There is an undeniable thrill to visiting a brand new destination.
Unfamiliar cultures, sights and sounds can make for a memorable travel experience, but it is also important to consider the risks. Every destination has a unique set of risk factors, which are critically important to know before departure.
Political and Legal Climate
- Be aware of any wars, insurgencies, or civil unrest that is occurring – or on the brink of occurring. You should understand the current political climate on a basic level to avoid getting into altercations or entering areas of concern.
- Be aware of the legal systems in your chosen destination. In some countries, foreigners charged with a crime are not necessarily entitled to a fair defence, or to a trial in their native language. The protocol surrounding capital punishment may also be different.
- Some countries have the ability to try, convict, or incarcerate a minor as an adult.
- Be aware of any gender-specific laws that may differ from your home country. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are not legally permitted to operate vehicles.
- Before departing, ensure you understand the natural risks in your chosen destination. These may include typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, tsunamis, etc. Certain periods of the year are more susceptible to these disasters, such as the monsoon season in parts of Asia and India, or hurricane season in the United States.
- As well, temperature is important to consider. Be sure you are prepared with appropriate attire for cooler climates, weatherproof clothing for areas of heavy precipitation, or strong heat protectants for warmer locations.
- Areas of higher or lower altitude can take some acclimatization. Disregarding this can lead to serious side effects, including severe dizziness, altered perceptions and sleep disorders. Discuss any changes in altitude with certified physicians at a travel clinic prior to travel.
Social and Cultural Climate
Although certain activities may not be explicitly banned by law, there are customs of social behaviour that are important to take note of when visiting a new destination.
- The consumption of alcohol can vary in social acceptability, depending on location. Be aware if you are in a location that bans or looks down upon the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
- Dress appropriately for the social climate. In certain countries, religious or social law such as Sharia law prohibits the exposure of certain levels of skin. As well, if visiting a religious location, you should have appropriate head or skin coverings.
- The pace of life may be different than what you are used to. Whether mealtimes fall at odd intervals or there is a midday "siesta," as in many European nations, it is important to be prepared.
- Safety and hygiene standards may not be the same in all countries. Medical care can be more unsafe in certain regions, or inaccessible. Over-the-counter medications at home may be incredibly difficult to acquire abroad, and should be brought in a checked bag.
- Medical standards may also vary. If you have to undergo medical treatment, ensure it is sterile and the physicians are properly certified.
- Be aware that access and accommodations for handicapped persons may vary according to country. It is prudent to research beforehand whether or not a destination is manageable for you or any travel companions.
- Consult the Government of Canada Travel Advisory page for any country-specific warnings: http://www.travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories.
- Register as a Canadian citizen travelling abroad to receive contact and assistance in the case of an emergency, whether in your home country or your visit destination: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration.
In Case of Emergency Abroad
- For emergency assistance, a 24-hour emergency line is available through the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa: http://travel.gc.ca/assistance/emergency-assistance.
- For other urgent situations, Canadian Consular Services are available in 150 countries worldwide, with over 260 contact points. Consular Services can assist with critical situations such as:
- Providing lists of local doctors, hospitals, or lawyers, as well as local laws and regulations
- Arranging medical evacuation
- Seeking to ensure fair treatment if you are arrested or detained
- Notarizing documents or replacing passports
- Advising and aiding in contacting police or medical services for victims of violence, robbery or sexual assault
- Providing assistance for children or missing persons
- Transferring urgently needed funds
- Accepting Canadian citizenship applications
- Contacting relatives or next of kin if you require financial assistance