Regional References

In many parts of the world and in many countries there are specific, regional security threats such as major earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist threats etc. Before embarking to such parts of the world travelers need to ensure they are fully informed about these conditions and properly prepared.

Some travel destinations are located in special tectonic regions with a lot of seismic activity, which may result in major earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks. Although earthquakes in Europe tend to be smaller in magnitude to those that occur in the Pacific region, their impact can nevertheless be fatal. The countries most affected by seismic activity in Europe are Italy, Greece, the North of Turkey and Portugal. Major earthquakes that might last several minutes are more common on the East coast of South America, in Central America, California, on the West coast of Canada, in Alaska, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand and Indonesia. These earthquakes may also trigger tsunamis. In the event of an earthquake, please note the following recommendations:

  • In buildings: stay inside the building and do not run outside (risk of falling roof tiles, facade or building elements, etc.). Staircases and elevators can be death traps. Seek shelter as quickly as possible in a place where you are protected from falling objects and broken glass (for instance under a table, close to interior walls, under a door or under concrete stairs). Stay away from windows, glass areas, high shelves and large furniture.  
  • Outside: stay outside and stay as far away as possible from the building. Do not run into buildings (risk of falling building elements). If you are in a car, stop at a safe place (if possible away from any buildings).
  • After a major earthquake: wait for and follow instructions issued by the civil protection authorities. For further information, please see the Erdbebenschutzratgeber (online earthquake safety folder – in German) published by the Austrian Civil Protection Association (Österreichischer Zivilschutzverband).

Tornados are mainly formed in the North Atlantic, the North West Pacific and in the Gulf of Bengals and are known as hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones.

Hurricanes are very frequent from June to November and experience has shown that they reach their seasonal climax between the middle of August and the middle of October. High wind speeds, heavy rainfall and extreme surf are a serious risk to everyone in the affected regions. Updated information on tornados and hurricanes can be found on the  National Hurricane Center website.

Based on the events recorded over the last few years, the countries which are most affected by hurricanes in the Northern Atlantic are: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, USA (South and South East), St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago.

The regions most affected by typhoons include the coasts of China, Japan and the Philippines.

Special caution is advised in handling cash and bank cards when travelling abroad, especially if on holiday. If possible, carry only a limited amount of cash with you, leave money, bank cards and valuables in the hotel safe and make photocopies of your documents. Particular care should be taken after dark. Travellers’ checks and prepaid cards are, for instance, a safe alternative to bank cards.

Never try to resist if you are being robbed or assaulted as the readiness to resort to violence is often very high among criminals. When travelling in countries with high crimes rates, always keep car doors and windows closed. Never pick up a hitchhiker.

Never leave your luggage unattended. Be wary of people who try to gain your confidence during a trip. Never agree to do any errands or accept anything from strangers (like gifts for others) otherwise you may easily end up acting as an unintentional drug trafficker.

Terrorist attacks pose a potential threat worldwide, mainly in large cities and conurbations but also in tourist destinations. Potential targets of such threats are transport facilities (the underground, stations, airports, seaports), places where large numbers of people gather (shopping centres, museums, entertainment centres, amusement parks, major cultural and sports events) sights with a highly symbolic character, tourist facilities but also public utilities.

Tourists may also be kidnapped or taken hostage. This risk is particularly high in the Sahara and Sahel regions.

When travelling to such regions it is thus recommended to obtain most precise information on the local safety and security situation and to remain updated on the situation throughout the stay. It is also recommended to avoid crowded places and refrain from taking individual trips (i.e. trips not in the context of organised and guided tours).

When staying in tropical and desert regions it is recommended to avoid major physical stress and strain especially at the beginning of your trip. Please make sure that you drink enough fluids, particularly during the hot season. Under tropical and desert climate conditions, light food is generally better tolerated than fatty food and excessive alcohol consumption will only contribute to further reducing already impaired physical performance.  Information about ZIKA virus infection.

In developing countries, hygiene standards, provision of medicines and specialist staff at hospitals are often not comparable with European standards.

During the rainy season malaria and dengue fever spread very fast in the affected tropical regions. These diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes. In their harmless form their clinical picture is similar to that of flu and these diseases generally subside after a week. The associated symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding from the nose and the gums, faints, fatigue and exhaustion. When such or similar symptoms occur, seek medical advise immediately . Precautions: effective mosquito protection measures, insect repellents, clothing that covers the whole body, hotels with air conditioning and mosquito nets.

In countries on the Arab peninsula and in the Middle East there have been frequent incidents of serious respiratory infections caused by the Coronavirus (MERS-CoV, short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus). It is very likely that many of the cases are attributable to a person-to-person infection in hospitals. Visitors to the Arab peninsula should therefore observe strict hygiene rules including the following precautionary measures: maintaining hand hygiene, avoiding contacts with individuals who suffer from a disease of the upper respiratory tract, avoiding contacts with animals (especially camels; refrain from drinking raw milk from camels).

Especially in Muslim countries expressions of sexual affection in public are frowned upon or even forbidden as is sometimes also the cohabitation of unmarried partners. Prostitution or homosexual relations are prosecuted in many countries and sometimes even subject to the death penalty.

The age of consent may vary. In Austria it is 14 years. In some countries it may be 15 or 16, while in other countries it may be higher, even over the age of 18 years. It is thus recommended to obtain timely information on the applicable provisions.

Child abuse is a serious crime whether the child consents to engaging in sexual activities or not. In Austria, sexual abuse, including sexual offences against children committed abroad, is a criminal offence punished by law. (See section on child abuse in connection with tourism).