International incidents have motivated us as a travel insurance company to provide a centralized source of information on the travel alerts and warnings. On January 10, 2018, the U.S. Department of State replaced its decades old program of Travel Alerts and Warnings with a new Travel Advisory System. Learn more on the new Travel Advisory System here. User confusion over the previous Travel Alerts and Warnings System prompted the formation of a new Travel Advisory System for the United States. The new tiered type system ranks every country based on its current safety and security conditions, and how it may affect U.S. citizens worldwide.
Countries are now ranked in levels, between 1 and 4:
The rank assigned to each country is dependent on the risk indicators existing and imminent in their territories during the assessment periods. There can be more than one risk indicator per country at a time, which can also be removed when the threat or situation has been contained.
Risk Indicators are classified as:
The information below was up-to-date with the previous Travel Alerts and Warnings system from the U.S. Department of State and can be used for historical research.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all non-essential travel to Pakistan. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated May 22, 2017.
Consular services provided by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, the Consulate General in Karachi, and the Consulate General in Lahore are often limited due to the security environment. At this time, the Consulate General in Peshawar is not providing consular services.
Pakistan continues to experience significant terrorist violence, including sectarian attacks. Targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and non-governmental organization (NGO) employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel are common. Throughout Pakistan, foreign and indigenous terrorist groups continue to pose a danger to U.S. citizens. Terrorists have targeted U.S. diplomats and diplomatic facilities in the past, and evidence suggests they continue to do so. Terrorists and criminal groups have resorted to kidnapping for ransom.
The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in major cities, following attacks or in response to threats.
Terrorists continue to target:
In Balochistan, insurgent and terrorist groups conducted numerous suicide bombings, hand grenade attacks, and ambushes on Pakistani security forces and civilians over the past six months. A suicide bomber in Quetta targeted senior police officers near Shuhada Chowk, killing 14 people and wounding 30. In Chaman, a suicide bomber attacked a police convoy, killing three police officials and injuring 20 others. Two hand grenade attacks in Gwadar and Mastung injured 41 people. In Quetta, a suicide bomber killed 21 people and wounded 45 in an attack on the Pishin bus terminal. A suicide bomber in Jhal Magsi attacked worshippers at the Sufi shrine of Pir Rakhyal Shah in the Fatehpur area, killing 19 and injuring 30. A suicide bomber in Quetta attacked a police convoy on the Sibbi Road in the Saryab mill area, killing seven and wounding 23.
In Punjab province, three suicide bombings targeting police and military officials in Lahore killed at least 47 and injured more than 100 others.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administered Tribal areas (FATA), there have been numerous recent attacks by insurgent and terrorist groups targeting government officials, NGO/Aid workers, religious minorities, and civilians to include over 67 improvised explosive devices (IED), 148 reported occurrences of small arms fire, 28 known assassination attempts, and 17 kidnappings. Assassination and kidnapping attempts are common throughout these areas. Terrorist organizations operating in the area have not discriminated between government officials and civilians.
Since May 2017, the following significant attacks have occurred: in Parachinar, an IED targeting the Tori Market killed 67 civilians and injured 75; in Jamrud, an IED attack targeting peace committee workers killed at least five civilians; in Charsadda, at least five IEDs exploded, injuring 14 people; IEDs targeting Peshawar Hospital injured five people; and in Peshawar the detonation of a “toy bomb” killed one child and injured six.
Sectarian violence remains a serious threat throughout Pakistan, and the Government of Pakistan continues to enforce blasphemy laws. Religious minority communities have been victims of targeted killings and accusations of blasphemy.
The local government restricts access for foreigners to many areas, including:
Travel by U.S. government personnel within Pakistan is restricted, and movements by U.S. government personnel outside of U.S. diplomatic facilities in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar are sometimes severely restricted depending on local circumstances and security conditions, which can change suddenly.
If you choose to live or travel in Pakistan despite this warning, you should:
Advisory Notice to Airmen (NOTAM): The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a NOTAM concerning the risks to civil aviation operating in Pakistan, particularly at low altitude, during the arrival and departure phases of flight, and when on the ground, due to extremist/militant activity. The Advisory NOTAM does not prohibit U.S. operators or airmen from operating in the specified area, as it is strictly an advisory notice.
For background information on FAA flight prohibitions and advisories for U.S. civil aviation, see the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.
As part of the Department of State’s continuous efforts to provide U.S. citizens traveling abroad with information about safety and security events, we are updating the Worldwide Caution with information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions, political violence, and criminal activity against U.S. citizens and interests abroad. This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated September 14, 2017.
As terrorist attacks, political upheaval, and violence often take place without any warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling. To better prepare for possible emergencies, U.S. citizens are encouraged to read Country Specific Information pages, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts on travel.state.gov before planning a trip.
