Following last Thursday's announcement by the foreign secretary on Tunisia, holidaymakers are urged to avoid the country until more news becomes available.
In the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides advice for citizens on where it is and is not safe to travel, which changes regularly as countries’ suitability as holiday destinations fluctuates.
The foreign office now advises against "all but essential" travel to the atrocity-stricken country, placing it alongside countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
With 90% of travellers in Tunisia on package holidays, those affected by the atrocity are advised to contact their tour operators, who are providing additional flights and helplines in wake of the ongoing threat. For independently booked holidays, proper travel insurance should cover accommodation costs and repatriation.
For those considering staying in Tunisia - as some Brits reportedly are - it is important to understand that travelling (or staying) against such government advice will invalidate most travel insurance policies.
Other countries to watch out for
Before booking any trip, it’s always worth researching the destination. A location may turn out to be disastrous even if its problems are not widely known.
After many years of conflict between Cuba and the United States over political differences, there has been a major thaw in tensions lately. Though the US still does not recommend its citizens travel there, the UK FCO states that “most visits to Cuba are trouble free” with “a low threat from terrorism”. The main causes for concern are no longer violence or economic. Tourists should bear in mind when hurricane season is and “monitor weather updates and track the progress of approaching storms.”
Nevertheless, some insurers refuse to cover travellers to Cuba, apparently because they have US owners and remain committed to a boycott of the country. This is likely to change over the coming years and the main danger is likely to become an Americanisation of the country, and a disappearance of the charming old cars and bars.
This is another improving travel destination for tourists. Being a large country with a complicated past, there are still some small parts that are unsuitable for tourists. The FCO states: “Most visits are trouble-free.” It is all about smart travel and not entering any risk areas.
The FCO names some states that have a continued threat of violence and should be avoided, the main ones being Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. It also warns there may be risks involved with travelling in the “border areas with Thailand, Laos or China” due to past armed conflicts.
There are certainly some religious sensitivities here: there are large communities of Buddhist monks for example. So sensitivity to local customs and practices is advisable.
In the past two years, parts of Ukraine have become a no-go destination – unsafe for civilians with a risk of violent attack as part of a civil conflict. As the country continues to experience conflict, the UK FCO’s main statement is: “Events in Ukraine are fast moving. You should monitor this travel advice regularly.”
Certain areas are worse than others. In Crimea for example, “British nationals…should leave now. The FCO is not able to provide consular services to anyone choosing to remain in Crimea.” The FCO also reports roadblocks, with private vehicles and passengers being searched and delayed. “If you’re currently visiting or living in Crimea, you should leave now. If you choose to remain, you should keep a low profile, avoid areas of protest or stand-off and stay indoors where possible,” adds the FCO. With the risks being so high, it is highly inadvisable to visit these areas.
Even so, it’s worth monitoring news services as well as the FCO. The Ukraine advice may date back to a more turbulent time and have been left on the website without updating.
Contrasting with Ukraine, Greece is going through an extreme economic crisis. The most recent advice to take plenty of cash is certainly wise, but the next stages of this situation cannot be foreseen. There has been little physical violence so far, but some experts warn that this may emerge at some point.
This crisis can be seen as a good and bad prospect for travellers. With an economic slowdown, prices may fall, creating the potential for a cheap holiday. However there are risks in relying only on the cash you bring with you into the country. If something goes wrong, travellers cannot trust they will be able to access funds via credit or debit cards.
“Visitors to Greece should be aware of the possibility that banking services – including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice,” states the FCO.
If in doubt, check the travel advice...
Customers should check the latest news and what the government's official statement says about the country. To find out travel information on any country go to the official UK government website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
Travellers should also check travel insurance premiums well in advance of their travels to assess the full costs of their holidays.