Some of the terms in the Starling country reports can seem complex, while some of the terms can seem overly simplified.
To summarise some of the issues being discussed into a short sentence or even just a single word has been challenging. Hopefully the term explanations below will elaborate on what the different categories mean.
Annual road fatality rates
This refers to the approximate yearly number of car accident fatalities per 100,000 people. Road traffic accidents are usually the biggest killer of travellers overseas so pay particular attention to this section.
The ‘urban ATM availability’ section generally refers to the number of ATMs available in built up areas. Bear in mind that even in countries with very good ATM availability, they may be limited in number in rural areas.
Aviation safety levels
This is a fairly broad interpretation which examines things such as whether or not the country is deemed to adhere to internationally-recognised safety measures, or whether or not airlines based in the country are banned from flying to certain countries or regions. Where a country is not rated by international safety agencies we have determined that there ‘could’ be concerns with the country but we cannot definitively state whether or not the safety measures in the country are insufficient. As good advice, it is usually preferable to use reliable, internationally well-regarded airlines for any air travel, particularly to or from countries where the national aviation safety levels are deemed to be potentially sub-standard.
The ‘civil liberties’ score has also been developed specifically by Starling Safety and takes into account the freedom of individuals, organisations and the media to express themselves in public.
The ‘violent protest and civil unrest risk’ section generally refers to the intent of members of the population to engage in demonstrations, as well as the risk that those demonstrations could turn violent. It also takes into account past precedent, frequency of incidents as well as the impact of previous events, such as damage, casualties and even regime change.
This section collates anecdotal evidence on a country and whether or not bribery, nepotism and other malpractices are commonplace in different parts of society and government. It should be taken as an indicator only.
The ‘overall crime rate’ section simplifies a very complex set of factors such as the frequency of criminal incidents, the ability of law enforcement agencies and the impact of criminal actions (such as whether or not the criminality is violent, particularly costly etc).
The disease section refers to the presence of a variety of illnesses. Bear in mind that some diseases may spread before we have time to update the section so it is always worth speaking to a medical professional prior to a trip, particularly if the destination has a tropical climate or medical infrastructure does not meet international standards. Be sure to consider vaccinations well in advance of travel because some of them can take several weeks to become effective.
The ‘electricity supply reliability section’ generally refer to the stability of electricity supplies in the country and whether or not power failures or surges are common. Again, bear in mind that there may be a notable urban-rural divide in many countries with reliable electricity supplies in cities and limited or even non-existent supplies in rural areas.
The ‘gun ownership levels’ section takes into account the number of firearms per 100 people in the country. Anything above 10 firearms per 100 people is above average from a global perspective. Anything below 6 or 7 firearms per 100 people is a relatively low ratio.
The ‘infrastructure quality’ section refers to a range of issues, such as overall road quality, building and architectural regulation quality, fire safety measures and health and safety considerations in general in terms of road and building construction and maintenance. Travel overseas will be made much more difficult for a variety of reasons where infrastructure quality is poor in a country. Bear in mind that in some countries there can also be an urban-rural divide with moderately good infrastructure in cities and poor or even almost totally absent infrastructure in rural areas.
The ‘investment rating’ section highlights whether or not major international ratings agencies have assessed the country to be investment grade or not. Bear in mind that this status may change depending on the downgrading action of one or more of these ratings agencies. It should be taken as an indication of the country’s credit worthiness as a sovereign entity only.
The ‘kidnapping hotspot’ section simply refers to whether or not kidnappings occur on a fairly regular basis in the country.
