Warnings and Alerts Make Travel Insurance a Good Idea


The US State Dept’s list of 2017 travel warnings and alerts are pretty long. Click to find more detailed information about specific countries on this list.

Visiting The Most Dangerous Places On Earth

By Olivia Gilmore

What is it that tempts travelers to journey to some of the most dangerous places on earth? Is it the thrill of forbidden? The adrenaline of the unknown? Or are some people just purely naive?

As travelers, we tend to stay away from countries that present us with the likelihood of danger. However, it is interesting to discover how certain people choose to holiday in high-risk and unsafe areas, despite being warned not to.  To some, the warnings become invitations to flirt with danger!

Travel Insurance Is Crucial

There are many different options and durations for policies, chose the proper travel insurance plan to fit your personalized trip. But the point is, it’s crucial for traveling peace of mind.

Whether you are traveling to family-friendly Disney World or the dangerous city of Acapulco, you should always have a travel insurance plan that includes medical coverage.

Travel insurance plans also offer medical coverage for emergency medical expenses that occur while traveling. Becoming ill or injured while abroad is sometimes unavoidable, not to mention unpredictable, so it is important to have travel health insurance that covers international hospitalization and treatment costs.

Thinking that war torn countries are the most dangerous places in the world is not necessarily wrong, but it’s not necessarily true either.

Surprisingly, many countries with issued travel warnings are countries that many tourists visit regularly. The danger is relative, many variables account for a country’s “unsafeness”, such as size, population, government and so much more.

It’s All Relative

David Greenwood, a spokesman for Travelinsurance.com has this advice for travelers unsure about the safety of some of the places on this list.

“Danger is all relative. Whilst I don’t always have the statistics in mind, I know most places — besides war-zones – are relatively safe. In the US you have a 1 in 9008 chance of being killed in or by a car each year.

Between 2009 – 2016, 71,608,500 tourists visited Mexico, of who 1653 died from various causes (including self-caused deaths). That equates to 1 in 43320 risk of death. You’re almost 5 times more likely to die in your car at home!”

“In the same way you can reduce your risk of being in a car accident by driving slower, paying attention, and driving in good conditions, you can also reduce your risk when travelling by locking away valuables, staying alert, and making sure dangerous activities or excursions are conducted by trained experts, for example.”

Travel Warnings and Alerts

Your most important concern when traveling to a risky country should be your safety, and quite frankly keeping yourself alive. Keeping yourself in the loop with the latest political information and travel advisories is a must, and the easiest way to do so is through your government’s online travel site.

A travel warning or alert is issued by a government agency when they want to provide information on the safety of a foreign country. It is always in a traveler’s best interest to view their government’s issued travel warnings and alerts, that way there are no surprises when arriving at the destination.

A travel warning listed for certain parts of Mexico.
A travel warning listed for certain parts of Mexico.

The United States Department of State issues a travel warning when they want travelers to reconsider visiting a country, at all. If you see a travel warning issued to a country you are planning on visiting, take this as a major red flag.

Civil wars, unstable government, terrorist attacks, and crime are all reasons for travel warnings. Don’t be surprised if you see an entry to an entire country banned because of sudden act of violence.

On the other hand, travel alerts are a slightly different kind of caution advisory. Travel alerts are issued by the Department of State when there are short-term events that require notice for travelers. Travel alerts don’t advise you to jump to cancel your trip, just to be aware of your surroundings.

Travels alerts include health warnings – like Zika virus, strikes during a country’s election season, or even terrorist attacks.

Although travel warnings and alerts are there to protect your safety, at the end of the day, you are in charge of your own safety. With the good comes the bad, so travel at your own risk, and always keep yourself updated!

Top Three Dangerous Places

Most countries deemed as dangerous rarely attract tourists, especially families looking to lounge on the beach. However, everyone knows that Mexico is one the top places for spring-breakers, vacationers, and people looking to enjoy a pina colada on the beach. So what’s the deal?

The US State Department not only provides travel warnings for state by state assessments but also deaths and injuries suffered in the country. According to Data.World, there were 28 travel warnings issued for Mexico in the last seven years.

That’s the highest number of 240 countries that were included in the data set!  But it’s important to remember how large the country is, and how safe most of the resort areas popular with tourists remain, despite the alerts.

