Although you may be thousands of miles away from home, working, traveling and experiencing exotic regions of the world like the Middle East, smartphones and email make keeping in touch with family and friends a bit of a breeze. How lucky we are nowadays compared to a century or so ago when such distances usually meant snail mail and weeks or months of silence in between the arrival of each letter.
And should we become a little strapped for cash while taking in the sights and sounds, a debit or credit card in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, or any one of the 18 countries traditionally seen as making up the Middle East, is as easy to use as it is back home. Well, that’s just got to be one definition of progress, don’t you think?
Although much has changed in the Middle East over the last few decades, and much of it for the better, television, radio, newspapers and other media are often filled daily with reports of war, refugees, terrorist atrocities, tensions between religious and ethnic groups and other negative stories. But thanks to smartphones and the Internet, it’s much easier for today’s traveler to keep tabs on potential dangers and therefore to avoid them.
Indeed, most countries provide travel warnings and alerts through government portals which the savvy traveler can and should consult on a daily basis, whether via laptop, tablet or smartphone. American travelers, for example, can access the US Department of State website which issued during this month alone (November 2014) warnings about traveling to Columbia, the Central African Republic and Syria. Among recent alerts, for example, the US state Department spelled out the implications for travel to parts of West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak.
Warnings And Alerts
So what’s the difference between warnings and alerts? A travel warning is issued when the US government wants you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all. They’re not saying you shouldn’t go. That’s up to you but it would be rather foolhardy to do so. The sorts of reasons warnings are issued include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, travel alerts are issued because the US government thinks there are short-term issues you should be aware of when traveling to a particular country. These might include unrest because of elections taking place, for example, a danger to health because of an outbreak of the swine flu virus H1N1, or heightened risk of terrorist attack. Once the issues or dangers are over, travel alerts are usually cancelled.
The British government has a particularly comprehensive travel advisory service which includes email alerts for which UK citizens can sign up for. The website lists in alphabetical order some 225 countries or territories, outlining a summary of the latest advice for each as well as links to other sources of valuable information.
For example, the latest advisory for Bahrain (November 2014) warns UK travelers to avoid large crowds or demonstrations and continue to be vigilant following two bomb attacks earlier this year. The advisory also reminds travelers to respect the 6pm to 4am curfew currently in place on the waterways around Bahrain.