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How to Spot a Dangerous Political Situation while Traveling

If you are traveling to a country that has a volatile political climate, it is essential that you are aware of the possible risks and can avoid potentially dangerous situations. The best way to avoid getting in trouble is to avoid risky situations in the first place.

Before traveling:

Before traveling, check your own government’s travel warnings and travel information about your destination. In the US the Department of State travel advice pages provide country-specific information and travel warnings, and in the UK the Foreign Office website has information about political and security situation in countries around the world.

In some countries some areas can be safe but others should be avoided, so find out as much as you can about the country you’re going to visit, its culture and its society and the political situation. And even if you are not traveling to a high-risk country, you should find out about local culture, society and do’s and don’ts in the destination anyway.

In the destination:

Even if you are aware of the risks, and even if you are informed, it is not always possible to predict when a dangerous political situation arises. Political problems, unrest and violence can sometimes start very fast in many parts of the world. When in your destination, read local newspapers, watch local news and talk to local people. See if the local paper talks about a political rally, a national strike or a mass demonstration that is about to happen. When visiting countries with an unstable political climate, stay far away from political rallies, demonstrations or other mass meetings that have a political theme. As a foreigner you might not be a specific target for violence, but if a rally or a demonstration turns violent, you don’t want to be stuck in the crowd. Trouble can start fast and spread fast too, and if you’re caught up in the unrest you might not be able to escape. It is best to avoid certain situations to begin with.

If trouble starts:

If a political situation turns violent, stay informed by following local media and talking to local residents. Foreign news networks might follow the situation well but you can generally find the most up-to-date information from local residents or local radio. You might have to change your travel plans if there is unrest in parts of the area and sometimes only locals know where is safe to go right at that moment.

The best way to avoid getting caught up in dangerous situations while abroad is to avoid the situations in the first place. There is no need to be alarmist or afraid when traveling abroad as long as you stay informed about your destination and keep an eye on potential trouble spots.