Civil unrest can range in form from small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting. It is rare that travelers and expatriates are directly targeted during civil unrest, unless they work at or patronize a business or government that is the direct cause of the unrest. People may also be harmed simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most incidents of civil unrest are related to labor disputes or social and political issues. Follow the advice below should civil unrest occur in your area.
- Avoid large gatherings related to political or labor issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security personnel. Bystanders may be arrested or harmed by security forces using water cannon, tear gas, or other measures to control crowds.
- Maintain a low profile by avoiding demonstration areas and discussions of the issues at hand, and by dressing conservatively.
- During violent or potentially violent unrest, avoid police stations (unless seeking help), government buildings (including embassies), fast food restaurants, and banks. These establishments are often targeted.
- If violence erupts or is imminent, leave the area as quickly as possible. If you cannot leave the area, seek shelter in large, public buildings such as hotels, churches, hospitals, and museums. Wait until the crowds have dissipated before going back outside.
- If you know of an event ahead of time, plan pedestrian and vehicular routes that avoid the affected areas. Road closures and traffic delays are possible. Give yourself extra time to travel.
- If curfews are imposed, strictly observe regulations, and monitor the media for immediate updates to the situation.
- Tensions can run high during labor strikes. Many businesses close during general strikes, and public transportation does not run. Rogue taxis and buses may offer service but should be avoided, as they could be targeted for violence. Maintain a low profile, and avoid using any form of public transportation. Use hotel taxis or private car services.
- During periods of long-term civil unrest, be sure that you have adequate amounts of cash and/or travelers checks in case the banks close. In extreme cases, local currency may not be convertible.
- Severe civil unrest can significantly disrupt businesses, industries, and services. If you must travel during unrest, ensure that hotels and businesses will be open, services will be available, and transportation will be running. Confirm all meetings and reservations.
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