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How Do You Define “Dangerous” Travel?

According to some people, I’m putting the lives of my family at risk on our vacations. Why? Because we travel to some dangerous places. It’s clear to me that people have widely varied opinions on the definition of dangerous travel.

How Do You Define Dangerous Travel?

Photo by Nicolas Cool on Unsplash

Are These Places Too Dangerous?

Well-meaning family, friends and people on travel forums tell me why my past and future trips are too dangerous. Here are some examples of what I have heard and read:

St. Maarten—Too run down and dangerous. Don’t get off the cruise ship!

Jamaica—Don’t go past the locked gates at the port. The country is full of drugs and crime.

Nassau, The Bahamas—Dangerous market, aggressive sales people, drugs.

Mexico—The entire country is too dangerous! Drug cartels, corrupt police, beggars, etc.

Russia—It’s not safe as long as Putin is in power.

Paris and London—Too many terrorist attacks.

Hawaii—It’s too close to North Korea and will be the first U.S. location bombed.

The Olympics—It’s too big of a target for terrorists.

Atlanta—Drug dealers, gang members.

MegaBus and Amtrak travel—Shady characters, inappropriate for kids.

I can’t help but wonder if people think a place is more dangerous if the people don’t look like them, speak the same language or come from the same socioeconomic background. But to be fair, those differences can be intimidating.

A few weeks ago, my family went to a local Russian restaurant in another suburb of Dallas. We read on some of the reviews that the restaurant was located in a dangerous part of town, so when we went we were a little nervous about what to expect.

However, after our time there we were very surprised that people described the location as dangerous. Sure, the restaurant was in an older strip mall and doesn’t look as spiffy as the brand-new construction in our part of town. But, we felt totally safe and comfortable in the location.

Researching the Safety of Travel Destinations

Obviously, everyone has a different comfort level for visiting certain destinations. Asking someone if a place is safe for travel is kind of like asking if a food is healthy. It reminds me of the mom who was told that raisins are not a healthy snack for school.

The purpose of this post is not to shame anyone for believing any particular place is too dangerous. If you’re not comfortable traveling somewhere due to real or perceived danger, I’m not going to try to talk you into it. It’s your vacation, do what you want! But before you completely eliminate a destination, I do recommend you research the facts first.

If you just Google the area + travel safety, you’re likely to find stories of crime and danger for nearly every location. It’s kind of like Googling your symptoms when you are sick. You are bound to find the worst case scenarios.

The U.S. Department of State maintains a list of travel advisories by country and for regions within a country. You can also look at a color-coded world map to see which areas have increased risk.

I believe that almost any location can turn dangerous if you don’t practice common sense. People are safer in groups. Keep your money hidden. Nothing good happens after midnight, especially if you’re drunk.

My Risk Tolerance

For me, dangerous travel could mean the location, but more often it means the type of activity in any given location.

I won’t travel to any country that is coded red by the U.S. Department of State, which means “Do not travel.” There aren’t that many countries with this extreme travel warning, but North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and a few others make the list.

Many countries have a “reconsider travel” label, but that alone wouldn’t deter me. For example, Russia is labeled as “reconsider travel—contains areas with higher security risk”. However, when I read the detailed warning, I realize the warnings don’t apply to the specific cities in Russia we plan to visit.

I worry more about risky activities in any destination. When I traveled to Guatemala in my early 20s, I went hiking up a volcano with a group of fellow students and teachers. Our group didn’t stay together, a storm came out of nowhere, and one of our group members died that day. It’s an experience that still haunts me, and now I both respect and fear nature.

With my kids, I will avoid hiking in areas I think are too steep where they could fall down a cliff. I make sure we use extreme caution near all bodies of water, especially at an unfamiliar beach. Did you know that one tourist dies every week in Hawaii? The deaths are mostly due to hiking and swimming accidents.

How Do You Define Dangerous Travel?

Photo by Oscar Sutton on Unsplash

Personally, I am afraid of heights. So, I avoid activities that involve my feet dangling in the air, like ski lifts. I’m sure they are not really dangerous, but if they make my palms sweat and my heart beat too fast, it’s just not worth it to me. I’ll happily watch others partake in those activities from the sidelines.

Bottom Line

Dangerous travel means something different to everyone. I guess to some people it may appear that my family is living on the edge, but I don’t feel like we’re engaging in overly risky behavior.

What places or activities do you consider too dangerous for travel? Does your definition of dangerous change as you get older? What factors do you consider?

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Author: Nancy

Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.

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19 thoughts on “How Do You Define “Dangerous” Travel?

