|New Zealand warns of U.S. travel risks|
How safe is it to travel in the United States?
People ask this question about other countries all the time. Now the shoe seems to be on the other foot.
Tourism promoters jump into action when it appears governments might have reason to warn their citizens to think twice about travel. In some cases, the lobbying works. In others, it doesn't. The U.S., of course, usually receives kid-glove treatment from other countries. And besides, why would anyone feel unsafe about traveling in the U.S.?
As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons. Fear of police violence, Muslim hate crimes, firearm possession and anti-gay legislation are just a few. Last week, the Transportation Security Administration said it discovered a record breaking 78 firearms in carry-on bags around the nation. Sixty-eight were loaded.
Just as many U.S. citizens ask whether it's "safe'' to travel abroad, many foreigners are now asking the same about travel to the U.S.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's calls for a temporary travel ban on foreign Muslims and people from countries where terrorist groups operate has added to the woes of would-be visitors, USA Today reports.
In an advisory issued last July, the government of the Bahamas warned residents, nearly 91% of whom are black, to be aware of potentially volatile situations if they visit the U.S.
"In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police," the advisory said.
Possible hate crimes against Muslims are causing concern in Middle Eastern countries. After a man from the United Arab Emirates who was in Ohio for medical treatment was falsely accused of being a terrorist because he was speaking Arabic on the phone, the U.A.E. cautioned its citizens to avoid traditional dress abroad "to ensure their safety."
Anti-LGBT legislation passed in Mississippi and North Carolina caused the United Kingdom to issue a travel alert warning gay Brits traveling to the United States to exercise caution.
"The U.S. is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country," the British Foreign Office said in a statement issued in April. "LGBT travelers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi. Before traveling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community."
The UK also warns visitors not to sleep in their cars by the roadside or in rest areas. "Try to stay on main roads and use well-lit car parks," it advises, and warns of gas stations near airports ripping people off with high prices, especially those "near the Orlando International Airport."
Australia reminds citizens that "The United States has more violent crime than Australia, although it rarely involves tourists. Mass shootings continue to occur in public places in the U.S."
New Zealand advises caution when traveling to the U.S. due to the threat of terrorism.
"The United States remains a likely target for terrorist activity by domestic-based extremists and internationally-trained individuals and groups, and we continue to receive reports that terrorist groups are planning attacks against the United States," it says.
"Wherever you are, you should keep yourself informed about the latest alerts and stay aware of your surroundings in areas where large numbers of people congregate, such as shopping malls, markets, monuments, tourist destinations, demonstrations, public events and on any public transport. There is the potential for attacks to be conducted with the intention of targeting the general public."
When it comes to overall crime, New Zealand warns "there is a higher incidence of violent crime and firearm possession than in New Zealand."
Closer to home, even our Canadian neighbors find reasons to be cautious.
"The possession of firearms and the frequency of violent crime are generally more prevalent in the U.S. than in Canada," the government warns. "Within large metropolitan areas, violent crime more commonly occurs in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods, particularly from dusk to dawn, and often involves alcohol and/or drug consumption."
Canadians living in holiday homes have been the victims of break-ins and burglary, the government says. "If you are staying in either private or commercial accommodations, ensure that windows and doors are securely locked at night and when you are away."
|No travel alert for Thailand|
The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, continues to add to a long list of countries it urges citizens to avoid. North Korea is the latest. Parts of Mexico, Israel, Turkey, Colombia, El Salvador, and most of the Middle East are the subjects of official travel warnings. Not on the list are France, Belgium or Germany, the sites of recent terrorist attacks. Neither is Thailand, where bombing incidents occurred last week.
Washington's habit of assigning "risk" to some countries and not others (often important trading partners or friends who rely on tourism to sustain their economy) is one reason why it's a good idea to find out what other governments are telling their citizens.
Example: The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last week advised travelers to Thailand to exercise a "high degree of caution," following bombings on August 10 and 11, and to avoid travel to the areas of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Yala. The Government of Canada published similar advice on its website.
The U.S., on the other hand, did not add Thailand to the list of countries it warns citizens to think twice about visiting. Nor did it issue a travel alert "issued for short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country."
|Thumbs up for Thailand|
How did the State Department expect a traveler to learn what the U.S. had to to say about safety after the bombings? He or she would have had to type in "Thailand'' in a box called "Learn about your Destination," then click on "U.S. Embassy Bangkok." There, in a yellow bar, across the top of a photo of U.S. agricultural officials meeting with seafood importers, was a "security message," urging citizens to avoid affected areas.