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Is It Safe To Travel Abroad?

Is travelling abroad really as dangerous as it’s made out to be, or is it all just taken out of context?

Mostar – Not on the usual tourist trail

 

News today really is global, events that we wouldn’t have been able to hear about before are now everywhere. When coupled with globalisation we come to an interesting dilemma for tourists about safety. Is it really dangerous to travel to that country, or are people just overreacting? Well, let’s find out how safe it is with the help of statistics and charts from around the web.

As a Londoner it makes for fascinating reading. as I’ve always considered London to be absolutely safe. I have never visited it as a proper “tourist” though, it is simply home – and home is always considered to be safe.

There is already a good discussion about some of the London specific statistics on the website Londonist  where it breaks down the statistics by category. We, however, are interested in comparing more countries than that, as that’s what general news coverage does. We’re fighting fire with fire.

Us Londoners do find it strange when we read articles about how dangerous our city is. How we are all out to rob tourists of money or how you will be targeted in some way. For example, the US department of state advises US citizens:

  • Be cautious and aware of your surroundings.
  • Be vigilant, as pickpocketing, mugging and “snatch and grab” theft of mobile phones, watches and jewelry can occur.
  • Do not leave bags unattended in restaurants, pubs, hotel lobbies, and parked cars.
  • Be alert to other criminal schemes, such as impostors posing as undercover police officers and “fining” tourists for bogus minor offenses. A legitimate Metropolitan Police Services officer will never demand an immediate cash payment.

Highlighting not my own. It does make it seem like it will be an incredibly stressful experience if you must, at all times, be cautious and aware.

 

Untangling the web is harder than it looks

 

For you Americans reading this, let’s look at it the other way around. This is what the government of the UK advises when travelling to the US:

“There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant at all times.Individuals may be inspired to target public events or places, as demonstrated by attacks in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota over the weekend of 17-18 September 2016, Orlando on 12 June 2016 and San Bernardino on 4 December 2015, among others. Attacks could take place with little or no notice.”
and
“Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your property against petty crime. Don’t leave passports in rental cars, especially in the boot, as there have been a high number of thefts by gangs targeting the vehicles of those who appear to be tourists.”

peaks and troughs

The point is essentially this, reading travel advice will always put the fear of god into you and I have no idea why. When I’ve previously travelled to the US I never felt the need to “remain vigilant at all times”. We should apply our thinking about our home towns to the wider world. But, for now, we need more statistics!

 

There is no point in me, some random internet person, telling you to get over it – I need facts. So here they are. This is taken from the World Economic Forum travel and tourism competitiveness report :

The safest countries around

*Note that “petty crime” is not considered.

So, the top 10 safest countries in the world. Where are the UK and the US? Australia? Nope. But there is Rwanda and I’m pretty certain most of us wouldn’t have seen that one coming. I’m sure you are interested so here are the positions of English speaking countries:
The UK: 78
The US: 84
Australia: 22
Canada: 23
South Africa: 120

Countries that rank as safer than the, but not safer than Australia are, for example: Botswana (77), Serbia (72), Kazakhstan (58), The Gambia (52), Tajikistan (49) and Albania (46).

 

However, you might rightly say that these statistics are way too general. As you know from your own city, there are places where you are safe and places where you are not, so generalising countries isn’t a good idea. But, this is what you will see in most places.

We can instead try to look city by city, and for that we can use something like The Crime Index on numbeo . There are, however, surprising results here as well. For example, you are as safe in Baghdad as you are in Baltimore.By the way, London is ranked at 163 and New York at 153 – number 1 being the most dangerous. For those of you who are not native English speakers – Barcelona is rated to be as safe as Islamabad.

Taking a closer look

If you would like EVEN MORE STATISTICS. Not that I have a love of this or anything. We can have a look at the Global Peace Index which is a feature length report into peace all over the world. To cut it short for you, the UK is 47th overall and one of the most dangerous countries in Europe, and the US is 103rd on the list which makes it the 4th most dangerous country in the Americas.

This means that as a Brit flying to the US on holiday that you are simply exchanging one of the most dangerous places in Europe for one of the most dangerous places in the Americas and yet you feel completely safe doing it. An equivalent journey would be to live in Albania and to fly to Brazil.

https://telegraphtravelmaps.carto.com/viz/39c13a92-8ba1-11e6-979a-0e3a376473ab/public_map

 

Quite rightly you might be saying that these statistics just cover the whole country and not individual cities. New York isn’t the same as Chicago which isn’t the same as Los Angeles – London isn’t the same as Cardiff or Birmingham. This is the correct thing to say – and this is why you should not be really scared of travelling to different countries as long as you do research. There are areas of London I wouldn’t go to even as a native – but the rest of it is really safe and friendly.

So when there are calls for Americans to “avoid Europe” it’s a bit of an overreaction. If there is a terror attack in Mexico I’m not going to avoid the US and Canada. But, these are clearly different countries you could retort…well…isn’t that true of Europe too?

If you really want a reality check, then have a look at this warning from the UAE which tells its citizens which parts of London to avoid because of the terror threat.

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