News reports about terrorist attacks, rampant crime or an unsettling string of deaths in an idyllic destination such as the Dominican Republic may give you pause when selecting a vacation spot—or make you wonder if the place you chose is safe to visit at all.
Before deciding you may be better off with a staycation, keep in mind that for most travelers “the actual risks are more mundane,” says Matthew Bradley, of International SOS, a medical and travel security services company. In most places, you’re likelier to experience petty theft, traffic accidents or gastrointestinal problems than a terrorist attack. Instead of writing off certain places because of bad press, use these strategies to judge a destination.
Check government advisories. To review the U.S. Department of State’s advice for travelers, go to https://travel.state.gov (opens in new tab) and click on “Travel Advisories” at the top of the home page. Each country is rated one of four levels, with Level 1 advising travelers to “exercise normal precautions” and Level 4 indicating “do not travel.” Read the full advisory and the Safety and Security section because these write-ups describe the severity of the dangers you could face and drill down into regions or cities that carry higher—or lower—risks than elsewhere in the country.
Sometimes advisories issue alarming warnings, such as “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks” or “pickpockets and purse-snatchers operate aggressively,” even in seemingly benign countries. But be aware that the advisories “err on the side of caution,” says Bradley. Ted Blank, a travel agent in Stillwater, Minn., recommends cross-checking the State Department’s perspective with travel advisories written by other governments, such as the United Kingdom. (Only U.S. State Department advisories discuss risks specific to American travelers and allow you to sign up for safety alerts at https://step.state.gov (opens in new tab).)
Balance government reports with guidebooks and other objective resources. GeoSure (opens in new tab) is a smartphone app that scores cities and neighborhoods worldwide on risk factors, such as women’s safety and health and medical risks. Scores range from 1 to 100, with higher numbers indicating a greater degree of danger. If a hotel you booked is in the thick of alarming news reports, call and ask what precautions the staff are recommending for guests, rather than simply asking, “Is it safe?” says Michael McCall, professor of hospitality marketing at Michigan State University.
Call for backup. For an extra layer of security, organize your trip through a travel agent or tour operator. Travel agents can give you real-time information from local contacts, distinguish secure tourist zones in the midst of riskier regions, and help you adjust your itinerary. A reputable tour operator (start your search at www.ustoa.com (opens in new tab)) will have on-the-ground partners to help assess the safety of upcoming trips and reroute you as necessary.
Travel insurance may help you recoup the costs of canceling your trip or cutting it short, depending on the circumstances (see Disaster-Proof Your Vacation With Trip Insurance). Most insurers exclude countries under U.S. sanctions for national security or other reasons; some insurers also impose higher premiums and certain restrictions on “high risk” countries.
Finally, if an outbreak of violence or a natural disaster is standing in the way of your trip, try to negotiate a refund or credit directly with your airline or hotel. “Companies often evaluate these situations on a case-by-case basis,” says Misty Belles, managing director of global public relations for Virtuoso, a luxury-focused network of travel agencies.
Stock Market Today: S&P 500 Extends Losing Streak
The broad market index has now closed lower for five straight sessions.
By Karee Venema • Published
The 8 Best Energy ETFs to Buy Now
ETFs Oil and gas stocks might not repeat the past year's gains in 2023, but these energy ETFs can still harness a stiff tailwind.
By Kyle Woodley • Published
The Best Cash Back Credit Cards
Smart Buying Looking for the credit card that pays the most cash back? These lenders pay the most, with the minimum hassle.
By Lisa Gerstner • Published
I-Bond Rate Is 6.89% for Next Six Months
Investing for Income If you missed out on the opportunity to buy I-bonds at their recent high, don’t despair. The new rate is still good, and even has a little sweetener built in.
By David Muhlbaum • Last updated
What Are I-Bonds?
savings bonds Inflation has made Series I savings bonds enormously popular with risk-averse investors. So how do they work?
By Lisa Gerstner • Last updated
Your Guide to Open Enrollment 2023
Employee Benefits Health care costs continue to climb, but subsidies will make some plans more affordable.
By Rivan V. Stinson • Published
How to Make The Most of a Travel Insurance Claim
More travelers are buying insurance. If your trip is canceled, take these steps to increase your chances of recovery.
By Susan J. Wells • Last updated
Watch Out for Flood-Damaged Cars from Hurricane Ian
Buying & Leasing a Car In the wake of Hurricane Ian, more flood-damaged cars may hit the market. Car prices may rise further because of increased demand as well.
By Bob Niedt • Last updated
What You Need to Know About Life Insurance Settlements
life insurance If your life insurance payments don’t seem worth it anymore, consider these options for keeping the value.
By David Rodeck • Published
Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of December 2022
credit cards Business road warriors and leisure travelers alike can use a travel reward card to turn miles logged into other things – including more travel.
By Lisa Gerstner • Last updated