U.S. State Department Issues Travel Alerts for More than Half the World

November 10, 2023
Photo via Adobe Exercise caution when selecting your winter or spring vacation destination.

Planning a Vacation Out of the Country? Check These Safety Warnings First.

As the weather gets colder, many of us start planning a winter or spring vacation to someplace warmer, but this year, it would be wise to check with the U.S. State Department before booking that vacation. There is now a Worldwide Caution for Americans traveling abroad due to wars in Ukraine and Israel, as well as increased risks of terrorism, violence, kidnapping and other crimes.  As of Friday, 21 countries have earned the “Level 4: Do Not Travel” rating, while 20 are at “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” and more than 70 are at “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.” This should make you think twice about where you really want to go for your next trip. 

Sure, we are all aware of the usual countries that are always hostile to Americans and a very bad idea to visit, like North Korea and Iran. And common sense would tell you that Americans are less than welcome in most of the Middle East, as well as Russia, due to the raging wars in those regions and the risk of terrorist attacks. A large number of African and Central American countries are also under advisories due to crime and internal strife, including El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, which are all under Level 3: Reconsider Travel advisories.

China and Hong Kong are under “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” advisories due to “the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including in relation to exit bans, and the risk of wrongful detentions.” 

You may be surprised to learn that Mexico and Jamaica – two of Americans’ favorite warm weather destinations – are looking quite risky as well. 

Mexico Travel Warnings

In Mexico, the State Department has issued travel warnings for every state except Yucatan and Campeche. The state of Quintana Roo, the home of popular vacation hotspots Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, is listed as “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution Due to Crime.” Thirteen states have “Level 4: Do Not Travel” and “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” warnings due to the threat of homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery, including: 

  • Level 4: Do Not Travel To – Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas states.
  • Level 3: Reconsider Travel To – Baja California, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos and Sonora states. 
Map of Mexico
Mexico’s Yucatan and Campeche are the only states that are NOT under U.S. State Department travel advisories.

The advisory says, “The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico, as travel by U.S. government employees to certain areas is prohibited or restricted.”

It also offers guidance based on its restrictions for U.S. government employees. They may not travel between cities after dark, may not hail taxis on the street, and must rely on dispatched vehicles, including app-based services like Uber, and regulated taxi stands. They should avoid traveling alone, especially in remote areas and may not drive from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior parts of Mexico, except daytime travel within Baja California and between Nogales and Hermosillo on Mexican Federal Highway 15D, and between Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey on Highway 85D.

Jamaica Travel Warnings

The U.S. State Department has “Level 4: Do Not Travel” warnings in place for 11 of the island’s 13 parishes, including: St. Ann’s, St. Catherine’s, Clarendon, St. Elizabeth’s, Hanover, St. James (Montego Bay), St. Andrew Parish (Kingston), Manchester, St. Thomas, Trelawny and Westmoreland Parishes. Only Portland and St. Mary parishes are not under travel advisories. 

Jamaica Map
Every parish in Jamaica is under a State Department travel advisory except Portland and St. Mary parishes.

The department warns that violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, and homicides are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts. “The homicide rate reported by the Government of Jamaica has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere. Travelers are warned to avoid using public buses, seclude places and situations as well as walking or driving at night,” the warning added. 

There is also a note of caution that local police are ineffective, and emergency services are spotty throughout the island. 

If You Have an International Vacation Destination in Mind

Obviously, this might be the year to stay in the United States for vacation, but if you have your heart set on going to Paris, Tahiti or some other international destination, you’d be well advised to check the State Department travel advisories before you go and plan ahead for your safety. 

The State Department offers the following safety advice: 

  • Keep traveling companions and family back home informed of your travel plans. If separating from your travel group, send a friend your GPS location. If taking a taxi alone, take a photo of the taxi number and/or license plate and text it to a friend.
  • Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving alone or at night. In many locations, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside of major cities.
  • Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs and casinos.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State and the U.S. Embassy on Facebook and Twitter.

We wish you safe travels wherever you choose to roam.