Every year, 430 million people travel abroad for leisure. They look to all manner of guidebooks, websites and experts for advice on how to stay safe while travelling. The problem is, thanks to a climate of fear that has grown up in the West, the risks are exaggerated to them. Very often the worst case scenario is presented as a likely happening, which has more to do with the guidebooks’ fear of getting sued if they don’t cover every possibility, than any genuine risk. All this can curtail a traveller’s enjoyment with unnecessary worries.
While crime is a fact of all human societies, it is often more serious and widespread in the ‘First World’ than in the poorer countries that attract Western tourism. You are more likely to be robbed on the street or raped in the US, Canada and the UK than in most politically-stable Asian countries. If you find yourself lost on the streets of a major Indian city – as I have – people will normally bend over backwards to help you. I doubt that you’d find the same hospitality in the knife and gun crime hotspots of London or New York.
Guidebooks such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide warn against eating salads abroad because they claim that the fruit and vegetables are washed in untreated water. This is in fact rare, as not even local people can stomach untreated water. Eateries that systematically poisoned their customers, whether in Dhaka or Dorking, would quickly go out of business.
There is a popular myth that upscale restaurants are safer, but despite their appearance of cleanliness, food can be left out at the mercy of pests. Perhaps