This is a taboo question that a lot of us have asked ourselves but the answer isn't as simple as one might think.
People often ponder whether they should buy tickets to a certain destination, or that place isn't worth the risk.
Even if you are travelling alone, with a lover, or in a bigger group, there are always dangers.
Let's explore several angles regarding the security of travelling.
In this case, the easiest way to find if a city/country is safe is googling.
"Safest countries in the world" or "is 'random country' safe" and most likely the first results will be a list of a certain index of safety, like the Global Peace Index.
This is a complex index that takes into consideration a lot of indicators(more on that later).
Let's randomly suppose that the country you are researching is Brazil.
On the first google search you will find out, via wikipedia, that Brazil is the 130th safest country in the world out of a total of 163 countries listed.
Pretty bad, right?
It's clear that this isn't a safe country to visit and you must stay far away from it, or is it?
Looking one spot above Brazil, we have the United States of America, 129th.
So, in terms of pure stats, both of the countries should be equally dangerous.
But this doesn't scare tourists away, making USA the 3rd most visited country in the world.
I call this the USA paradox and more countries fall into this category, like Mexico, 137th safest country, 7th most visited in the world (see list bellow).
So, is the authority, in this case, the GPI index, relevant in judging a country as safe or not?
Some countries have a bad reputation based on the crime rates and people double think before going there, whilst other are flooded with tourists even though they are statistically equally unsafe.
Digging deeper into the stats, as mentioned before, let's analyse the indicators that create the GPI.
Out of the 23 factors, are they all directly relevant for me as a traveller?
Some yes, some no. For a random person that is visiting a country for 1-2 weeks, stats like external conflict, military expenditure, volumes of import-export of weapons, nuclear weapons capability and the level of organised crime seems, more or less, irrelevant.
For the vast majority of travellers, if they mind their own business, drug-related crimes, external military conflicts, etc. are not a concern.
What is relevant for tourists are stats like number of homicides, street aggression, street theft, kidnappings, burglary from hotel rooms, probability of randomly getting targeted by a killer, sexual aggression, etc.
As we can see not all of them are explicitly listed here so, adding the previous statistic of number of travellers - safety of the country, should we care about this rankings?
Checking the list of the most dangerous cities in Europe we can see some obvious contradictions.
To mention a few:
• Italy, 32nd safest country in the world has the 3rd and 6th, 18th and 19th most dangerous cities(in Europe).
• France, number 1 most visited country in the world, 63rd safest has the 15th and 22nd most dangerous cities(in Europe).
• Ireland, 3rd safest country in the world (see below) has the 11th most dangerous city(in Europe)
The examples can continue, but a clear idea has formed: if a country is generally considered safe, it doesn't mean that all the cities in that country are as safe.
At the same time, even if a city is considered safe, it doesn't mean all places/neighbourhoods are equally safe.
The opposite is somewhat true, with Romania, 31st safest country and Estonia 33rd, have the 5th and 7th safest cities in Europe.
Is personal experience relevant in judging if a city/country is safe?
Let's see some examples from myself and some of my friends and judge together.
Some of this examples include a phone stolen midday in Dublin, a shooting in a shopping mall in Copenhagen, a 4 AM walk alone in São Paulo without any sort of incident, a street party in Medellín, also without incident and many more.
According to this fallacy, this should be proof enough that Dublin and Copenhagen are dangerous but São Paulo and Medellin are totally safe.
But if you look at the safest places in the world, Ireland and Denmark are considered extremely safe, 3rd and 4th, and Brazil and Colombia, 130th and 144th respectively.
I would also add here the "I know fore sure because someone told me" mentality.
I have delayed a lot of trips because friends have told me not to go here and there because "it's dangerous", even if the reality was totally different.
Hopefully it is clear why this manner of thinking is confusing and why we need more investigation on the topic.
In a world after the COVID pandemic, more and more companies are offering their employees the possibility of truly working remote, full time, from everywhere in the world.
This has opened the flood gates for digital nomads, that combine travelling for extended periods of time with working from abroad.
mindit.io is one of those organizations that offers people all the flexibility in the world so they can pursue their dreams, explore the unexplored, all while working remote as part of one big kind community that aims at shaping global software and product engineering.
Not only that, but mindit.io has also created minditNomad, which is a unique benefit that gives our people the chance to work from minditNomad homes, located in Romania, in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu, Iasi, Comarnic and Constanta. The houses are fully equipped with everything you need for a regular work day, or simply for enjoying a relaxing vacation together with your colleagues, your friends, and your family.
minditNomad is a real game-changer!
We all know that the majority of hotels have a small desk in the room, from where people can work.
In my opinion, the true change came in the hostel world where the big chains of hostels, like Selina, have started offering special spaces designated for digital nomads, where they can safely work and also have a good internet connection.
Travelling around with a laptop should be as tricky as travelling around with a expensive camera or some fancy gadgets, so the same basic safety principles apply.
If you have made it this far into the article, hoping for a clear cut answer, let me tell you there is none, not for me. In the end, staying safe while travelling is a mix of several factors, some that you can control, some that are out of your grasp. With the risk of falling into the anecdotal evidence fallacy, let me give some general advice:
Try not to dress with really expensive clothes, try not to wear (ostentatious) jewellery, don't walk with your phone in hand, look around when you want to take photos of the environment. Learn a phew words/phrases in that language. Even if it sounds like a cliche, stay and do the touristy activities, they are a lot safer.
Always leave your passport at the hotel/hostel and carry only a copy/photo on your phone. If you are travelling with cash, leave it with the passport and carry only a daily needs amount. Don't think that if you have a bigger group you are totally safe; even though this is helpful in some situations, you are still exposed to other types of crimes, like armed robbery and more.
Walking alone(or in a small group) at night, visiting dangerous neighbourhoods, getting involved into illegal activities like buying drugs, walking in poorly illuminated streets, starting fights with random people, etc.
Before going to a certain country check if they are actively involved in a war, if they are going through riots, protest, civil turmoil.
Check your countries official travel advisory for your destination, google the tourist friendly neighbourhoods, places to avoid, etc.
Sadly, even if you took all precautions, we can't control random things. Sometimes you may be the unlucky victim of a random act of theft, aggression, kidnapping, murder, accidents, etc.
How safe is a country? I'll let you be your own judge of that! Stay safe!