Travelling to Iraq or Afghanistan may be obvious places to avoid for many Canadian globetrotters because of the high risk of terrorism, violent crimes and kidnappings in the region.
But then there are the not-so-obvious tourist hot spots like England, France and Thailand that come with travel cautions.
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Although these countries are popular destinations for backpackers, the Canadian government said travellers should “exercise a high degree of caution” when heading there because of the ongoing threat of terrorism.
These are just a few of the countries Global Affairs Canada has ranked based on a high, medium or low amount of risk. Here is a list of some of the places to avoid or exercise caution when travelling.
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Top countries to avoid
There are 19 countries Canada recommends travellers skip altogether and are labelled as “avoid all travel category,” which is the highest warning the government gives.
“There is an extreme risk to personal safety; Canadians should not travel at this time,” the government states on its website.
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The countries include:
- North Korea
- Puerto Rico
- Virgin Islands
- Saint Martin
Some of the nations on the list, like Somalia, do not have a Canadian embassy, meaning if you’re thinking of heading there, it’s very difficult for the federal government to help you.
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Others, like North Korea, have been labelled high risk due to the country’s nuclear weapons program and highly repressive regime.
Areas ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria, such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, are also on the list because of the extensive damage from the storm and the risk of contracting the Zika virus.
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Avoid ‘non-essential’ travel
Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands, Pakistan and Egypt are among the countries where Canadians should “avoid non-essential travel.”
Whether it’s because of an unstable political situation, hurricane damage or high terrorist activity, the Canadian government asks travellers to “reconsider their need to travel there.”
Travel, but use ‘high degree of caution’
And then there are the countries the federal government asks tourists to “exercise a high degree of caution” when travelling in.
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- Dominican Republic
Thailand’s ongoing political tensions, China’s isolated actions of violence and the high crime rates in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas have put these countries on the medium risk list.
There are threats of terrorism in Iran, Russia, Britain, France and Belgium.
Least-risky travel spots
The least-risky countries are categorized under the “exercise normal security precautions.”
Some of these countries include:
- United States
- South Korea
How are countries rated?
Global Affairs spokesperson Jessica Seguin said a team “closely monitors safety and security conditions in foreign countries — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — using a wide array of information sources.”
She added there isn’t a strict formula when determining a country’s threat level, which is why the United Kingdon, for example, will rate countries like France differently.
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What if you want to travel to the riskier countries?
Canadian travellers are allowed to head to any country in the world. But if you decide to venture into dangerous territory, the government says you are responsible for your personal safety.
Another (huge) factor to keep in mind, Canada does not pay ransom for kidnappings.
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But there are security tips the government recommends when in “high-risk” countries:
- Stay in secure, guarded accommodations. You should always travel with close protection teams, like a professional security company, and follow their advice.
- Purchase travel and medical insurance before travelling.
- You can even buy kidnapping and ransom insurance.
- Be respectful and careful at security checkpoints.
- Avoid travelling to border areas. Many border areas, like in Iraq, have ongoing clashes and airstrikes and you may risk injury or death when trying to cross a border in risky areas.
- Canadian women travelling in the dangerous countries should take extreme caution. For example, Global Affairs recommends women travelling in Afghanistan travel in groups and avoid travelling alone at night.
Security consultant David Hyde said those who choose not to listen to Canada’s travel warning, place the government in a difficult position by forcing them to try to intervene in areas where they’re poorly equipped to do so.
“There’s an official posture that we don’t do this, but of course we care, and we will try to bring forward information to facilitate the release,” Hyde told the Canadian Press. “Behind the scenes, the government gets very involved with a wide variety of interactions to try and lead towards some kind of repatriation.”
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What will the Canadian government do for you?
If you are in any sort of danger when travelling, you are recommended to check out where the closest Canadian embassy or consulate (if there is one).
Canadian officials can help:
- Provide a list of doctors and hospitals to go to in case of a medical emergency.
- Give advice and contact information of local police in case of a robbery or assault.
- Replace a lost, stolen, damaged or expired passport.
- Contact relatives or friends to request assistance in sending you money or airline tickets.
- Provide you with a list of local lawyers and information on local laws and regulations.
- Advise local police in Canada to contact next of kin in case of death.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.