In that same Travel.State.Gov site there are Travel Advisories that may be issued by local consulates in that country to warn travelers of increased LOCAL RISK. Use those advisories to adjust your travel plans as you see fit. You may also see Severe Weather Advisories issued to warn you of unusual weather in an area. Use this site to increase your knowledge of the country you are visiting.
Second, take time to learn about the area you are travelling to. This seems like a no brainer, but I just cannot tell you how many of my clients tell me they were surprised, or upset, by a local custom. A simple example might be coffee in Italy. In Italian you might say “ un café por favore”. Translated it means “ a coffee please”. In Italy “coffee” is a very small cup with a very strong brew. The first time Americans are served this tiny cup of “Super Caffeine”, they may be offended, or feel Italians don’t know how to drink coffee. Get over it, please. You are in their country. Simply order “Café Americano” and they will gladly dilute that same tiny cup into a larger cup of warm “latte” or milk. That is a very simple example of a local custom, but there are customs that are much more important for a traveler to learn. An example might be covering one’s exposed skin. In Italy ladies must not have bare shoulders when entering a Church or Cathedral, and no bare skin showing above the knee. In many Muslim countries, ladies may be required to cover heads, and even eyes in certain areas. In many Asian countries, it is often proper to remove your shoes before entering a home, temple, or Dining area. These are just a few examples. My point is you will travel much safer if you learn the local customs and can blend in with the citizens just a little.
Check back next week for Part 3 of Travel Safely.