Between booking flights, finding accommodations, planning with family and friends, and finding time off, traveling can be stressful enough – trust us, we get it! On top of all of that, you shouldn’t have to also be worried about the safety of your destination. Therefore, it’s always important to note relevant travel advisories when planning your next getaway. It’s been an issue at the top of travel news for most of the year, so we want to explain what it all means and walk you through the details.
From the countries that are now implementing a U.S. travel advisory to destinations that Americans are being told to avoid, check out our tips for navigating travel advisories and staying safe wherever you plan to go.
How Travel Advisories Work
The phrase “travel advisory” can be intimidating, especially when you’re unsure of exactly what that means. A travel advisory doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole country is off-limits to visit.
For example, there is an advisory against Turkey for American travelers right now, which may seem like you shouldn’t go to the country at all. Yet if you read the advisory closely, it’s only referring to a strip along the borders of Syria and Iraq, and other areas of the country are deemed safe for travel.
Travel advisories range from Level 1 to Level 4 depending on the severity of the conditions in the country. Level 1 advisories say to “exercise normal precautions,” Level 2 advisories to “exercise increased caution,” Level 3 to “reconsider travel,” and Level 4 warns not to travel at all.
The U.S. government emphasizes that conditions in any country can change very quickly. So, it’s important to keep an eye out for any changes in the safety levels of your next planned getaway. If you want to make sure not to miss any news on your next international trip, you can sign up to receive updates and alerts on travel advisories for Americans.
Travel Advisories for Americans
In terms of advisories for those in the United States, there are a number of countries Americans are being warned about currently, broken up into different levels depending on the severity of the danger. Afghanistan and Iraq categorized as Level 4 advisories; countries that Americans are told to be extremely cautious about. Among the reasons for these high-level advisories are crime, civil unrest, kidnappings, and deportations of U.S. citizens.
You may be surprised by some of the Level 1 travel advisories – Canada even made the list. However, there don’t seem to be many concrete reasons given for avoiding the country. Instead, travelers are told to be cautious of protests due to Canada’s “robust protections” for free-speech and assembly.
This advisory also warns that gun violence can still occur in Canada. However, the country has much lower gun-violence rates than the U.S. Basically, if you are planning a trip to visit our neighbor to the north, you should use a normal level of caution (as you would in any foreign country).
Countries With Advisories for the U.S.
You might be surprised to learn that there are a number of countries with a U.S. travel advisory, mainly as a result of the alarming number of mass shootings that have taken place. National news headlines tell the stories of lives lost in senseless violence like the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Understandably, this has made the U.S. seem like an unsafe destination to non-citizens (and to many citizens as well).Amnesty International recently issued a U.S. travel advisory because of these high levels of gun violence. They are warning non-U.S. citizens to be vigilant about firearms and use extra caution when visiting bars, nightclubs or casinos.
Their advisory also cautions travelers about the increased likelihood of hate crimes. It says: “depending on the traveler’s gender identity, race, country of origin, ethnic background or sexual orientation, they may be at higher risk of being targeted with gun violence, and should plan accordingly.”
Venezuela and Uruguay both urged their citizens to avoid the U.S. in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, according to the Washington Post. Each country warned about the dangers of visiting crowded places like shopping malls, theme parks or festivals in a country with “the indiscriminate possession of firearms by the population,” as the Uruguayan Foreign Ministry said.
Despite the prevalence of gun violence, public perception of the U.S. doesn’t seem to be that it’s unsafe to visit. One Skift article points out the hypocrisy of America issuing travel advisories for countries with violence when the U.S. has had over 200 mass shootings since the beginning of 2019. The author writes: “While the statistical likelihood of a traveler being caught up in a mass shooting in America is low, is it any lower than that of a terrorism attack in Turkey or western Europe?”
Exploring Outside Major Cities in the U.S.
Despite the U.S. travel advisory currently put in place by various countries, it doesn’t appear that travel to America has slowed down too much. In fact, Statista estimated that the U.S. had 78 million international visitors in 2018, and that number is still projected to increase in the next few years.
It is important to do your research before visiting any foreign country. However, make sure you analyze the context of any advisory before crossing any destination off of your to-visit list. And if you’re one of the many travelers who still plan to visit the U.S., we’ve got recommendations for you.
Enjoy the Outdoors
There are so many incredible places to visit in the U.S. for Americans and international visitors alike. If you’re hoping to avoid the buzz of a big city, here are some quieter outdoor destinations:
- While there are many mountains to hike in the U.S., Mt. Adams in New Hampshire’s White Mountains is one of the best. For those who want both scenic views and an all-day workout, you’ll surely enjoy your time on this trail.
- If New England hiking isn’t your thing, Wyoming could be the scenic spot for you. Jackson Hole has everything a nature-lover could want, from Yellowstone National Park to the Grand Tetons. And when you’ve had your fill of exercise, hit a cowboy bar or two to treat yourself!
Smaller Cities to Visit
If you’re a city person at heart but want to avoid major tourist hubs, check out these smaller cities:
- I may be biased because I’ve lived here my whole life, but Boston is one of the best cities to explore. The city is small and walkable, especially when compared with bigger cities like Chicago or New York. Each neighborhood has a distinct feel, from the North End’s many Italian restaurants to Allston’s popular college bars.
- Savannah is one of our top coastal U.S. cities to visit. The popular Georgian city is full of Southern charm. There are plenty of museums, gardens, good eats, and even incredible ghost tours to experience. If you decide to visit in the summer though, beware of the muggy heat!
- If you’re a die-hard foodie, Omaha, Nebraska should be on your list of U.S. destinations to visit. Omaha is home to some great culinary hot spots, from Italian joints to an innovative Mexican eatery.