get mugged in Buenos Aires, therefore Buenos Aires is safe.

    3. Try to begin your stay in a new place with a guide who lives there, or who visits often. It helps if you are naturally social or extroverted, ahem, but not essential, especially if people feel they know you and they like you.

    4. If no free guide, get a paid one and "interview" the guide a bit online before committing. For me, this would involve screening for homophobia but for some, it might involve screening for comfort around children. The more you feel comfortable about your guide, the more you'll look forward to your visit, especially in an iffy place.

    5. Read US State Dept's, or Canada's or UK's advice for Travellers. They are surprising unbureaucratic and direct sometimes, with practical references to where trouble spots are.

    1. reddargon Diamond

      "Ignore all advice from people who carry purses, camera bags, fanny packs, messenger bags and other external bait."

      So ignore any advice from 95% of women? Useful advice.

  28. David Diamond

    I'm basically willing to go to any country as long as it's not an active war zone or have a serious pandemic raging on with no vaccine (so, for example, much of Africa during an ebola outbreak).

    But I'd take extra precautions depending on where I am.

  29. snic Diamond

    That's a great question, and the answer really depends not just on where you are going, but who you are and what you want out of the trip. If you're going somewhere to get drunk every night and party, some destinations might be far more dangerous for you than for someone who's going there to see historical sites or work or study. If you refuse to conform to local norms of dress and behavior, you...

    That's a great question, and the answer really depends not just on where you are going, but who you are and what you want out of the trip. If you're going somewhere to get drunk every night and party, some destinations might be far more dangerous for you than for someone who's going there to see historical sites or work or study. If you refuse to conform to local norms of dress and behavior, you might be less safe in some areas than someone who takes local customs seriously. If you insist on wearing expensive watches, jewelry, hand bags, etc, you might be less safe than someone who is more careful.

    Of course every destination has its risks, from pickpockets to scams to being kidnapped, so the obvious second part of the answer is to figure out how safe you are likely to be if you take reasonable precautions. For example, I visited Honduras a few years ago with my family despite dire State Department warnings that it's unsafe due to high rates of murder and drug gang activity. I arranged for us to be picked up by a car contracted by the place where we were staying rather than dealing with finding transport on our own after arrival, and we avoided the big cities where most violence occurred. We felt perfectly safe the entire trip, and we met some lovely people and saw some amazing sites.

    1. kels2003 Member

      Really good perspective. Depends as much on what you want to do as where you are.

  30. Ann Guest

    I m sure the inevitable chain hotel and its lounge you will stay at will be ok.

  31. pstm91 Diamond

    Have been to both of your proposed destinations and they are both safe and you can wander around easily. You'll want to arrange a car though, especially in Abidjan as it's very spread out. I just asked the first taxi I got into if I could get his number and call him as needed. Very easy.
    You'll want to spend more time in Santa Cruz and do the salt flats.
    I have been...

    Have been to both of your proposed destinations and they are both safe and you can wander around easily. You'll want to arrange a car though, especially in Abidjan as it's very spread out. I just asked the first taxi I got into if I could get his number and call him as needed. Very easy.
    You'll want to spend more time in Santa Cruz and do the salt flats.
    I have been to many, many places people and the State Department would deem "not safe". Just use common sense, keep a low profile and you will be fine just about anywhere. I've never really had any major issues or threats while traveling. If you are not doing some sort of organized tour, then keeping a flexible schedule is also strongly recommended. If it's a place you are really unsure about despite doing research, then I would stick to an organized tour such as A&K.

  32. Dave M’Bongo Fu Guest

    I was going to visit the USA, but it turns out that most people have guns, to defend themselves from their own government?!? And then you get mass shootings in schools and shopping malls?!? Too dangerous for me, I’m going to stay at home in Abidjan

    1. dander Guest

      Seriously. you need to quit watching the news.

    2. Rotuma Gold

      And yet for some reason people keep flocking to the USA, legally or otherwise. They must not be aware of the dangers. Glad you’re helping to alert them.

  33. Will Guest

    I take the State Dept guidance basically at face value. For me, that means that I comfortably visit places with level 1 and 2 warnings; I think awfully hard about the risk-reward for level 3 (Are there safer places that I’d enjoy just as much? Is the extra stress of being constantly “on my guard” worth it?); and I stay away from level 4.

    One reason is advice from a friend of mine who...

