U.S. State Department Introduces New Travel Guidance System, Ranks Countries By Threat Level

Yesterday the U.S. Department of State launched improvements to how they share information with U.S. travelers which sees countries ranked by threat level.

The system has already been announced last month and ranks countries into four security tiers based on a number of factors, including the risk of crime, terrorism, natural disaster, and civil unrest.

You can access the U.S. Department of State website here that includes the announcement.

These improvements will provide U.S. citizens with clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information worldwide. Under the new system, every country will have a Travel Advisory, providing levels of advice ranging from 1 to 4:

  • 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.

The Travel Advisories for each country replace previous Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. While we will issue an overall Travel Advisory level for every country, levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country. For instance, we may advise U.S. citizens to “Exercise Increased Caution” (Level 2) in a country, but to “Reconsider Travel” (Level 3) to a particular area within the country.

Our detailed Travel Advisories will also will provide clear reasons for the level assigned, using established risk indicators, and offer specific advice to U.S. citizens who choose to travel there:

  • 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.

The new system is relatively straight forward and has clear indicators which is easier for travelers to identify possible threats and to take precautions.

Conclusion

Many times travel advisories given out by and for individual countries can be vague and often have political reasons as well. That being said I find that the U.S. has always handled these much better than let’s say Germany because a country has literally to be blown to pieces before the German Foreign Ministry will issue a travel warning.

While individual travelers often don’t give these warnings much thought large corporations who send their employees on overseas trips do and so do insurance companies and tour operators when it comes to allowing travelers to cancel their trips and receive refunds.

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