These days, you’re probably not planning a trip to Iraq or Afghanistan despite the United States and other developed nations currently advising citizens against all non-essential travel to these countries. But a government travel warning doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad idea to plan a trip to a particular part of the world.
What Is a Travel Advisory?
Governments issue travel advisories to let their citizens know about safety concerns that may affect travel to a particular country or region. In the United States, these warnings are issued by the State Department.
Travel advisories are released for a variety of reasons, including terrorism, natural disasters, political unrest, wars, health emergencies and outbreaks of crime. Travel warnings may also cover areas of the world where a government does not have the ability to respond to the problems of citizens traveling there or example, if the government doesn’t have an embassy in a particular country, or if the functioning of its embassy is threatened by local violence.
Many governments make a distinction between long- and short-term travel advisories. The U.S. State Department issues travel warnings for ongoing problems such as civil wars and unstable governments, while travel alerts cover temporary issues such as natural disasters or election-related demonstrations.
A travel advisory no matter how strongly worded cannot legally stop you from traveling to a particular place. After reading an advisory, it is up to you to decide whether to heed or ignore the advice. While your government will try to help you if you run into trouble abroad, you will always be traveling at your own risk.
Evaluating Travel Warnings
Not all travel warnings are created equal. When deciding how seriously to take a particular travel advisory, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Is the entire country affected?
- What’s the danger?
- How long ago was the warning posted?
- Is there a safety net?
- Is travel insurance an option?
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