31 August 2008

Travel warnings

There is too much news for one person to know. "All the news that is fit to print" should really be re-worded to say "all the news we think fit to tell you about places which interest editors".
The fact is you cannot know all the things you should about the places you will travel. That is why governments have made up travel warnings. These warnings, updated frequently, and posted on the internet, bring what could be a wealth of security information to your home.
Whether it is an military insurrection, coup, or civil war; or a natural disaster, these travel warnings can alert you to very timely events at your destination. However, as the common traveler, you and I have to make do with these public warnings. Private companies often use specialist international risk assessment companies to prepare detailed reports before trips and business activities. But we cannot afford that, so we use the internet.
Below I have listed three important and generally reliable government travel warning websites for English-speakers.
Some of you will notice the omission of the US government. This brings me to the basic problem with the travel warnings: they are often very political rather than non-partisan assessments of a security situation. The worst offender remains the US State Department travel warning system, which seems more geared towards frightening US citizens with scary stories about places and regimes not currently in favour in Washington, than it does with actually presenting useful security information.
So here are three sites, which taken together, will give you a fair idea of what is going on out there.
I recommend you check all three sites about any one country, and compare and contrast the advice. This will give you a more comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground in your intended destination.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs.