Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries

Travel Safety Tips

When you make the decision of where you want to travel to a large number of people will try to defer you from traveling because of “travel safety” issues. Although these issues may be very real, it should not deter you from doing the trip that you want! My experiences in dangerous countries include Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea and many more. This list of safety tips derived from my travels through war torn countries, crime capitals, wild jungles, and the uncharted parts of the world. I have been thrown in jail, interrogated, suffered from tropical illnesses, been shot at and attacked by wild animals and although i wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world, i do want to help my followers avoid these situations. Being prepared for the worst is the first steps!

Researching where you are Traveling

Before any trip researching is a crucial step into having a successful adventure. Planning not only saves you time and money, but it ensures that you know about the sights, food and culture you want to experience while you’re there.

When it comes to visiting a dangerous or unsafe country, the planning can also help to make sure you have a safe trip. It’s important to research current events, other traveler’s experiences, as well as the countries customs and regulations for travel safety. Often before I have left on trips I would have spent years researching! This was the case when I finally made my trip to Yemen!

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
The Travel Safety situation in Yemen required years of extensive research when I went in 2017

Separating Reality from Media

This can be very hard to decipher and to be completely honest its going to be based on your personal opinion of the term travel safety. For example, when I was traveling to Afghanistan doing any kinds of Afghanistan media query you will find articles on suicide bombings, war, terrorism and famine. These are the realities of many areas within Afghanistan, but the media generalises the hardships of certain areas into the whole of Afghanistan.

I traveled everywhere in Afghanistan independently, apart from two regions that I found out were too dangerous. If I had listened to the media I would not even attempt travel to the region. This doesn’t mean completely block the media out! It just means use the media to help dig deeper into your more defined research.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
Media portrays the Travel Safety fro North Korea to be dangerous, but it is a very safe country as long as you follow the rules like anywhere!

Getting a Locals Perspective

This can be particularly hard if you are not in the country, but in my experience living in Canada more than often there is someone who has migrated from the particular country who can give me advice.

Once arriving to the country then you can start asking everyone about security. Be sure to get many different opinions, as just like anywhere their opinions might not necessarily be correct. Try to ask locals advice on areas that they either live in or are directly associated with, this will help keep any negative opinions they have directed at certain areas. For me a local’s advice is quite possibly the best advice and has for the most part been the most helpful on my travels.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
Papua New Guinea’s Travel Safety was great when you listen to locals

Not Flaunting Yourself or Nationality

Not flaunting signs of wealth are common sense when traveling anywhere, but often travelers are quite proud of their nationality, so much so that they display it with a little flag on their backpack.

In many countries this is not a problem at all, but we are not discussing the “average” travel destination. Displaying your country in some areas while traveling can show the wrong people how much you would be worth if they kidnapped you or how much money you might be carrying on you. Quite simply, your nationality can display wealth as well.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
Houthi fighter on the streets of Sanaa

Keeping a Low Profile for Travel Safety

This is a very large topic that can entail many different ways of doing so. Some of the best ways of keeping a low profile that have worked for me are:

  • Only taking photos when absolutely necessary, try to hide your camera as it gives you away.
  • Wearing local clothes can help! Especially if you resemble the local people.
  • No speaking English aloud in non-English speaking countries. Your language brings attention. Besides your traveling, learn some local lingo.
  • If someone you don’t know or trust asks where you are from (excluding police and security officials!), tell them a country they probably wouldn’t know, example Bosnia.
  • Avoid hanging out where expats or obvious foreigner like to frequent.
  • Have a local guide
Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
In Afghanistan I wore local clothing to keep a low profile

Make Yourself Hard to Follow

In many countries kidnapping is a real threat and must be taken seriously. What many do not understand is that kidnappers rarely kidnap people sporadically. There is lengthy planning that is undergone before the actual kidnapping takes place.

As travellers we can use this to our advantage. The key is to be unpredictable. Try not to stay in any one are too long and if you do try staying at multiple hotels. You can also try to stay at smaller hidden hotels that are not obvious targets. Another big tip in making yourself unpredictable is not to frequent restaurants or cafes repeatedly. These are ways that bad people can track your steps. So in a lighter note go out and try different places every day, and don’t always walk the same road!

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries

Getting Travel Vaccines for Travel Safety

Dangerous destinations are not limited just to crime, war and violence, disease is another very dangerous obstacle that often conflict areas are rampant with. Keeping up to date with vaccines and current travel health for the region is essential.

Visit a travel health clinic before going anywhere! Many times even well-known types of disease will need specialised pills or vaccines in these areas. A simple query can also lead to a bounty of helpful information and tips like, not drinking water in the area, or what kind of mosquito net to bring.

Here’s Canada’s Travel Safety Page 

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
Simien Mountains Ethiopia

Keeping in Contact

Even at my age, every trip I undertake my mother says to me “call every day!” Unfortunately faulty internet and a lack of cell signal means I cannot call every day, but when I can, I do! Keeping in contact is a great way to assist in keeping you safe! If you go missing, or in one of my cases get arrested you often will have no way of contacting for help.

Your loved ones will notice you are missing and then can contact the people who can actually help you! If they know you’re most recent location, they will find you faster than you think.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
Ghadames Libya

Notify your Embassy

In the past notifying my embassy has not done much to help other than if something bad really does happen it will quicken to process in your government being notified. Depending on your nationality will depend on the amount of “help” you will receive.

We are not all from the USA and won’t get the navy seals landing there helicopters in foreign territory to save you when you break a leg, but notifying your government can potentially help you in a bad situation. It takes five minutes to send an email, just do it.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Spread the Word

Now that you have returned home safely the best thing you can do is join the club of travellers who love to travel obscure destinations and give tips to the community. You might think no one has interest in travelling where you went to, but you’d be surprised!

Since my return from Yemen I have received at least a hundred messages a day from travellers wanting to go there! So spread the word and tell others what they can do to keep safe abroad!

Safety Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries
Traveling through the Khyber Pass Afghanistan/Pakistan




Stephen Gollan

Uncharted Backpacker is a glimpse at the past eleven years of globetrotting I have done. Now at over ninety countries I share my travel knowledge for you so you too can travel the world and see what wonders it has to offer.

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