Daring destinations (or so you thought)
for wimps and you can even get travel insurance for your holiday in Lebanon .
The really risky places are often not where you would think. By Jeremy Atiyah Colombia
A risky adventure is the last thing that most holiday-makers are looking for when they jet off from Gatwick or
But for the more intrepid "real" travellers, who positively enjoy
getting off the beaten track, an element of adventure (read: risk) is an
essential part of the experience. The two British travellers who yesterday
passed their 600th day as hostages of a political group in Manchester Kashmir
surely once dreamed of adventure. But which places are unacceptably dangerous
to visit even for the most hardened traveller? And how can you work this out
before you get into trouble?
One way is to find out whether your insurance company offers cover for the place you are going to. Columbus Travel Insurance currently rate a number of places as War Zones - where full-scale fighting is involved - for which they will not provide any insurance cover at all.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also has a list of countries to which they advise against "all travel". The 14 places currently on this list include perennial disaster zones (
, Afghanistan ),
"enemy" nations ( Somalia ),
and obscure disputatious corners such as Iraq in
Bougainville Island . Papua New Guinea
In terms of casualties though, there can be a fine line between a War Zone and an area of high criminality. Colombia, for some reason, is not considered a war zone - despite the fact that getting on for one person in a thousand of the population is murdered every year (at this rate, one in 15 of all Colombians is destined to be murdered). Although most of the killings are political, foreigners have also been in the firing line, with kidnappings and disappearences regular occurrences.
Is tourism remotely feasible in such an environment? Toby Follet, a television producer recently returned from
says yes. "Away from the Colombia
slums, it feels completely safe and tranquil, as long as you don't read too
much about the dangers. Conspicuously rich foreigners are a target, but scruffy
backpackers, for example, are probably the safest people in the country. Most
of the killings are political, after all." Columbus Travel Insurance seems
to agree; it will offer cover for your trip to Bogota ,
though with a "loaded" premium. Colombia
are generally more crime-ridden than the Americas Old
World and the is
no exception, with a murder rate three or four times that of USA Europe.
The murders of several Europeans in
have caused particular alarm in recent years and the FCO, while admitting that
most travellers visit Florida
without difficulty, emphatically warns tourists to take precautions such as not
stopping if their car is bumped from behind, and not sleeping in vehicles in
rest areas. Florida
itself is totally risk-free. Although nobody is advising you not to go there,
it does appear that whole swathes of eastern Europe are currently on the verge
of collapse, particularly , Albania
and Bulgaria . Serbia
On the other hand, anyone considering a visit to
where several hundred thousand people have been killed in the recent war - will
be interested to know that they now have the chance to do so for the first time
in years. Not only can you buy travel insurance for Bosnia ,
but tour operators such as Dat Travel will organise tailor-made trips for you.
Flights from Bosnia to
(via Sarajevo )
are also available on Croatian Airlines. Before packing your bags however, note
that the FCO still advises against travel to Zagreb
"unless on essential business". Bosnia
Another part of the globe sometimes perceived as hostile to Western tourists is the Arab world and the
East, though this fear is very largely misplaced.
Countries such as , Iran
not only welcome tourists but are in fact very safe places to travel. Lebanon
Algeria, on the other hand, where a string of Europeans have recently been murdered, is certainly classed as a War Zone by both insurers and the FCO, though interestingly, the Algerian Embassy in London dispute this, insisting that the major cities are safe to visit and that visas are still routinely being issued. "Just don't go off into the countryside on your own," an embassy spokesman suggested.
A Middle Eastern country whose
embassy has not issued tourist visas for nearly twenty years is London .
But Suzy Price, a BBC correspondent recently based in Afghanistan ,
recalls that stray backpackers did still occasionally materialise in Kabul
from nearby Kabul .
"Tourists were all brought directly to the BBC by the militias," she
says. "We acted as a kind of tour guide to get them out of the country
All in all, the world is a seriously dangerous place for those who like it that way. But if you prefer safety, why not instead try Lichtenstein, where crime is officially described as a "minor problem".
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Advice Unit: 0171-238 4503
Dat Travel: 0171-3796249
Croatian Airlines: 0171-306 3138