U.S. travelers have become accustomed to hearing scary travel advisories for other countries when those locales have experienced natural disasters, terrorist attacks, potential government disruption, increases in crime and/or disease, etc. Sometimes these warnings are warranted, sometimes, many argue, they’re exaggerated.
As of Jan. 10, the U.S. State Department has introduced a new system that assigns a travel advisory for every country—not just those deemed to be of special concern. Be aware, this new system replaces the department’s previous Travel Warnings/Alerts. This tiered program includes four advisory levels with Level 4 being “OMG! Don’t go there!” and will be updated regularly based on the changing situations worldwide.
From the State Department:
- Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel.
- Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.
- Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.
- Level 4 – Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.
Within the advisories, reasons for the categorization will be explained with lettered abbreviations as follows:
- C – Crime:Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country. Local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.
- T – Terrorism: Terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups or other targets may exist.
- U – Civil Unrest: Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exists and may cause violence, major disruptions and/or safety risks.
- H – Health: Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice may be a factor.
- N – Natural Disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.
- E – Time-limited Event: A short-term event, such as an election, sporting event or other incident that may pose a safety risk.
- O – Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators. Read the country’s Travel Advisory for details.
Visit the State Department online for complete details about the program as well as country-by-country recommendations. U.S. travelers can also choose to sign up for the