Travelling involves more than taking in the sights. Tourists may visit places to see beautiful things, but travelling includes involving yourself in society. Programmes like volunteering put you deep into situations that the majority of the country faces. An extreme example of this would be to be in a country during the war. Your safety depends on the degree of uncertainty in the country but here are a few steps you can take to ensure your safety:
Visit your embassy: On entering a country in the middle of war, the first trip you make should be to your embassy. Submit an itinerary and contact details for every day of your journey. If you are not aware of emergency procedures, ask for any essential information that you should know in case of any crisis. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to exit the country, the embassy is the safest spot to be. They will recommend a safe place to stay, put you in touch with other citizens of your country, and inform you about flights leaving the country.
Skills: Basic medical emergency procedures like first aid and CPR are skills that every traveller should know regardless of where they are travelling. In high-risk areas, your knowledge of first aid may save lives.
Fake passports: It will be useful to have a camouflage passport, which is a fake passport with a non-existent country stated in details. It is an extreme move and not usually necessary, but journalists who work in war zones are given one to deter abductors.
Training: Many organisations offer basic training courses about what to do in emergency situations. Such courses cover topics like survival, escape, and protection that can be extremely handy for travellers. Journalists, NGO workers and even corporate workers receive such training especially before visiting high-risk areas. Some of these courses also have weapons training but they can be quite expensive and specialised, and you may need to state a reason for receiving such training explicitly.
Insurance: It is critical to know that medical insurance does not cover the war. Insurance for war-torn countries is sold separately and can often be quite expensive. For corporate travellers, the company usually pays for it, but freelancers should consider it as an important necessity while travelling to high-risk areas.
General safety: Your best source of information in a situation like this is your hotel staff. Before heading out anywhere, make sure to ask them about the condition outside. Check local media as well, to assess how safe it is outside. Do not wander too far off and avoid crowded areas. Stick to areas with security. While moving around in affected areas, be extremely careful of photographing people and places. If the situation escalates, it is safer to stay indoors and get in touch with your embassy.
Most countries that are in a state of war do not advise travellers to visit. However, if you find yourself in a situation where the country you are visiting gets into a state of war, exercise extreme caution and make sure to head to the closest embassy.