Assess this: how can I better judge whether or not to go?
May 24, 2012 9:10 AM   Subscribe

I need to find a source for travel and security advisories for locations around the world. Our organisation is too small to employ a security advisor and I don't always trust the locals. What publicly available resources do you use to prepare for travel?

I work for a small NGO, and while we don't (usually) travel to insecure environments, we or our volunteers may find ourselves in countries where the situation is changing rapidly or there are some localised security concerns. We are involved in meetings in workshops in cities, not in rural areas. Our local contacts don't always know what's going on, or fail to adequately advise us because they'd rather save face than have us cancel the trip. Case in point: I was due to travel to Egypt last year when the revolution broke out, and it took many days before it was decided to pull the trip. All the while, the locals were telling us we should still come.

I am looking for news sources, wire feeds, advisories and other resources (public) to help me assess the risk for myself and when sending volunteers to various countries. I have the ECHO Security Guide for the basics, I always carry insurance, I check the FCO travel advisory regularly, but what I'm really looking for is regularly updated news and advice on security issues.

As another example, I'm due to go to Lebanon next week, and I'm having a hard time working out whether or not to go based on current news and advice.
posted by wingless_angel to Travel & Transportation around Lebanon (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The State Department
posted by empath at 9:11 AM on May 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

Seconding the State Department. Also check out the Thorn Tree Forums on Lonely Planet.

Also, if you are really concerned about traveling somewhere that seems unstable, register with the embassy when you arrive. If there is an evacuation, the embassy will get you out.

Third, I have been in two places now that have had travel advisories. I was in Nepal when during demonstrations, and I lived in Bali, Indonesia, which people are still being advised by the State Department to be concerned about a terrorist threat. I did not feel unsafe in either circumstances. Its very easy to imagine that what you see on the news/internet is the entire reality happening in that place, but its not always the case.
posted by emilynoa at 9:22 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use a combination of the website empath linked and gchat with a friend in the admin offices of the Peace Corps.
posted by elizardbits at 9:23 AM on May 24, 2012

You mentioned you have insurance - do they provide alerts? International SOS is my org's insurance company and we get email alerts from them. I just got one for Italy, so they're very, uh, thorough.
posted by quadrilaterals at 9:25 AM on May 24, 2012

Under advisories I should have spelled out I do check the State Department's site, but as I am British, FCO is what I base decisions on.

I am often in countries where there are warnings, so I'm not so much concerned about the generics. What is in the media is often not specific enough so I am wondering if there is something more targeted, like a daily version of OSAC.

My insurer does not give updates - I should look at switching. Thanks for the info quadrilaterals
posted by wingless_angel at 9:36 AM on May 24, 2012

In addition to the US State department, other countries give their own advice. The three I look at (as well as State) are:
* UK Foreign Office
* Canadian Foreign Affairs Department
* Smarttraveler from the Australian government

While in general, everybody usually agrees, a different set of perspectives (and geopolitical aims) sometimes leads to different conclusions. (In the case of Lebanon, everyone agrees on Tripoli, the Bekaa Valley and south of the Litani River, but the Brits are the only ones mentioning the Syrian border regions, not that I'd personally go to the border myself.)

Also, assuming you mean garden-variety travel cancellation and health insurance, there will typically be an exclusion for war zones or trouble spots, just like for extreme sports. This may use your government's definitions; check your policy. If you're talking something more specific, like kidnap/extraction insurance, that's beyond me.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:42 AM on May 24, 2012

I use ReliefWeb in combination with govt. travel advisories. Using the plural, since it is worth cross checking, especially with local/non-english sources.

It is a fine line, especially if you are responsible for volunteers, but I do listen to local advice. Particularly if there are regions within a country that are safe/not safe and the news only covers the country as a whole.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:45 AM on May 24, 2012

Oh, and DAWNS Digest (on phone, can't link) has a good set of comprehensive clips, but might be scattershot for informing security decisions.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:53 PM on May 24, 2012

Follow up: I took the trip and am home again. I also subscribed to a few local news and Twitter feeds while I was there to keep up to date with the situation in Tripoli and various road closures. This was helpful in combination with all the other resources listed above. Thanks.
posted by wingless_angel at 6:39 AM on June 8, 2012

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