Sunday, September 30, 2012

International Travel Warnings and Alerts

Years ago, in the early 1980’s, my husband and I took our children and a teenage babysitter to Jamaica on vacation.  We stayed at a luxurious hotel with a spacious, open-air entry that was undergoing extensive repairs when we arrived. Marble tiles were being removed and replaced throughout the lobby.

After asking several employees about the repairs, one bell boy finally admitted to us that an anti-government revolutionary group had come into the hotel the week before and shot a number of people in the lobby.  Needless to say, this put a real damper on our vacation!  In those days, before the internet, it was not easy to get travel advisories before taking a vacation, so we knew nothing about the political unrest until we arrived.

A few years prior to that frightening trip to Jamaica, we took a trip to Cancun, Mexico, and arrived just as a hurricane was passing by.  Although this trip was only marginally affected by the hurricane (our hotel lost electricity for about 12 hours), it would have been nice to know about the hurricane before we left the United States.

Where to Get Travel Warnings

Today, anyone planning a trip abroad can get up-to-date travel warnings before making their reservations by going to the State Department travel website at:

When the State Department issues a travel warning, they do so because they believe that a long-term situation exists in certain countries which could make it dangerous or unstable to visit those locations.  In those situations, they recommend Americans avoid traveling to those spots.  It may also mean that the U.S. government has a limited ability to assist American citizens who choose to visit the countries because the embassy or consulate may have been closed or is operating with minimal staff.

The list of countries is extensive, but currently includes:  Pakistan, Libya, North Korea, Guinea, Mali, the West Bank and Gaza areas of Israel, Iraq, Congo, Kenya, Afghanistan, Haiti, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Colombia and parts of Mexico, as well as a number of other countries.  Of course, if you are traveling to those countries on government business, your situation is different. If you are considering traveling to undeveloped or dangerous countries or, even more importantly, retiring abroad, you will want to check the U.S. State Department website regularly.

The Difference Between Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts

Sometimes, rather than issue a travel warning, our government issues a travel alert.  When the government issues travel alerts, they are letting you know about short-term conditions that could pose significant risks to the security of American citizens.  The type of risks involved include natural disasters, such as hurricanes, high profile events such as major sporting competitions or international conferences, as well as recent or anticipated terrorist attacks and coups.  Since there are no active hurricanes or coups taking place as I write this, there are no current travel alerts to report.  However, a wise traveler would check out the travel alerts as well as the travel warnings before taking an international trip because both lists can change quickly.

With easy access to government websites on our computers and smart phones, no American citizen should experience the shock of arriving in a country in the middle of an uprising or just prior to a hurricane.  Although not all dangerous travel situations can be avoided, traveling is more pleasant when we can avoid major disasters and political unrest.

If you are interested in more tips about travel, where to retire in the United States or abroad, financial planning, common medical issues or changing family relationships, use the tab or pull-down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of helpful articles.

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1 comment:

  1. You certainly offer readers something to think about. Isn't it wonderful that we live in an age where there's so much helpful information on websites and helpful writers like you to bring it to our attention!


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