No matter where you go in the world, travel carries inherent risk. Different climates, languages and customs bring about unexpected situations for us to deal with. Seeking new frontiers and experiences is a basic human urge, but you shouldn’t ignore safety in the pursuit of adventure.
Global politics is as fickle as the weather, meaning a thriving tourist haven one day can be threatened by violence the next. Speaking of weather, natural disasters are also a looming threat in the form of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and violent storms.
Risk is no reason not to travel, of course. It just means you need to take precautions and pay close attention to your surroundings. That way you can stay safe and get on with enjoying your holiday.
Obviously, some destinations are more dangerous than others – including current no-go zones such as Syria and North Korea – but most countries pose their own unique challenges. Here’s some tips on how to behave respectfully towards local culture.
We’ve listed some dangerous destinations from around the globe and what you need to look out for.
High crime rates and problem districts
Indonesia has so much to offer. Breath taking scenery, cultural diversity and of course amazing food. Popularity can be a curse, however. Densely crowded areas and strolling tourists mean petty crime is rife in Indonesia. Thieves are known to snatch handbags and backpacks from tourists before speeding off on motorbikes or mopeds.
Most crime tends to be opportunistic, taking advantage of the party atmosphere in places like Bali and Lombok where tourists’ judgment is often impaired by alcohol. Drink spiking is also common. Pay close attention to your surroundings, keep your valuables secure and don’t let those cocktails out of your sight.
Honduras is an often overlooked Central American nation, nestled between Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Its idyllic beaches offer great diving spots around the Bay Islands and its natural landscape verges on paradise. It’s also incredibly cheap.
Part of that might be due to its reputation, however. The city of San Pedro Sula has been dubbed the ‘murder capital of the world’. That’s no honorary title either, so you’re best to avoid it. Though violent crime in Honduras is on the decrease, there’s still a way to go. Always check whether there are any travel warnings before departure.
As when you travel anywhere, it pays to do some internet research when planning a holiday. A good website to check is trip advisor. People post their experiences of areas they’ve travelled to, so it can be quite insightful.
To think of South Africa is to conjure images of Kruger National Park’s spectacular wildlife or the sweeping vistas of Table Mountain. Less talked about is the high risk of armed robbery.
Carjacking is so notorious that visitors are told not to stop their vehicles at red lights in downtown Johannesburg. Keep your doors locked at the very least. Pretoria and Cape Town also have their problem areas. Find more advice on how to avoid theft overseas.
There are few destinations as wondrous and disorienting to western tourists as Japan. A cultural paradox of past and future, you can visit ancient shrines and temples along with futuristic (not to mention bizarre) robot cafes all in the same day.
The downside is that Japan’s intersecting fault lines make it very susceptible to earthquakes and volcanic activity. But Japan is nothing if not resourceful. Buildings are designed with this in mind and evacuation routes are marked out for tsunamis. The best you can do is avoid the most volatile regions and heed travel warnings which are posted online by our government.
The Philippines is one of southeast Asia’s most popular destinations due to its idyllic island setting. However, it cops more than its fair share of storms due to its exposed position on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean. Cyclones – like Yolanda in 2013 – have had a devastating impact.
If you’re booking a trip to the Philippines, stay on top of weather patterns and warnings. Typhoon season normally runs from May through to December.
China’s fabled history has been preserved in monuments such as the Forbidden City, Terracotta Army and, of course, the Great Wall. The fact that these structures still stand is all the more remarkable when you consider the country’s track record of natural disasters.
Earthquakes and landslides are the main threats. Like Japan, China’s dense population leaves it vulnerable when large tremors occur. In the wake of a natural disaster, be mindful of things like water contamination and structural weakness in buildings.
Political and terror risks
Acting as the gateway between Europe and the Middle East, Turkey has built a reputation on being compelling, yet precarious. Sustained violence means it’s too risky for visitors at the moment, but, if and when things stabilise, it’s surely worth a visit.
Imagine hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, soaking in the Pammukale thermal spas, or touring the majestic Blue Mosque. Turkey in its prime delivers a lifetime’s worth of adventure. We all hope for a swift end to the mayhem. Find the travel warnings the government has issued here.
If you currently have a policy with us and want to know more about policy coverage in relation to the events in Turkey July 2016, please see our FAQ article here.
Famous for its landmarks like the Great Pyramid of Giza and The Sphinx, Egypt was always a must see destination. Unfortunately, it has fallen on volatile times.
Political instability and terrorist activity has led to a substantial drop in tourism. For the sake of travellers, not to mention the Egyptian economy, let’s hope it recovers to its former glory. In the meantime, heed the travel warnings posted on smart traveller.
If you’re unsure whether our TravelCare policy would cover you when travelling to Egypt, our team are always happy to discuss this with you. You can contact us at email@example.com or on 1800 196 484.
As the standard bearer for European culture and romance, it’s heart breaking to see France’s recent troubles. The attacks in Paris and Nice have cast an air of uncertainty over the country as a whole.
Despite the anxiety, there’s still plenty to attract visitors – beautiful beaches in the south, alps to the east, decadent cuisine pretty much everywhere. If you don’t feel safe at popular tourist spots, you can visit some of the smaller towns for a fresh perspective on France. Wherever you go, ensure you stay up to date with security information and follow instructions from local authorities.
Disease and illness
A perennial favourite with tourists thanks to its beautiful beaches and rhythmic culture. However, despite a fresh lick of paint for the upcoming world sporting events, Brazil can’t hide its blemishes. Recent fears over the Zika virus have seen some athletes and tourists thinking twice.
Visa waivers are in place to encourage visitors to visit over August 2016, but caution should be exercised. Consult your doctor for immunisations and use common sense in crime-prone areas such as Sao Paulo and Brasilia.
To see just how bad pickpocketing and theft in Brazil can be, try searching You Tube to view footage of brazen young thieves targeting people walking by.
Sensory overload is probably an apt description. Anyone who’s been to India ranks it as a life-changing journey. The people are charming and passionate. The sights, sounds and smells are unlike anywhere else in the world.
The flipside is that a bulging population and widespread poverty are conducive to the spread of diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and typhoid. See your doctor for preventative shots six to eight weeks before departure to limit your health risks to the occasional dodgy curry.
It’s still possible to have a rewarding trip to many of the countries listed above. A lot of holiday safety comes down to luck, but that’s not to say it’s completely random. Preparation, awareness and vigilance are a traveller’s best tools whenever they’re away from home. If in doubt, always consult the government travel warnings and use Google to search for travellers tips. Spending at least five minutes researching the areas you’re thinking of travelling to will give you a better idea of what you may be headed for and can help you be better prepared.
How does the TravelCare policy wording apply?
The TravelCare policy provides cover for unexpected events, however, like all insurance policies, there are terms, conditions and exclusions that apply.
High crime rates
When you are knowingly travelling to a destination that has a high crime rate, you will need to take more precaution with your belongings than what you probably normally would.
If you’re out and about sightseeing, try to blend in and not look too obvious as a tourist. If you have valuable (or sentimental) jewellery and watches, it’s best to leave these things behind. Just take basic essentials with you only - things that are easily replaceable and not so valuable to you.
A general exclusion under the TravelCare policy that could apply here is; leaving your items unattended in a public place. For example, you wouldn’t be covered if you left your bag on the beach while you went for a swim, or if you place your handbag under your chair while at a busy restaurant (where you can’t see it), or when you place your backpack on the ground in a busy transport terminal, while you purchase tickets, as you’re unable to prevent it from being taken.
A 'natural disaster event' is an event caused by natural processes of the earth (including but not limited to snow storms, floods, wild fires, cyclones/hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis).
Say you purchased a Single Trip policy a couple of months ago and you’re all set to travel to your destination the next day. However, a volcano erupts. You’re unable to fly as the airport has closed. Because you purchased a policy before the volcano erupted, you would have cover, as this is unexpected.
However, you wouldn’t be covered if you purchased a travel insurance policy after the volcano had erupted. Because the event has already happened, it is no longer unexpected that you won’t be able to fly.
War, invasion or civil war, whether declared or not, is not covered under the policy. Riot or civil commotion is also not covered. However, if you had already departed Australia prior to the riots or civil commotion breaking out, there is some cover available to help get you home if you become stuck in that country.
Again, always check the Smart Traveller website before you depart.
If there has been a warning published on the smart traveller website of ‘do not travel’ or ‘reconsider your need to travel’, prior to purchasing a policy, you won’t be covered if you can no longer travel because of that event.
What to do in an emergency
If you require medical care or incur medical expenses overseas that are likely to exceed $2,000, you or someone acting on your behalf will need to contact Southern Cross Emergency Assistance for prior approval as soon as practicable on +61 2 9191 1180.
We will be able to review your claim, organise emergency evacuation if necessary, provide the hospital with a payment guarantee so you don’t have to pay up-front (subject to you meeting the terms and conditions of your policy), and keep your family back home informed of your situation. Keep hold of your receipts and any doctor’s notes as we will need to see these alongside your claim.
If you need to visit a GP for a minor medical reason, you don’t need to contact Southern Cross Emergency Assistance. Instead, simply pay your account and claim.
If you need specialist treatment (including physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment) you must get a referral from a registered medical practitioner.
We’ve only listed a few of the main exclusions above, however, you should read the policy in full when you purchase to make sure it’s the right policy for you. The TravelCare policy can be found here.
We hope this article has given you some tips on how to stay safe when travelling to risky destinations. If you are ever in doubt about your destination, please feel free to contact us. We’re always happy to help and it’s better to be well informed of whether your travel insurance policy will cover you or not before you pay any deposits on your travel plans.
We’re contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 1800 196 484.