Mexico Is Still Listed 

So why are there so many issued warnings in Mexico? The Department of State says it’s primarily due to the activities of criminal narcotics organizations in certain areas. The latest travel warning from December 2016 warns U.S citizens about violent crimes, homicides, kidnappings, carjackings, and robberies.

The street leading to the Zocolo, Mexico City's massive square.
The street leading to the Zocolo, Mexico City’s massive square.

Despite being at the top of the list for US travel warnings, it is important to note that the Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect its visitors and major tourist destinations. Efforts to counter narcotics trafficking and other unlawful behavior is also a priority of the Mexican government.

U.S. government personnel are prohibited from patronizing casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.

As far as Mexico, the state of Guerrero was the most violent state in 2015 for the third year in a row. The state of Sinaloa is the home of one of Mexico’s most violent criminal organizations, making travel in these areas very dangerous, if not lethal.

Mali Comes in Second

Dogon City Bandiagara Mali.
Dogon City Bandiagara Mali.

The second country in the world with the most travel warning in the past seven years is Mali, racking up 26 issued travel warnings. Although filled with rich history, Mali has not been a top destination among tourists, and here’s why.

As of June 29, 2017, The US Department of State warned US citizens against all travel to Mali due to frequent terrorist attacks, criminal violence, and political instability. Places populated by Westerners, such as night clubs, hotels, and restaurants, have been targets for attacks.

The capital Bamako, Northern and Central Mali are high-risk areas for terrorism and armed conflict. As of April 2017, the Government of Mali extended the State of Emergency by six months.

If you find yourself traveling in Mali, it is best not to travel at nightfall. Several Westerners have been kidnapped for ransom, or worse. Terrorist groups are likely to continue to escalate, making Mali one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Israel Is Number Three

In a country filled with many natural wonders and religious experiences, Israel is the third country with the most issued travel warnings, according to Data.World.

Particularly, the US Department of State warns citizens not to travel to the West Bank and urges those there to depart immediately. As of April 11, 2017, a travel warning was issued for Israel, The West Bank, and Gaza Strip due to the recent political environment.

The Baha'i Gardens in Acre, Israel.
The Baha’i Gardens in Acre, Israel.

Being under control of the government-designated foreign terrorist group called the Hamas, Gaza’s security environment is very weak and random violence can occur without warning. Keeping up to date on the current events is the safest way to avoid dangerous regions.

Having numerous travel warnings does not make a country inherently bad, it just means there is danger there that citizens should be aware of. You don’t always have to use travel warnings to dictate your travel choices, but they are there for your protection.

The leading cause of death for US tourists is, you guessed it, homicide. Murder is no joke, especially when it outweighs the number of all vehicle accidents combined. A close second cause of death for US tourists is suicide.

Places with the Most American Deaths

The top three countries with the greatest amount of American deaths are Mexico, Haiti, and Thailand. Despite Mexico having the highest death rate, the probability of death is relatively low, only 0.002%.  In Thailand’s case, this reflects that a large number of Americans choose to visit this vacation hotspot, Thailand hasn’t been on a watch or alert list put out by the State Department in recent years and is widely considered safe.

Thailand Travel: Siem Reap pick-up truck full to the brim. Oliver Jarvis photos.
Thailand Travel: Siem Reap pick-up truck full to the brim. Oliver Jarvis photos.

It is quite riveting to think that many countries with high rates of American deaths have not been issued travel warnings in years. Most of the time it’s not the government being sneaky, it’s due to natural disasters that are unpredictable, making preexisting travel warnings utterly impossible. In the case of Thailand, there are simply many more Americans going there.

It’s easy to understand that the more dangerous the destination, the more likely you are to get caught up in a situation that requires medical care but choosing the right level of travel insurance coverage can be tricky.

Medical related costs can easily skyrocket and reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, so if you travel internationally, then medical coverage is a smart move. That way, if you require medical attention while traveling, you won’t be liable for the full cost.

This post is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and GoNOMAD has received financial compensation.

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Olivia Gilmore is a travel enthusiast, writer, and cultural anthropologist who has traveled to West Africa and across the East and West Coast of the United States. As a member of Amnesty International, her interests include advocating for human rights, humanitarian volunteer work, and cultural immersion. She’s from Lunenburg, MA.



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