Is it safe to travel to <insert placename>? It’s a common question for travelers and one that you can always find an answer to by referring to the websites listed at the end of this post. Note that each of these is a government-run, government-hosted site. As a result, you can and should make your plans based on the information you find there. Other websites might offer their own opinions, but many of these have an inherent bias. Because they’re run by tour operators, local hotels, or other entitities who rely on tourism for their livelihoods. As such, they’re more likely to downplay or avoid mentioning any local problems.
Government travel advice websites
The information provided in each of the links below is provided independently by each government. However, the information found within any of the sites is usually roughly the same. If the UK government recommends avoiding North Korea, for example, it’s highly likely that everyone else does, too. Other than North Korea, I suspect.
What to look for on the site
Most of the sites listed below provide very easy to understand information about each country in the world.
Advice level, also known as a Security level
Each site will tell you what the current security level is for each country. These levels vary based on the country hosting the website, but they tend to be along the following lines, where #1 is the most severe:
- Do not travel
- Reconsider travel
- Excercise extra caution
- Excercise normal precautions
Countries with a level of one are almost always displayed with a lot of red on the page to make it clear that it’s a bad idea to go there.
Latest updates and embassy alerts
Because the security situation can change rapidly in any country, all of the sites provide timestamped updates of what’s going on locally. You can thus tell at a glance if anything bad has happened and if so, how recently. The following shows the U.S. State Department’s embassy alert list for Tunisia:
For countries that contain safe and unsafe areas, a map is normally provided telling you exactly where you should avoid and why. The Australian website, for example, provides the following map of Tunisia. Just a quick glance tells you which areas are to be avoided and which areas are okay but require a “high degree of caution.”
The British website provides the same basic information, but assesses the risk less severely.
There are several possible reasons for this discrepancy. British citizens might be less likely to be targeted than Australian citizens (doesn’t seem likely). Or it could just be that the British government uses slightly different intelligence than the Australian government when deciding is it safe to travel to each country.
One interesting note, the U.S. State Department provides very poor maps on its website. So I’d recommend checking the U.K. or Australian sites if you have no choice but to go to a potentially dangerous country.
Website list (in alphabetical order)
So to find out is it safe to travel to wherever you’re thinking of going, check out the following sites.