Global conflicts and climate crises, ranging from a series of coups across Africa to earthquakes and floods in catastrophe-prone countries, have affected international travel patterns in recent months.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Still, international tourist arrivals could reach 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, according to the World Tourism Organization. But some destinations warrant more caution than others.
On Oct. 19, following the outbreak of war between Israel and Gaza and flaring tensions in the region, the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide caution advisory due to “increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests.” Prior to this update, the most recent worldwide caution advisory was issued in 2022 after a U.S. strike killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of Al Qaeda, causing “a higher potential for anti-American violence.”
The U.S. State Department issues travel advisory levels for more than 200 countries globally, continually updating them based on a variety of risk indicators such as health, terrorism and civil unrest. Travel advisory levels range from Level 1, which means exercise normal precautions, to Level 4, which means do not travel there.
About 10% of countries – 21 total – have a Level 4: “Do Not Travel” advisory as of Oct.19. In Level 4 countries, the U.S. government may have “very limited ability” to step in should travelers’ safety or security be at risk, according to the State Department. Crime, civil unrest, kidnapping and terrorism are common risk factors associated with Level 4 countries.
In the last two months, the State Department updated the Level 4 advisories for Russia, Gaza, certain states in Mexico and Lebanon.
Raw HTML : Travel Advisory Levels by Country
Places With a Level 4 Travel Advisory
These are the primary areas the U.S. government says not to travel to right now, in alphabetical order:
Raw HTML : Travel Guide Jump To Place
The Central Asian country is wrestling with “armed conflict, civil unrest, crime, terrorism, and kidnapping,” according to the State Department. U.S. citizens are specifically at risk for violence or kidnapping. In December 2022, the government reinstituted public floggings and executions, and women’s rights are disappearing under Taliban control. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul halted operations in August 2021. In the two years since the Taliban took control, many forms of international aid have been halted. Meanwhile, in October of 2023, some of this year’s deadliest earthquakes killed more than 2,400 in Afghanistan while the country continues to face a years-long extreme drought.
Belarus, which shares a western border with Russia and a southern border with Ukraine, has been flagged for “Belarusian authorities’ continued facilitation of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the buildup of Russian military forces in Belarus, the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, the potential of civil unrest, the risk of detention, and the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Belarus.” The U.S. Embassy in Minsk halted operations in February 2022.
Terrorism, crime and kidnapping are plaguing this West African nation. Terrorist attacks may target hotels, restaurants and schools with little to no warning, and the East and Sahel regions of the country are under a state of emergency.
Central African Republic:
While there have not been specific incidents of U.S. citizens targeted with violence or crime, violent crime and sudden closure of roads and borders is common. The advisory states that “Embassy Bangui’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens, crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping” is a factor in its assessment. Recent data from UNICEF suggests the country has the worst drinking water accessibility of all countries in 2022.
Myanmar (Formerly Burma):
Armed conflict and civil unrest are the primary reasons to not travel to this Southeast Asian country, which experienced a military coup in early 2021. COVID-19 restrictions, limited health care resources, wrongful detentions and “areas with land mines and unexploded ordnance” are also listed as risk factors.
Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the State Department, controls much of the Gaza Strip, which shares borders with both Israel and Egypt. On Oct. 7, Hamas fighters broke across the border into Israel, killing hundreds of civilians and soldiers in a brazen attack that stunned Israelis. On Oct. 10, Israel hit the Gaza Strip with “the fiercest air strikes in its 75-year conflict” according to Reuters, and rescuers say they’ve been hindered by additional attacks and a dwindling fuel supply. Nearly one tenth of Gaza’s population, close to 200,000 people, have been displaced from their homes as they prepare for shortages of water, electricity and medical supplies. The State Department warns of terrorism, civil unrest and armed conflict within Gaza’s borders.
In July, the Department of State ordered all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members to leave the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in response to the increased risk of kidnapping and violent crime in the country, as well as armed conflict between gangs and police. That month, a U.S. nurse and her child were abducted near Port-au-Prince, according to the aid organization where she worked. The travel advisory states that cases of kidnapping “often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings.” The travel advisory states that “U.S. citizens in Haiti should depart Haiti as soon as possible … in light of the current security situation and infrastructure challenges.” A series of gang attacks in late September in the country’s central department caused thousands to flee their homes amid escalating violence.
Kidnapping and wrongful detentions are risk factors for all travelers to Iran, while U.S. citizens are specifically at risk for “arbitrary arrest and detention.” U.S.-Iranian nationals such as students, journalists and business travelers have been arrested on charges of espionage and threatening national security. Executions in Iran rose sharply between 2021 and 2022, bringing the country’s total to nearly 580 people over the year, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.
