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Should You Care About Travel Alerts and Warnings?

by Susan Finch

Nov 20, 2019

© Withings | Home

Tips / Safety

You finally booked your dream trip but start hearing terrifying tales of unrest and violence. Should you cancel your trip? Here’s what you should know before you decide to be proactive about or ignore the latest travel alerts and warnings.


What is a Travel Alert?
Travel alerts are usually short-term issued when there is a potential threat to American citizens who are traveling. Travel warnings are frequently issued for after a terrorist attack or the anniversary of a tragic event, due to political unrest or possibly during the outbreak of a disease. The good news is these warnings are intended to give travelers an urgent heads-up, but aren’t expected to last long and are usually still okay for travel with some caution.


What is a Travel Warning?
Unike travel alerts, travel warnings are issued when the State Department believes Americans should avoid traveling to a specific destination completely. These warnings are usually triggered due to long-term issues like political instability. If the U.S. government must close an embassy or consulate, or feels it won’t be able to help U.S. citizens in danger, they usually issue a warning. You probably already know there are travel warnings for areas like North Korea and Syria, but Mexico and the Philippines are also frequently added to the government list of travel warnings.


When to Worry
Remember an alert or warning is usually specific to a small area of a country or city. Although you may find several parts of Mexico under a travel alert or warning relating to crime and kidnapping, other destinations are deemed safe for tourists. Areas like Guerroro may still be under an alert or warning at the time you read this, but other areas like the state of Guanajuato are generally considered safe with some common sense and caution. It’s best to do a little online sleuthing and asking around in your favorite travel forums to see if you should really worry.


It’s also wise to check with the U.S. Department of State for current travel alerts or warnings before booking a trip. Level 4 Advisories generally mean a destination is off-limits and it is wise to heed the warning. Otherwise, you could be on your own if a crisis occurs and there is no working embassy or consulate staff to help. Further, your travel insurance may not cover the costs of evacuation if you travel to specific areas under a travel warning.


Overall, travel advisories and warnings should help you make informed decisions and exercise increased caution while traveling, not completely derail your plans. And remember, many countries of the world including Japan and Venezuela advised against travel to the United States due to gun violence and hate crimes. Knowing other countries deter locals from visiting your home country may keep things in perspective.


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