Attention international travelers! Not long ago the Department of State updated how they share information with U.S. travelers and the improvements are said to provide U.S. citizens with, “clear, timely and reliable safety and security information worldwide.” Under the new system, every county in the world will have an individualized Travel Advisory number, which will provide levels of travel-related advice ranging from 1 to 4. The levels are:
- Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
- 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. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
- 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. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
- 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. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
There will be an overall Travel Advisory for every country, but levels of advice my vary from city to city (so a country may be at a Level 2 but a specific city within that country may be at a Level 3).
The Travel Advisories will also give clear reasons for why a certain level has been assigned:
- 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.
This new system of Levels and reasons will replace the former Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.
A full description of the U.S. Department of State’s new Travel Advisories can be found here. You can also see all Travel Advisories, recent Alerts issued for each country, and an interactive map in mobile-friendly formats, on this page…..which I did ;-).
The top half of the page you go to looks like this. My first thought was that it was laid out well and was easy to understand.
I thought it a little weird that most of the blue icons, which you would normally click on to, for example, “view all travel advisories,” or “get ready to go with our traveler’s checklist,” didn’t work (the one exception was “Enroll in STEP” – it brought you to a page to sign up for The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.). But you could type a country into “Leave About Your Destination”…..so I did. I started with an easy one, Canada, and got this:
Travel Advisory Level 1, with no alerts. So far so good.
Below the Advisory Level and Quick Facts was helpful information for embassies and consulates, destination description. entry, exit and Visa requirements, safety and security, local laws & special circumstances, health, travel and transportation, as well as a fact sheet for the country.
My next search was China:
Travel Advisory Level 2, with several safety advisories.
Here’s what they had for Russia:
Travel Alert Level 3, with extensive warnings and security alerts.
Finally, I checked out what they had to say about North Korea (you KNEW that’s what I was going to pick next, right?):
Travel Alert Level 4. Don’t go there. No surprise there ;-).
The U.S. Department of State: Consular Affairs also has a presence on Facebook, which is a way to get the most updated international alerts, such as for weather, civil unrest and evolving security situations:
So if you’re a U.S. citizen and are traveling outside of the country, these sites might be good places to bookmark, not just for helpful general information for each country, but for important updates regarding your security and safety.
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