• Adapted: Sebastian Modak in Conde' Nast

U.S. State Department Rolls Out a New Travel Advisory System


Gone are all those confusing travel warnings, alerts, and security messages.

The State Department's 'Travel Warning' and 'Travel Alert' designations have been replaced by a new tiered system, with security information for every country in the world.

For years, American travelers looking for the latest information on whether a potential destination is safe have relied on the U.S. State Department and its travel website for the latest information. There, they've learned of travel alerts in Europe, security messages in Israel, and travel warnings in Iraq and Syria.

Has that info been comprehensive? Yes, these are the experts after all. But is it always clear? Not exactly.

Travel alerts, travel warnings, security messages: What do they all really mean?

Seemingly aware that this all leads to a lot of confusion, the State Department has as of today instituted a new system, first announced in December, for alerting Americans about possible security risks abroad.

Instead of the former system, which issued "travel alerts" for short-term risks caused by discrete events like nationwide protests or epidemic outbreaks, and "travel warnings" for lingering concerns stemming from conflict or political instability, the State Department has implemented a tiered system that identifies the risk for every country in the world.

"In the new Travel Advisories, we’ve done away with Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts," said Bureau of Consular Affairs Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizen Services Michelle Bernier-Toth, in a briefing on Wednesday.

"We’ve done away with emergency and security messages—that was something that people didn’t always understand the difference—and we have gone to a Travel Advisory for every country, including Antarctica. And within that Travel Advisory, we have gone to a four-level ranking system."

  • Level one countries are considered the safest, where travelers are asked to "exercise normal precautions."

  • Level two means "exercise increased caution."

  • Level three means Americans should "reconsider travel."

  • Level four, the highest, translates to "do not travel."

Check out the new advisory for yourself here at the U.S. State Department website.

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