Violence against tourists always makes headlines, and it’s partly why the U.S. State Dept. has revised its system of traveler alerts and warnings to simplify them.
The new system ranks each country with one of four color-coded levels, and there are additional warnings within a country, for specific cities or regions, where a traveler may be more likely to face harm.
So while Mexico overall is Level 2 (“exercise increased caution” due to crime), five Mexican states where crime, especially by drug cartels, is a greater threat are the top Level 4 (do not travel).
The localized warnings are on each country’s page.
You should check the traveler’s advisory page before plunking down money on an exotic bucket list trip.
There are now four color-coded advisory levels
Level 1 – Blue – Exercise Normal Precautions
This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risks. Countries on the safe list currently include:
- Bucket list destinations such as Australia and Fiji,
- European favorites including Ireland and Portugal. However, Belgium and France are Level 2 (exercise increased caution) because of terrorist activity,
- Scandanavian favorites including Norway and Finland
- Asian destinations Japan, Taiwan, and, surprisingly, Myanmar, which has seen recent violence against the Rohingya people and current protests against their return.
- South American nations Peru and Chile
The State Department says that travelers to these countries should “Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security.”
This is a broad category and could be considered an overly cautious designation since it includes the potential for terrorism and such countries as Italy, Belgium and Denmark, all of them singled out for possible occurrences of terrorism of what the State Dept. website describes as “civil unrest”.
Also, it takes into account high crime rates, so South Africa, Brazil and Mexico are on this list.
And it includes such frauds against tourists as credit card skimming.
Level 3 – Orange – Reconsider Travel
“Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security,” says the State Department.
This list currently includes Pakistan, Haiti, El Salvador and Russia.
The top advisory level is “due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance.
Not surprisingly, the Dept.of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country at all, or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Also not surprisingly, this list includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, all embroiled in terrorism and/or civil war, and also the totalitarian regime of North Korea.
Also on this list are the Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan
Travel warnings for specific parts of a country
Overall country levels are not the entire story.
In Mexico, five states are on the highest “do not travel” list for widespread crime, including assassinations and turf battles between gangs in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, along with crime specific to areas popular with U. S. citizens.
These five states are Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.
Eleven other states are ranked at Level 3, including such specifics as the recommendation to avoid a particular highway.
Crime and terrorism are not the only things the State Dept. tracks. Floods and fires are on the list, too, so a country or region could receive a temporary Security Alert, such as the recent flooding in Venice, the wildfires in Greece and Canada’s British Columbia over the summer, even the severe water shortage in Capetown, South Africa.
So be like Santa – make your bucket list and check it twice, even if you are headed to a “safe” country.