April 18, 2024

Traveling opens up a world of adventure, but it’s essential to know the risks involved, especially when venturing into certain areas across the globe. The US State Department issues public travel advisories to guide Americans on the safety of international travel destinations. These advisories categorize countries into four levels based on safety and security risks, helping travelers make informed decisions.

Among these, 29 countries have been flagged as places to “reconsider travel” or “avoid traveling” to altogether. The reasons vary from armed conflicts to high levels of crime.

Levels of Serious Risk

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  • Level 3: Reconsider Your Travel: These destinations could pose threats to your security. Before booking, check the latest updates and consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for alerts.
  • Level 4: Do Not Travel: The State Department advises against all travel to these areas. If you’re currently in one of these countries or must go, it’s crucial to have a solid contingency plan, keep informed using the U.S. Embassy updates, and regularly review your travel insurance.

Keep informed by frequently reviewing the CDC Travel Health Notices and the Country Information Page. Always follow the Traveler’s Checklist for a safe journey, and understand the country-specific risks before you decide to travel.

Venezuela: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Venezuela’s situation is dire, with widespread crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and risks of kidnapping and arbitrary detention of US citizens. The US government took the significant step of ordering its employees and their families to evacuate in January 2019, highlighting the severe safety concerns. For travelers, these conditions pose a considerable risk, and visiting Venezuela under such circumstances is highly advised against.

Yemen: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Yemen is embroiled in a devastating conflict that has led to terrorism, civil unrest, significant health risks, kidnapping, and armed conflict. The country’s infrastructure is in ruins, severely impacting the delivery of essential services like food, electricity, water, and medical care.

This has contributed to the world’s largest cholera outbreak. With the US Embassy in Sana’a ceasing operations in February 2015, the capacity to assist US citizens is extremely limited, so clearly, travel to Yemen is extremely unadvisable.

Sudan: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Sudan faces a complex mix of dangers, including terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and violent crimes, like armed robbery, home invasion, and carjacking.

The US State Department’s decision to order the departure of non-emergency government employees in April 2019 is a clear reminder of the volatile situation. Travelers considering Sudan should be aware of the high risks involved.

Iraq: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Iraq remains a hotbed of terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict, with particular risks posed to Westerners and US citizens. The US State Department’s evacuation of non-emergency personnel in May 2019 highlights the country’s precarious security situation.

The advisory also cautions US citizens against traveling to Iraq for armed conflict, with severe risks of kidnapping, injury, or death, along with legal repercussions such as arrest, fines, and expulsion.

Central African Republic: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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In the Central African Republic, the landscape is marred by violent crimes such as armed robbery, aggravated battery, and homicide. Armed groups wielding control over vast territories frequently engage in kidnapping civilians.

The limited ability of the US government to provide assistance to its citizens in distress here emphasizes the need for extreme caution.

Iran: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Traveling to Iran carries significant risks, including the possibility of kidnapping, arrest, and detention of US citizens, a scenario the US government is ill-equipped to handle with emergency services.

Iranian authorities have a track record of unjustly detaining US citizens, especially those with dual Iranian-American nationality, on charges ranging from espionage to posing a threat to national security. The denial of consular access to detained US citizens further complicates the situation, making travel to Iran particularly perilous.

Libya: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Libya is a country where the risks of terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and crime are alarmingly high. The presence of terrorist and militia groups poses a direct threat to travelers, with random detentions and lack of access to legal or embassy assistance being common.

The potential for violence among armed groups can erupt suddenly, impacting US citizens. The volatility extends to Tripoli and other cities, where fighting and terrorist attacks have occurred, and even peaceful demonstrations can quickly turn violent.

Mali: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Mali presents a significant risk due to terrorism, kidnapping, and violent crime, particularly targeting nightclubs, hotels, and places of worship. The US government’s restricted ability to deliver emergency services to visitors in distress heightens the danger.

The threat landscape in Mali makes it essential for travelers to exercise the highest level of caution and consider the severe risks involved in visiting.

Somalia: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Somalia is fraught with dangers, including crime, kidnapping, piracy, and terrorism, affecting areas where visitors might frequent. Violent crimes, such as murder, along with illegal roadblocks, are widespread throughout the country, presenting a constant threat to safety and security.

South Sudan: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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The situation in South Sudan is dire, with armed conflict, kidnapping, and violent crimes such as carjackings, shootings, ambushes, assaults, robberies, and kidnappings being all too common.

Conflicts among political and ethnic groups have led to widespread armed conflict, severely restricting the activities and safety of journalists, US government officials, and other foreign entities in the country.

Syria: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Syria remains one of the most dangerous places on earth, with no area safe from the violence that encompasses terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict. The risks include kidnappings, the use of chemical warfare, shelling, and aerial bombardment.

With the US Embassy in Damascus having suspended its operations since February 2012, and the heightened targeting of US citizens and Westerners for kidnapping, the risks in Syria are exceptionally high and travel should be avoided at all costs.

Haiti: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Haiti’s vibrant culture and history are overshadowed by risks of crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping. The US State Department’s directive for all non-emergency personnel and their families to return to the US in February 2019 speaks volumes about the safety concerns.

While Royal Caribbean operates a private, secured cruise port in Labadee, the general advisement against travel to Haiti remains firm.

North Korea: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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North Korea presents a unique set of risks, including the serious possibility of arrest and long-term detention for US nationals. The complicated political relationship between the US and North Korea, coupled with the lack of diplomatic or consular relations, significantly hampers the US government’s ability to assist its citizens.