Last winter, for the first time in four decades, this war-torn Middle Eastern nation hosted the Arabian Gulf Cup, an eight-nation international soccer tournament. But while the country appears optimistic about a more stable future, the U.S. government still puts Iraq on its “no-go” list. The State Department cites “terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict [and] civil unrest” as cause for the country’s Level 4 distinction. Iraq’s northern borders, and its border with Syria, are especially dangerous. A health advisory from the State Department also notes air pollution as a concern for travelers. Air pollution in Iraq was among the worst worldwide in 2022, second only to Chad. In September, the country deployed security forces to the northern city of Kirkuk after ethnic violence became deadly and four Kurdish protesters were killed.
Sitting on the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon shares its northern border with Syria and its southern border with Israel, placing it in a region currently wrought with conflict. Following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in early October, Lebanon was moved from a Level 3 to a Level 4 travel advisory level due to “the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges” between Israel and Hezbollah or other militant groups. Family members of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency personnel have been authorized to leave the country, and the advisory states that the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has “limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.” The country’s borders with Syria and with Israel, as well as refugee settlements within Lebanon, are specifically noted as Level 4 regions.
Following the end of its dictatorship over a decade ago, Libya has been wrought with internal conflict between armed groups in the East and West. Armed conflict, civil unrest, crime, kidnapping and terrorism are all risk factors. U.S. citizens have been targets of kidnapping for ransom, with terrorists targeting hotels and airports frequented by Westerners. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli halted operations in 2014. In mid-September, floods, which some say were intensified by climate change, killed thousands in eastern Libya. Clashes between armed factions have escalated across the country in the last several months, including in the capital city of Tripoli and in Benghazi, which as of mid-October was under a communications blackout that authorities attribute to a broken cable.
After experiencing a military coup in 2020, crime, terrorism and kidnapping are all prevalent threats in this West African landlocked nation. In July 2022, non-emergency U.S. government employees and their families were ordered to leave the country due to higher risk of terrorist activity. A U.N. report in August said that military groups in the country, including both Mali security forces and possibly Russian Wagner mercenaries, were spreading terror through the use of violence against women and human rights abuses. Democratic elections were supposed to occur in February 2024, but Mali’s military junta postponed the plans indefinitely. On Oct. 3, Reuters reported that the country “is in meltdown” and at-risk of civil war.
Each state in Mexico is assessed separately for travel advisory levels. Six of the 32 states in Mexico are designated as Level 4: Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. Crime and kidnapping are listed as the primary risk factors throughout the country. Nearly 112,000 people are currently missing across the country, a number the U.N. has called “alarming.”
Raw HTML : Travel Advisories Mexico
In early August, the country’s travel advisory status was changed from Level 3 to Level 4 following an attempted coup, and the Department of State ordered all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members to leave the U.S. Embassy in Niamey. In late July, soldiers led by General Abdourahmane Tiani, the former head of President Mohamed Bazoum’s national guard, detained Bazoum in the presidential residence in Niamey and announced that they had taken control of the country. In response, the World Bank has paused payments to Niger, the U.S. and the European Union have cut off aid, and neighboring Nigeria has cut power supply to Niger. The Economic Community of West African States, a regional bloc of 15 countries in West Africa, has threatened military action and imposed its own stringent sanctions on the country. In mid-September, France’s ambassador to the country was being held hostage in the French embassy by a military junta, and while he has since returned to Paris, France quickly withdrew troops from Niger. While America has not announced plans to withdraw their own troops, in October, the U.S. suspended counterterrorism assistance, military training and foreign assistance programs in Niger, all a result of officially declaring the country’s recent events a coup d’etat.
North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea):
U.S. passports are not valid for travel “to, in, or through” this country, home to one of the world’s longest-running dynastic dictatorships. The travel advisory states that the Level 4 distinction is due to “the continuing serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals.” In July, a U.S. soldier fled across the border into North Korea, where he is believed to be in North Korean custody, the first American detained in the North in nearly five years.
The travel advisory for Russia cites its invasion of Ukraine, harassment of U.S. citizens by Russian government officials and arbitrary law enforcement as a few of the reasons for the Level 4 designation. Chechnya and Mount Elbrus are specifically listed as Level 4 regions. Terrorism, civil unrest, health, kidnapping and wrongful detention are all noted as risks.
A severe drought resulting from five failed rainy seasons in a row killed 43,000 people last year, and caused an ongoing famine amid conflict with Islamist insurgents. Violent crime is common throughout Somalia, pirates frequent its coast off the Horn of Africa, and medical facilities, where they exist, have limited capacity. Crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health and kidnapping are all risk factors. In September, the European Union announced that aid to the country, meant to help it mitigate widespread famine, would be halted after a U.N. probe found theft and misuse in the system.
Several journalists with state-run South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation were detained in January for releasing footage of President Salva Kiir, who has been in power since the country separated from Sudan in 2011. Crime, kidnapping and armed conflict are the primary risk factors, with violent crime common throughout the country. Weapons are readily available, and travelers have been victims of sexual assault and armed robbery.
