Is the U.S. an unsafe travel destination?

by Ronnie Charrier

Do other countries consider the U.S. unsafe?

It seems like a silly question, but more and more we’re seeing signs that this may indeed be the case.

Last month, the Institute for Economics and Peace released their 2018 Global Peace Index, ranking 163 independent countries and territories according to their levels of peacefulness. The report looked at 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure peace based on cultural, economic and political factors, such as ongoing domestic and international conflict and militarization.

The safest country in the world according to them? Iceland, which has held that spot for 10 years in a row now.

Behind them is New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark. Not surprisingly, Europe is considered to be the most peaceful region.

The United States? 121.

This is the lowest rating the U.S. has had since 2012. The report cites factors such as incarceration rate, external conflicts, weapons exports and its arsenal of nuclear and other heavy weapons in its low rating.

This isn’t the only report that doesn’t look favorably on the U.S. The Gallup 2018 Global Law and Order report, released earlier this year, ranked 142 countries with the primary viewpoint of each countries’ residents’ sense of safety and security and their personal experiences with crime and law enforcement.

#1 on the list was Singapore, with Norway and Iceland as #2 and #3 respectively.

The U.S. came in at #35. Certainly better than the Global Peace Index, but still probably not where you’d like to see it ranked if that’s where you live.

Recently, many international governments have issued warnings regarding travel to the U.S.. With an on-going trade dispute going on, the Chinese government has issued a warning for travelers to the United States.

“Public security in the United States is not good. Cases of shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent.

“Travellers in the United States should be alert to their surroundings and suspicious individuals, and avoid going out alone at night.”

Even Canada has taken to warning its citizens that crossing the border might be unsafe. On Oct. 16, for example, the Canadian government updated its travel advisory for the United States, telling potential travelers to be aware of potential dangers they should be aware of.

“The possession of firearms and the frequency of violent crime are generally more prevalent in the U.S. than in Canada.”

On its travel advice page for the United States, the government of the United Kingdom has a pretty alarming warning for potential visitors to the country.

“terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the USA”

The government of the Bahamas has advised its young male citizens traveling to the United States to be especially cautious when interacting with police.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has taken note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers. We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the U.S. but especially to the affected cities to exercise appropriate caution generally.”

The "Smart Traveller" page on the Australian government's website, although it does not issue a travel warning, cautions Australians that incidents of terrorism and violent crime are "numerous" in the U.S. 

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world but there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in the United States.

Does all of this information mean that the U.S. is somewhere you should avoid? Not necessarily.

Certainly many of these official travel-related statements can be attributed to the amount of information that people have access to now and the need for governments to keep its citizens informed as much as possible, especially when many get their information from unchecked sources through social media.

For what it’s worth, we lived in Chicago for several years, a city where, according to the President of the United States, violence is “out of control.” We have since moved to Saudi Arabia, a country that is ranked even lower than the U.S. in both the Global Peace Index and Gallup’s report. We’ve also travelled to Bahrain, Ethiopia, South Africa, and India this year, without any unpleasant incidents, and all of these countries are ranked lower than the U.S.

There are few places in the world which are inherently "safe". A traveller in a foreign country - even Iceland and Singapore - should be aware of their surroundings, and well-informed about the country in which they are a visitor. However, we do have to question what has prompted this disappearance of the global perception of America as a place which is inherently free and safe. Is it merely a result of more information, made more widely available? Or is it really becoming more dangerous to visit the United States?

Let us know what you think below, and, as always, safe travels.