Sweden’s role as the protecting power for the US provides limited emergency services, but access to detained US citizens is often delayed or denied.

Afghanistan: Level 4: Do Not Travel

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Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous countries for travelers, with threats of crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict. The advisory details the critical levels of danger, including kidnappings, suicide bombings, and widespread military combat operations.

The stringent travel guidelines and security measures for US government employees underscore the extreme risks involved in visiting Afghanistan.

Niger: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Heading to Niger might seem like an adventure, but it’s crucial to consider the risks. Terrorism, kidnapping, and violent crimes such as armed robbery are prevalent, particularly near borders with Mali, Libya, and Burkina Faso.

If you’re thinking of exploring northern Niger, be aware that the US government’s capacity to help in emergencies is largely confined to the capital, with stringent security measures in place. This limitation underscores the importance of exercising caution and preparing thoroughly before traveling to Niger.

Nigeria: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Nigeria, with its diverse cultures and landscapes, also harbors risks of crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and piracy. These dangers are not confined to rural areas; urban centers are equally affected.

The limited ability of US authorities to assist American citizens in distress further complicates safety for travelers. If Nigeria is on your travel list, staying informed and vigilant is more critical than ever.

Pakistan: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Pakistan offers breathtaking landscapes and rich historical sites, but it’s also a country where terrorism remains a significant threat. Attacks are frequent across the nation, particularly in Balochistan and KPK, including the former FATA.

The threat of large-scale terrorist attacks looms large, with numerous incidents resulting in many casualties. With the US government’s limited ability to assist Americans in Pakistan, especially with the US Consulate General in Peshawar unable to provide consular services, travelers must weigh the risks carefully.

Turkey: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Turkey straddles two continents and offers a unique blend of history and culture. However, travelers should be aware of the risks of terrorism and arbitrary detentions.

The US government’s limited capacity to intervene if an American citizen is detained adds to the risk, especially near the borders with Syria and Iraq. Avoiding these areas due to the threats of terrorism and kidnapping is advisable for anyone planning a visit to Turkey.

Guinea-Bissau: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Guinea-Bissau might not be on every traveler’s radar, but those considering a visit should be cautious. The country experiences civil unrest and violent crime, with foreigners often targeted by aggressive vendors and criminals, especially at the airport and Bandim Market. The absence of a US embassy complicates the situation, making it challenging to seek assistance in emergencies.

Sri Lanka: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Sri Lanka’s stunning landscapes and rich culture are marred by the threat of terrorism, which has targeted busy areas across the country. The US government’s decision to order the departure of non-emergency personnel and their families in April 2019 shows the seriousness of these threats. Travelers should exercise heightened caution and stay informed about the security situation.

Burkina Faso: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Burkina Faso faces challenges with crime, kidnapping, and terrorism. The military’s efforts to combat widespread terrorism, resulting in a state of emergency in several regions, highlight the significant risks in the country. Travelers are advised to avoid certain areas of Ouagadougou, the capital city, and remain vigilant at all times.

Burundi: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Traveling to Burundi? It’s time to think twice. The country is grappling with political unrest that often escalates into violent conflict. Imagine walking down a street where the threat of grenade attacks and armed robberies looms large. That’s the reality in Burundi. The US government’s capacity to assist its citizens in emergencies here is severely limited, which means help might not be readily available if you find yourself in a tight spot.

Honduras: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Honduras presents a tapestry of rich culture against the backdrop of natural beauty. However, beneath this lies a harsh reality of violent crime, including homicides and armed robberies. Gang activities, human trafficking, and drug-related crimes add to the dangers, particularly in regions like Gracias a Dios. This area is notorious for its isolation and elevated crime rates, making it a no-go for travelers seeking safe adventures.

Mauritania: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Mauritania’s vast deserts might seem like an explorer’s paradise, but they’re shadowed by threats of terrorism and violent crimes such as muggings and armed robbery. Venturing into this country means exposing yourself to significant risks that could turn a journey of discovery into a nightmare.

El Salvador: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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El Salvador, part of the Northern Triangle along with Guatemala and Honduras, is a country where the beauty of its landscapes contrasts sharply with the violence that pervades its streets. Gang-related activities, including extortion and narcotics trafficking, are rampant. Violent crimes such as murders, assaults, and armed robberies are widespread, posing serious risks to visitors.

Chad: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Chad offers a blend of cultures and landscapes but is also fraught with dangers, including terrorism and the presence of unmapped minefields along its borders with Libya and Sudan. Violent crimes, including armed robbery and carjacking, are common, making it a challenging destination for those seeking peace of mind while traveling.

Nicaragua: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Nicaragua’s rich history and vibrant culture are overshadowed by civil unrest and a high incidence of crime, including sexual assault and armed robbery. The presence of “parapolice” and arbitrary law enforcement, combined with limited healthcare, make it a risky destination for travelers seeking both adventure and safety.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country of natural beauty and rich resources, yet it’s plagued by violence, including armed robbery and assault. The risks are compounded by the threats of Ebola and kidnapping, particularly in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, as well as ongoing armed conflict in the east.

Lebanon: Level 3: Reconsider Travel

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Lebanon, known for its rich history and cultural heritage, currently faces significant safety challenges. The risks of terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict, particularly near the borders with Syria and Israel, make it a destination where travelers need to tread cautiously.

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