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There are many potential dangers faced when traveling. Most of these we consider from the mundane everyday perspective; pickpocketing, mugging, identity theft, etc. However one often overlooked danger is that of the political situation.

Travelers of all types whether they be on business or on vacation often rely on their governments to provide a threat assessment for them and warn them should a nation’s stability be in question. This is not always a possibility as political turmoil can happen in an instant. The military coup of the government of Mali is one prime example. This small African nation recently underwent a sporadic episodes of political upheaval resulting in a overthrow of its president. This situation presents a danger for travel of any kind. So then, how can one be sure that political turmoil won’t erupt while traveling? The short answer is no one can be sure. However there are some generalizations you can make before traveling.

Be wary of your nation’s past status on paying ransoms: If you are a citizen of a nation with a long history of paying ransoms you are more likely to be targeted for attack and kidnapping. This may seem like a scenario from “Taken” but it’s not, it’s very real and a lucrative business for those involved.

  • It is foolish to believe that your government will go to the ends of the earth to save you.
  • Learn if the country you are visiting is in good relations with your own, this is a fairly simple process that a few quick Google searches can clear up.
  • Investigate a country’s immediate history. Has the nation’s recent elections gone heavily contested? Is there public outcry for change?
  • ALWAYS check the state department’s website. There will be travel status updates on a daily basis, while this will not catch everything, as previously stated there is no magic crystal ball.
  • Know where your local consulate or embassy is located.
  • Follow the international news more frequently leading up to your trip.

There are some general tips for safety that are important to follow should you find yourself in a turbulent nation. Reducing your signature as a potential target is key to avoiding trouble.

  • Don’t dress like a target. While this may be overstated it still remains true, if you look like you might have some sort of wealth you are more likely to be targeted.
  • Stay out of unsavory areas, many guidebooks will tell you where to go and where not to go. A quick rule of thumb: if it looks dodgy it probably is.
  • Travel as light as possible, having too many bags sends the wrong signal as well as reducing your mobility.
  • Reduce the number of payment options you have, limit yourself to one or two credit cards, coupled with travelers checks.
  • Avoid large amounts of cash this will reduce the chance that someone see how much money you have.
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