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The 7 most dangerous places to travel to without insurance

Even when travelling abroad required months spent on a horse, at sea, or on a train, there would always be those willing to commit to the adventure. Today, with air travel speeding things up somewhat, many more people than ever before have been bitten by the travel bug and it’s now pretty hard to find a place that’s been left untouched.

As a species, it would seem us humans are never satisfied with the soil beneath our own two feet. Who knows, maybe it stems from our wandering nomad days but chances are, if we can afford the airfare to somewhere new we’ll travel there.

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A visit to a new country, whether you’re familiar with it or not, can be a time of excitement, confusion, joy and even fear. Yes, fear.

Apparently, another trait common to humans is the need to travel into the unknown, even when we are fully aware of the risks. Kidnappings? Extreme weather? Terrorist attacks? Book that flight!

To those of you adamant on travelling to dangerous places, even when your government has warned you not to, well… let’s just hope you have a pretty good insurance plan as at least that way you can put your mind (or your mothers) slightly at rest with some form of protection. Without insurance though…here are 7 places you’ll definitely want to avoid until you get some seriously good coverage.

7) Antarctica

You probably weren’t expecting Antarctica to be on this list and with the title of the coldest, windiest and driest location on earth, it’s a wonder people bother heading all that way in the first place.

But despite the weather, Antarctica is home to a massive variety of wildlife and is any nature lovers dream location. Numerous species of seals, penguins, whales and seabird’s frequent Antarctica’s frozen shores and to some, this makes the -60c temperatures somewhat bearable.
However, these ridiculously extreme weather conditions pose a serious threat to your health, and the chances of surviving if you were left unprotected and exposed to the elements for anytime over an hour are zero to none. If you do manage to survive though, good luck foraging for food or shelter because those things don’t tend to appear in abundance either.

Ok so what if you’re wrapped up warm and have plenty of food supplies but you trip whilst trying to get that perfect shot of a beautiful Antarctic Shag (it’s a bird) and you bust your ankle? This is where an emergency evacuation plan would come in pretty useful as there are literally zero hospitals on the continent, and with only basic medical facilities in Antarctica any injury or illness that can’t be fixed up with a band-aid and an aspirin will definitely require a costly helicopter airlift over the ocean to the nearest hospital; either in Tasmania, Australia, or Southern New Zealand.

So, if you really insist on making the trek for those whales or penguins then Antarctica could be worth the risks, but without a sufficient insurance plan, you’re just asking for something bad to happen.

6) Nepal / Mt. Everest

Nestled between China and India, Nepal is a place of fascinating culture and natural beauty. For the most part, it’s a reasonably risk free country – depending on what activities you do whilst visiting.

Mount Everest is, of course, Nepal’s iconic landmark and has attracted many visitors to the country over the decades. To most normal people, the thought of climbing a mountain that rises 8,848 metres above sea level is utter madness and they’ll settle for simply catching a glimpse of the summit poking through the clouds. However, life at a normal amount of metres above sea level clearly isn’t exhilarating enough for some and apparently, a trip around the world to scale the world’s tallest mountain makes for a great holiday.

Even for trained and professional mountaineers, Everest has never been considered an easy task. If you can get past the lack of oxygen in the air, altitude sickness and ridiculous amounts of physical exertion required, then you still have the weather conditions to contend with. Below freezing temperatures and hurricane force winds known to reach 118 mph don’t sound like much fun and have helped contribute to the 218 deaths on the mountain since 1922. Since the start of the 90s, the death rate has dropped due to better gear and weather forecasting technology but the climb is by no means any less risky today.

So yeah, Nepal medical insurance or Travel Insurance… Get some. Emergency evacuation is a must as, if a helicopter can reach you in the first place, then the nearest facilities in Kathmandu may not even be sufficient enough to deal with your injuries and the cost of transport to a better equipped facility is going to be pretty hefty.

What’s more, depending how high you are planning to climb up the mountain, you may be asked to sign a body disposal form. Yup, the rumours are true and it’s estimated that Everest is the permanent frozen resting place of around 120 bodies. Basically, you have three choices if you succumb to the mountain and die – leave me on the mountain, get me back to Kathmandu and cremate me, or get me back to my home country. The last two options require the local Sherpa’s risking life and limb to transport you back down to a height where a helicopter can land and costs can reach up to $30,000 US – not exactly a great farewell gift to leave your loved ones with.

Despite all this, if you’ve made it back down the mountain and plan on exploring some of Nepal’s other attractions before you leave, you should still keep your wits about you. Violent crime rates tend to stay fairly low but any socks-and-sandal wearing, camera sporting blatant tourist is still likely to fall victim to minor robberies and pick pocketing scams.

