The new U.S. State Department system of travel warnings

Published on: January 11, 2018 | Last Updated on July 30, 2018
Globe (Credit: Pixabay)

Globe (Credit: Pixabay)

Have you heard about the new U.S. State Department system of travel warnings?

Given all the turmoil all over the globe (natural disasters, political strife, wars, terrorism, etc.), it’s prudent to check State Department Advisories before traveling internationally.

On January 10th, 2018, the U.S. State Department announced a new system for informing travelers about safety and security, replacing the previous often-confusing system of travel warnings and travel alerts. The aim of the overhaul was to make the system more understandable and user-friendly.

The four levels of caution

The new system is color-coded, defining four levels of caution:

Level 4 – Do Not Travel

This highest level (red) warns the public that they should not travel to these locations. For example, Iran, Yemen and North Korea fall into this category.

Level 3 – Reconsider Travel

Because of “threats” to safety and security, this level (orange) suggests that travelers heed specific advice from the State Department.

Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution

Because of “heightened risks,” travelers to level 2 (yellow) should heed specific advice as well.

Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions

This lowest level (without any color or blue) still carries some level of risk for travel.

Criteria for travel advisories

In addition, the new advisories offer a rationale for the assignments of various levels, including:

C – Crime

T – Terrorism

U – Civil Unrest

H – Health

N – Natural Disaster

E – Time-limited Event

O – Other

The bottom line

Travel advisories

As you make travel decisions and certainly before you go, it’s a good idea to take a look at the State Department website that lists country-specific information (linked to city-specific crime and safety reports) and displays them on an interactive, world-at-a-glance color-coded map.

In addition, because conditions can change rapidly, all travelers should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to stay informed of changing conditions in countries to which they are traveling. Travelers can also stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr
    January 15, 2018 at 8:39 am

    I looked up some of the places I’ve been recently. I’m glad I didn’t look them up before we went or I might have stayed home. I wonder if there are travel advisories by some countries for Killadelphia. Seriously, thanks for sharing this important site. Even if you still go, at least you are forewarned and can act accordingly. BTW, do come to Philly and take the same precautions you should when you visit any big city.

  • Reply
    Rachel Heller
    January 15, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    I find the US State Department’s warnings a bit on the alarmist side, but I always read them. I also read the Dutch government’s version of the same thing, which tends to be more specific geographically. I rarely shape my plans based on either one, but it lets me know what to be aware of or avoid. For example, I’ll be in Turkey for a few days in February. The US site rates it as a 3, but it sounds like that mostly has to do with the border with Syria. I’ll avoid crowded tourist areas, and I never intended to go near that border anyway.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      January 18, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Wise recommendation to get a “second opinion” from the country you are visiting!

  • Reply
    Doreen Pendgracs
    January 18, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    We have this same type of service for Canadian travellers, and I was stunned today, when I rec’d it and there were at least 20 countered on the “travel with Caution” list. It’s getting to be a pretty scary time to travel.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      January 18, 2018 at 7:53 pm

      Yes, it’s a time of high anxiety…with many different reasons for caution.

  • Reply
    Marilyn Jones
    January 21, 2018 at 7:08 am

    This is an excellent article and very easy to understand. I just looked up the countries where I will be traveling this year to get a sense of the current situations. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Cathy Sweeney
    January 21, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks for the tip about STEP. I guess I should be a little more conscientious about checking out the state department site before traveling. Not a good idea to take safety for granted.

  • Reply
    Lois Alter Mark
    January 22, 2018 at 1:20 am

    This is good to know. We always check the State Department website before we go to an “iffy” country. Although I think the government is sometimes overly cautious, I would agree it’s better to be safe than sorry! There are always other places to visit instead.

Leave a Reply