The U.S. evacuated its embassy in Khartoum in April 2023, and the country closed its airspace due to the ongoing conflict in the country, only permitting humanitarian aid and evacuation efforts. Fighting has escalated in the region between two warring generals seeking to gain control after a military coup in 2021 ousted the country’s prime minister. Civil unrest is the primary risk factor for Africa’s third largest country by area. Crime, terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict are also noted. The International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes and violence against African ethnic groups in the country. Millions have fled their homes due to conflict, and the U.N. has said its efforts to provide aid have been hindered by a lack of support, safety and resources.
The advisory states that “No part of Syria is safe from violence,” with terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict and risk of unjust detention all potential risk factors. U.S. citizens are often a target for kidnappings and detention. The U.S. Embassy in Damascus halted operations in 2012.
Russian setbacks in their invasion of Ukraine have buoyed hopes in the country for 2023. However, Ukraine is a Level 4 country due to “Russia’s full-scale invasion,” with crime and civil unrest also noted as risk factors. The Ukrainian government declared a state of emergency in February 2022.
Human rights abuses and lack of health care plague this South American nation, which has been in a political crisis since 2014. In 2019, diplomatic personnel were withdrawn from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Threats in the country include crime, civil unrest, kidnapping, wrongful detention and poor health infrastructure.
Six of the nine risk factors defined by the State Department – terrorism, civil unrest, health risks, kidnapping, armed conflict and landmines – are all present in Yemen. Despite private companies offering tourist visits to the Yemeni island of Socotra, the U.S. government argues those arranging such visits “are putting tourists in danger.” Civil war and cholera are also both present throughout the country. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa halted operations in 2015. The country has experienced a relative lull in the civil war fighting, but as peace negotiations have gotten traction, flare ups in the fighting have jeopardized progress.
Other Countries to Watch
Since August 1, the State Department has updated travel advisories for 18 different countries, adding information about specific regions or risk factors, or simply renewing an existing advisory. Travel advisory levels can change based on several factors in a nation, such as increased civil unrest, policies that affect human rights or higher risks of unlawful detention.
Raw HTML : Table Travel Advisory Levels
The State Department has given about 20 countries an assessment of Level 3, meaning it recommends people “reconsider travel” to those destinations.
On Oct. 14, one week after the deadly Hamas attack on Israel, Israel and the West Bank were both moved from Level 2 to Level 3. A travel advisory for the region updated on Oct. 19 states that U.S. citizens wishing to leave Israel should take advantage of charter flights leaving Ben Gurion Airport, as commercial options are limited. It also noted that some U.S. citizens had successfully left the West Bank and Israel through border crossings with Jordan, and that the U.S. government was working on “potential options” to allow U.S. citizens to leave Gaza.
China became a Level 3 country in late 2020, and remains at that level due to “the surge in COVID-19 cases, arbitrary enforcement of local laws, and COVID-19-related restrictions,” according to an update in December. In late June, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) was moved from the Level 3 to the Level 2 list, but travelers are still advised to be cautious in the area due to “arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
Several Level 3 countries are among the worst countries for human trafficking, as designated by the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Level 3 countries on this list include Papua New Guinea, Guinea Bissau, China and Chad. There are also nine Level 4 countries designated as among the worst for human trafficking: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, Syria, South Sudan and Venezuela.
Over 70 countries are currently at Level 2, meaning the State Department recommends travelers “exercise increased caution” when traveling to those destinations.
Sweden is designated a Level 2 country, with terrorism noted as the primary risk factor in the country. France, which has seen nationwide protests throughout 2023, has civil unrest and terrorism noted as risk factors for its Level 2 status.
In September, Gabon was added to the Level 2 list for civil unrest after having been Level 1. The month prior, a coup in Gabon ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who had been in power since 2009, just minutes after it was announced he had been elected for another term. Within the week, the military junta swore in Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema – the former leader’s cousin and head of the republican guard – as the country’s head of state. The African Union suspended the country’s membership shortly after the coup, and the former president remains under house arrest. The cities of Libreville and Port Gentil are specifically noted for risk of crime, and some areas have a nighttime curfew in effect.
In June, Peru was newly designated Level 2 after having been Level 3 for the last several months. The Ambassador of Peru to the U.S. says the update “underscores the safe and stable reality we see on the ground in Peru.” Peru had been designated Level 3 while the country experienced a period of political unrest, following the impeachment and detention of a recently elected president in December.
Bangladesh’s Level 2 travel advisory was updated in October to add a note about the country’s upcoming general election, expected to take place by January 2024. The advisory states “demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.”
The State Department asks travelers to pay attention to travel advisory levels and alerts, review country information pages for their destinations and read related country security reports before going abroad.
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