In addition to concerns stemming from terrorism, travelers should be alert to the possibility of political unrest, violence, demonstrations, and criminal activities when traveling. Country-specific information pages and Travel Warnings should be consulted to obtain the latest data on such threats.
Travelers are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. The Department uses these security messages to convey information about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, natural disasters, etc. In an emergency, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate or call the following numbers: 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.
U.S. government facilities worldwide remain in a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Qa’ida, their associates, and those inspired by such organizations, are intent on attacking U.S. citizens wherever they are. Extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons to target U.S. government and private interests. Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack to more effectively target crowds, including the use of edged weapons, pistols, and vehicles as weapons. Extremists increasingly aim to assault “soft” targets, such as:
In multiple regions, terrorists, guerrilla groups, and criminals seek to kidnap U.S. citizens to finance their operations or for political purposes. The Department also remains concerned that terrorists could again seek to down aircraft using concealed explosives or hijack commercial flights
Private U.S. citizens should not travel to any country to participate in armed conflict. U.S. citizens are reminded that fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of support to designated terrorist organizations can constitute the provision of material support for terrorism, which is a serious crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines.
Below, we provide information specific to different regions and countries. Please consult travel.state.govfor additional information.
AFRICA: There are terrorist, guerilla, and insurgent groups in some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, and the potential for al-Qa’ida or ISIS-inspired attacks is high in several West African countries and countries bordering Somalia. These groups have been known to take hostages, kill civilians, and deliberately target Westerners on occasion. There is political instability and civil unrest in some African countries. Under these conditions, the level of consular assistance available to U.S. citizens may be limited.
If you are planning to travel to any of the following countries, please read our advisories carefully:
EAST ASIA and PACIFIC: Armed terrorist and criminal groups are operating in the East Asian and Pacific region and may attempt to target U.S. citizens, particularly for kidnapping in the coastal areas and outlying islands of the eastern part of the Malaysian state of Sabah and the southern Philippines. Indonesia has witnessed an increase in terrorist-related arrests and foiled plots, and several small-scale attacks and attempted attacks have occurred. Periodic acts of violence in Thailand remain a concern. U.S. citizens are strongly warned to avoid all travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement. A travel restriction on the use of U.S. passports to travel to, in, or from North Korea became effective in early September 2017.
If you are planning to travel to any of the following countries, please read our advisories carefully:
EUROPE: Terrorist groups continue to plot attacks in Europe as foreign fighters return home from Syria and Iraq, while other individuals may be radicalized or inspired by ISIS propaganda. European authorities continue to warn of additional attacks on major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers, places of worship, and the transportation sector, frequently prompting heightened security at notable public venues and coordinated counterterrorism operations.
If you are planning to travel to any of the following countries, please read our advisories carefully:
MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA: Terrorist groups are very active in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests in the region. Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya are considered violent and unpredictable war zones, and there is no official U.S. diplomatic presence in the latter three countries. U.S. citizens should avoid these areas. Terrorist groups have demonstrated capability to conduct attacks throughout the region, posing both a direct and indirect threat to U.S. citizens. Government officials throughout the region are concerned about the potential return of foreign fighters following ISIS’s territorial losses in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
SOUTH and CENTRAL ASIA: The U.S. government assesses terrorist groups in South Asia may be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. facilities, citizens, and interests. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Afghanistan, as no region in the country is immune from violence. A number of established terrorist organizations, indigenous sectarian groups, and other militants pose a danger to U.S. citizens in Pakistan. Extremist elements are also active in India, as outlined in a recent emergency message. Terrorists have hit a wide variety of targets and institutions in Bangladesh.
Western Hemisphere: Insurgent groups, armed criminal gangs, and indigenous terrorists remain active in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada. U.S. citizens are particularly vulnerable to kidnap-for-ransom attempts and violent crimes of opportunity while visiting a variety of countries. Gang- and narcotics-related violence is of concern in several countries throughout the region. Political protests are common throughout the region, and in some countries they can devolve into violence. Haiti is particularly vulnerable to violent political protest activity, some of which has directly targeted U.S. interests. Venezuela’s current political crisis has turned violent on numerous occasions in 2017, including near-daily protests between April and August that have cost more than 100 people their lives.
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to postpone or cancel unnecessary travel to mainland Honduras due to ongoing political protests and the potential for violence. There is an increase in demonstrations and disruptions as a result of an election dispute. The Bay Islands of Honduras (Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja) are not significantly impacted at this time. Though current demonstrations have largely remained peaceful, demonstrations can be volatile and dangerous, and have included rock throwing, assaults, and tire burning. Moreover, rioting and looting have occurred in many cities throughout Honduras. Road closures result in extreme traffic delays, thereby possibly limiting access to airports throughout mainland Honduras. This Travel Alert expires on December 31, 2017.