    I take the State Dept guidance basically at face value. For me, that means that I comfortably visit places with level 1 and 2 warnings; I think awfully hard about the risk-reward for level 3 (Are there safer places that I’d enjoy just as much? Is the extra stress of being constantly “on my guard” worth it?); and I stay away from level 4.

    One reason is advice from a friend of mine who works for State, is very well traveled, and is someone you’d be unlucky to casually start a fight with. With better-than-average information and better-than-average outcomes in case something bad happens, he says he’d still follow the guidelines even if he didn’t have to.

  34. richyjoye New Member

    "safe" can mean different things to different people... is it about kidnapping ? about the risk of a bag being stolen ? about racism ? about getting sick with the food or the water ? about being caught into mass protest or a revolution ? about a strike and having to reshuffle the trip ?
    Do your research, blogs, travel reports, people who are like-minded. I've been to many places people would qualify as...

    "safe" can mean different things to different people... is it about kidnapping ? about the risk of a bag being stolen ? about racism ? about getting sick with the food or the water ? about being caught into mass protest or a revolution ? about a strike and having to reshuffle the trip ?
    Do your research, blogs, travel reports, people who are like-minded. I've been to many places people would qualify as unsafe : North Korea, Yemen, Iran, Mexico, Colombia, the list is long. And I have been in places that would be described as super safe where I felt insecurity (Japan, Switzerland ...) and places where I felt safe but needed to be cautious (Spain, France, Italy, ...).
    Make your own opinion also. It's a lot cultural as well. I would say the US is not safe due to mass shooting for instance. But wouldn't I travel to the US ?

    1. JDee Diamond

      As a regular visitor to Japan pre-COVID, I'm genuinely interested in where you were when you felt insecure? Kabukicho at night, perhaps?

  35. derek Guest

    Airline safety can make a difference. I think Singapore Airlines is safer than TAAG Angola or Kam Air. However, in my opinion, the biggest factors are crime and medical care.

    Crime is like considering that the south Bronx is more dangerous than Triesenberg, Liechtenstein. San Salvador is more dangerous than Tainan, Taiwan.

    As far as medical care, Russell, Kansas is more dangerous than Houston, Texas. Have a brain bleed after a car accident and...

    Airline safety can make a difference. I think Singapore Airlines is safer than TAAG Angola or Kam Air. However, in my opinion, the biggest factors are crime and medical care.

    Crime is like considering that the south Bronx is more dangerous than Triesenberg, Liechtenstein. San Salvador is more dangerous than Tainan, Taiwan.

    As far as medical care, Russell, Kansas is more dangerous than Houston, Texas. Have a brain bleed after a car accident and there is probably no neurosurgeon within 100 miles of Russell, Kansas. In the entire country of Palau, there is no neurosurgeon. A head injury is rare but if it happens in Palau, you are either dead or brain damaged. As a result, I have sadly eliminated places like Benin from my "to visit" list. Palau is not entirely ruled out because I might risk it for the beauty but I don't love Benin that much.

  36. Chris Guest

    China - Hiring a guide will likely save you money and time as you can enter attractions more quickly and be much less likely to encounter tea scams et cetera. No need to worry about airport transport take the subway to where you wish to go. Change a small amount of money to handle subway fee.

    Italy: Be very safety conscious of your belongings. Try to not wear flashy clothing/jewelry. Try to keep your passport...

    China - Hiring a guide will likely save you money and time as you can enter attractions more quickly and be much less likely to encounter tea scams et cetera. No need to worry about airport transport take the subway to where you wish to go. Change a small amount of money to handle subway fee.

    Italy: Be very safety conscious of your belongings. Try to not wear flashy clothing/jewelry. Try to keep your passport in a locked safe in hotel and if possible avoid taking a camera. If going to a train station put passport in an interior pocket.

    France: Plan alternate routes to get places as strikes will happen. Consider arranging airport transfer in advance. Be careful with hotel selection as amenities may be lacking e.g. bathroom down the hall and no toilet paper so you can prepare. There are pharmacies nearby if you are lacking something.

    Latin America: Arrange airport transit and drink bottled water. Currency exchange in airport is at terrible rates so you usually want to exchange money elsewhere.

    Russia: bring a device to lock your hotel door. Assume nothing in your hotel room is safe.

  37. Greg Guest

    If a place and children and seniors who walk the streets and markets when you look up images of it then it is safe.

