Choose a safe travel destination: TIPS
Aren’t you concerned about safety?
Have you heard this about your destination? Are there places on your bucket list that you haven’t been able to see because of safety issues? Wondering how to choose a safe travel destination?
I hear you. Istanbul has always been high on my list of dream destinations and when we prepared for a trip there in 2015, ISIS was just rearing it’s ugly head in Syria. Friends were shocked at our choice, but we did lots of research before we decided it was safe enough to go, especially as we have the kids in tow. All parents are less interested in taking risks when the kids are involved. (Well, the good ones are, right?)
We had a fantastic, thrilling, life changing – and VERY SAFE, adventure in Turkey. See some amazing photos we took here.
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination for your Family
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Google.
Google, “Is it safe to travel in _______ ?” Read the DATE on articles before reading. Anything more than a few months old isn’t worth your time so skip those. You need the latest and greatest information.
Remember… in this case, no news is good news. If you don’t find anything then there isn’t much newsworthy bad stuff going on. Bad stuff always makes the news.
How to choose a safe travel destination: Government websites
Again, the computer will help you find the information you need! Start with US Travel and Passports International Travel: Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings Type in the potential travel destination.
Type in your destination here:
If you see “No Results” pop up then according to the US Department of State you are good to go.
You might see an alert:
You might see a warning:
Read the information carefully and then consult a map. The issues might be very far away from the area you are going to visit.
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Tourism Websites
Look at the individual country’s tourism website. Type ‘crime’ in the search box and read what they have to say. Some might argue that the country isn’t going to say anything bad about their own country…but on the other hand, they need happy visitors…not just visitors, especially the ones that go home and tell everyone not to visit! It is in their best interest to give correct information.
Here are a few destination tourism websites to get you you started:
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Checking out the Traveler’s Health section of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can let you know about health safety concerns.
Choose a destination and find out the following:
*vaccinations – both required and recommended
*food safety – Is the water safe? Should you drink tap water?
*information on getting medical care
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination: World Health Organization (WHO)
Checking out the World Health Organization is another place to find out about health concerns in any member of the United Nations organization worldwide.
Here you’ll find the most recent information on the Zika virus.
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Expat Websites
Expats are Americans living in other countries. When you can find information from expats you’ll find cool information from people who have had time to really get to know the local culture.
Here are a few to get you started.
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Talk to the Locals.
We live in the technology age for sure and as technology improves….the world shrinks. A wonderful example of this was during my own research for a trip to Turkey. ISIS had just reared its ugly head in Syria and we were concerned. I found a lovely travel guide in Istanbul; Lale Aran of SRM travel. She is a wealth of information (She ACTUALLY wrote the book on visiting Istanbul for Rick Steves.) and a delightful person! I expressed our concern about going east of Istanbul into the dreamy Cappadocia area as it is to the east of center of the country and thus so much closer to the Syrian border.
I shared with her my concerns and her response opened my eyes:
“Cappadocia is very far from Syria. Even close to the border in Turkey it is ok to travel as long as you have decent travel assistance. I just had a group of Americans who toured Eastern Turkey and South Eastern Turkey, they trip ended just a few weeks ago! They went to towns which are in the Turkish side of the border, as Urfa and Harran and many other places in that geography.
So, not only Cappadocia, you can extend your trip even further east and south east.
I shared with her my concerns after what we had seen on TV. Her response:
Media confuses us much. I had a trip to Seattle, Florida and Philadelphia with my husband and kids last January. My friends (based on what they see on tv and read on media) suggested that we do not go near schools and children as there are 300,000,000 fire arms in personal use in America and there is violence at schools! Guess what we did, my sons attended a primary school in Seattle while we worked with Rick Steves and we are very proud of it. I shared photos and videos upon our return.”
Think about that for a second. Her friends, fellow citizens of Turkey, were afraid of US schools – your school. Schools that we send our children to every single day without concern. It is true we have had some school violence, but thankfully it is rare and should certainly not prohibit someone from visiting the United States. It really struck me as….silly! Of course the US is safe. Of course the US schools are safe. Of course people should visit! But sometimes the media makes things look worse than they are, or doesn’t give you a point of reference to know how widespread, or not, a problem might be!
Lale was such a wonderful source of information that we got to know each other well during our online talks and Skype. She invited us to her home in Istanbul. Read the details here of our wonderful experience with her. I would HIGHLY recommend a family holiday to Turkey with assistance from Lale.
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Beware the TV.
You can not get a complete picture regarding travel issues just from the tv media because the perspective is off. There are some nuts here in the states, too, but I hope the rest of the world isn’t judging all of us on their crazy actions. We’ve had some terrible tragedies here in the states – school violence, but we still send our kids to school for example. World travelers need to keep things in perspective.
How to Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Know the law!
A wise traveler knows the law to stay on the right side of it.
Usually these things are pretty obvious: Don’t steal, for example which is what a US student is being held for in North Korea at the moment. (His theft is allegedly caught on video.) But, not always so obvious. We here in the US, for example, are used to being able to speak our mind. This isn’t always legal in other places. Use common sense and when it doubt – don’t.
A wise traveler knows the cultural law to stay on the right side of it.
Travelers visit the ends of the earth to learn from others, to see a different side of things, to revel in the differences. You can, and should, do all of that AND be respectful at the same time. Take clothing, for example, sometimes it is a great idea to cover up a little bit to blend in a little. Just because we wear skimpy spaghetti straps in the US does not mean it is a good idea to do it everywhere on the planet.
Also, dress the part. In muslim countries, for example, show some respect and cover up. No need for a burka, but no need for a tummy baring tube top either unless you are on a beach. Notice how Lale, of SRM Travel, and her friend are dressed in the above photo. These ladies are residents of Istanbul and Muslim women yet bare arms, no head scarf, and a short skirt are the choice. I, on the other hand, a Christian woman from the US (home to 1/2 naked celebrities) is much more covered!
Follow the Golden Rule:
Of course as a rule, it is probably a good idea to do as your mom and preschool teacher told you and say only nice things! You are a visitor in the country. Be nice and all will be fine. 😉
Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Trip Advisor
Read reviews on Trip Advisor. I love this site, and you can read my Trip Advisor reviews here, because the reviews are from real travelers and are recent. Check the dates! Read what a recent family traveler has to say who was really there just last week. Were they worried? Concerned? Did they feel safe? Did the kids have a good time?
Choose a Safe Travel Destination: Go with your gut.
If now isn’t the time to visit a place because of your comfort level, then it just isn’t. The world is a big place! Choose a destination that feels right – right now!
No matter where you choose to go on the vacation of your dreams, be sure to get the kids ready first! Use The Educational Tourist’s travel guides for kids.
If you need help planning the family holiday of your dreams, give me a shout! Official travel agent services coming soon!
Happy safe family travels,
Natalie, The Educational Tourist