-- For informative international travel tips, nothing beats the U.S. State Department; its easy-to-use travel section tells visitors from the U.S. about country-specific alerts and warnings.
It also has plenty of good old-fashioned advice like how to avoid scams and its provide examples such as these: "Be wary of people you meet online who quickly offer friendship, romance, and/or marriage." And "a person calls grandparents or other relatives, pretending to be a grandchild, niece, nephew, or other family member and needs money right away. The scammer usually asks you to keep it a secret."
But what do other countries warn their tourists to be alert to in the U.S.? I’ve written about this before and decided to check for updates. Some of this advice may surprise you.
Crime is on the mind of the Australian government’s Smart Traveller site. Still, while noting the U.S. “has a higher level of violent crime than Australia,” the site points out that the crime rarely involves tourists. Aussies are also warned about local laws “that appear harsh by Australian standards,” such as jaywalking or being in a park or a beach after dark, which seems to be a nice way of saying, don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the fine.
The country’s reputation for niceness remains intact even on its tourism site where it warns travelers to the U.S. against performing good deeds like picking up a hitchhiker: “Though you may not be carrying anything illegal, the hitchhiker in your vehicle might be, and you could be implicated.” Here’s another warning on a subject that you’d think wouldn’t faze a Canadian in the least: “Large-scale snow and ice storms occur in certain parts of the [U.S.].” Yes, they do. In winter. Just like in Canada.
When digging up this information last week, I couldn’t help but notice the “breaking news” alert plastered across the Italian government’s travel website for the U.S. about a brush fire north of Los Angeles. This may be ho-hum news in Southern California but it apparently has everyone in Rome pretty excited. The Italian site also warns visitors to the East Coast to watch out for sales that seem too good to be true. Mentioning in particular electronic items sold in Times Square in New York City, it says some goods could be counterfeit.
Her Majesty’s ‘travel abroad’ site includes useful information about favorite tourist destinations in the U.S., including possible pitfalls to avoid in the vicinity of the Magic Kingdom: “Petrol stations that do not display the price of fuel usually charge considerably more than the national average for a gallon of fuel. They’re often found close to tourist destinations and airports, and notoriously near to Orlando International Airport.” Oh, and by the way on a more general note about visiting the U.S.: “Do not sleep in your car by the roadside or in rest areas.” Our motels aren’t that expensive.
Wherever you’re from and wherever you go, stay alert and have fun but do avoid brush fires and phony romance sites.
Rick Seaney is the CEO of FareCompare, a website that curates the best deals on flights from around the world. Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.