Travel — especially international travel — comes with some inherent risks. Usually, these risks lead to relatively minor inconveniences. For example, you might eat some unfamiliar food that doesn't agree with your stomach, or encounter some difficulties navigating to your destination as a result of a language barrier. But in some cases, these risks can become much more severe. There might be corrupt officials who demand a bribe, you could be kidnapped and held hostage, or you could even end up in the midst of a violent military coup.

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Fortunately, preparation can diminish all these risks. One good pre-travel resource to review is the U.S. State Department travel advisory system. This system has recently been updated by the State Department to make its information easier to understand and apply to your travel plans.

The U.S. State Department continually updates its advisory list to rank travel risks.

The U.S. State Department continually updates its advisory list to rank travel risks.

As opposed to the previous system of “travel advisory” or “travel warning” notices, a four-level ranking system is now used:

  • 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.

US State Department travel advisory warning danger map rankings 3

Each country on this list features a travel advisory page that outlines its ranking and gives a clear explanation of why it's ranked that way. For example, the United Kingdom travel advisory is Level 2 due to the threat of terrorism and the potential of isolated violence by dissident groups in Northern Ireland. At the extreme end of the spectrum, Central African Republic is rated at Level 4 due to crime and civil unrest, with the following warning: “Violent crime, such as armed robbery, aggravated battery, and homicide, is common. Large areas of the country are controlled by armed groups who regularly kidnap, injure, and/or kill civilians.”

US State Department travel advisory warning danger map rankings 1

A color-coded map, pictured above, is also available. Areas with shaded lines indicate an increased security risk over solid-color areas.

While it's highly unlikely that you're planning to travel to any of the Level 4 countries as a civilian, here's a list of those countries at the time of this article's publication:

  • Afghanistan
  • Central African Republic (CAR)
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • Mali
  • North Korea
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

For more info on the new U.S. State Department travel advisory system, check out the press release here or go to the Travel Advisories web page.


Prepare Now:

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