Add one more thing to your travel checklist: Before you go, check to see if the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for the country you’re visiting.
In July, the State Department issued several new or updated travel advisories for U.S. citizens planning trips abroad. The advisories have four levels:
Level 1. “Exercise normal precautions” – there’s a possible and minor concern about safety.
Level 2. “Exercise increased precautions” – there are issues with safety in this country.
Level 3. “Reconsider travel” – there is a significant risk to your safety if you travel here; avoid doing so if possible.
Level 4. “Do not travel” – U.S. citizens should not visit this country.
These warnings are typically issued every six months for levels 3 and 4, but can change at any time. Before you plan a trip and then again before you travel, check the State Department website. The information there will explain what areas of a country are affected and what you should do to help ensure your safety.
Countries with Level 4 Warnings
Let’s start with the “do not travel” nations — countries where crime or civil unrest are rampant and U.S. citizens face a major threat. In addition, U.S. citizens who travel to countries with level 4 warnings may not be able to get any assistance from the U.S. government as there are less likely to be embassies or consulates.
In July, Haiti was added to this list as U.S. citizens are being kidnapped at an increased rate. On July 27, the U.S. ordered non-emergency government employees and family members to leave Haiti and asked all U.S. citizens to leave the island nation as soon as possible.
Niger was also recently added (on August 4) to the list of Level 4 nations due to crime, terrorism and kidnapping risks as well as civil unrest and government instability. The U.S. Embassy in Niger has suspended many services and evacuated family members of government employees.
Here are the other Level 4 nations:
Central African Republic
In addition, some Mexican states have Level 4 travel advisories because of crime and kidnapping risks. The State Department issues advisories by state rather than for the country as a whole. Mexican states at level 4 are Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas.
Other nations with at least some regions under Level 3 Advisories include:
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Papua New Guinea
Trinidad and Tobago
Countries with Level 2 Warnings
There are currently more than 70 countries with level 2 advisories, including areas in such popular destinations as Sweden, France and the United Kingdom. Cote d’Ivoire was most recently added to this list because of terrorism risks.
Whenever you’re traveling to a country with a travel advisory, the State Department recommends you sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which will send you alerts if there are any emergencies in the area you’re visiting. They also recommend you remain aware of your surroundings whenever you travel and monitor local media for any events.