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Travel to dangerous places: Your essential safety guide

Planning and preparation that could prevent a travel emergency

With more than two decades spent managing the complexities of work and travel in high-risk regions, Assist360 was formed from the kind of knowledge that comes only with experience. But as our experts in travel risk management use their experience and strong local connections to ensure our client’s safety, we’ve also learnt a few things that everyone about to visit a fragile or conflict-affected area should know as they prepare for their trip. 

Before you leave: Precautions before you travel to a dangerous place

Having done your own research will go a long way if you ever find yourself in a difficult situation far from home. Besides being armed with an emergency plan, you’ll feel more confident and comfortable travelling with information you’ve vetted and digested from legitimate sources, rather than saving a few links before you go and hoping for the best. 

Should I see my doctor before travelling to a dangerous place?

To plan for healthcare issues in a high-risk area, consider scheduling a doctor’s visit four to six weeks before your trip.  

Explain that you plan to travel to a dangerous place and note your specific concerns about the risks associated with the destination. Your doctor may suggest a full medical check-up. 

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Visit your doctor four to six weeks before you travel to any dangerous place. Your doctor can advise you on documents and prescriptions and may conduct a check-up.

Also ask your doctor about: 

  • What healthcare information you’ll need, relevant to your specific destination 
  • Any recommended vaccination schedules 
  • Prescriptions and supporting letters or other documents that may be required to bring your chronic medications into the country you’re visiting. 

Most importantly, take care of your personal medical needs. Make sure you’ve secured enough of the medications you require to last for your full trip plus a few weeks (depending on what’s permitted into the country).  

Travel safety tip: What do I need to check before travelling to a dangerous place? 

We always hope we’ll avoid any emergencies while travelling, but we need to be prepared for them – especially when travel to a dangerous place is involved.  

Points to research: 

  • Find out about your destination’s medical facilities 
  • Select, document and travel with useful emergency numbers – some of which you should memorise if you’re able to 
  • Research and act on local health risks or advisories.  

Your accommodation liaison is a good contact to start with when you’re doing this research. 

Travel insurance essentials: Speak to your insurance provider

Check that your travel insurance cover includes medical emergencies, whether travel to high-risk areas is involved or not, and evacuation in case of serious illness or injury. Thanks to our world-standard medical expertise and local country-teams, Assist360 provides support and access to local networks to help you successfully navigate a health emergency in a complex region. We are proud to provide comprehensive assistance in: 

  • Africa 
  • Asia 
  • Latin America 
  • The Middle East 

Getting safety assistance in high-risk places: Find out more about where Assist360 operates. 

If you’re seeing conflicting information about the area you’re planning to visit, or just need help taking the appropriate precautions, Assist360’s travel risk management approach can help. We anticipate responses for every eventuality – from civil unrest and terrorism to natural disasters and more – so we’re well-positioned to assist in effectively planning.  

Don’t overlook the obvious: Precautions while travelling in high-risk areas

As anyone who’s tried to explain obscure or unpleasant symptoms in a language they don’t speak can tell you, it’s worth putting in the effort to avoid illness, injury or even inconvenience in a place where you’re out of your comfort zone.  

Use your common sense and comply with local rules. Wear your seatbelt when travelling, wash your hands with soap and water often, and never underestimate the value of good sunscreen in a climate that you – and your skin – aren’t used to. 

Essential documents when travelling to a dangerous place

As well as having copies of your important documents saved online, make copies of documents and carry them with you. At minimum:  

  • Make a few photocopies of your passport 
  • Make photocopies of your prescriptions and other supporting medical documents.  

Leave one copy in a secure, concealed place in your accommodation. Keep another copy with you – always storing this separately to the original document itself. 

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Make physical and digital copies of your important travel documents and be strategic about where you store them.

While you’re stowing things in safe places, consider whether you really need to carry valuables when you’re planning to travel in dangerous areas during the day. Any items that aren’t necessary should be left behind in a hotel safe, or wherever you feel that they’re most secure. Most importantly, try to avoid attracting attention to yourself by flashing phones, laptops, jewellery or cameras when you’re out in public.  

Context is key: Navigating a conflict-affected environment

Being aware of your surroundings helps you anticipate and avoid potential risk situations – long before they can pose an actual threat. Try to gain some insight into the local context in which you’re travelling. This will help you anticipate uncertainty and know when to act – so you can take steps when something ‘just doesn’t seem right’ – just as those who’ve lived there a while are able to do intuitively.  

Travelling like a local in a dangerous place

Start by asking your accommodation liaison to advise you on what are considered ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ areas nearby and plan your movements accordingly.  

Map a route before you set out, so that if you do take a wrong turn, it’s easy enough to get back on track.  

While you’re doing this planning, factor in some of the higher-risk activities you’ll need to perform during your outings. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, plan to visit one in a safe spot during the day, choose regulated and marked forms of transport, and avoid hitchhiking or travelling at night.  

A good tip for navigating a city is to keep an eye on who you’re seeing around you: if women and children are present on city streets, the chances are good that you’re in an area that’s broadly considered safe enough for low-risk, day-to-day activity rather than somewhere that’s to be visited only when strictly necessary.  

Know who to call in crisis

As your assistance partner in high-risk regions from South America to Central Asia, Assist360 serves as the first point of contact for travellers who find themselves in an emergency in a dangerous place.  

Whether harnessing the knowledge of medical and in-country experts to determine a medical evacuation solution or assisting a traveller in the repatriation process, experienced assistance and a highly reliable network are on hand to ensure a swift, safe resolution to a crisis.  

Read case studies of Assist360’s work. 

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