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Travel Without Hesitation to Foreign Democracies, but Steer Clear of Authoritarian Nations | Frommer's aooss5/FreeImages

Travel Without Hesitation to Foreign Democracies, but Steer Clear of Authoritarian Nations

The risks outweigh the benefits of visiting countries with oppressive governments, says Arthur Frommer

The scene was captured by photographers. They trained their cameras on sign-wielding protesters exercising their constitutional right to gather outside a foreign embassy and criticize the functionaries inside. Suddenly, and without provocation, armed bodyguards of the embassy in question, that of Turkey in Washington, D.C., set upon the protesters and began beating them violently. And watching the entire episode was Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey and its would-be dictator. He made no effort to stop the carnage.

If Erdogan had no qualms about pummeling protesters in Washington, D.C., you can imagine that he will feel no restraint against doing so with even greater force in Istanbul. And an American who currently pays a touristic visit to Istanbul is taking a great risk.

I have no hesitancy in traveling to Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and any other democratic nation. In all of them, your chance of suffering political injury is less than the possibility of being hit by lightning and certainly less than being involved in a car accident on a U.S. highway.

But there are nations in the world today that cannot be visited safely. Turkey is one. Egypt—whose leader is also a person without regard for human rights—is another. And I am stupefied when I read of Americans continuing to visit North Korea or Venezuela. 

Iran is still another nation which, while possessing some democratic institutions, is mainly a police state whose hard-liners can turn against you in a moment’s notice. There are Americans in prison in Iran for acts that would pass unnoticed in any democratic nation. 

So there you are. It’s important to continue traveling to democratic nations. It’s foolish to risk a visit to Turkey, Egypt, and Iran.