  1. So we just got back from Zion National Park and a 13 year old girl died on Wednesday from a fall while hiking Angel’s Landing. We also took trips to Arizona and Utah and there was a helicopter crash on the canyon floor of the Grand Canyon. While walking the strip, we were approached by many tour companies with discounts on helicopter rides. That said, we won’t do any skydiving, bungee jumping etc.. we are risk averse to certain things in unfamiliar territories.

    • @Natasha That’s terrible! I feel so bad for the parents of this girl. I agree with you on skydiving, bungee jumping etc. My husband doesn’t trust helicopters, and he can pilot a small plane. This is his area of expertise, and I’m not about to question it.

      • That includes scuba diving, parasailing I just won’t risk it although I know some people swear by it. Especially in foreign just don’t know how strict their safety standards are…

    • @Natasha Such a tragedy! Her parents must be so devastated! I’m with you on skydiving and bungee jumping. It’s just not for me. I hope you had a great trip!

      • Yes, it was terrible. Apparently, she wanted to turn back and must have lost her footing :(. Trip was great! Weather was in the 70’s with no humidity. But, glad to be home.

  2. FIrst, I want to say I’m so sorry to hear about that gilr hiking, such a terrible tragedy. Second, this is such a great post! It really puts into perspective how everyone’s definition of dangerous varies greatly. I, for one, don’t let too much deter me from visiting a place I’ve been wanting to go to, but I also do my research and make sure that I am comfortable with the area I’ll be in.

    Thanks for sharing this! XO ~Anna

  3. Wow, I never even considered some of these dangers while traveling. Thank you for the information. My family and I are going to Bangkok this summer.

  4. An example of something I think is incredibly dangerous that some people do without a thought on vacations is renting scooters. People think because they’re on an island or in an exotic location they’re insulated from wrecks and injuries even though they would never dream of driving a scooter at home and are completely inexperienced at it and are on unfamiliar roads to boot!
    Also, there was a blogger who wrote a post a few years ago contemplating taking his young child to N. Korea. I couldn’t comprehend someone, anyone, with half a brain even considering that. Not only for the obvious dangers that entails but also paying money, however insignificant, to prop up that monsterous regime. Even though I dont think he ever went through with it, I found his normalization of that trip as just another tourist attraction disgusting.

  5. I think it’s awesome that you aren’t just sitting in your house in fear of the world which is what I feel like so many people do these days. At the end of the day, we all aren’t guaranteed any amount of time here on earth and exploring as much of it as we can helps us grow personally and interpersonally in so many ways. Kudos to you for exploring in spite of other’s opinions 🙂

  6. I have certainly taken some risks while traveling. I actually rented a scooter last summer on Karimunjawa island. I’ve been to many places where that’s available, but only there did I feel comfortable doing it because the traffic on the little island was extremely light. I recognized bad things could happen, but thought it worth the risk to have an adventurous experience I couldn’t get at home.

    I have also tandem parasailed in Turkey, eaten street food in India and many other Asian countries, bathed alone on deserted beaches, hitched informal “motorcycle taxi” rides in (which consisted of just hopping on behind a local, with or without a helmet). They were all fun and unforgettable experiences, and the worst that has happened to me has been a few scratches and cases of upset stomach. Probably as I get older I will take fewer risks, and definitely if i have kids… but still, YOLO, you know?

  7. There are a few places on your list that I keep taking off and putting back on our travel list due to terrorist attacks. Will I get to those places eventually? Probably, it just depends on my comfort level.

    My MIL asked me to mention about the travel warnings for a Sinaloa Mexico to a relative who was taking a small child as I had friends that just came from there telling me how horrible and dangerous it was (these people live there so they know first hand). I mentioned it, and this relative just went off on me telling me that every place I take my children is dangerous. Two weeks after they returned from Sinaloa, Mexico, the US raised the level warning to a 4. I had to laugh…at least I’m not visiting Level 4 Travel Advisory countries.

    • @Stephanie Sorry to hear your relative went off on you about your travel! Mexico warnings are very region/city specific. There is a travel advisory near Puerto Vallarta, but it applies to places outside of the city so we felt comfortable.

  8. What a great topic for an article Nancy! I know exactly how you feel when you hear those comments about your travel locations; because I’m from Turkey originally and every time I go back, people ask me “Isn’t it dangerous out there?” No, not really. At least not more than Las Vegas or Florida or London. Yes, there has been some terrorist attacks back to back in the recent years; but you never really know which country those people will pick as their next target. So I find it very unreasonable to call a country “dangerous” for this reason.

    • @Ozum Thank you. I’m sure you get comments about Turkey when you visit. It’s true that it’s so hard to predict where the next terrorist attack could happen. It could be anywhere, sadly.

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