In a dynamic landscape, many countries experience rampant outbreaks from political violence to the onset of an epidemic that permeates to expats and travelers. Traditionally safe areas that have experienced years of stability have fallen victim to terrorism or a sudden epidemic. Due to changing political climates and unexpected catastrophic events, travelers should be vigilant of advisory notices as they prepare to go overseas.
To plan a safe trip in some of the most dangerous countries, travelers should be cognizant of safety and health risks. Based on safety and security and health advisory notices, the following 5 areas are the most dangerous places to visit as of March 2015.
Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea
Currently, only 3 countries have received the Center for Disease Control (CDC) level-3 travel warning, which is the highest level of warning. Due to Ebola outbreaks, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guineareceived these warnings.
There were 24,927 total cases of Ebola, of which 14,712 were laboratory-confirmed cases, and 10,338 deaths in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone as of March 24, 2015, according to the World Health Organization.
Though the most recent outbreak of Ebola seemed to peak at the end of 2014, the CDC still advises travelers against visiting those areas except for necessary travel due to continued risk of exposure. Thus, all nonessential travel to Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea should be avoided until the CDC declares the area safe from the highly-contagious, extremely deadly Ebola virus.
If an individual or group must travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea, or Liberia for necessary business, the CDC has issued safety precautions that should be followed:
- Obtain an international health insurance plan with medical evacuation coverage. It is essential for all travelers to have medical coverage for Ebola-related treatment.
- Observe the strict hygiene protocols required for those in areas affected by Ebola by washing hands frequently and avoiding handling items that came in contact with the blood or other fluids of someone infected with Ebola.
- Never eat raw or undercooked meat, including bushmeat.
- If at all possible, do not visit medical care facilities where those with Ebola are being treated.
- Get medical help immediately if the following symptoms begin to manifest: fatigue, diarrhea, intense stomach pain, severe headache, vomiting, unexpected bleeding, and unexplained bruising.
Terrorism in Chad
Recently on Feb 26, 2015, the United States Department of State issued a safety and security warning against any travel to Chad due to increased activity by extremist terrorist groups. This includes the areas next to the eastern border of Chad, as well as the Lake Chad area. All foreigners in the countries, not just U.S. citizens, should use caution when traveling in these areas.
In February 2015, Boko Haram attacked the Chadian shore of Lake Chad in retaliation for the country pledging military support for Cameroon against the Islamist armed group.
In order to maintain the highest safety, all travelers to Chad should practice the following:
- Contact the embassy of their home countries and update contact information. By registering phone numbers with the embassy, including mobile numbers, the embassy can contact travelers in case of emergency.
- Exercise high vigilance when visiting public places, including bars, places of worship, markets, and restaurants.
- Immediately call the police when involved in a car accident. In Chad, when Westerners are involved in car accidents, violent crowds frequently form.
One special point travelers should make if they plan on driving in Chad is to make sure their car insurance covers political violence protection against riots, strikes, and terrorism.
Kidnappings and Terrorism in Algeria
Those visiting Algeria, especially the mountainous areas east of Algiers, need to be aware of a high kidnapping and terrorism risk. Travelers need to be especially careful of the following dangers:
- False roadblocks
- Other terrorist activities
Although there is abundant police presence in major cities, the U.S. Department of State recommends avoiding overland travel in the areas east of Algiers and the Sahara. If travel in those areas is necessary, it is recommended to contact the Algerian Ministry of Affairs. This ministry may arrange local police escorts to ensure safe travel.
*Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
Attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia
Repeated attacks on Western expatriates have led the United States Department of State to issue a travel advisory in Saudi Arabia. Though the threat against Westerners (including United States citizens) has been in place for some time, the State Department renewed its advisory on February 24, 2015 due to recent acts of violence against expats.
On July 4, 2014, members of Al-Qaida attacked a border checkpoint along the Saudi-Yemen border. The last major terrorist attack against foreign nationals occurred in 2007, but security threats are ongoing and terrorist groups, some affiliated with Al-Qaida, may target both Saudi and Western interests.
The Saudi-Iraq border is always dangerous, and on January 5, 2015, 3 Saudi Arabian border guards were killed in clashes close to the Arar crossing point.
In order to stay safe from acts of violence aimed at Westerners, it is advised that travelers exercise the following safety measures at all times:
- Try maintaining a low profile and do not draw unnecessary attention through behavior or dress.
- Always be careful when driving or traveling in a vehicle, especially when entering and exiting a vehicle.
- Take varied routes to frequent destinations to prevent ambushes or kidnappings.
- Choose high-security housing compounds or hotels.
Extreme Violence in Honduras
The limited ability of police in Honduras to respond to crime has contributed to a high level of violence in the country. Often, the Honduran police simply do not have the vehicles or fuel to ensure a proper, swift response to crimes in progress. It can take several hours for victims to receive assistance from police. These factors have led the State Department to renew its longstanding travel advisory on March 2, 2015 as Honduras has become one of the most dangerous countries to travel to.
Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. People have been killed and injured resisting attack. It is useful to carry a small amount of money to hand out in the event of a robbery.
Since 2002, over 100 U.S. citizens have been murdered in Honduras, many of these murders are still unsolved. Victims of these crimes are not specifically targeted due to their countries of origin, making expats vulnerable to the same risks as locals. Avoid traveling in the following regions as they have the highest crime rates: Atlántida, Colón, Cortés, Francisco Morazán, and Yoro.
The State Department advises travelers in Honduras follow these safety procedures:
- The Honduran government maintains special police forces in high-tourist areas; thus, travelers should stay in these areas for safety reasons.
- Never travel alone. Tour groups offer the greatest safety and encounter crime at a lower rate.
- Always lock doors and keep windows closed to avoid carjacking.
- Leave valuables (such as jewelry, large sums of cash, and credit cards) in the hotel or somewhere safe. Do not carry these around during the day.
Have Protection in Dangerous Countries
Before departing, all travelers should review travel and safety advisories from the following websites:
- CDC Travel Advisories
- State Department Travel Advisory
- Gov.UK Foreign Travel Advice
- Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
In order to safeguard against these risks, travelers should obtain international insurance. As some international insurance policies may exclude coverage in these high-risk countries, travelers make sure they receive borderless coverage. Travelers should also obtain an additional layer of protection for political violence coverage and medical evacuation insurance. By obtaining these policy extensions, travelers can be well protected even in the most dangerous countries.