If you’re planning a trip and want to know if the destination is safe to visit, there are so many resources at your disposal to help you decide. As someone who has traveled full time as a digital nomad for three years, I’ve come to rely on a few useful sources for gathering destination safety and trip advice. Here are some simple steps you can take to check safety information for your upcoming trip.
1. Check U.S. government websites for COVID guidelines and other info
Familiarizing yourself with the latest COVID-19 guidelines posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a good first move. Also check the COVID-19 FAQ page on the U.S. Embassy websites for the country you’re traveling to so that you’re up-to-date with the country’s entry requirements. Unfortunately, entry requirements can change, so don’t get caught off guard if a new quarantine or test rule pops up.
In addition, the U.S. Department of State travel advisories page lets you search the country you’re traveling to so that you can see the latest travel alerts. The advisories can be particularly useful if you’re going to a destination that is known to be risky, as it can tell you which regions should be avoided and why.
2. Join Facebook groups for travelers and digital nomads
groups are another great resource for finding information on the destination you plan on visiting. Region-specific information, including safety, can be found in expat or digital nomad groups related to the city or country you’re headed to. If your destination is obscure, look for general digital nomad groups or groups specifically dedicated to solo travel.
These groups often have thousands of members, and you can use the search feature in the group by typing in your destination to see if anyone has asked for the same information. Some of the groups are private and some are public, so you may need to join before you can search or make your own post. In addition, if you’re traveling solo and want to meet others who are living in or traveling to your intended destination, posting in these groups is a great way to connect with other travelers, especially if you’re nervous about traveling.
For example, if you’re thinking about going to Medellín, Colombia, and want to know safety information and travel tips, join the Digital Nomads Medellín Facebook group to ask your questions.
3. Leverage your existing online and offline communities
Taking stock of your existing community is another great way to find information about your destination. You can make a post on Facebook or Twitter
and ask for advice. Maybe one of your followers has recently returned from a vacation in that country or maybe another friend did study abroad or moved there temporarily for work. If Instagram is more of your thing, post an Instagram story that you’re planning a trip to a specific area and are looking for safety and general advice.
Another great way to leverage your community is to use the search feature on Facebook. Using the above example of a trip to Medellín, in the Facebook search field, type “my friends who live in Medellín” and you will see a list of Facebook friends who live there. You may end up reconnecting with old friends or getting lots of helpful advice from a community you didn’t even know you had. Even if you think you may not know anyone who has traveled to wherever you’re headed, it is worth the small effort to check because that connection could be a wealth of knowledge.
Of course, there is also the old-fashioned way of asking your friends, family, classmates or co-workers if they’ve ever traveled to where you’re heading. It is easy to forget how many people we actually know and could ask for travel advice.
4. Read relevant blog articles
Reading blog articles for your intended destination could also provide a lot of useful travel advice and safety information. Again, using the Medellín trip as an example, head over to your favorite search engine and type, “Is Medellín safe?” and you will see pages of results discussing the safety information. In addition, you’ll find helpful tips (e.g., which areas are safe, how to get around, the best things to do, areas to stay in).
Not every article is going to give you the information you need, so take time to read through a few of them so you get an overall picture of the safety situation of where you’re headed. The more quality sources you have, the more accurate picture you’ll be able to get of the situation.
Bonus tip: Consider travel insurance
Once you decide to book your trip, consider whether you need travel insurance. Some benefits, like Cancel For Any Reason, or CFAR, need to be purchased on or near the date when you make your trip payment, so you want to start thinking about travel insurance sooner than later. Whether you’re going to use the travel insurance provided by your credit card or will purchase a stand-alone policy, you have many options to choose from. Traveling carries a certain element of uncertainty, and protecting yourself with trip insurance is a great safety net to protect against a wide range of issues, including lost or stolen luggage, rental car problems and medical emergencies.
Best ways to find safety information for your destination
From leveraging your existing Instagram or Twitter community to joining Facebook groups and reading articles specifically related to trip advice, you can find so much information on travel safety.
When you’re in trip-planning mode, consider your travel insurance options, check the CDC guidelines, U.S. Department of State travel advisories and read the latest COVID notices posted on the website of the country you’re going to (or its U.S. Embassy site) so that you’re up-to-date on the latest information. And be sure to tap into the power of social media and your own circle of friends to get even more information.
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Elina Geller writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @elina_geller.