The world is safer than you think

11 May

As I am a young person who frequently travels to other countries alone, one of the most common questions I get asked is “is <country x> really safe for a tourist your age?”. That, or people will urge me to be careful. I can understand these concerns of people, however, usually the ones who most think it’s freakishly unsafe are the ones who haven’t traveled much themselves. Generally, I’ve found that people who aren’t well traveled, are more impressed when I tell them that I travel alone, than people who are well-traveled.

The majority of the countries in the world are very, very safe. Every so often, you’ll hear horror stories, like this one. And in comment sections of many of these types of articles, I sometimes see people boasting about how stick to US travel, and about how other countries are dangerous. In reality, a bad neighborhood in a US city can be far more dangerous than what’s typical in most other countries. But sadly, many Americans continue to skip visiting beautiful foreign places simply because of these horror stories.

I sometimes wonder if the wealthy classes in America want less educated people to have this paranoia, because they don’t want less educated people to see that quite a few other countries have better infrastructure, health care, and education than we do. I’ve always believed that the right wing in America heavily benefits from the ignorance of the less educated masses. Some people say I’m looking too far into it, but I think it’s true. If more Americans went out and learned about foreign countries investments in high speed rail, education, and health care, eventually, the people would rise up and demand change in America. And plenty of 1%ers and Republicans do not want that to happen.

All that being said, everyone should still be cautious and careful when traveling. While most of the world is not dangerous, there are certainly situations where some countries are safer than others. Obvious examples of countries for Americans to avoid are Somalia, Syria, North Korea, Iran, you get the idea. But even “safe” countries can very tremendously in their levels of development, and crime. For example, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are countries where a tourist should be more careful. However, there is still plenty of variation, and just because one capital is dangerous doesn’t mean the one in the bordering country will be. So before you travel, read about the current political situation, especially if it’s a developing country. Also read about how westerners (or whatever cultural/racial group you are) are treated in that country.

The traveler must be aware of their surroundings at all times and fit in with local customs as much as possible. Here is a list of tips that travelers should follow when they are abroad.


  1. KNOW THE CUSTOMS: In some countries, such as Japan, foreigners are often forgiven for not knowing the unique social etiquette. However, this is not true for every country. Even within one of the world regions, there’s a tremendous amount of variation.
  2. USE COMMON SENSE: Don’t display expensive valuables when you’re walking around. Always wear a money belt in which you store emergency back-up cash in case your wallet is stolen. Be aware of pickpockets, especially on crowded buses and trains.
  3. KNOW IF YOU’LL BE A TARGET: There are different levels of racism and sexism in different parts of the world. If you’re going to a country where you’ll be the only person of your skin color for miles, it’s important to understand that you’ll never 100% blend in. Make sure you read about how people of your skin color are treated wherever you’re going, and take the necessary advice and precautions. Gender matters too. And though there are increasing numbers of women who have a great time traveling alone, the sad truth is that it’s still safer to travel if you’re a man (especially if you’re tall). There’s plenty of travel blogs out there specifically catering to women traveling alone.

Overall, the world is probably safer than you think. Take precautions, and avoid dangerous countries, but don’t let safety concerns prevent you from traveling abroad.


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