The ‘do landmines/unexploded munitions pose a significant risk in parts of the country’ section analyses the risks posed by explosive items, often left over from previous conflicts. Unexploded munitions can include a range of items; such as bombs left over from previous conflicts. Even in very well developed cities such as London and Berlin, such items can sometimes emerge as a result of aerial bombing from World War Two, but they are not included in this section because they are not deemed to pose a “significant risk”. This section is more likely to refer to countries and areas where extensive landmines have been laid and/or there remains a much larger amount of unexploded ordnance than parts of Western Europe. Recent and ongoing conflict zones such as the Balkans or Ukraine are at risk. Countries where the government has sought to defend its borders by laying mines around large stretches of land are also at risk, implicating countries such as Libya and Iraq. Some otherwise peaceful island countries in the Pacific are also at risk of leftover weaponry from World War Two which has not yet been cleared. Note that isolated areas are normally the worst affected.
This ‘maritime piracy hotspot’ section simply refers to whether or not pirate hijackings and thefts-at-sea occur on a fairly regular basis in the waters surrounding the country (or sometimes along its navigable rivers).
The murder rate takes into account the overall homicide rate of the country (number of homicides per 100,000 people).
This ‘natural disaster vulnerability’ section summarises different factors including both the risk of disasters taking place, the past precedent of disasters taking place, as well as the institutional preparedness and resilience. Some countries may face very infrequent disasters but are deemed to have a very poor civic response to events (such as poorer countries located in active hurricane zones), while some countries may face frequent disasters but have a very good level of public organisation and preparedness (such as Japan). Some countries may face frequent disasters and struggle to deal with them on an institutional level (such as Haiti) while some may have good state preparation levels and face very few natural disasters (such as several countries in Northern Europe).
This ‘social tensions, grievances and associated levels of violence’ section describes both the overall mood of the country’s population, or parts of it, coupled with their intent and ability to engage in violence to express their mood if inclined. This is a very complex issue with various factors and influences in different countries around the world, but in general it encompasses things such as protest movements, terrorist groups or even insurgencies which have arisen in the country because of frustrations, anger or other forms of opposition to the status quo. The category descriptions are very simple: if the tensions, grievances and associated levels of violence are described as ‘low’ then the country faces very limited domestic threats from angry and/or violent people and groups. When tensions, grievances and associated levels of violence are described as ‘moderate’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’ conditions are evidently a lot more hazardous on the ground.
Socio-economic development score
The socio-economic development score has been developed specifically by Starling Safety and takes into account a country’s overall income and spending power, as well as the development level of the population, including factors such as access to education, healthcare and good quality housing. Poverty, welfare and wealth inequality indicators are also identified and incorporated into the research. A score of 10/10 is excellent and only achieved by a handful of countries. A score of 1/10 is appalling and only applies to a small number of very badly developed countries.
The ‘state stability levels’ category takes a range of various factors including the country’s wealth and resources, as well as the maturity and resilience of its civic institutions (such as its civil service, local administrative bodies, courts, security services and the rule of law in general) and determines whether or not they are threatened by internal and external factors (such as civil unrest, terrorism, crime, war, corruption, climate change and other destabilising issues). If a country is described as ‘relatively stable’ its institutions should be considered well-evolved, with good resources and limited threats. Less stable or evolved state structures are described as ‘vulnerable’, ‘unstable’ or even ‘highly unstable’.
The ‘taxi services’ section generally summarises the anecdotal and government advice on the country and whether or not taxis can be hailed in the street. Sometimes official taxi services can be considered generally safe, but only if arranged in advance or via trusted source such as a hotel or taxi booking company. In some countries there will be no reliable service at all and transportation will have to be arranged with a private driver or even a reputable security company.
The ‘terrorism risk’ section takes several factors into consideration, including the intent of terrorist organisations, both domestic and international, to conduct attacks in the country, as well as their ability to do so. It also takes into account past precedent for such incidents, as well as the casualty figures and damage extent. Many countries are deemed to have a ‘moderate’ risk of terrorism, which might imply that incidents are infrequent, potentially even rare, but that groups may have expressed a desire to engage in violence in the country. Countries with a terrorism risk deemed to be any higher than ‘moderate’ are more likely to experience incidents on a regular basis. Note that even in countries with the lowest level of risk, a risk still exists nonetheless.