6 Tips for Safe Travel During Times of Upheaval

Political demonstration at Piazza Republicca, Rome, ItalyWhen civil unrest erupts while you are traveling, your vacation may rapidly transform from a stay in paradise to your worst nightmare. By staying up-to-date on the US Government’s travel warnings, you can usually avoid the most unstable or dangerous locales. However, things change quickly, either from political unrest, natural disasters, or other forces, and you may find yourself in a tough spot. Here are six tips for dealing with civil unrest during travel:

1. Pre-Travel Research

One of the most important things to do is spend some time on pre-travel research. This is critical for learning whether there are troubling conditions in the country in which you plan to visit or whether unrest seems to be brewing. Pre-travel research may also reveal worrisome travel conditions for which you should be prepared. Such research can be critical for deciding whether to postpone travel or at least planning how to keep safe should trouble arise. Your foreign ministry or department of state may prove a good source of information about travel conditions.

2. Know Where To Go For Help

Locate help as soon as you arrive in a foreign country or prior to travel, if you can. For example, it’s a good idea to locate your embassy as well as police stations, hospitals, and urgent care facilities.

3. Locate The Hotspots

If unrest is currently active or brewing, there are some places you should specifically avoid. For example, it’s usually a good idea to avoid public gatherings in such cases, and political meetings and rallies should be off limits as well. Some of the places you may imagine would be safe may actually become a problem if civil unrest erupts. They include colleges, banks, and churches or other places of worship. Even police stations and your embassy may be targeted if trouble arises. Have a plan A, B, and C for getting to safety.

4. Carry Cash and Documents

Keep emergency cash and travel documents with you at all times. This includes your passport, visa, or any other required travel documents. It’s also a good idea to carry emergency phone numbers for loved ones, people you know in the area, and your embassy with you wherever you go. A working cell phone with a replacement battery may help as well.

5. Keep A Low Profile

Stay out of controversial discussions and away from tense situations. While you may feel passionately about an issue, it is probably best to keep a low profile when you are traveling during periods of civil unrest. This tip may even include the clothing you choose to wear in some cases. For instance, if you learn that protesters on one side of an issue are wearing certain colors to make a statement and the other side is wearing different colors, strive for neutral dress.

6. Stay Calm

If you are unfortunate enough to be caught in a riot, try to stay calm and keep your wits. Avoid drawing specific attention to yourself. Do not take photographs or use your cell phone, as this may cause some people to mistake you for a journalist. Do not run, but do try to make your way to a safer place as quickly as possible. If you can get to shelter, do so, and wait in this safe place until the rioters have disbursed. Stay away from the front lines of the crowd to avoid being hit by tear gas or anything else the police might fire into the crowd.


While there’s no denying this sort of situation can prove frightening and dangerous, preparing for the possibility in advance may help you to feel more confident and capable in the event that trouble does develop. Have you experienced a scary travel situation? Please tell us your story in the comments.

Image source: flickr (rosemarydukelow)



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