What's your view on travel warnings? How much should we heed them?
Reading a government travel warning is like reading a year-end “Best of Pos Kota”. Let’s be clear here, there’s no smoke without fire. The hardworking ladies and gentlemen who work at the MFA don’t just pull statistics out of their diplomatic behinds. Bombs did go off in Bali, killing hundreds of people. The narcos in Mexico do skin people and dump their bodies in unmarked mass graves. As a long time resident of Jakarta, my beloved city has its share of terrorist acts and violent crimes, but it doesn’t stop its residents from having a grand ol’ time.
The key here is to read the travel warning and analyze the information with a cool head, put things in perspective. Some incidents are isolated ones, and not targeted at tourists. Some applies for certain nationalities only. An Iranian-American visiting Iran might encounter more security risks than an Indonesian tourist, whose only concern is probably the frequent trips to the bathroom after everyone insists on feeding them massive amounts of kebab.
Southern Philippines may experience sporadic separatist terror, but it seems that they only have a predilection for kidnapping Western country nationals, and the rest of the country has a safety record that is comparable to its neighbors. Most of the violence in Mexico is drug related, and it’s highly doubtful you will be taking pictures of Mayan pyramids in a cartel stronghold.
That being said, be careful wherever you are, including in so-called “safe” countries such as Sweden or Japan. Shit happens. Read local blogs and the myriad traveler forums for the latest updates from both locals and travelers alike -The Lonely Planet Thorn Tree, TripAdvisor and VirtualTourist are good places to start. Compare advices; use common sense.
One last thing: avoid war zones. You don’t need a travel warning for this.
Send your travel-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject 'The Ahasuerus Files'