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Travel Smart – Avoid Political Unrest

Travel Tips - Ross French - October 15, 2010

Travel Smart – Avoid Political Unrest
By: Mike Argyle

Nothing ruins an awesome trip more than being held hostage by revolutionaries in a foreign country. While it would suck equally hard to have the same thing happen at home, most globetrotters are from nations that don’t suffer from chronic coup d’etat. Even the seasoned traveler cannot predict what will happen when caught in a potentially unstable country, making their hubris all the more shocking when it comes to discussing travel plans while abroad. Enough can go wrong when you are traveling, so why complicate it by going to a place that might erupt into civil war at a moment’s notice?

I’ve always been surprised by how invincible many travelers think they are and the level of skepticism they hold towards media outlets when they hear about a potentially dangerous destination. The reality is it may be safe for you but that is not necessarily the same for someone else.

Hogga (@_thetraveller_) ran into these same issues when in Southeast Asia, particularly surrounding Thailand. Being back in Canada, I can only go on what the news tells me and my own experiences in Thailand to inform whether I would advise traveling there. Hogga (@_thetraveller_) was hesitant to visit Thailand when she saw Canada had a red flag up, despite her friend going there heedless of said warnings, but ultimately went there and had a great time. Would you enjoy your vacation if you knew your home country advised you not to travel there? This often means your embassy is closed there and in many cases your travel insurance will not be covered – Wouldn’t you rather go to a similar place that wasn’t so risky?

I’m not saying you should never take a chance and travel only to locales that have absolutely no issues, because such a guarantee does not exist. Instead, try to plan your trip in terms of limiting your chances of getting caught in something you don’t understand and are powerless to stop. Here are some tips for keeping abreast of said powder kegs and still having a great time abroad.

1. Research Your Destination – Some places have tumultuous histories that are merely simmering right now, ready to be brought to a boil under the right circumstances. This is not to say all places with troubled pasts should be avoided, but rather be aware of a country’s history if for nothing else than to avoid awkward entanglements.

2. Pay Attention to the News – With the internet, there is no excuse to not knowing what’s going on in the world. In less than a minute, you can search the day’s top headlines and find out if the place you are in/going to is subject to a recent natural disaster or if the airports are closed down by revolutionaries. Stop wasting your 20 minutes in the internet café creeping on Facebook and check out something important.

3. Be Aware of Your Nation’s Travel Advisories – Sometimes if issues are bad enough in a country, your home nation will issue a warning for its citizens concerning travel there. Take this seriously. Most people do not register with their embassy when traveling, but at least be aware of where the closest embassy is for your home country or one that will assist you (for example, Canadians can use a British one in the event there isn’t a Canadian one available). They will be the ones who get you out when things get hairy.

4.  Talk to Other Travelers – Getting away from people and being a wandering nomad can be appealing but ignorance isn’t always bliss. People who have been to the place you are heading to next can be an excellent barometer for the traveling climate if the previous three options aren’t your fancy or prove unhelpful.

Spontaneous travel and unplanned adventures appeal to many people and should be attempted by everyone at least once in their lives, but you should at least try to be as prepared as possible. Remember – just because a country is off limits now it doesn’t mean it will always be. There are other options that will still lead to a great trip.

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