While you may not be heading out on a round-the-world international vacation anytime soon, some countries have begun to open up for international travel. However, there are still many factors to consider, especially regarding a trip abroad. One of those factors is whether or not the destination has any travel advisories listed by the U.S. Department of State.

The Four Advisory Levels

Four advisory levels are used to help U.S. citizens determine the level of precaution they should take when traveling outside of the country. They also help travelers assess risks, provide advice and suggest what citizens can do to keep safe. The U.S. Department of State has a travel advisory for every country in the world

The four advisory levels and their meanings are:

  • Level 1 (Blue): Exercise Normal Precautions
  • Level 2 (Yellow): Exercise Increased Caution
  • Level 3 (Orange): Reconsider Travel
  • Level 4 (Red): Do Not Travel

Level 4, red, is the highest advisory level. When a country is at Level 4, it is likely due to more significant risks to one’s safety. There also may be a limited ability to assist U.S. citizens from U.S. government officials.

If you’re in a Level 4 country, try to leave as soon as you can. If you plan on traveling to a country that is a Level 4 threat, you will likely need to have some sort of clearance or permission. 

These conditions vary, so it’s best to check the State Department’s website to get the most detailed information.

Level 1, blue, has the least risk. Regardless, precautions should always be taken when traveling. Level 2, yellow, is to be aware of a heightened risk to one’s safety. You can find more country-specific information on the Department of State’s website to help you best prepare. Level 3, orange, asks citizens to reconsider traveling unless it is essential. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State issued Level 4 travel advisories for the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also, it’s important to note that a country might have different advisory levels. For instance, Mexico has a Level 2 warning, but certain areas of the country have a Level 3 and 4 warning due to crime. 

Differences Between Travel Advisories And A Travel Alert

Travel advisories are for long-term and ongoing risks, including civil unrest, outbreaks of disease and widespread crime. A travel alert is for more short-term events, such as a demonstration, weather warnings or even sporting events.

How Often Are Advisories Updated?

Advisories might be a few months old. If you are unsure, you can check the warnings that other western countries are issuing. The U.K. and Canada both have helpful guides. You should also check the local news of the destination you are planning to visit.

The STEP Program

Conditions in any country may change at any time. Consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) program, a free service for U.S. citizens to register their travels with the nearest U.S. Embassy. Enrolling makes it easier to contact travelers in the event of an emergency. 

Regardless of where you are traveling, it is always a good idea to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Check the Department of State’s website before going. Use resources like the STEP program and the U.S. embassies to help you as you travel. You may also want to follow the State Department’s social media accounts for up to date information.

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