Best Travel-Advisory Websites
In a world of
up-to-the-minute tweets and a 24-hour news cycle, it’s easy to find essential
information. Here’s where to go online.
When Thailand teetered at the edge of civil war last spring, I signed on to Facebook. That’s
where friends in Bangkok were posting photos and videos of the protests and real-time status updates. I also
checked out English-language Thai newspapers online, Twitter, and the
travel-security e-newsletters I subscribe to. Thankfully, my friends and
colleagues made it through the violence unscathed.
But I was
reminded of the importance of having access to good information quickly.
Although I still rely on the U.S. State Department advisories at travel.state.gov for the long view of
safety, critics say that site is overly cautious and colored by politics—and
not nearly as immediate as a tweet.
the State Department warnings are just plain odd. Consider this advisory, which
warns Americans traveling to this place to “maintain a high level of vigilance”
and to beware of pickpockets, drink spiking, purse-snatchers, and an increase
in the use of criminal weapons due to a rise in drug trafficking. No, they’re
not talking about Mexico.
That’s from the State Department travel information for Australia.
Confused? So are a lot of people.
That’s why it
pays to get a wider point of view by considering other travel-advisory
websites, which are numerous and varied. Besides the State Department updates,
the U.S. government has excellent travel resources that can help you plan a
safe trip by providing you with travel-health news or even country-by-country
backgrounders from the CIA. Many foreign governments, including the United Kingdom and Australia, operate advisory websites similar to that of the State Department, but
without the U.S. point of view.
neglect social media sites to get on-the-ground, real-time reports in nearly
every country around the globe. True, the information you might glean from
travel forums, Twitter, and other such sources isn’t checked for accuracy, but
it’s often much fresher and direct than major media reports. That’s not to say
you shouldn’t rely on the world’s online newspapers; in fact, there are English-language
online newspapers in most major international cities, and with a few clicks of
the mouse you can find one in your next vacation spot.
neglect private-industry security newsletters. Many of them are available for a
fee, but there are a few that are free, and they are often extraordinarily
comprehensive. No matter where you get your travel updates, it’s always worth
checking out an assortment of sites representing different viewpoints. Then
you’ll be in the best position to make your decision about actions you may need
to take the next time you travel.