When was the last time you consulted an official government travel advisory before booking a trip?
Wars (Syria), political protests (Brazil, Egypt, Turkey), floods (Germany, Manila) and disease outbreaks (China) are all enough to make us click headlines.
But many travelers admit to not giving much credence to advisories from governments.
In recent weeks, travel advisories for Egypt have hit high levels, with some governments evacuating their citizens.
But a similar situation in December last year didn't stop Marielle Butters from traveling alone to Egypt.
"Three days after the president declared himself dictator and all was supposedly in chaos," recalls Butters about the timing of her trip. "It was fine. I felt safe."
In July, protests in Brazil elicited travel alerts.
But local journalist Felipe Araujo says the warnings were unnecessary.
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"The Brazilian government was siding with the protesters, publicly making an attempt to accommodate some of their wishes," says Araujo. "Brazil was no less safe because of the protests."
Many travelers deliberately seek out reportedly dangerous locales, such as Kashmir, Afghanistan and Colombia, with few mishaps.
What is a Travel Warning?
Just how realistic are government travel alerts and warnings?
And are they even worth looking at?
The U.S. Department of State currently has 35 countries listed under a travel warning -- defined as a "protracted condition that makes a country dangerous or unstable," such as war.
A travel alert applies to temporary situations such as demonstrations.
Three-quarters of Brits admitted they do not check official travel advice before traveling in a recent poll, and those that do said they often ignore it anyway.
Countries currently listed by the U.S. Department of State with travel warnings include Egypt, Haiti, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, the Philippines and Tunisia.
A warning status means travelers should "avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff."
"Our obligation is to provide information to the American citizens who are traveling and residing abroad to allow them to make informed decisions," says Michelle Bernier, managing director of overseas citizen services for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs.
"We want Americans to be vigilant and take security measures especially in an atmosphere of heightened concern."
The State Department website provides specific information on every country in the world.
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Australia's entry includes a warning to "be careful when consuming alcohol with unfamiliar people, as drink spiking can occur."
The UK's entry includes nearly 2,000 words on terrorist threats and crime, including details on pickpockets and ATM fraud.
Do blanket warnings help or hinder?
Not everyone finds official government warnings helpful.
Like bad Yelp or TripAdvisor reviews, government travel warnings have the potential to have a negative affect tourism revenue in a given country or area.
"The worst part is the blanket advisories," says traveler and photographer Jorge de Casanova. "Just because one area of a country is having problems does not mean the whole country is unsafe."
Travel book author Lisa Egle travels primarily to developing countries.
"I check several travel advisories before any trip, not just the State Department, but the British and Australian equivalents for another perspective," says Egle.
"I take what they all say with a grain of salt. They tend to blow things out of proportion."
Before a trip to Indonesia last year, Egle recalls reading warnings about "terrorist cells."
"While these unfortunate incidents have occurred, they're not part of a widespread problem," she says. "The country has 17,500 islands, so the number of these occurrences is disproportionate to the size of the country."
Sometimes there really is a wolf
Yet there are genuine risks associated with areas covered by alerts or warnings and ignoring them can occasionally result in problems.
American student Andrew Pochter was killed in Alexandria during protests.
Pochter was in Egypt teaching English for the summer.
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The United States has had a travel warning in place for Mexico since April 2011. It states that "crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO (Transnational Criminal Organizations) activity, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery."