While you daydream about your next getaway to a popular tourist spot, the government is urging Canadian travellers to think twice. Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, and Costa Rica, all prime travel destinations, have made it onto Ottawa's radar . Recent advisories have been issued due to an array of concerns, ranging from political instability to criminal activity.
The world awaits, but safety comes first. Before you finalize your travel itinerary, here's more on what's happening behind the postcard:
Wall between the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.
Risk level: Avoid all non-essential travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip due to armed conflict.
Why: An unpredictable security situation warrants avoidance of the Gaza Strip, areas bordering Syria east of Highway 98, within five km of the borders with Egypt and Lebanon, and the entire West Bank. The Gaza Strip, in particular, has become a focal point of armed conflict, with the Israeli government expanding ground operations, resulting in a volatile environment for civilians.
Air strikes, missile exchanges, and rocket attacks between Israel and Gaza have reached as far as Tel Aviv and the vicinity of Jerusalem. Areas near the borders with Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon pose specific threats due to military operations. Infrastructure damage in the Gaza Strip has affected communication networks, including internet services. The situation remains fluid with hostilities expected to continue. Canadian citizens are advised to register their whereabouts. Travellers are also urged to confirm the status of border operations before any potential crossings.
Risk level: Avoid all travel due to a deteriorating security situation, civil unrest, and the ongoing armed conflict with Israel.
Why: The security situation is deteriorating, and violence can escalate quickly, especially along the border with Israel where clashes are frequent. Recent hostilities have led to missile and rocket exchanges, affecting the safety of surrounding areas. If tensions rise, exiting Lebanon could become challenging, and relying on government evacuation might not be an option. The country is also in the grip of a major economic crisis, severely impacting access to basic needs, including medicine and fuel, and leading to sporadic violence in queues for scarce resources.
Canadians in Lebanon should plan to leave while commercial flights are still operating. Ensure that your travel documents are current and accessible. In case of emergencies, be ready to shelter in place. Keep your documents handy, and consider signing up for updates through the Registration of Canadians Abroad service.
Trinidad & Tobago
Skyscrapers and boats in Port of Spain, the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago.
Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution due to violent crime.
Why: In Port of Spain, violent crimes, including armed robberies, assaults, and sexual assault are rampant. Tourists are frequent targets. Kidnapping-for-ransom incidents have seen a rise since 2018, endangering even cruise ship passengers at the docks. Gang- and drug-related hostilities, such as shootings and kidnappings, are not uncommon.
Petty crimes like pickpocketing and theft escalate during popular events like the Carnival, Christmas holidays, and Tobago Jazz Festival. The trend of targeting foreigners permeates certain areas, namely Laventille, Beetham Gardens, Sea Lots, and more. Late-night travel outside Port of Spain, especially along the Beetham Highway, is strongly discouraged due to the prevalent carjackings, assaults, and robberies. The risk even extends to home invasions, which can become violent.
Taxco Cathedral in Guerrero, Mexico.
Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution (with regional advisories) due to high levels of criminal activity and kidnapping.
Why: Guerrero State in Mexico is currently grappling with the aftermath of Hurricane Otis and escalating security threats. The hurricane, which hit on October 25, 2023, wreaked havoc on transportation and communication systems, rendering many areas inaccessible. Hotspots for banditry and violence include Acapulco and certain highways, exacerbating the inherent risks of traveling there.
Multiple areas, from Chihuahua to Zacatecas, are also plagued with high levels of violence and organized crime. Drug cartels and criminal groups, driven by territorial disputes and competition over smuggling routes, frequently clash, bringing chaos to the streets. While certain tourist spots like Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Taxco are marginally safer, they still demand a heightened degree of caution. If you find yourself in any of these risky areas, avoid solo or nighttime travel, monitor local news, and adhere to guidelines from local authorities.
Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution due to high crime rates and regular incidents of gang-related and other violence in urban areas.
Why: Brazil's urban areas, particularly near disadvantaged neighborhoods, are experiencing surging crime rates. Tourists, while often victims of theft, face escalating threats due to the commonality of firearms and both criminals and police's readiness for violence. Beyond typical street crimes, there are mounting reports of daylight armed robberies and assaults in taxis. Express kidnappings where victims are forced to make ATM withdrawals, though sporadic, are growing in larger cities.
The borders, particularly with Colombia and Venezuela, with heightened criminal activity and kidnappings. Additionally, vulnerable neighborhoods or "favelas" present their own risks, with prevalent gang violence and minimal police presence. Given these risks, visitors should maintain discretion and keep travel documents readily accessible.
People on a street in Old Havana, Cuba.
Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution due to shortages of basic necessities including food, medicine, and fuel.
Why: Many areas, including Havana and popular tourist resorts, are grappling with intermittent shortages of public water supply and disruptions in power, which can compromise the expected standard of living for visitors. The fuel crisis is particularly acute, affecting a vast array of services. Transportation across the island has become difficult, with frequent interruptions in public transit services, leaving tourists with limited travel options. This situation has even led to some travellers getting stranded.
Hotels and resorts, which often use generators during power outages, might be unable to sustain their usual range of services due to fuel scarcities. Rationing measures for food and medications can also pose challenges for travellers. These shortages have, at times, resulted in disruptions to crucial services, with long queues at fuel stations occasionally giving rise to conflicts. Visitors should be prepared for a range of inconveniences. It is advisable to bring along essential supplies, maintain a stock of water, food, and fuel when possible, and always have access to an emergency kit.
Someone sweeps outside a building in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution in Costa Rica due to crime.
Why: Petty crimes like pickpocketing, purse snatching, and theft, especially from vehicles and residential areas, are rampant. Tourists are often targeted given the perception of their affluence. Certain urban areas, notably parts of San José and popular tourist destinations along both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, have reported elevated rates of theft. There's also a growing concern about violent crime. Regions like Alajuela, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José have seen a surge in drug-related incidents, including murders and armed robberies. While these violent confrontations aren't always directed at tourists, they pose a risk by virtue of their presence in these areas.
Incidents of spiked food and drinks have been documented, with the intent often being robbery or assault. There have been specific incidents of unregulated and adulterated alcohol consumption leading to severe health consequences. Women, especially those traveling solo, have reported cases of harassment, verbal abuse, and, in some instances, assaults in tourist spots and urban centres.
- Canada Has Issued Travel Advisories For These 9 Vacation Spots ›
- Holiday Flight Prices Are On The Rise In The US & Canada — Here Are 5 Ways To Save $$$ ›
- Canadian Travellers Will Soon Have A New Fee To Visit Europe ›
- Air Transat Is Offering Cheap Flights From Canada To Europe & Mexico - MTL Blog ›
- 9 At-Risk Places You Should Not Visit In 2024, Travel Experts Say - MTL Blog ›