As of December 5 and through Monday, December 11, 2017, the Honduran government is imposing a curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on parts of mainland Honduras. There is no curfew in effect on the Bay Islands and the mainland cities of Tela and Trujillo. As of December 8, the Honduran government has lifted the curfew in the departments of Choluteca, Valle, El Paraiso, Ocotopeque, Copan, Lempira, Santa Barbara, Olancho, Gracias a Dios, and Comayagua (though the curfew remains in effect in the city of Siguatapeque). We advise U.S. citizens to observe local law enforcement requirements and remain inside during restricted hours.
U.S. citizens are reminded that large public gatherings may become unruly or violent quickly. U.S. citizens in Honduras should take extra precautions and follow instructions issued by local officials.
The State Department warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Saudi Arabia due to continuing threats from terrorist groups and the threat of ballistic missile attacks on civilian targets by rebel forces in Yemen. This Travel Warning supersedes the previous version issued on March 29, 2017.
Terrorist threats persist throughout Saudi Arabia, including in major cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dhahran, and attacks can occur without warning anywhere in the country. Terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its affiliates have targeted both Saudi and Western government interests, mosques and other religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places frequented by U.S. citizens and other Westerners. On October 7, a terrorist attacked a Saudi government installation in Jeddah. Since May, sectarian issues in the Qatif region in the Eastern Province resulted in several attacks against Saudi forces conducting security operations there.
Saudi security forces continue to vigorously counter terrorist activities, having successfully disrupted multiple terrorist attacks and killed or detained several high-profile ISIS members. On June 23, Saudi authorities announced they had foiled an attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a security operation. On September 11, Saudi authorities announced the arrest of several suspects in possession of suicide belts and materials for construction of improvised explosive devices intended for use in an attack on the Ministry of Defense in Riyadh.
Violence from the ongoing conflict in Yemen continues to spill over into Saudi Arabia. In the past year, rebels have fired several long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia capable of reaching the vicinities of Riyadh and Jeddah, and they have publicly stated their intent to continue doing so. The most recent attack on November 4 resulted in debris falling near King Khalid International Airport north of Riyadh.
Yemeni forces also routinely fire artillery at Saudi border towns and launch cross-border attacks against Saudi military personnel. U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from traveling to any area within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemeni border, including the cities of Jizan and Najran. As a result, the U.S. Mission’s ability to provide consular assistance in this region is limited, and U.S. citizens should not travel to this area.
Due to security concerns, U.S. government personnel and their families are also restricted from traveling to:
U.S. citizens should avoid travel to these areas.
Read the Department of State Travel Warning for Yemen before considering travel near the Yemen frontier.
An Overview of the Terror Threats in Saudi Arabia
Saudi authorities have announced that 34 terrorist attacks, some resulting in death, have occurred in Saudi Arabia in 2016. This includes what the media refers to as “The Deadly Week of Terror”, during which several cities were targeted across Saudi Arabia with several casualties. The threat of terrorism continues into 2017 from terrorist groups, including ISIS and its affiliates. These groups have targeted both Saudi and Western government interests, mosques and significant religious sites, and places frequented by foreigners.
Regardless of the Saudi authorities continued effort to counter terrorist attacks, thwarting dozens in the last 12 months, several attacks have occurred in 2017. On January 7, 2017, two men linked to ISIS died in a shootout with Saudi authorities in Riyadh. Authorities surrounded the house in which the two men were located, ordering them to exit the home. Instead, the two men opened fire with authorities and both lost their lives. As reported by Al Jazeera, one of the men was a known explosive-belt maker for terrorist groups. On January 21, 2017, another two men linked to ISIS died when their suicide vests exploded prematurely. The extremists were confronted amidst a security operation against a suspected “terrorist” hideout. Authorities arrested 16 other men in the same incident. Also, on February 16, 2017, Saudi security forces arrested 18 men in four cities across Saudi Arabia because they allegedly provided support for terrorist activities. These arrests are credited to dismantling four ISIS cells throughout Saudi Arabia, reported by Al Arabiya English.
Conflict in Yemen Spills Over to Saudi Arabia
On several occasions, violence from ongoing conflict in Yemen has crossed the border into Saudi Arabia. Several Saudi media outlets have reported various times of this occurring since March 2015. The Travel Warning notes more than 40,000 projectiles have been launched into Saudi territory from Yemen. These projectiles include 30 missiles. On March 29, 2017, The Daily Star, a Lebanese publication, reported that Saudi Arabia shot down Yemen rebel missiles on course for Saudi cities.
If traveling to Saudi Arabia, visitors should note that the U.S. government has restricted official personnel and their families from travel in the following areas.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) due to an unpredictable security situation subject to rapid deterioration, the activities of armed groups, and violent crime. We urge U.S. citizens who are in CAR to consider departing. The U.S. government’s ability to provide consular services in CAR is extremely limited. U.S. citizens in CAR who require consular assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. This replaces the Travel Warning dated May 26, 2017.
