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Weighing risk important for planning trips

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For the most part I try to make this a good news column, with helpful advice on how to make the travel experience more enjoyable, comfortable and free of concern.

Nothing hurts me more as an industry professional than having to caution readers about travelling to regions they have wanted to visit for some time.

I have received numerous inquiries recently about countries that received negative news coverage.

Some events are worse than others, and I recognize every individual needs to make up his or her own mind about going to these areas, based on their own level of risk aversion. But knowing the facts is important and no one should take chances by ignoring reality.

Currently, there are challenges in visiting some of these countries, and it would be irresponsible not to publish answers I have given readers who have expressed concern.

Question: I have always wanted to visit the great country of Egypt to see the amazing sites people rave about. We were thinking of planning a trip there later this year. Do you think that is an advisable plan given the current conditions?

Answer: While it is possible all the protests could end peacefully, there is nothing that would indicate that to me. Our government's advisories are very clear and unequivocal.

"Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against non-essential travel to Egypt due to the unpredictable security situation and continued demonstrations throughout the country (except for the Red Sea coastal resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada, where you should exercise a high degree of caution). If you are currently in Egypt, consider whether you have a pressing need to remain. The security situation is fluid and the ability to provide consular services may be limited at short notice. If you choose to remain in Egypt, stay at or close to home or a secure hotel. We recommend Canadians register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service. You are responsible for your personal safety abroad."

While it is noteworthy the advisory does not extend to the Red Sea coastal resorts, most visitors have desires well beyond that region when visiting Egypt.

This is a country I have yet to visit but is definitely on my bucket list. I will wait for more stable times to follow through on my dreams.

Question: Up until the Nairobi massacre, my next travel dream was to spend time at an African waterhole, hoping to see all the big cats. For various reasons I was focused on Kenya, and originally, all I wanted to ask for was reliable advice on the best outfitters at mid-range price. Now I also want to know if it is sensible to even plan such a trip.

Answer: Notwithstanding the recent attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, there is no nationwide travel advisory against visiting Kenya.

More recently, the government has tried to highlight its actions to ensure safety for tourists looking to go on safaris or visit other regions of the country where problems have not occurred.

Our Foreign Affairs department advises against all travel to the northeast portion of Kenya near the Somali border, along with a few specific places along the coast. For Nairobi itself, the only current advisory is for the Eastleigh neighbourhood.

Everyone has to come to their own travel conclusions based on their own fears, but with the information I have at this time, I personally would be inclined to continue my plans to take in a safari in Kenya.

Question: We are thinking of travelling to Costa Rica this winter. How safe is it? Are there areas to avoid? Do you have any advice for me?

Answer: Costa Rica is a beautiful place to visit, with great beaches and rainforests, and lots to experience. It is also a nation where crime against tourists has increased dramatically in the past few years.

If you intend on driving, you should know Costa Rica also has one of the worst rates of automobile collisions in the world.

When travelling by taxi you need to make sure you take only official taxis. Unlicensed taxis, whose drivers rob customers, are also a growing problem.

According to government sources, crime against tourists tends to be greater around airports, bus stations and car rental areas, as well as in crowded tourist areas and even around resorts.

Having highlighted all these negative facts, I know of a number of people, including relatives, who have spent time in Costa Rica and found it to be one of their most positive and memorable experiences.

They have combined the beach experience with a number of days in the rainforest and came back raving about the country.

Rather than going it alone, I suggest you make all your plans using well-known tour operators who have contracted accommodation and transportation with companies they are confident they can trust.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com and at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 E2

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