Traveling in High-Risk-Countries, High-Risk-Areas and No-Go-Areas

Many high-risk-countries today, due to a variety of factors, are extremely high-risk-areas for travelers. Some countries, such as Mexico, have extremely high levels of violence due to drug trafficking. Other high-risk-areas, such as Sao Paulo, Brazil, have specific no-go-areas related to economic conditions.

Traveling to these high-risk-countries takes some knowledge and preparation before embarking on your journey. Some areas may be so dangerous that travelers may need to take extraordinary precautions. Iraq and Afghanistan are war zones and as such, travel there generally can be safely done only when using military convoys or elaborate personal protection precautions.

Business travelers may have no choice but to travel to high-risk-countries as from a corporate perspective the gains outweigh the risks. In these circumstances, most large corporations hire outside security consultants to assist them in mitigating travel to high-risk-areas. Many times these consultants speak the local language, may have lived and worked in the areas for years or even decades, and have key local government and security connections.

Sometimes independent travelers must go to no-go-areas of a country due to family considerations. For example, many Lebanese Americans maintain close ties to their country of origin. Even though Lebanon is a high risk country due to terrorism and political violence, many times sick mothers or fathers or other family issues. Often these travelers, due to his or her close ties to the area, already speak the local language. Their physical type likely makes them less likely to stand out in a crowd as a foreigner. These factors may mean that the more elaborate precautions that businesses may need to take for the same trip may not be necessary.

A challenge for travelers going to high-risk-countries like Brazil is the „favela“ phenomena. A favela is an unincorporated section of a city or town that the government does not formally recognize. Favelas are often run by drug gangs and are so dangerous that even police will not enter them. However, it is often impossible to know when a person is in a favela. You can turn a corner and be in a no-go-area. Traveling to these high-risk-areas requires, at a minimum, a vetted driver or guide who can help guide you and keep you from inadvertently getting lost.

No one should consider traveling to a high-risk-country without doing his or her homework. There exist lots of resources to assist travelers in finding out what countries, cities or regions are considered high risk. For example, American business travelers can join OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council) and gain access to up-to-date travel security guides, travel warnings and links to U.S. Government entities and other U.S. companies operating in the area.

For leisure travelers going to high-risk-areas, the U.S. Department has the STEP program (Safe Travelers Enrollment Program). You can join online, enter your travel data including dates, hotel, and local contact information, and the U.S. Embassy will have a better chance of assisting you in a timely and appropriate fashion in the event of an emergency.