The potential for intercommunal violence in CAR is high. Despite the presence of a United Nations stabilization force, the security situation is fragile. Large areas of the country are controlled by armed groups who regularly kidnap, injure and/or kill civilians. In the event of unrest, airport, land border, and road closures may occur with little or no notice.
The U.S. Embassy restricts the travel of its personnel outside of Embassy facilities, and also imposes a curfew. U.S. citizens who choose to remain in CAR should have safety and evacuation plans that do not rely on assistance from the U.S. government.
Several years ago, there was a civil war in the CAR that left thousands of people dead. Despite the presence of a United Nations stabilization force, the security situation is fragile. Large areas of the country are controlled by armed groups who regularly kidnap, injure and/or kill civilians. In the event of unrest, airport, land border, and road closures may occur with little or no notice. The VOA reports that villiages are being destroyed and homes are being burnt to the ground. Violence is unpredictable.
The U.S. Embassy restricts the travel of its personnel outside of Embassy facilities, and also imposes a curfew. U.S. citizens who choose to remain in CAR should have safety and evacuation plans that do not rely on assistance from the U.S. government.
Due to the continued threat of terrorist attacks, the U.S. Department of State alerts all U.S. citizens to the heightened risk of traveling to European countries this summer. The most recent widely-reported incidents in France, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom continue to demonstrate that the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), al-Qa’ida and their affiliates are able to plan and execute terrorist attacks in Europe. This Travel Alert remains in effect until January 18, 2017.
The Recent Terrorist Incidents in Europe
Since early February 2017, France alone has been the target for seven widely-reported terrorist incidents involving a letter bomb, guns and knives. On February 3, 2017, an Egyptian national on a tourist visa to France tried to enter the Louvre wielding a machete. He was stopped by the gunfire of a soldier guarding the museum. In March of 2017, a letter bomb, suspected to be sent from a Greek anarchist group known as the Conspiracy of Fire Cells, was sent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offices in Paris, France. One woman was injured in the blast. Two days later, a police officer in the Paris suburbs was shot and injured by a resident of the suburb who was on the police watch list. Later, the suspect was shot dead at a local airport after attempting to attack police guards. On April 20, 2017, three police officers were shot by a man with terrorist ties attacking the Champs Elysees, a shopping area in Paris. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which left one officer dead and two others, as well as a female tourist, injured. Two days later, on April 22, 2017, a man with a knife entered a Paris train station. His attempted to injure police officers was thwarted, however, it did cause panic.
On March 22, 2017, an attacker drove a car into pedestrians on the sidewalk along Westminster Bridge near Palace of Westminster in London. He injured more than 50 people and killed four, including one United State citizen. After he crashed the car into the fence of the Palace Westminster, he abandoned the car and fatally stabbed an unarmed police officer. While the police found no link to terrorist history, the man sent a text message before the incident claiming he was “waging jihad.” Also, the source linked to the Islamic State, the Amaq News Agency, claimed the attacker was answering ISIS’s call to target citizens of states that were fighting against it.
Great Britian was the target of two more attacks in the summer fo 2017 - the Manchester Arena Bombing and the London Bridge Attack. In the Manchester Arena Bombing in May 2017, a lone bomber denated a shrapenal device at the entrance of an arena as people were exiting a concert. Twenty-three people were killed in the blast and 250 more were injured. Although the bomber may have acted alone, authorities believe others new about the attack prior to it occuring. The London Bridge Attack, in June 2017, was very similar to the Westminster Bridge Attack in March. A man drove a van into pedestrians on the bridge. When the van crashed on the bridge, they ran into a nearby market and stabbed several pedistrians. Eight people were killed in this attack and nearly 50 more were injured.
In August 2017, a man drove a van into a group of pedestrians at Catalonia, Spain. He killed 14 people in the attack, one more while hijacking a getaway car and injured several others. Several hours after that attack, five other men were involved in a similar attack in Cambrils, Spain.
Travel with Vigilance throughout Europe
The Travel Alert notes that local governments are continuing counterterrorism operations, yet there are concerns about potential future terrorist attacks. Due to the proven ability for terrorist affiliates and sympathizers to move throughout Europe, U.S citizens should travel with high vigilance as attacks may occur with little or no warning.
Like many of the recent attacks around Europe, extremists continue to target tourist locations, transportation hubs, marketings/shopping malls and local government facilities. In addition, the U.S. Travel Alert warns that “soft-targets” (like hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports) remain priority locations for possible terrorist attacks. Alos, terrorist continue to employ a variety of tactics, including firearms, explosives, using vehicles as ramming devices and sharp-edged weapons that are difficult to detect. The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens traveling to similar areas of Europe to remain vigilant during their travel plans, especially around large crowds.
