When traveling to a new place it's often difficult to assess the safety of an area. The United States has a way of projecting almost every country as more dangerous than our own when we have a very large issue with violence ourselves. Many times I've been traveling and seen local issues exaggerated on international media or local issues not being reported at all.
I've been to countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, and India, where I felt safe and in no more danger than I would be at home. I've also heard some horror stories of people being robbed and young women being raped while traveling. Once we get the courage to travel we can far too often as tourists or travelers become a little bit too "free" and walk around taking risks that are unnecessary.
Although we want to travel and get our wanderlust on it's important to keep a level-head and make educated decisions when we travel. Don't operate from a place of fear but don't walk around with rose-colored glasses either.
There is a lot of propaganda in the media so watching the news is also rarely reliable. If you base your ideas solely on what you have seen in the media you probably will never leave your house again. So where do you look and how much credibility do you give to what you've read or watched Here are some tips on how to gauge the safety of a country, city or neighborhood when traveling.
1. Embassy Website: Look at your embassy website and guidelines for traveling. The embassy will have a warning if it believes that there is a need for it's citizens to take precautions. It's also a good way to see scams and past crimes that have happened to foreigners in that country. I also suggest reading this but then taking it with a grain of salt. There's more research to be done.
2. Twitter: Twitter is a great resource because it's local people tweeting about local issues and sometime is more reliable than the media. Twitter had helped to keep us safe during the 2017 elections in Kenya and the recent political uprising in Sri Lanka by letting us know exactly where the trouble was and how bad the situation was in certain areas. You can follow certain hashtags and stay up to date on the news in the country that you've been to. Certain accounts like @suemc_phee in Nairobi reports local crimes that the local press never reports.
3. Local newspapers: If you're planning a long trip, don't just book your accommodation based on the nice views and posh accessories in the room. You need to have an idea of where you're staying. In some countries big hotels and high profile areas are breeding grounds for purse snatching or kidnappings because that's where the tourists are. You may be better off staying in a rented house in a local area where you're the only tourist around and keeping a lower profile. Local newspapers will give you a more well-rounded idea of what's happening in local communities on a regular basis.
4.Documentaries: Documentaries are biased but they can show beautiful landscape, socio-economic issues, cultural and religious aspects of a country. Even food shows will be helpful in letting you gauge how you may need to adjust your diet while living in a place. It's much easier to protect yourself if you understand what is happening in the local area, common crimes that happen there and how you may be perceived as an outsider.
5. Forums: Joining websites and forums on social media platforms is a great way to get an idea of what's really happening on the ground. Now you know what they say about opinions but you can easily read first-hand experiences of people living in that country and get a better idea of how people that are living there feel about certain issues and what challenges they face. It can also be a good way to connect with people before you travel.
When traveling abroad please keep in mind that participating in illegal activities always changes the types of people you are going to meet on your journey and the potential dangers you will encounter.