Many parents feel some reluctance when their offspring decide that they want to head abroad without them for the first time, and when the destination in question is famous for all the wrong reasons, a growing sense of apprehension can set in.
However, once your children are entirely free to do as they please, it makes sense to give them your blessing and let them spread their wings. Nonetheless, some destinations are riskier than others, while others are exceptionally dangerous and current recommendations from the Foreign Office is for travel to destinations such as Somalia and the northern areas of Pakistan, for example, advised against.
However, the risk factor is often seen as a key selling point for the young and fearless. Whilst some countries are famous for their kidnapping rates or volcanoes, many fatal accidents have also taken place in countries often deemed to be hazard-free. While it could be argued that everywhere represents a risk to a degree, it’s a matter of managing that risk and ensuring that the risks that do exist are fully understood and appreciated.
If your children cite any of the following destinations for potential backpacking, you may wish to invest in the relevant insurance if you can’t talk them out of the trip in the first place. At this juncture, it’s always wise to get professional advice.
Here are the top five destinations that currently pose a risk to travellers:
Travel to Iraq, and Baghdad is strongly discouraged, with the region still bearing the scars of not only the two Gulf Wars but the Iraq/Iran war too. The ‘Red Zone’ of Baghdad is synonymous with bombings, guns, kidnapping and extreme risk to both civilians and visitors. Nonetheless, many backpackers have visited the relatively-tranquil area of Kurdistan and come out completely unscathed.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town offers a strange fusion of epic natural scenery and desperate poverty. It has become inseparable from thoughts of kidnappings, muggings and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, yet like the majority of the world’s most dangerous locations, many people have stayed here and faced no trouble at all. Whilst it does play home to a large number of street criminals, many cite the locals as being extremely pleasant on the whole. Keeping your wits about you is essential, and if you’re advised to avoid certain areas then do so.
Afghanistan is home to around six million land mines, regular bombings and vast food shortages, not to mention the Taliban, who have over recent years been behind a number of attacks on Kabul. Nonetheless it also plays host to some breath-taking scenery in the form of its spectacular mountain ranges. However, do be aware that the region is still effectively a war zone, and that currently it is not to be regarded as a ‘tourist’ destination.
Colombia, South America
Mention Columbia to most people and they’ll most likely think of drug lords, warring cartels and political extremists from the left as well as the right side of the fence. Things have improved to some degree recently, and its picturesque landscapes, world-class sculptures and stunning architecture continue to attract globe-trotters and travellers. Nonetheless, caution is still advised, as muggings and kidnappings are still commonplace, particularly in the main cities.
Israel & the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories are only to be investigated by the truly fearless, with the FCO advising against all travel to Gaza (‘rocket attacks’, ‘air strikes’), the West Bank (‘civil unrest’, ‘protests’, ‘violent’) in particular, whilst citing the Old City in Jerusalem as being particularly dangerous for visitors, especially during periods of religious significance. Nonetheless, away from these areas Israel is a beautiful and fascinating country, and key draws for tourists include the various historic, scenic trails that the area has to offer such as Northern Israel’s Jesus Trail.
Of course, situations can be extremely fluid and what may be considered to be a ‘safe’ destination one day, can turn into a no-go area the next. Charles Hamilton Stubber of AON Private Clients, explains why the need for constant vigilance is so important, regardless of the destination or its current status: The threat of terrorism and growing international mobility is an increasing issue for personal wellbeing, particularly when young family members are travelling or taking GAP years in far flung locations. It’s important you consider the potential threats, vulnerabilities and risks before travel in advance of choosing an insurance option to help mitigate those risks.”