The Department of State recommends that all U.S. citizens traveling between countries in Europe check each embassy or consulate website for any up-to-date security messaging. Also, review all security information for the destinations on the travel itinerary and ensure you have U.S. Embassy contact information in case of a terrorist incident.
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to reoccurring political protests throughout Togo, some of which have been violent, especially in the northern city of Sokodé. This Travel Alert expires on January 29, 2018.
Many protesters and security force members have been injured, and some killed, during the demonstrations, which began in August 2017. Security forces have used excessive force to disperse crowds. There are reports that government-sponsored vigilantes are using violence and the threat of violence to disrupt protests and intimidate civilians.
Police often use tear gas to disperse demonstrations that cause traffic disruptions in city centers and along National Route 1 and arrest demonstrators. Authorities have also interrupted internet and cellular data services, making communications difficult and less predictable.
Rallies, demonstrations, and protests may occur with little notice and without authorization from government authorities. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid area of demonstrations and exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Niger due to terrorist activity, kidnappings, and high crime. The Department recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel to Niger’s border regions, particularly the Malian border area, the Libyan border area, the Diffa region, and Lake Chad Basin area because of activity by various extremist groups including al-Qa’eda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham–Islamic State West Africa (ISIS-WA), ISIS-Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), ISIS-Libya (ISIS-L), and Boko Haram. Due to security concerns and travel restrictions, the U.S. Embassy’s abilty to assist U.S. citizens in remote and rural areas is very limited. This replaces the Travel Warning dated April 11, 2017.
An Overview of the Extremist Activity in Niger
More specifically, the Travel Warning recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel to Niger’s border regions, particularly the Malian border area, Diffa region and Lake Chad Basin area. These areas have recent activity from extremist groups including al-Qa’eda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham – Islamic State West Africa, and Boko Haram. The border regions of Niger are hotspots for terrorist activity, armed robbers and smugglers. Mali-based extremist groups have crossed the Nigerien border and carried out multiple deadly attacks on security forces.
The Travel Warning specifically notes that travelers are targeted throughout the country by armed robbers. Outside of the city of Niamey, the potential is very high for violent crime. All U.S. Embassy personnel traveling outside of Niamey are required to travel during daylight hours with a minimum of two vehicles accompanied by armed Nigerien government. Due to a high number of threats of kidnappings by terrorist groups against Westerners and U.S. citizens, several NGOs and private aid organizations have suspended aid operations in Niger and removed all personnel.
State of Emergencies Declared in Several Regions of Niger
The high volume of terrorist activity has kept the government of Niger from releasing a state of emergency in the Diffa region since February 2015. In June 2016, the Boko Haram took the town of Bosso near the Nigerien border and killed 30 soldiers from Niger. Then on March 3, 2017, the Nigerien Government declared a state of emergency for seven departments of the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions bordering Mali after several deadly attacks.
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to the South Pacific region about the ongoing threat of tropical cyclones affecting the area. While tropical cyclones in the South Pacific may occur throughout the year, the current South Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season begins on November 1, 2017, and ends April 30, 2018. U.S. citizens living in or traveling to the region should monitor local weather reports and take other appropriate actions as needed. This Travel Alert expires on April 30, 2018.
For further information on tropical cyclone warnings in the South Pacific region, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu, the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center, Fiji's regional meteorological center responsible for tropical cyclone warnings in the South Pacific region, or the Government of Australia's Bureau of Meteorology
In the past, U.S. citizens were forced to delay travel (including return travel to the United States) due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability. If you are planning to travel to regions of the world often affected by hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones, visit our Tropical Storm Season – Know Before You Go page for more information about the potential dangers and inconveniences associated with your travel before finalizing plans.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Venezuela due to concerns regarding violent crime, pervasive food and medicine shortages, and social unrest. Effective October 23, 2017, ordered departure of eligible family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and authorized departure of U.S. direct-hire government personnel was lifted, allowing U.S. government personnel and family members to return to Venezuela. This replaces the Travel Warning dated July 27, 2017.
The political and security situation in Venezuela is unpredictable and can change quickly. Since April 2017, political rallies and demonstrations occur daily throughout the country, often with little notice due to the upcoming presidential election.The United States Government does not recognize the election results as valid, reported by Reuters, of "a constitutional super-body under leftist President Nicolas Maduro." Disruptions to traffic and public transportation are common. Demonstrations typically elicit a strong police and security force response that includes the use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons and rubber bullets against participants, and occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism. Armed motorcycle gangs associated with the government frequently use violence to intimidate demonstrators. Clashes between these groups have resulted in serious injuries and over 70 deaths. U.S. citizens have reported being arrested, detained, and robbed while in close proximity to protests.
