If you are planning to travel abroad this summer, the United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, has issued a number of travel warnings for your consideration. Although these warnings do not forbid travel to the various countries or locations named, Americans are urged to show the utmost caution when traveling to the riskiest areas of the world.

Travel Warnings Versus Travel Alerts

Americans should know that the Department of State issues both travel warnings and travel alerts. There is a distinction that should be made between the two, something you should understand as you make your plans.

A travel warning is issued when the government wants Americans “to consider very carefully whether you should go a country at all.” Warnings are issued if a particular government is unstable or experiencing a civil war and if there are other threats against travelers including high crime or violence.

A travel alert is a short-term warning, one that is issued temporarily. For instance, the travel alert may be seasonal, such as when a flu outbreak has been reported. It may also include strikes, demonstrations or other local disturbances.

The Department of State may keep travel warnings for a particular destination active for many years. Travel alerts, on the other hand, are canceled once the short-term event has ended.

The Americas

El Salvador is on the government’s list for its high levels of crime and violence. On April 25, 2014, the Department of State updated its Aug. 9, 2013, warning to note that this country’s crime rate escalated in 2013 after dropping each of the previous two years. On average, nearly 10 people are murdered daily in El Salvador. Since 2010, 31 Americans have lost their lives and 335 US citizens reported their passports stolen.

Other countries in the Americas with travel warnings include Colombia (narco-trafficking), Haiti (poor emergency response network), and Mexico (violent crimes in various states). Venezuela and Honduras have also been saddled with travel warnings.


Travel to North Korea is uncommon for Americans and described as “not routine” by the state department. Americans have been arrested when visiting North Korea even with valid visas.

Other Asian countries listed include Afghanistan (violence and banditry), Pakistan (terrorism), and Thailand. Thailand is under a travel alert as the country is under a nationwide nighttime curfew following a May 22, 2014, coup.


Much of Europe remains safe for American travelers, but the Russian Federation for its dispute with the Ukraine and Ukraine itself are areas where travelers are being cautioned. This past spring, Russia annexed Crimea, taking it back from the Ukraine. Several eastern Ukraine regions have declared their independence from that country with civil unrest reported.

Africa and the Middle East

Americans are being warned to avoid travel to a number of countries in the Middle East including Libya, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Ongoing instability including civil unrest has these countries listed.

In Africa, several states in northern Nigeria should be avoided due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies and armed attacks. Terrorist activity and other civil problems mean that Niger, Kenya, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Chad, Sudan, Mali, Mauritania, Somalia and Eritrea are all on the list.

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