In terms of political unrest, again, Nepal is pretty peaceful right now. However, general strikes known locally as Bandhs can halt all businesses, schools and traffic and are quite common as a result of political agitation. Bandhs are usually unpredictable and can last anything from a few days to several weeks but have become less frequent recently. Still, some emergency evacuation coverage in your insurance plan wouldn’t be a bad thing to consider just in case.

5) South Africa

Stunning landscapes, incredible wildlife and delicious (and cheap) wine make up the luscious country of South Africa. Sounds good so far, so what’s the catch?

Unfortunately, violent crime has always been at a pretty high level in South Africa and continues to soar through the roof today, despite the nations best efforts. The country has even been described as the rape capitol of the world – not exactly the slogan the tourist board was aiming for.

South Africa is a place in which the wealthy reside along side those living in abject poverty. For example, the beautiful Llandudno beach near Cape Town is home to many luxury houses (where the likes of David Beckham and Oprah have holiday homes) but literally 10 minutes down the road is a township where hundreds of unemployed reside and where kids play barefoot with a makeshift football at the side of the highway.

It’s no surprise then, that crime is so rife, especially in and around Cape Town. Armed robbery, car-jacking (“smash and grab” attacks in particular) and mugging make up the main bulk of South Africa’s crime scene but a shockingly high murder rate has also contributed to the countries daunting reputation.

While most violent crime occurs in the poorer areas, the tourism industry undoubtedly attracts many criminals and foreign visitors are strongly advised to do their own research and find out what areas are safest to stay in. Going for a casual evening stroll isn’t recommended either unless you are in a well lit area with plenty of people around you.

If you were considering doing a spot of farming whilst visiting – don’t. Farming in South Africa has become one of the most dangerous jobs in the world with a murder rate of 313 deaths per 100,000. That’s 8 times the national average so maybe next time you’re enjoying some South African produce you’ll appreciate it a little more!

Non-medical travel insurance coverage would be wise to purchase before hitting up South Africa however, as long as you’re not an idiot and don’t go flashing that brand new Rolex around, you can keep yourself safe just by keeping your wits about you.

Medical insurance wouldn’t be a bad idea either as South Africa has many outdoor activities on offer.
Most famous for its surf and safaris, both activities carry certain risks. Wild animal attacks have been known to occur whilst on safari and strong rip tides and currents make for dangerous swimming spots along the coast, not to mention all the sharks that call these waters home.

Truly a stunning country with so much on offer, the reputation South Africa has gained really is a shame so you shouldn’t let it put you off – just make sure you sort some insurance, do your research and you’re good to go!

4) Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is also a place of natural beauty and is even home to one of the 7 natural wonders of the world – Victoria Falls. With big game parks in abundance as well as ancient ruins and stunning culture, it’s no surprise as to why travellers would want to venture here. Or is it?

Although beautiful, you’re definitely going to want to purchase some emergency evacuation coverage as Zimbabwe is a highly volatile region and political upheaval can happen in the blink of an eye which could leave you stuck in the middle of an unpredictable and frightening situation.

Deteriorating economic conditions have resulted in many people living in extreme poverty and taking to desperate measures as a result. Food and fuel shortages are common so most crimes are carried out by those just looking to find some easy money, and can range from armed robbery to purse snatching. “Quicknappings” are also common whereby a victim is essentially held hostage for a short period of time until a quick cash exchange can be made.

Travellers, especially when driving without a guide/driver should be aware of “smash and grab” robberies as those stopped at traffic lights and intersections have been known to have their windows smashed in and had any visible valuables stolen. Some areas even allow drivers to treat red lights as stop signs late at night and drive straight through if there is no oncoming traffic so as to reduce any amount of idle waiting time.

Lastly, the medical infrastructure of Zimbabwe is greatly depressed and its facilities and supplies are seriously limited. Most illnesses and serious injuries require evacuation to neighbouring South Africa and can become very costly as a result. Considering Malaria and other mosquito born diseases are a common problem in the country, it is highly recommended you secure some decent medical insurance before you even touch base in Zimbabwe.

3) Venezuela

South America has long been a haven for adventurers, especially recently with younger backpackers who have chosen to ‘find themselves’ on or in the many beaches, jungles and mountains that make up this stunning continent.

Venezuela is no exception to South American beauty and is host to various terrains and infamous cuisine making it the perfect playground for any traveller. However, there’s a price to pay to enjoy such an adventure and the dangers of Venezuela should have you on high alert at all times, should you choose to visit.

The capital – Caracas – is reported to have such a high murder rate that it makes the list of top 5 most dangerous cities in the world and what’s worse is that it’s estimated that only less than 10% of homicides result in prosecutions, inevitably resulting in even more crime.

2011 was a particularly violent year for Venezuela and the total homicides accounted for 19,336 deaths compared to 13,080 in 2010. That’s an increase of almost 30% in one year! If this trend continues, you may want to seriously consider just how desperate you are to visit this country.

