Travel: You think going abroad is dangerous? Try staying at home

IS TRAVEL dangerous? I doubt it can possibly be as bad as staying at home but for some people at least the imagined risks of travel are getting out of hand. On Tuesday last week a Monarch Airlines flight to Alicante was beginning to accelerate down the runway at Manchester Airport when a passenger ran up the aisle shouting out that he was afraid of flying.

I dread to imagine the effect that this outburst may have had on all the other nervous fliers on board but anyway the crew were obliged to jump out of their seats to attempt to calm him. Amid this pandemonium, the pilot had to abort take-off and do a U-turn on the runway. The aircraft returned to its stand where the man whom I would already like to nominate as the least successful traveller of 1998 was taken away by police (Let us hope that some day he makes it to Alicante, perhaps by car - as long as he doesn't find out that more people are killed in European cars each year than European planes).

Theoretically you can be held responsible for the costs of delaying an aeroplane. Certainly the risks of suffering an unexpected panic attack on board are greater than the risks of your plane crashing. But are they as great as the risk of being attacked by bandits in Guatemala?

This was what happened to a group of American college students who were holidaying in that pleasant Central American country ten days ago. Their trip came to an abrupt end when their bus was set upon by gunmen who raped and robbed their victims. In the American media, Guatemala is now set to join Luxor as the place with the largest number of unemployed tourism workers.

Real or imagined dangers? We all know that flying is 20 times safer than catching a local bus though I might hesitate to join a bus tour of the Valley of the Kings right at the moment. As for Guatemala - I was about to dismiss the American reaction as a sad example of mass hysteria when I read that European diplomats have since stepped forward to admit that, well, actually, dozens of their tourists had also reported being attacked in the country last year. Perhaps Guatemala really is a place to avoid.

Another place where tourists' safety has been called into question is Cuba. The Pope may have plucked up courage to go there but there remains last year's bomb attacks on hotels. In the meantime most attacks are said to be the work of a man now behind bars so perhaps the country is safe once more.

But who knows where real danger ends and a bad image begins? What is certainly far more dangerous than to be the Pope in Cuba is to be a driver in Brazil, a country where 25,000 people are killed in road accidents each year. I knew Brazil had its dodgy sides but I would have felt cheated had I been killed there in a road accident rather than mugged in the traditionally Brazilian way on Copacabana Beach.

But wouldn't that have been typical. It is a cast-iron law of travel that the places which are supposed to be dangerous are in fact safe. Northern Ireland is - according to European Union statistics - the safest place in Europe. Your chances of being blown up there as a tourist (in other words) are about as high as of dying of sunstroke in Shetland right now. If you are still afraid to go to Belfast then you would also avoid the rest of Europe and you would certainly never do anything as crazy as skiing.

By the way, the Swiss city of Lucerne is introducing a novel way of reassuring visitors that it does not have the slightest crime problem. It is opening up a new hotel - in the local prison. This "historic" building will be made available while the current inmates are surreptitiously removed elsewhere. The prison will be aimed at low-budget guests who will enjoy an adapeted exercise yard as their leisure area. Nobody who has stayed there will ever again complain about hotel rooms being the size of cells. These rooms will be cells. And no doubt they will be the safest places in town.

FINALLY, let nobody accuse us of being behind the times. As of tomorrow, the travel section goes global. The text of these pages, and those of The Independent's Saturday travel pages, will be available on the World Wide Web. The address will be: We're not planning to abandon our paper incarnation quite yet, I should add. But nevertheless we look forward to hearing any comments you may have. By e-mail of course.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice