- Travel Alerts
- Travel Warnings
What’s a Travel Alert?
The State Department will issue a travel alert for a particular area when there are short-term safety or security conditions that pose significant risk to American citizens. These include: natural disasters, terrorist attacks and anniversaries of terror attacks, civil coups, election-related demonstrations or violence and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sporting events (like the Olympics).
Travel alerts are typically issued with an expiration date. As an example, the U.S. State Department recently issued a travel alert on the risks of traveling the Pan-American Highway in western Panama due to some violent clashes over mining rights. That travel alert expires on February 20th, when the government believes the danger will be passed. If the danger continues past the original expiration date, the State Department may issue an updated travel alert with a new expiration date.
See the current list of U.S. State Department Travel Alerts now.
What’s a Travel Warning?
The State Department will issue a travel warning for a particular area when the region has experience long-term and protracted security or safety conditions that make travel to that country dangerous. When the State Department deems it’s necessary to warn its citizens to avoid travel to that country with a travel warning, it’s also important to note that the U.S. government’s ability to assist their citizens in that area is likely to be severely constrained as a result of conditions on the ground, reduction in staff or closure of the local embassy, or both.
As an example, the U.S. State Department recently issued a travel warning on the dangers of travel to Mexico as a result of long-term violence and crime related to drug cartels. The number of U.S. citizens reported as murdered in Mexico during 2011 was 120, which is far higher than that of 2007 when only 35 were killed. Many U.S. citizens have been the victim of carjackings, kidnappings, and highway robbery in Mexico during 2011 and the violence shows no signs of stopping. When a travel warning is issued
See the current list of U.S. State Department Travel Warnings now.
How Does a Traveler Stay Informed – Crisis or No?
It’s important to note that the government’s role for American travelers in a crisis is perhaps more limited than you might expect and as a result, U.S. travelers going abroad are strongly encouraged to check the travel cautions prior to making their travel plans. In addition, travelers are also encouraged to watch the travel.state.gov website for updates as this is the primary tool for traveler safety information dissemination.
Travelers can always see the current list of latest alerts and warnings on the travel.state.gov website home page, but the media may or may not pick up and broadcast the cautions issued by the U.S. government. This means travelers cannot rely on radio, print, or televised media to let you know when conditions in a particular area have shifted so as to be considered dangerous for travelers.
Travelers can also select a particular country, click Go, and see the specific information related to that area, including entry and exit requirements, safety and security threats, medical facilities and health information, and more.
So, even if you don’t see the country you’re traveling to in this immediate list of warnings and alerts, be sure to check the information available for that country before you book your travel. You could save yourself a good deal of trouble.