Security forces have arrested individuals, including U.S. citizens, and detained them for long periods with little or no evidence of a crime. The U.S. Embassy may not be notified of the detention of a U.S. citizen and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed. The detained citizen may be denied access to proper medical care, clean water, and food.
Violence and criminal activity – including homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking – pose significant and continuing security concerns. Hundreds of people have been killed in the political clashes surrounding the election. Indiscriminate violent crime is endemic throughout the country and can occur anywhere at any time. There are reports of authorities (e.g., police, airport, immigration) and criminals posing as authorities participating in robbery and extortion. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active in the Colombian border states of Zulia, Tachira, and Apure.
The Simón Bolívar International Airport, in Maiquetía, is located in an extremely high-risk area for armed robbery and kidnappings. Do not take unregulated taxis from this airport and avoid ATMs in this area. Travel between the Simón Bolívar International Airport and Caracas only during daylight hours, as armed bandits frequently target night-time motorists along this route.
Due to shortages of medicine and medical supplies, U.S. citizens should be prepared to cover their own needs for over-the-counter and prescription medicines while in country. You should have medical evacuation plans in place that do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance. Comprehensive medical evacuation insurance is strongly advised for all travelers.
U.S. citizens may also be detained and/or deported by Venezuelan immigration officials for not complying with visa or immigration regulations. U.S. citizens traveling to Venezuela must have a valid visa that is appropriate for their specific type of travel (journalism, employment, study, etc.) or risk being detained or deported. Journalists must possess the appropriate accreditation and work visa from the Venezuelan authorities before arriving. International journalists are closely scrutinized and have been expelled and/or detained for lacking appropriate permissions to work in Venezuela or for participation in what could be seen as anti-government activity, including observing and reporting on public health facilities.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Sudan. U.S. citizens should avoid all travel to the Darfur states, Blue Nile state, and Southern Kordofan state and consider carefully before planning travel to other areas of Sudan due to the risks of terrorism, armed conflict, and violent crime. The U.S. Embassy's ability to provide services outside of Khartoum is extremely limited. This replaces the Travel Warning issued on March 30, 2017.
An Overview of the Travel Dangers While in Sudan
The Sudan 2016 Crime & Safety Report by OSAC lists Darfur as being a dangerous region for all foreigners. Despite a ceasefire, declared at various times, the Government of Sudan and opposition forces still clash in the Darfur region, along the border with Chad and in areas that border South Sudan. Because of these tensions, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has planned to assist 4.6 million Sudanese citizens in 2017. The report notes that in February, 1.9 million people were assisted with general food supplies and nutrition assistance. U.S. citizens who wish to travel to these areas must obtain permission from the Sudanese government or risk being detained by security forces.
Active terrorist groups in Sudan have stated their intent to harm Westerners and Western interests through suicide operations, bombings, shootings, and kidnappings. Violent crimes against Westerners occur everywhere in Sudan but are prevalent in the Darfur region. Crimes include, but are not limited to, kidnappings, armed robberies, home invasions, and carjackings. While none of these criminal activities in Darfur seem to target Westerners specifically, all travelers are at risk.
Travel Recommendations from OSAC and Department of State
The same OSAC report states, “All of Darfur and Blue Nile and South Kordofan states should be avoided unless the traveling party has business with either a government agency or a humanitarian NGO.” Both the OSAC report and the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning for Sudan advise travelers to be extremely vigilant if they should decide to travel against the Warning. All travelers should monitor reliable news sources and exercise extreme caution when at public gatherings. U.S. citizens in Sudan should have evacuation plans that do not rely on the U.S. government for assistance.
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable. Violent conflict between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country. There is a serious risk for kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism. This replaces the Travel Warning dated March 22, 2017.
Overview of the War Zone Conflicts in Syria
Due to continued violent conflict, no part of Syria is safe for travelers. Since 2011, over 500,000 people have been killed within the border. The ongoing war zone has led to the destruction of the country’s infrastructure, housing, medical facilities, schools, and power and water utilities, increasing hardship for Syrian citizens inside the country borders.
Terrorist and other violent extremist groups (including ISIS and al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliateal-Nusrah Front) have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas and open spaces. The terrorist tactics of these groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices.
The security situation in Syria does not allow the U.S. government flexibility to help U.S. citizens who are kidnapped or taken hostage by terrorist groups. According to the Travel Warning, “U.S. citizens have disappeared in Syria.” Terrorist groups have kidnapped and murdered U.S. citizens for ransom and political purposes. American citizen Katie Mueller was kidnapped from Aleppo in August of 2013 while visiting a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Syria. Her kidnapping was confirmed by members of ISIS and was murdered by the same group in 2015 without being released.
Regardless of a ceasefire in Syria that was announced in December 2016, fighting persists and the security situation remains very dangerous for U.S. citizens in Syria. The ceasefire, brokered by the United States and Russia, does not include ISIS or al-Nusrah Front, which continue to use violence throughout the country. The main goal of the ceasefire was to stop the bombing of civilian areas and allow for humanitarian aid to enter destroyed cities like Aleppo and treat those in need.
