Last updated: 01:48 PM ET, Mon October 24 2016

Free Your Mind: Which 'Dangerous' Destinations Are You Wrong About?

Destination & Tourism | Lisa Iannucci | October 24, 2016

Free Your Mind: Which 'Dangerous' Destinations Are You Wrong About?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

False news reports, internet rumors, and just plain old fears can keep a traveler from traveling to a variety of destinations. On top of that, many destinations just seem to suffer from preconceived notions that just aren’t true.

Jacob Marek said that there seems to be a shroud of mystery, tinged with fear, about travel to Africa.

Visitors to the United Embassy’s website will read about how South Africa has a very high level of crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles. Earlier this year there were reports of possible terror threats as well and, of course, there were attacks at Garissa University in April 2015, that killed 150 people, and a few years ago on Nairobi's Westgate shopping center that killed about 67 people.

“So few people seem to have any Africa destinations on their list of travel plans or bucket list, which is a sadly overlooked opportunity,” said Marek, founder and chief explorer of IntroverTravels. “Most probably influenced by news stories of civil war, terrorism, and a general lack of positive news coming from the continent, there are several destinations that are quite safe - and absolutely worth the time, money, and effort in traveling.”

One of those destinations, said Marek, is Kenya. “While it has certainly faced political challenges in the past, the destination is still quite safe, relatively speaking, especially when you venture out on safari in the savannah,” he said. “Once you get to the Masai Mara, people's fears tend to melt away and turn into a jaw-dropping appreciation for Mother Nature and the Circle of Life, on full display in front of their eyes.”

Located in south-west Kenya, Masai Mara is a Wildlife Reserve in Africa where you can see wildebeests from July to October, as well as Big Cats.

READ MORE: How Are Terrorism Fears Affecting Our Travel Habits?

“Similar anecdotes can be said all along Eastern and Southern Africa, including Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, and Namibia,” said Marek. “I urge people to use caution and common sense, but to not let their preconceived fears and isolated news reports dissuade them from having a life-changing travel experience on one of the least-visited continents on Earth.”

Scott Ruprecht is the founder of a fly fishing travel company called Sportfishing Worldwide and Resort, located in Guatemala – Pacific Fins. He said that he has heard it often that Guatemala is dangerous. Of course, as a business owner in the area, he wants to set the record straight. “We have operated in this friendly country since 2001,” he said. “They have some of the most warm and genuine people you will meet anywhere in the world. Not to minimize risks when traveling, but all big cities have issues.”

Greg Geronemus, the co-CEO of smarTours, said that people are very nervous about traveling to Dubai and Abu Dhabi because they're not familiar with the cultural norms and rules.

“So the first preconceived notion that needs to be corrected is how a foreigner will be received,” he explained. “Most people are surprised to see and experience how friendly everyone is. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the people want to share their culture with tourists.”

Geronemus said that in Dubai, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is an excellent stop for those wishing to learn more about the country’s traditions and customs.

The next myth that Geronemus wants to debunk is the dress code. “Many tourists are surprised to learn that they do not need to wear pants and long-sleeve shirts everywhere,” he explained. “While Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai, there usually aren’t any problems with dress, such as knee-length skirts or shorts and a modest t-shirt.”

READ MORE: How to Banish Your Fears of Travel

That said, people should avoid transparent or low-cut clothing, and keep shoulders and backs covered, no spaghetti straps. “It is worth noting that travelers should still pack slacks and long-sleeves for days when they visit mosques or other religious sites,” he said.  

Geronemus said that there has been some past concern about traveling with medication to Dubai and to Abu Dhabi. “Typically, as long as travelers carry their medication in their original prescription bottle bearing their name they will not experience any problems entering or leaving the UAE,” he said.

Before believing anything you hear about a particular country, check with your travel agent for the facts, so you can make an educated decision about whether or not you want to travel. 

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