    If a literal child is fine then so can be you.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      +1. That's my strategy when I'm in an area I'm unfamiliar with, even if I know a proximate larger city well: if I see women/children/elderly just walking about and doing their thing, then I'm relaxed.

      Majority males under 50? I choose to GTFO of the area, or restrict to taxis/hotels/businesses only, while in the area.

  38. Juergen Guest

    It’s really a personal gut feeling. I check the foreign office website for general advice. I usually read as a preparation to visit a new country the overall news on it.

    I believe many places are more or less safe, I travelled to Syria this March. Why? I knew the country well before the war and I know the most repressive countries usually have a high security in their areas. Of course security can change...

    It’s really a personal gut feeling. I check the foreign office website for general advice. I usually read as a preparation to visit a new country the overall news on it.

    I believe many places are more or less safe, I travelled to Syria this March. Why? I knew the country well before the war and I know the most repressive countries usually have a high security in their areas. Of course security can change in instances. Have I ever felt unsafe ? Yes once traveling between Nigeria and Benin in a Taxi stopping every mile or so on improvised checkpoints with suspicious looking civilians with guns.

  39. Randy Gold

    The US State Department publishes risk levels for various country. Usually a good idea to check it.

    1. Indopithecus Guest

      Ha ha ha! Does it publish risk levels for various parts of the US???

  40. mdande7 Diamond

    I will say this is a different question for a man traveling alone than a woman. As a white man that can at least read as straight I don't worry a whole lot about my safety. That's coming from a place of privelege. When I get asked if a place is safe my answer might be different for a woman wanting to travel alone or for a man that is quite feminine, for example.

    1. Christine Guest

      I have travelled all around the world, often alone, and the only place I have been mugged, at knifepoint, is Paris. I found it an aggressive city, unlike London (my home) or Rome or New York. North Africa is hard for a lone female. One rule I never break: when arriving anywhere late at night or departing very early in the morning, I stay at an airport hotel rather than take a taxi when it's dark or quiet.

  41. R B Guest

    Santa Cruz is totally safe. Cute little town. Stayed at "Senses Hotel".
    Spent 2 days there before heading to Uyuni (salt desert) in 2016.

  42. Richard Guest

    Don't drink the water in Mexico City, Mexico. North Korea isn't an option for the average tourist. The issue isn't safe or not safe. The small crimes against tourists is very high in Rome, Italy; but few tourists would avoid Rome due to the crime in Rome. The single white male isn't an issue in India but the single white female is an issue in India. The situation varies from country to country to country,...

    Don't drink the water in Mexico City, Mexico. North Korea isn't an option for the average tourist. The issue isn't safe or not safe. The small crimes against tourists is very high in Rome, Italy; but few tourists would avoid Rome due to the crime in Rome. The single white male isn't an issue in India but the single white female is an issue in India. The situation varies from country to country to country, city to city. Personally I love visiting Bangkok due to the safety of Bangkok. I depart in the morning from the hotel in Bangkok with a photocopy of the passport and the equivalent of $20 US and not a care in the world. If only I could feel so "safe" in San Francisco...

    1. richyjoye New Member

      What an awful and stupid comment this is.

    2. snic Diamond

      India is a beautiful, amazing country and I felt perfectly safe as a white man, and even though I was often accosted by hawkers, beggars, etc, I never sensed any malicious intent. I saw quite a few foreign women tourists in India and as far as I could tell they didn't have trouble. But you do also have to use common sense, and that goes for men and women. For instance, a young woman who...

      India is a beautiful, amazing country and I felt perfectly safe as a white man, and even though I was often accosted by hawkers, beggars, etc, I never sensed any malicious intent. I saw quite a few foreign women tourists in India and as far as I could tell they didn't have trouble. But you do also have to use common sense, and that goes for men and women. For instance, a young woman who is dressed conservatively and has an air of purpose and determination is not as likely to be eve-teased (as they call it in India) as a young woman in shorts and a tank top wandering around with a frightened look on her face.

  43. Kim Guest

    This is a great question that I have also thought about - how exactly do you know what is "safe"? I've travelled to Colombia, Kazakstan, Beirut, Addis Abeba and several other places that some people would label not safe. Yet I've had no issues in any of those. The only place we're I've almost been robbed on the street is my home city of Helsinki which is by any definition one of the safest places...

