Don’t End Up as a Dead Tourist – 5 Tips to Stay Safe in ‘Dangerous’ Countries

Traveling isn’t as dangerous as people think, I promise you that! But if your fed up with the standard backpacking trips that people take, you want to go further, you want to really travel, go to places where you’ll be the only foreigner, then you have to be a little careful or you may end up on the BBC news as a dead tourist!

Don't End Up as a Dead Tourist - 5 Tips to Stay Safe in ‘Dangerous’ Countries

I’ve been on the road for the last 5 years or so and I love to go to places where other backpackers don’t go. Some of the crazy places I’ve been over the last couple of years include Syria, East Timor, Bangladesh, Sudan, Somalia etc

I’m going to run through my top 5 safety tips to make sure you don’t wind up on the back of a milk carton or the front page of your local newspaper, read up!

johnny ward

1) Be aware of the politics: There’s no need to take a politics degree before you go to a ‘dangerous’ country BUT be sure to have a basic knowledge of what’s going on in the country before you go. Work out what you can and can’t talk about, and generally use your new found knowledge to avoid any political vibes at all, you’re there for the culture, the sights and the fun NOT as a political activist so steer clear of anything even mildly political

2) Don’t flaunt your (relative) wealth: I don’t consider myself rich at all but when I’m traveling through Africa, there’s no need for me to unleash my macbook/iphone/kindle at every given opportunity. Keep them locked away until you’re in your hostel, or at the very least, be discreet. The last thing you want to do is create a situation for any opportunistic individual to grab your goodies :S

3) Respect religion: If there’s one thing in this world liable to cause offense, it’s religion. So try to do a bit of research about the religion in the region you’re visiting, learn what’s acceptable and what not, ask people about local habits and don’t infringe on anyone’s religious beliefs. You’re in their country, so we should respect that and their choices.

4) Lay off the booze: Some countries just love to drink! But if that country is particularly religiously or politically charged when you’re there, I’d stay away from the booze. The situation may be quite unstable and a drunk foreigner singing Westlife at the top of his/her voice is not going to help settle things down! There’ll be plenty of time to party on your travels, you can skip a country here or there in the name of safety.

5) Be Smart: If a country is know to be dangerous, then be smart. If there’s a curfew, heed it. If there’s a lot of crime at night, stay in after sunset. You know how it goes, don’t be that tourist who stupidly finds themselves in a tricky situation through a couple of bad decisions. Stay focused and you’ll be fine.

johnny ward

Ok guys, that’s your lot. I hope this should keep us all on the straight and narrow as we backpack through Afghanistan, North Korean and Libya in the next few months!! Stay safe and happy travels!

Do you have any additional tips? Feel free to share it in the comment section.

johnny ward

Author: Johnny Ward – Founder of the hugely popular travel blog One Step 4 Ward and the English teaching company Teach dot Travel (work/study in Thailand/Korea), uses his site and company to inspire people to redesign their lives, and live the dream! He’s been on the road since 2006, backpacking, studying, and working through more than 50 countries around the globe, and has no plans of slowing down. Also, check out my short interview with Johnny Ward.



  1. Thanks for the opportunity mate 🙂

  2. I love tip #2. It’s a great reminder of how relatively wealthy we are while traveling especially to less privileged areas. It may not amount to much but some people may consider them as valuables. Checking out Johnny’s website now…

  3. Traveling Ted says:

    Some great tips. I am going to Costa Rica on Monday. Although not as dangerous as some of the countries Johnny has been to, it is still a good idea to heed his advice. In fact, these tips are also valid here at home.

  4. JODYxBUFFY says:

    Unfortunately, political unrest can occur suddenly and without warning. I was backpacking through Rwanda in April 1994 when the genocide broke out. For two weeks, my Rwandan companion (a Tutsi seminary student) and I were forced to continuously run and hide. We managed to escape with other refugees into Tanzania. I will never forget the blood curdling sights and screams…

  5. great tips Flip. it’s really important to check the country’s political situation or else one can end up in danger.

  6. wow. this is like backpacking master class. going to places which aren’t on anyone’s trail, even backpackers, which unfortunately nowadays often mean conflict and dangerous areas. definitely great tips for anyone brave enough to get to these places. i don’t think i am. lol. 🙂

  7. very helpful tips, i believe this is so much applicable sa pinas, lalo na sa jolo and sulu

  8. Stay safe guys and thanks for the wonderful tips!

  9. There are all great, practical tips that everyone should employ no matter where they’re traveling — “dangerous” or not.

