Not everyone is an intrepid traveler. When choosing a destination, it’s important to know your limits — and not only in terms of personal safety and political security. Some places also require tolerance for delays and cancellations, bumpy roads, badly labeled streets, crowded buses, poor sanitation, and big ugly bugs. Other places require a degree of strength when facing heartbreaking poverty — often made even more startling because it’s juxtaposed with extreme wealth. Still other places require concerted efforts just to stay healthy by taking medication or daily precautionary measures or both. The following sources will help you determine just what health, safety, and other issues you’ll face in a given destination.
How boldly do you go? Share your reasons for traveling to challenging destinations.
Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/travel). The CDC has information on health risks associated with almost every country on the planet as well as what precautions to take. If you’re planning a cruise, check out the CDC’s Green Sheet — a list of cruise ships and their health-inspection scores.
World Health Organization (www.who.int). The WHO, the health arm of the United Nations, has information organized by topic and country. Its clear, well-written publication “International Travel and Health,” which you can download from the Web site, covers everything you need to know about staying healthy abroad.
Central Intelligence Agency (www.cia.gov). The CIA’s online “World Factbook” has facts on the people, governments and economies for countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. It’s the fastest way to get a snapshot of a nation. It’s also updated regularly and is, obviously, well researched.
World-Newspapers.com (www.world-newspapers.com). There’s nothing like the local paper for putting your finger on the pulse. This site has links to English-language newspapers, magazines, and Web sites in countries the world over.
U.S. State Department (travel.state.gov). The State Department’s advice on the safety of a given country is probably the most conservative you’ll encounter. That said, the information is updated regularly, and nearly every nation is covered. Parse the language carefully. For example, a warning to “avoid all travel” carries more weight than one urging you to “avoid nonessential travel,” and both are much stronger than a plea to “exercise caution.” A travel warning is more permanent (though not necessarily more serious) than a so-called public announcement, which carries an expiration date.
AllSafeTravels.com (www.allsafetravels.com). In one Web site you can check the official travel warnings of several nations (for a more rounded picture), catch up on relevant news articles, and see what other travelers have to say. The site covers not only safety and security concerns, but also weather hazards and health issues. For a small fee you can receive e-mail updates and emergency notifications for specific destinations.
ComeBackAlive.com (www.comebackalive.com). The Web site of author, filmmaker, and adventurer Robert Young Pelton is edgy, with information on the world’s most dangerous places. Finding safety information on other, seemingly safer places requires a little more fiddling around. There are forums where danger junkies share tips and links to other relevant sites.
— Laura Kidder