Travel warning or alert? US State Department aims to clarify system

Department of State

US Travelers Should Not Visit Mexico's Crime-Ridden States, New Travel Advisory Warns

The new program, which will provide United States citizens with clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information, includes 4 levels of advice ranging from "exercise normal precautions" to "do not travel".

India is placed in the second category which advises U.S. citizens to "exercise increased caution due to crime and terrorism". Meanwhile, No. 3 advisories suggest travelers reconsider trips to designated locations, while No. 4 recommends against travel. But the travel advisory said there are "no restrictions on US government employees for stays in".

While the State Department may warn against all travel, they can not bar citizens from traveling overseas or going to a specific country.

The arch-nemesis of world's superpower, North Korea is also in Level Four, with the additional restriction that USA law prohibits American travellers from using their passports there, effectively banning visits to the Kim led-state. "In the past, there have been large-scale terrorist attacks resulting in hundreds of casualties", reads the travel advisory.

"Attacks have targeted official Afghan and USA government convoys and compounds, foreign embassies, military installations, commercial entities, non-governmental organization (NGO) offices, hospitals, places of worship, restaurants, hotels, airports, and education centers".

Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are placed in the "do not travel" category due to terrorism. These include France and Belgium, where an ISIS cell conducted deadly attacks in 2015 and 2016, as well as Germany, where a truck plowed into a group of people at a Christmas market in December 2016. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.

Cuba, for instance, is listed as a level 3 country.

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Officials insisted the change was to make advice clearer to U.S. travelers, but the travel warning system has always been controversial and often offends foreign capitals.

The State Department's new, four-tier travel advisory system replaces the previous system of travel warnings and travel alerts.

In Mexico, a level 2, the State Department grades each of the nation's 31 states on the same scale.

Western European capitals, for example, while prosperous and politically stable, have seen recent attacks by Islamist militants in areas popular with tourists.

Eleven countries come with the do-not-travel recommendation, most in Africa and the Middle East: Mali, Central African Republic, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

Esponda said local officials and tourism operators are investing in increased security, including camera systems and the construction of a new marine base.

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