    This is a great question that I have also thought about - how exactly do you know what is "safe"? I've travelled to Colombia, Kazakstan, Beirut, Addis Abeba and several other places that some people would label not safe. Yet I've had no issues in any of those. The only place we're I've almost been robbed on the street is my home city of Helsinki which is by any definition one of the safest places on the planet.

    For the answer: statistics help, especially relative statistics. I also ask other seasoned travellers and friends or aqcuiantances who have lived in the area I'm going to visit. They can quickly tell what to look out for (e.g. "Avoid this corner of town on Friday evenings").

  44. Dr. McFrugal Guest

    I mostly just do my own research online and ask trusted friends who have been in that particular destination.

  45. Never In Doubt Guest

    As a still capable guy, who’s not as young as he used to be, my risk tolerance must be relatively high (maybe unreasonably so). While spending a month with my 19 year old son in Medellin, Colombia *he* was the one trying to modify *my* behavior vs. the other way around.

    1. AJW Guest

      Having traveled to 25 countries and living in Colombia for almost a decade, I find that an interesting modifier of risk is language skills. I feel a lot more secure in Spanish-speaking Latam countries, but when I went to France and Italy, I felt a lot more vulnerable because I didn't speak the language.

  46. Alonzo Diamond

    Simple, ignore outside sources and decide for yourself. You know you better than anyone else.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      This is a nonsense answer.

      How do you “ignore outside sources” and “decide for yourself” before arriving/deciding to visit?

    2. Alonzo Diamond

      Easy, I use common sense. Something you don't possess lol.

    3. Hobbs Guest

      I remember researching Getsemaní, a barrio in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to my home stay. This was before “Entourage,” when the State Department had a Level 4 advisory, and no direct flights to CTG from the states. Here is Lonely Planet’s take:

      “It is less tourist-oriented, but not as safe - be sure to take extra precautions, especially at night.”

      I realized pretty quickly upon arrival that it was the demographic that the writer was coding,...

      I remember researching Getsemaní, a barrio in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to my home stay. This was before “Entourage,” when the State Department had a Level 4 advisory, and no direct flights to CTG from the states. Here is Lonely Planet’s take:

      “It is less tourist-oriented, but not as safe - be sure to take extra precautions, especially at night.”

      I realized pretty quickly upon arrival that it was the demographic that the writer was coding, and not an opinion based on any actual incident. I never felt unsafe. He was correct about less tourist-oriented though, which made the experience that much better. All of the hustlers were where the tourists would be. Menus priced locally. Then “Entourage” put Cartagena on the map. Hillary Clinton partied in Cafe Havana, located in Getsemaní, as Secretary of State, and thing haven’t been the same since.

      So, yeah, that’s how I ignored outside sources and decided for myself.

    4. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      "Easy, I use common sense. Something you don't possess lol."

      Your answers are getting more idiotic as you go.

      The question was legitimate, so here it is again:
      if you "ignore outside sources" about a place you've never been to (and thus by default, know nothing about), then what exactly are you "deciding for yourself" BEFORE you even get there?

    5. creddit Guest

      Alonzo is full of it :)

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Dave M’Bongo Fu Guest

I was going to visit the USA, but it turns out that most people have guns, to defend themselves from their own government?!? And then you get mass shootings in schools and shopping malls?!? Too dangerous for me, I’m going to stay at home in Abidjan

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Never In Doubt Guest

This is a nonsense answer. How do you “ignore outside sources” and “decide for yourself” before arriving/deciding to visit?

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snic Diamond

That's a great question, and the answer really depends not just on where you are going, but who you are and what you want out of the trip. If you're going somewhere to get drunk every night and party, some destinations might be far more dangerous for you than for someone who's going there to see historical sites or work or study. If you refuse to conform to local norms of dress and behavior, you might be less safe in some areas than someone who takes local customs seriously. If you insist on wearing expensive watches, jewelry, hand bags, etc, you might be less safe than someone who is more careful. Of course every destination has its risks, from pickpockets to scams to being kidnapped, so the obvious second part of the answer is to figure out how safe you are likely to be if you take reasonable precautions. For example, I visited Honduras a few years ago with my family despite dire State Department warnings that it's unsafe due to high rates of murder and drug gang activity. I arranged for us to be picked up by a car contracted by the place where we were staying rather than dealing with finding transport on our own after arrival, and we avoided the big cities where most violence occurred. We felt perfectly safe the entire trip, and we met some lovely people and saw some amazing sites.

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