U.S. citizens have reportedly faced dangers while traveling within the country and when trying to leave Syria via the land borders. Many border checkpoints are held by the opposition and should not be considered safe. These checkpoints are often targeted by regime attacks and often extremist groups use kidnapping ransoms as a means for funding the regime.
Also, all borders of Syria are generally crowded due to the number of refugees trying to leave the country. Nearly 11 million citizens of Syria have been displaced from their homes; 6 million Syrians are still in the country unable to live in their homes due to the war zone conflicts. The harsh and dangerous living conditions in the besieged cities often leave families desperate, trying to find safety. The sheer number of refugees at the border of Syria heightens the risk of crime and kidnapping of all travelers. Often times these crowded areas are targets for errant attacks, including bombings, by extremists.
U.S. Citizens Traveling to Syria Should Take Extreme Caution
The U.S. government reminds private U.S. citizens that engaging in armed conflict while traveling in Syria can lead to extreme personal risk, including kidnapping, injury, or death. The U.S. government does not support this activity; consular services for individuals kidnapped or injured while engaging in these activities for themselves or their families is very limited. Fighting on behalf or providing support to designated terrorist organizations can constitute material support for terrorism, which is a crime under United States law, which can result in prison time and large fines.
It is extremely hard to travel to Syria by flying. While four international airports do remain open within the nation, they could close without notice at anytime. Many nations have banned air travel directly to Syria, including the United States and the countries in the European Union. The United States has also banned flights from traveling in Syrian airspace. Most travel into Syria will need to be arranged by car and travelers should be aware of the Syrian departure tax, when leaving the country.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in February of 2012. Communication within the country via phone and internet is extremely limited due to the instability of the country. Travelers should have contingency plans for communication in case of an emergency situation should occur. The Government of the Czech Republic, acting through its own Embassy in Damascus, serves as Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria. The Czech Republic can provide consular services for U.S. travelers in Syria, but it will be extremely limited. The Travel Warning recommends that any U.S. citizen traveling within Syria that needs consular services leave the country and contact a U.S. embassy in a neighboring country, if possible.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because of ongoing instability and sporadic violence in many parts of the country. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the DRC, and poor security conditions in the Eastern Congo and Kasais, make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa. All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance. This replaces the Travel Warning dated March 29, 2017.
Armed groups operate in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Bas-Uele, Haut-Uele, Ituri, Tanganyika, Haut-Lomami, and the Kasai region. These groups have been known to kill, rape, kidnap, pillage, and carry out operations in which civilians may be indiscriminately targeted.
Congolese military and United Nations forces continue to operate throughout North and South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, and near the DRC's borders with the Central African Republic and the Republic of South Sudan, particularly in and around Garamba National Park and the Kasai regions. Travelers in these regions may encounter troop movements, rebel groups, or militias. Kidnapping for ransom is also common, particularly in North and South Kivu.
Overview of Current Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
According to the Canadian Government, the most recent reason for security concerns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a shift in power “despite a political agreement reached on December 31, 2016.” The agreement, as reported by the Human Rights Watch, comes after the mediation effort of the Catholic Church.
The agreement reached by the DRC parties commits the acting government to respect the December 19th, 2016 deadline that ends President Joseph Kabila’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit. The agreement also clearly defines that presidential elections will be held before the end of 2017, that the current president will not be on the ballot, and the current president will not try to change the constitutional terms prior to the election. Due to this, large-scale demonstrations could occur without notice, lead to violence and potentially block the only road to the N’Djili Airport in Kinshasa.
The travel warning comes after months of ongoing instability and sporadic violence between militant groups. The U.S. Department of State refers to the provinces of North and South Kivu, Bas-Uele, Haut-Uele, Ituri, Tanganyika and Haut-Lomami as the areas to avoid. “Armed groups, bandits, and some elements of the Congolese armed forces operate in [these] provinces…” Travelers in North and South Kivu, specifically, should be ready to encounter military troop movements, armored vehicles and attack helicopters.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly the eastern area of the country, is known as a very unsafe place for women, travelers and citizens alike. CNN Travel says the eastern area of the DRC is best known for warlords, rebel groups and mineral conflicts.
Recommendations for Travelers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Due to the increased risk of riots and large-scale demonstrations, the U.S. Department of State recommends that travelers have evacuation plans that do not include government services. They also recommend traveling under the STEP program and monitoring media to determine when to evacuate. The Travel Warning notes that travelers may encounter troop movement, armored vehicles and attack helicopters along the borders of Central African Republic and the Republic of South Sudan, particularly in and around Garamba National Park.
