Travelling is such an enriching experience until something goes wrong. It could be as simple as luggage going missing or forgetting your passport. However, some places of the world are more risky, with a high chance of theft, or worse. When planning your next trip, it is important to make sure you’ll be safe at your destination. You may not know where to begin this research, though, so here is my process for evaluating the safeness of a country.

Step 1: Read the news.

The media may have come under fire in the past year for spreading fake news, but when it comes to non-politically driven news, there is less of a reason to alter facts. Look at the international news that doesn’t involve the US for the best understanding of what is happening in your potential destination. You can also read news directly from that country, as long as they have an English translation or you can read their language. Anything newsworthy for being dangerous will probably stand out quickly.

Step 2: Research American interactions.

While it may be important to know if our governments get along, it is also important to know how Americans are treated in the other country. If you stand out, you might be a target for theft. In some countries, you may be detained just for being an American. Understand that not every country likes Americans, and trust that any horror stories you may read are probably true.

Step 3: Look into local laws.

Some countries, particularly in the Middle East, have strict rules. For instance, in some countries, a woman must wear particular clothing or be accompanied by a man at all times. If the local laws of the country you want to visit are unmanageable for you, or if they would spoil your trip, you might want to take a rain check. Luckily, many countries are progressively moving toward US law, so you may want to check back in a few years.

Step 4: Check the Index of Economic Freedom.

The Index of Economic Freedom is exactly what it sounds like. Countries are ranked based off of how stable and free the economy is. This may not seem like it has a lot to do with safety, but it is a huge component. In countries with poor economic stability, you are more likely to be a target of a crime. You could also run into riots or other forms of political activism that may be less than ideal. If you want a carefree vacation, I would suggest sticking to one of the top 34 countries on the list, and not further down beyond the Moderately Free section.

Planning a trip is a job itself, but choosing the right destination will pay off. It may be tempting to travel somewhere unsafe, but you would regret it immensely if anything bad happened. Rather than putting yourself in harm’s way, take my advice and check your vacation spot through this process. If everything checks out, you should be fairly safe (although you should always practice good judgment in a foreign country). If not, you may want to choose a new spot for now.