Last fall while I was travelling through Ethiopia, large-scale protests erupted in parts of the country. Although tourists were not the target, one American was killed simply because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our small group was never in any danger as our Ethiopian guides monitored the situation 24/7 and w

e avoided towns that were experiencing upheaval. I was also receiving regular security alerts on my iPhone from the Australian State Department warning me of dicey areas. Sad to say, our own State Department was not as timely with its warnings. Despite the fact that I had registered the trip on the STEP program, I only received alerts weeks later – not helpful as I had already returned home.

The reality is that in today’s world one can never be sure when a particular country or city will experience a man-made or natural crisis that could have a negative impact on travel. Several governments, including our own, manage websites designed to help travelers evaluate conditions in countries around the world. I subscribe to the ones described below.

But – a huge caution. These sites need to be read carefully with a critical eye and with a map on hand. (Check out the size of the continent of Afri

ca – and keep it in mind when reading a warning about a specific African nation or region). A travel warning for one part of a country or continent need not discourage travel to another part. Security issues can vary significantly from one region to another and if one jumps to the conclusion that travel to a specific destination is off limits because the country is on a travel advisory list – you could miss out unnecessarily on a wonderful travel experience.


** The U. S. State Department STEP Program
https://step.state.gov/step/
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Designed to keep American citizens informed about safety conditions in countries around the world, I recommend that travelers enroll in the STEP program and register upcoming trips.
The benefits – as detailed by the State Department are:

• Provides the Embassy with the means to contact you in an emergency

• Helps family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

In addition, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, a service of the STEP program, will provide updates and alerts about safety conditions. However, as mentioned earlier, it is my experience that other websites provide more timely alerts and warnings to the traveler.

 


Australia’s Smart Traveler Program

http://smarttraveller.gov.au

Managed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, this is my go-to resource for timely, reliable information about events occurring in countries that I am traveling through or plan to visit. I list a number of countries on the website and I receive regular email updates. I think their outreach is the most dependable. Not only did I receive regular emails describing the upheaval in Ethiopia, I also received an email when the Ethiopian government lifted its State of Emergency.
And, just last weekend, I received an email with respect to weather conditions in Nepal:

Sunday, 13 August 2017
Latest update
Extensive rainfall has caused major flooding throughout southern Nepal, including Chitwan National Park. Many roads and bridges are blocked by landslides and floods causing difficulty for travelers to get to, and from, the Bharatpur airport.


Canadian State Department Travel Advice and Advisories
https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories

I was recently introduced to this resource and am impressed. The website is easy to navigate and provides four categories of safety assessment:
* Exercise normal security precautions –no significant safety and security concerns
* Exercise a high degree of caution – There are identifiable safety and security concerns
* Avoid non-essential travel – There are specific safety and security concerns that could put you at risk. You should reconsider your need to travel to the country, territory or region
* Avoid all travel – There is an extreme risk to your personal safety and security. You should not travel to this country, territory or region. If you are already in the country, territory or region, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so.

 

Lastly – a website that I only discovered while working on this newsletter – GlobalSecur: http://www.imgsecurity.com/ic/site/hotspots/dib.html

Daily Intelligence Briefing
This website is managed by GlobalSecu – a company that provides travel security services to corporations. Its website however is open and it includes a Daily Intelligence Briefing which I think can be very useful for individual travelers to check out. It color codes security threat levels on a scale of 1 -5 (blue, green, yellow orange and red) and includes a listing of big local events worldwide that could attract large crowds with the potential for disturbances as well as predicted weather events.

 

To sum up – I read the alerts and the warnings and I encourage you to as well with the understanding that most warnings apply to very specific “hot spots” or weather events within countries and not the entire country or region. Be informed – not frightened and avoid making sweeping generalizations.