As winter weaves its frosty web across Canada, many of us dream of escaping to sunnier, sandier shores. However, before you pack your sunscreen, you might want to check the latest travel advisories.

In a move that could rearrange vacation plans and ignite conversations at the dinner table, the Canadian government has issued new safety guidance for popular holiday destinations.

Mexico, a favourite for tacos and tan lines, now comes with a side of caution due to heightened crime in tourist areas. The Dominican Republic, usually a cocktail of sun and fun, has mixed in a dash of political unpredictability. And Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is living up to its name with a temperamental volcano.

Here's why this year's vacation planning for Canadian travellers might need more than just a guidebook:


People swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

Risk level: Take normal security precautions in Iceland.

Why: The Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland has seen more volcanic and seismic activity since late October. The region, including the popular tourist destination Blue Lagoon and the town of Grindavík, is experiencing heightened earthquake frequencies, indicating a potential volcanic eruption. The Icelandic Meteorological Office is closely monitoring the area, especially around Mt. Thorbjörn, located 40km southwest of Reykjavik.

On November 10, Iceland's Almannavarnir (Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management) declared a state of emergency for the region and issued an evacuation order for Grindavík. The concern is that an eruption could produce dangerous lava flows and volcanic gas clouds that might drift toward Reykjavik, possibly resulting in hazardous pollution levels.

Visitors in areas affected by volcanic gas should monitor local air quality, especially those with respiratory issues, keep windows closed, turn off ventilation systems, and avoid low-lying areas and valleys. Iceland's geographic location contributes to its unpredictable weather and potentially severe conditions, irrespective of the season.

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Traffic at Calle de Alcala in central Madrid with a view of several landmarks.

Risk level: Take normal security precautions in Spain.

Why: Since October 9, Spain has witnessed demonstrations against the amnesty agreement offered to Catalonian independence movement leaders. These protests, particularly intense in Madrid, have led to service disruptions, transportation difficulties, vandalism, arson, and violent clashes with the police. The use of tear gas and rubber bullets by security forces highlights the potential for even peaceful demonstrations to suddenly turn violent.

For travellers in Spain, it's important to stay informed by monitoring local media, following the instructions of local authorities, and be prepared to change plans if disturbances occur. An increased police presence and enhanced security measures should be expected.

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is another significant concern, especially in larger cities and crowded areas like airports, hotels, restaurants, beaches, and tourist attractions. Thieves may work alone or in groups, using various distraction techniques. There have also been instances of individuals posing as plainclothes police officers to deceive tourists. In such cases, always verify their official identification.

Specific areas in Madrid and Barcelona, like Atocha train station, Gran Vía, Plaza Cibeles, and Las Ramblas, have seen higher activity of thieves. There has also been a steep increase in stolen passports in the region of Barcelona.

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Two people sit in front of a colourful La Boca café on La Camanita Street. The houses in the neighbourhood are brightly painted and a known tourist attraction.

Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution with regional advisories.

Why: Buenos Aires and Mendoza require a high degree of caution due to issues with petty crime and muggings. In Rosario, the advisory is similar, with additional concerns about drug-related crime and violence. The advisory comes in the context of the second round of presidential elections scheduled for November 19.

Travellers should avoid large gatherings. Extra caution is also advised in areas like La Boca, Congreso, Florida Street, the Retiro bus station area, and San Telmo. Specifically, in La Boca, tourists should stick to Caminito Street and avoid the area after dark due to frequent violent thefts.

Petty crime, like pickpocketing, purse, and cell phone snatching, is common in Argentina. Criminals often use distraction tactics, working in pairs or groups. It's advised not to resist in robbery situations, avoid walking alone after dark, and report crimes to the police immediately.

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A Mexican taxi on a street in Taxco, Guerrero.

Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution with regional advisories.

Why: Since October 25, the situation in Guerrero State has become critical following Hurricane Otis. The hurricane's aftermath has escalated violence, banditry, and looting, especially around Acapulco and its major highways.

Regions like Chihuahua, Colima, and others are advised against for non-essential travel due to persistent violence and organized crime. Popular tourist areas like the Mayan Riviera are not immune to high rates of violent crimes, including kidnappings and assaults.

The presence of criminal groups and cartels heightens risks, with public shootouts and attacks posing a danger to all, including tourists. Border areas, especially near the U.S., are especially risky. Travellers to Mexico are advised to remain vigilant, particularly in tourist zones, avoid traveling at night, and stay on top of local news.

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Dominican Republic

Someone cuts open a coconut to sell the water to tourists in Puerto Plata's Central Park.

Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution.

Why: As of October 30, the Dominican Republic reopened its air border with Haiti, but land and sea borders remain closed, affecting travel routes for Canadians. In border areas with Haiti, tensions and violence can occur. Emergency services are limited, and unexpected border closures happen.

Crime, including violent incidents, is common in major cities. Tourists often face petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag-snatching, especially in resorts, beaches, airports, bus stations, and on public transportation. Thefts from hotel rooms and rental cars are also frequent. Drive-by robberies and airport luggage thefts are significant concerns. Travellers should avoid displaying affluence, and keep electronic devices hidden. It's advised to travel in locked and secured vehicles.

Violent crimes against foreigners, such as assaults and armed robberies, occur mainly in urban areas at night. Using authorized taxi services, arranging travel during daylight, and avoiding resistance in robbery situations are recommended. Local police response can be slow due to understaffing and equipment shortages.

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Tourists on the colourful Lapa staircase in Rio de Janeiro.

Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution with regional advisories.

Why: The cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasilia, Recife, and Salvador are hotspots for crime, with rates peaking in areas adjacent to impoverished neighbourhoods.

Foreign tourists in Brazil face a significant threat from street crimes like pickpocketing, purse snatching, and theft from vehicles, with large cities being particularly risky. A specific concern in Rio de Janeiro is flash mob robberies (arrastões) on city beaches and other crowded tourist spots, often perpetrated by groups of young people from nearby favelas.

Petty theft is a major issue on buses and the metro, especially in Recife. During large events like the Carnival or New Year’s celebrations, the risk of opportunistic crimes increases significantly. Border areas with Colombia and Venezuela are also concerning due to serious criminal activity and incidents of attacks on tourists and kidnappings. Extreme caution is advised when crossing into these countries from Brazil.

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The Main Bazaar tourist hub in downtown New Delhi, India.

Risk level: Exercise a high degree of caution with regional advisories.

Why: Due to recent tensions between Canada and India, there have been calls for protests and negative sentiment towards Canada in both traditional and social media. There is now a heightened risk of demonstrations, including anti-Canada protests, where Canadians may face intimidation or harassment. Canadian travellers in Delhi and the National Capital Region should maintain a low profile, avoid crowded areas and public transportation, and refrain from sharing personal information with strangers.

The threat of attacks across India requires further caution. The security situation is delicate in Bengaluru, Chandigarh, and Mumbai, where in-person consular services are currently unavailable. Non-essential travel to Northeastern states like Assam and Manipur should be avoided due to insurgency risks. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, excluding Ladakh, is also a no-go area because of the unpredictable security situation and threats like terrorism and kidnapping.

Travelling near the Pakistan border within 10 km in Gujarat, Punjab, and Rajasthan is similarly discouraged, due to unexploded ordinance, with the Wagah border crossing being an exception. Canadian travellers in India should remain vigilant, travel with companions, and keep friends or family informed about their travel plans.

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2023-11-20T22:07:03Z dg43tfdfdgfd