Wednesday 7 December 2016

Mapped: Where is safe for Irish tourists to travel in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East?

Travel warnings

Published 23/03/2016 | 02:30

This map shows the destinations in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) now deems safe and unsafe for travel.

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The DFA publishes the official travel advice for Irish citizens, helping travellers to make informed decisions before trips overseas.

Its advice is based on reports from Irish embassies and consulates, as well as other foreign ministries - including the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Independent.ie has created the map above to illustrate the different security status given to countries in Europe, (and North Africa, in the light of recent events), colour-coding the levels based on the DFA's five-point 'Security Status' scale.

The scale runs as follows (with our map colours in brackets):

1. Take normal precautions (green)

london, security.jpg  

Visitors to the vast majority of countries in Europe, including Ireland and Great Britain, are advised to take normal precautions.

This doesn't always mean a negligible threat level, however. Spain is one of Ireland's most popular travel destinations, for instance, and though no travel alerts are in place, the threat from terrorism is described as "high" - as it is in Europe generally.

"The Spanish Government has recently increased its assessed level of the threat of a terrorist attack in Spain from “medium” (level three) to “high” (level four)," the DFA says. "Irish citizens should increase their security awareness."

2. Exercise caution (yellow)

dubai security.jpg  

The DFA advises Irish citizens to exercise caution in several European countries, including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Serbia and Turkey.

This security status also applies to Iran, as well as popular holiday destinations like Morocco and the UAE (where Dubai, above, and Abu Dhabi are located).

Read more: What happens if my flights are cancelled?

3. Exercise extreme caution (orange)

FRANCE Paris 0 copy.jpg  

The DFA continues to advise Irish citizens to "exercise extreme caution" in France following the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015 - placing it on the same security level as countries like Kosovo and Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

"There is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates," it says.

Belgium's security status was stepped up to this level following the terrorist attacks on the city's airport and metro system on March 22.

Read more:

Paris: Is it safe to travel?

Belgium: Is it safe to travel?  

4. Avoid non-essential travel (red)

EGYPT SECURITY.jpg  

Ukraine is the only European country to which the DFA advises Irish citizens to avoid non-essential travel - specifically Crimea and the Eastern region.

It offers the same advice for Tunisia, the scene of two terrorist attacks in 2015, and most of Egypt - "due to a heightened threat of terrorist incidents" - with exceptions including Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and Sharm El Sheikh, where Irish citizens are advised to exercise caution and to avoid travelling outside the resort.

NB: The Irish Aviation Authority has directed Irish airlines not to operate to/from Sharm el-Sheikh airport or in Sinai peninsula airspace "until further notice".

If the DFA advises citizens to avoid non-essential travel, then tour operators must offer refunds or alternative holiday bookings to safe destinations.

Read more: What happens if my flights are cancelled?

5. Do not travel (dark red)

SYRIA SECURITY.jpg  

Irish citizens are advised against all travel in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen among other countries, though no European country is currently given this security status.

Responsibility lies with travellers

Despite its best efforts to ensure accurate and up-to-date advice, the DFA warns that it shouldn't be regarded as definitive in all respects, and that it cannot be held responsible for any injuries or loss suffered as a result of following its advice.

"You are wholly responsible for making decisions about your own travel," it says.

One obvious weakness of the system is that it issues advice for countries as a whole, when large parts may be safe, or only specific areas may be deemed unsafe. Generally speaking however, the detail on the travel advisories provides more information on specific areas and regions.

2015 and 2016 have brought a tragic number of terrorist attacks - from the November 13 attacks in Paris to more recent bombings in Istanbul, Ankara and Brussels.

It's worth restating, however, that the vast majority of overseas holidays, flights and trips are completed safely.

NB: This map was created by Independent.ie and was last updated to reflect the security status of countries on March 23, 2016.

See dfa.ie/travel for the most up-to-date advice.

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