And murder isn’t the only risk. According to government statistics, 1,150 kidnappings took place in 2011 at an increase of 29% from the previous year and these may not even be accurate statistics as apparently the majority of kidnapping incidents go unreported to the police – always reassuring to hear.

Even when first arriving in Venezuela, you may already be at risk. Personal property theft (from both checked and non checked baggage) and muggings are not uncommon in Maiquetia Airport, and reports have even been received by foreign embassies of individuals wearing official uniforms or carrying identification being involved in such crimes. So if you’ve managed to enjoy your trip in Venezuela incident free, don’t let your guard down on the way home at the sight of security staff as these supposed authoritative figures have been reported to force visitors to sign documents and extort money from them as they pass through the normal check-in process at the airport.

Of course, each country has its danger prone areas and you are always going to be more at risk if you don’t heed what safety advice may have been given to you. Either way, travellers insurance to cover theft and personal liabilities is a must as well as emergency evacuation coverage as the local hospitals definitely won’t be up to your usual standards and chances are you’ll get something stolen there too.

2) Brazil

Brazil is one of the few places in the world where you can find such a diverse mix of ethnic groups and colourful cultures in one place. That, combined with mouth watering cuisine, pristine beaches and lush Amazonian jungles makes for the ultimate adventurers paradise. But is it beautiful enough to make it worth the massive risk you will take to visit this party loving nation?

Let’s see. Over recent years, Brazil has witnessed an encouraging economic growth and the rate of tourism continues to rise but unfortunately, such growth also serves to increase the divide between rich and poor. The bigger the divide gets, the more frequent the crime and pretty much every form of corruption (drugs, weapons trade, prostitution, murder, and theft) is present in Brazil today.

Street crime is frequent and visitors to the country are particularly vulnerable, especially during festive periods such as Carnival. Quicknappings are on the rise as the tourist industry continues to boom where visitors are abducted and taken to an ATM and forced to pay their own ransom.

Crime rates are at their highest in the urban areas, especially around Brazil’s common shanty towns known as Favellas which often remain un-policed. It is therefore no surprise that gang and drug related war-fare is a common cause of Brazils high murder rate (4 times the murder rate of the US).
Tourists are advised to restrict their night travel and to stay away from poorer areas but petty crimes are just as likely to take place during the day or in a supposed ‘safer’ part of town.

Basically, to be able to relax as much as you can without totally letting your guard down, you’re going to want to have some excellent non-medical insurance to cover you in the very likely event of a theft or mugging. Again, the key here is to have some serious wits about you and try (despite the likelihood of sporting a constant sunburn) not to stick out like a sore thumb. Brazil has so much to offer and is such a fantastic fusion of cultures that despite frequenting the list of the world’s top 10 most dangerous destinations, it still continues to attract numerous visitors and remains on the list of peoples must-visit travel spots.

1) Columbia

And finally, we come to the crime capitol of the world.

Columbia has something for every adventurer and makes for a great backpacker’s getaway but this may not be the best place to try ‘find yourself’ as chances are you’ll loose some personal belongings, cash and possibly even your life along the way.

Famous for its kidnappings, Columbia witnessed more than 3000 reported cases in 2002 and tragically, not all individuals made it back alive. Statistics from the past decade suggest no one is safe, not even charity workers and 2005 saw the kidnapping and murder of 5 Catholic missionaries on Columbian soil.

Columbia reportedly supplies 75% of the worlds cocaine supply and it is this drug fuelled war-fare that makes it such a danger zone, for tourists and citizens alike. Paramilitary groups have been in a constant battle with the government and with a murder rate of 69.98 deaths per 100,000, it would seem there really is no end in sight.

Travel bans exist in certain areas, mainly rural parts along the borders of Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador but that doesn’t mean you are any safer in the parts you are allowed to visit. ATM robberies, Taxi ride ambushes and armed muggings as soon as you step out of the airport are all common practice for criminals so make sure you’re suitably covered in the insurance department before you go any further.

A plan including some Emergency evacuation coverage wouldn’t go amiss either as the last thing you want to deal with after an unplanned stay with some drug lords in a Columbian jungle is the cost of your air fare.
Hospital facilities in Colombia probably won’t meet your expectations and will only be somewhat decent in and around Bogotá. The more rural you go, the bigger the risk you’re taking without insurance so make sure you’re sufficiently covered before hiking that trail or cycling down that mountain.

Travelling the world definitely has its benefits and you’re likely to come back a better person for experiencing unfamiliar cultures and countries. Everywhere has its risks and while some pose more of a threat than others, the rewards are undoubtedly going to be that much better if you take a leap and get out there. However, if you can’t afford insurance right now, then maybe settle for your usual vacationing spot and save any of the above mentioned countries for some other time.

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