Does government travel safety advice make you feel safe?

One can’t argue the fact that global instability is putting a big question mark on the safety of tourism. There are so many travel alerts and the list of "dangerous" countries to travel is so long now that they may as well issue a "world travel alert" instead of individual travel alerts. The more I travel around the world, the more I question travel alerts and their sometimes exaggerated threats because most of the times the threat is not even clear!
Does government travel safety advice make you feel safe?

You can’t even feel safe at the airport and with ever increasing security it means everyone is a “target” in the eyes of TSA agents and armed police. If travel alerts weren’t enough though, you also have to put up with travel safety tips for traveling abroad that seemed out of date and out of touch!

To illustrate this, let’s take a few examples of some of the most common safety tips given out by embassies and consulates:

Do not dress in a way that could mark you as an affluent tourist

I agree that flaunting money or valuables anywhere is not a very smart thing to do. However, to say not to dress as an “affluent tourist”? please give me a break!

Even a low-key tourist that doesn’t like showing off their latest designer wear will have a hard time not drawing attention to themselves. Let’s face it! every tourist is an affluent tourist in the eyes of locals, even if you aren’t wearing expensive-looking jewelry.

Be especially cautious in places where you may be easily victimized

We're told to be particularly weary and even avoid places such as crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and crime-ridden neighborhoods.

However, this travel safety tip seems to be more designed to scare you than to help you because you can't really avoid large gatherings. What about shopping malls, banks, work place, etc? You could easily get victimized at work, couldn't? Honestly, if you follow government travel safety advice like that you may as well stay at home and not travel at all!

Hotel safes are the most secure places to leave valuables

Hotel safes are convenient places to leave passports, credit cards, iPods, cash, etc but they aren't really safe. I can’t generalize because there many reputable hotels out there, but I wouldn't trust any hotel safe even if the safe has a fancy security system or it’s hidden somewhere in the hotel room closet.

Staff, the hotel manager, etc can easily override hotel safes codes, which means if you happen to stay in a hotel without honest employees you can forget the hotel management to be of any help if you haven’t got any proof. Worse thing of all, it’s that most travel insurances don’t even cover these types of eventualities!

Use luggage tags to prevent lost luggage

Attaching a tag to your bag with your name, contact number and address may not sound like a big deal, right? After all, luggage tags help you identify your bag when they get “lost” or they get confused with someone else’s baggage.

However, if I were you I wouldn’t put my home addresses and home telephone number on the luggage tags because your literary advertising to would-be burglars. Adding your home telephone number isn’t a good idea either because anyone can find out where you live by doing a reverse phone number look-up.

It's best to simply write only your name, mobile number and email address on the luggage tag since that'll be sufficient information for airlines to get in touch with you in case your luggage mysteriously disappeared.

You are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting

I haven’t yet met any traveler who really believed the laws of another country didn’t apply to them though unfortunately, it seems there are some travelers out there who have to find out this the hard way. Remember Joe Gordon, the American citizen who got thrown into jail in Thailand for making remarks about the Thai king?

Joe Gordon is an unfortunate example of what happens when you forget the laws and customs of the country you’re visiting. However, in all fairness to Joe Gordon, he didn’t actually make the remarks in Thailand but while he was in the US, which is even more bizarre!

Stay in larger hotel that have more elaborate security

This travel tip is by far one of the most mind-boggling government travel safety advice because it makes no sense whatsoever. How elaborate can security really get in a hotel?

It would be nice if hotel safety boxes had better security to stop hotel staff break into them, but other than I don’t see how a large hotel with “elaborate” security could stop people’s valuables from going missing. I personally think that the best way to assess the security of a hotel is by going online and check out reviews left by other travelers.

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