  10. Right about all these tips. It’s important to really use discretion and respect a culture that you are visiting. When I get frustrated about things that are done in a country I try to remind myself that I am a guest visitor to the country that I travel to.

  11. I agree. It is not dangerous to travel if we are trying to be safe 😉

  12. Cornelius Aesop says:

    Great tips, I think most places can be dangerous if you don’t take these into consideration but if a place is known for being so then these should be guidelines to seriously adhere to.

  13. A great post! Point number 2 is really important IMO. People who are wearing a lot of bling might as well just have a sign that says, ‘Rob Me!”

  14. Great tips mate. But what sage words of advice have you got when surrounded by elephants 2 metres away?
    Hey will be following you on your Afghanistan travels. I think it would be a crazy but reallly exciting place.

  15. Great tips, especially #3. People don’t realize if they are the only idiots dressed improperly at the temple it just makes them stand out more. They need to learn to blend in sometimes. Or at least have some respect.

  16. These are great tips for wherever you travel!

  17. Great tips mate! Except laying off the booze….ok maybe sometimes 😉

  18. I think it’s safe to say that singing Westlife at the top of your lungs is never a good idea – regardless of the country you’re in :-p

    Some great tips there.

  19. agree w/ your #1 tip. there was a time when we got caught in Thailand during the red shirt protests. we just came from laos and had no idea what was going on in bangkok. when we arrived there, most of my friends were wearing red! thank goodness for shawls, it saved us from any misfortune.

  20. Good tips, yea, you definitely want to stay low key and not show off your ipad or anything. Im about to head to Sudan and I am building my own backpack from tarp in an attempt to look less like a backpacker.

  21. Chris Schwarz says:

    I think it’s safe to say that #5 is the most important point.

    I spent 5 weeks in Manila last year and you know you’re in a dodgy city when the security guard at McDonalds has a shotgun…

    I was solo travelling and went out most nights partying at bars and clubs, and was completely safe at all times. There was plenty of places that I could get into trouble, but it was quite easy to avoid them.

  22. Sure could use these tips for my trip next month. I’m going to Indonesia alone and I hope everything will be fine. Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  23. thanks for the comments guys! incidentally i just got back from North Korea – mental!!

  24. Extending #2, I’d avoid taking anything valuable with me in the first place. Then again, I started with little valuable and bought stuff on the way 😛 I had a compact camera and a pouch attached to my belt for it. Meant I could tuck a loose hanging shirt over it rather than having a big shiny dollar sign hanging around my neck. My netbook lived in a shabby canvas bag

    I wonder though if there is a point where you just draw the line and say “There’s pleanty of other places to travel, I’ll visit that place when it’s a bit more stable” ?

    • Thanks for the dropping by James. I do travel with very little valuables too and not worry much about losing things on the way except for my passport and bank cards. I think one should not travel with anything that they’re not prepared to lose (just in case something bad happens along the way).

  25. Harvina says:

    I really like 2nd & 3rd tip because This tip helps tourist to be safe on tricky situation. This is really really important post for all newbie travelers. It helps them a lot. In safe country also there will some tricky situation but there’s no one can helps without having any information. So be smart, Be safe

  26. Daniel Jhon says:

    My suggestion to all of you guys who read this blog post that if you are travelling in a country where you go are going first time then must fallow my given few top suggestion as –

    1. Do not wear costly things like gold or diamond Jewelry.
    2. Show yourself as you are aware all important places to visit.
    3. Always you travel guide to visit any top places in your given city or country.
    4. Do not travel any places with your passport, cash and credit cards and if possbile with the little amount of money you travel in your visiting city.
    5. Ask for secure lock rooms for your valuable things to safe your life after visiting from your hotel to given city top places.

  27. You forgot the most important, naturally-driven glue of humankind – a smile 😉

  28. I love that Johnny had the cahonies to head to these places. Many backpackers stick to the straight and narrow places live South East Asia and South America, but the real crazy adventures happen in places that are really off the beaten track.

    Cool post!

    And I think a smile goes a long way when dealing with awkward situations 🙂

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