Should You Stay, or Should You Go?

Too often, your well-being on the road is an afterthought to trip planning–a hastily packed bottle of aspirin or an inattentive glance at your health insurance card to make sure you’re covered.

It shouldn’t be.

A lot can go wrong when you’re traveling. Fortunately, most of it is preventable.

Should you stay or should you go?

Determining whether a destination if “safe” or not isn’t easy. It depends on your risk tolerance, where you’re going, and what you’re planning to do, but since we start most chapters with a decision matrix, here are a few basic questions.

> Go: 

  • If large numbers of other tourists are traveling there and there are no governmental warnings about safety conditions or health problems, such as an outbreak of a communicable disease.
  • If you’re returning to a place that is well known to you, meeting with people you know, and following a familiar itinerary. You also know how to stay away from circumstances that may have a harmful effect on your health.
  • If you’re going to be under the care and supervision of an experienced tour operator who can keep you from harm’s way.

> Don’t Go:

  • If your government has warned its citizens against traveling to that destination and people are canceling their trips to that place.
  • If you have reason to believe your safety or health might be compromised, and you don’t have any knowledge of the language, local customs, or potential dangers. 
  • If you won’t know anyone, aren’t sure at all about what you’re going to do, and have no sense of whether it’s safe or not. You could be asking for trouble.
  • If your doctor advises you to stay at home.

Christopher Elliott is National Geographic Traveler’s consumer advocate and travel advice columnist. This piece was excerpted from Elliott’s new National Geographic book, How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler. Follow his story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.


  1. cheng pingyang
    May 4, 2014, 7:34 am

    depend on yourself

  2. Nancy Gilbert
    April 30, 2014, 5:18 pm

    Useful suggestions. What about tours especially those with National Geographic? Can one assume those are safe? How strong and healthy do you need to be to go on one of these tours?

  3. Travel Underwriters
    April 30, 2014, 1:41 pm

    These are great tips for both experienced and new travelers. Thanks for sharing!