Here are our 5 Single Traveler Tips for Travel During Political Unrest. In light of the Russian Metrojet crash in the Sinai, I have been thinking more this past week about evaluating travel risks. Since many accidents, even fatalities, occur at home or nearby, I seldom worry too much about the risk of political/terrorist threats abroad. However, it is an issue that receives much press and must be addressed.
In the 1990’s, I often was a woman solo traveler to South Africa while it still was experiencing a low grade civil war in some areas. Stories were told of extremists that even threw rocks at Nelson Mandela’s car and of one group whose motto was “one settler/one bullet”. Later traveling alone in the Middle East, while sightseeing, I was surprised to be pulled over at a military checkpoint where my driver had never been stopped before.
As a tourist, it can be impossible to figure out what is going on since even regional experts are often surprised by sudden overthrows of government or home-grown revolutions. As to airport and airline safety, those are beyond our control and in the hands of local governments. However, there are ways each of us traveling abroad can be safer using our 5 Single Traveler Tips for Travel During Political Unrest:
5 Single Traveler Tips for Travel During Political Unrest: Tip 1:
1. Know before you go whether political turbulence is an issue at your destination. If so, is it limited to an isolated region that you can bypass? For example, when issues arose in Zimbabwe, tourists still traveled to Victoria Falls but made their approach on the Zambian side.
5 Single Traveler Tips for Travel During Political Unrest: Tip 2:
2. Identify the points you are most likely to be at risk:
- As we have seen too often, planes, trains and other means of public transportation can be vulnerable. Fortunately, a wealth of information is available on the Internet before leaving home.
- Arrival at a foreign destination presents problems when a lack of familiarity is compounded by fatigue and jetlag.
- Famous tourist sites are a key target for political opponents. It makes sense to be aware of your surroundings and existence of emergency exits. Although I had a wonderful tour of Egypt’s Temple of Hatshepsut, in 1997, a terrorist attack there killed 70 tourists. The survivors were fellow tourists who heard the melee and hid.
5 Single Traveler Tips for Travel During Political Unrest: Tip 3:
3. Be wary of crowds for two reasons. First, unwary bystanders can get swept up in political protests and trampled by the crowd or mistaken for a protester if the government swoops in. Secondly, depending upon the issue, and how conspicuous you are, you may find yourself suddenly a target of the protesters.
5 Single Traveler Tips for Travel During Political Unrest: Tip 4:
4. Be sure you can access extra cash/credit if unrest makes your plans go awry. On 9/11, I was stranded in Europe for 8 days. Although the political crisis was back in America, I found myself with unexpected daily expenses for hotels, food and transportation. Even with an ATM card, in a crisis it would be possible to exceed daily limits, and telephones may be blocked by overloaded circuits.
5 Single Traveler Tips for Travel During Political Unrest: Tip 5:
5. Have an exit strategy or alternate means of extricating yourself. On 9/11, when planes were not flying to the US, I logically tried to book a flight to Canada. To my surprise, I was told that Canada could not accept any more US passport holders since 44,000 Americans were already in transit in Canada. Before I could look at flights to Mexico and a bus to Texas, planes had begun flying to the US again!
Fortunately, truly catastrophic political downdrafts are not every day events worldwide. My view is that, absent an actual war, with adequate planning there are few places that must be avoided at all costs. So do your research, plan for emergencies and continue checking off items on your bucket list. Check out our 5 Single Traveler Tips for Travel During Political Unrest and send us your own via our Contacts Page at Solo Trekker 4 U.