The world is full of interesting, exotic, historic places and of people who are anxious to experience as much of it as possible. International travel is a passion for many. As technology advances the world becomes increasingly accessible to us yet the persistence of bloody civil wars, acts of terrorism and guerilla warfare serve as grim reminders that time and money can never be the only considerations when selecting international travel destinations. Of late, even mother nature has conspired against tourists, leaving Japan so unstable that it has been recently added to the list.
For every country that sits on the U.S. State Department’s list of travel advisories, there is at least one tour company that coordinates trips to that region. Most countries that sit upon the State Department’s list are collectively located in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
The current list of advisories includes (beginning with most recent):
Syria; Japan; Egypt; Bahrain; Algeria; Mauritania; Afganistan; Yemen; Cote d’Ivoire; Mali; Eritrea; Libya; Pakistan; Haiti; Central African Republic; Niger; Nepal; Sudan; Kenya; Somalia; Saudi Arabia; Chad; Guinea; Democratic Republic of Congo; Colombia; Iraq; Burundi; Philippines; Nigeria; Lebanon; Iran; Mexico; North Korea; Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; and Uzbekistan.
By visiting the state department’s website you will be able to click on each country and gather more specific details about the nature and strength of the advisories. As always, when deciding upon a travel destination, it is best to consider the political climate, the status of recent or impending natural disasters, and any other means of unrest. In many areas, tourists, especially American tourists, make excellent targets for rebels, kidnappers and terrorists, seeking to gain international attention for their causes.
International travelers who decide to venture into countries that sit upon the State Department’s list should follow a set of safety guidelines that include:
1. Do not travel alone
2. Adhere to the customs of the country in which you are a guest
3. Do not venture out after dark
4. Do not accept rides or invitations from persons unknown to you
5. Do not agree to find that perfect souvenir in a location other than the public marketplaces
6. Remain with your travel/ tour group at all times
7. Avoid areas of the region known to be populated with rebels or prone to roadside bombings
8. Do not make your tourist status more obvious than is required (i.e. avoid cameras hanging around your neck, flashing large sums of cash or other behaviors that could potentially make you a target)
9. Dressing like locals when possible will help you blend in
10. Carry a pocket dictionary or other translation aide to assist with successful communication, but make a point to learn a handful of local phrases in advance, including how to ask for help, locate a phone, or locate the your country’s embassy
11. Be hyper vigilant of your surroundings at all times
12. Do not pack valuables or items that you do not want confiscated
13. Be aware of what, if any, souvenirs will be allowed to leave the country with you. For example, North Korea does not allow souvenirs to leave the country
The U.S. State Department’s list may be referenced at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html