Rough Guides, a leading travel publisher, recommends only traveling to the safest parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They note these are most likely places with higher levels of travelers and that the “most touristed areas of the country are Goma, Virunga National Park and Bukavu in in the east, and the capital Kinshasa in the west.” John Campbell, Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Study at the Council of Foreign Relations and Former U.S. Department of State Foreign Officer, noted in a recent interview with InsureMyTrip that the internal infrastructure in the Congo has broken down and travel by roads is extremely difficult. Rough Guides also noted that the safest way to travel in the DRC would be with a tour company who understands the area and the political climate in order to keep you safe.
The CDC recommends all travelers stay up-to-date with their routine vaccines as well as have a Yellow Fever vaccine administered before travel to the DRC. They list that most travelers will want to consider vaccines for Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Malaria. Some travelers should talk to their primary care physicians about the vaccines for Cholera, Hepatitis B and Rabies.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to far eastern Mauritania due to the activities of terrorist groups active in the neighboring regions of Mali, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and those which pose a threat in the greater Sub-Saharan region, such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS). The U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott is able to provide only very limited consular services in remote and rural areas of Mauritania. This replaces the Travel Warning of March 22, 2017.
An Overview of the Situation in Mauritania
The remote, harsh environment along the southern and eastern border of Mauritania with Mali does not provide a safe environment for travelers. There is a risk of kidnapping and other violent crimes in the Hodh El Charghi region. AQIM claimed responsibility for an attack on this border that left three soldiers dead in February of 2016.
The nation has been victim to several random attacks against foreigners and citizens over the past several years by these terrorist organizations. Regardless, the Mauritania government has instituted several new policies and procedures to work against the terrorist groups. According to the Financial Times, “Neither AQIM nor any other Islamist militant group has carried out a successful attack in the country since 2011.” The regions of Mauritania to avoid are based on increased and continued activity in bordering nations.
Travel Restrictions in Place by the Mauritania Government
The U.S. Department of State lists several travel restrictions by the Mauritania government in the recent Travel Warning. The Mauritania government has designated the following areas as a restricted security zone, in which travelers must have permission from Mauritania authorities to visit:
U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from all travel outside of Nouakchott, unless authorized; even then travel must occur during daylight hours. The Embassy has directed its official staff not to walk to or from work; avoid walking in the city whenever possible; and, if necessary, do not walk alone. The U.S. Department of State recommends considering these restrictions when planning to travel to or around Mauritania.
If U.S. citizens are intending to travel around the nation, attention to the road and surroundings while driving should be a priority, according to a report by OSAC - the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The report states, “In larger Mauritanian cities, low-speed traffic accidents are common, resulting in minor injuries to people and superficial damage to vehicles.” Travelers should note, if a traffic accident occurs, the Mauritanian law requires that the vehicles be left in place until a police officer arrives and instructs you to move the vehicles.
Travel Recommendations by Various Government Authorities
Travel between cities is dangerous due to the rapid changes in elevation that limit visibility and creates a number of driving hazards. Also, besides a few main roads in the country, most are dirt roads with wandering livestock and migrant pedestrians. Gas stations are inconsistent with the amount of fuel available to travelers on the road; all visitors should travel with “a handheld GPS, satellite phone, spare tires, gas, and adequate food/water should their vehicle break down.” The OSAC report advises travelers to leave an itinerary with friends and family staying behind who can alert the authorities if the travelers miss a check in.
The United States government warns travelers, in the OSAC report, of use taxis and public transportation in Mauritania due to lack of regulated fares and poor maintenance of vehicles. Women are particularly in danger of sexual assault while traveling in taxis, especially at night.
The Canadian government issued a travel warning for Mauritania with a reminder that petty crimes targeting Western travelers are prevalent. They remind travelers to avoid any unpatrolled beaches and to keep important travel documents secure at all times.
The State Department warns U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the North and Far North Regions and parts of the East and Adamawa Regions of Cameroon due to terrorist threats and the risk of violent crime. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services in remote and rural areas of Cameroon is extremely limited. This replaces the Travel Warning dated March 23, 2017.
An Overview of the Situation in Cameroon
The main terrorist group, the Boko Haram, actively targets foreign residents, tourists and government leaders in the North and Far North Region. U.S. Embassy officials are restricted from traveling to these regions as thirty-seven foreigners have been reported kidnapped since 2013. This terrorist cell that often makes these kidnappings, Boko Haram, originates in Nigeria. The same terrorist group has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in the same regions, including the city of Maroua, since July 2015. In January of 2017, four female suicide bombers crossed the Cameroon border with Nigeria and three detonated the vests when they arrived in Cameroon. The fourth was shot by border patrolmen.
The Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon have seen an increase of unrest since November 2016. The Anglophone regions, the English-speaking regions that make up 17% of the population, of Cameroon have increased the number of demonstrations, and it puts many Cameroon citizens at odds with their government.
U.S. Department of State Recommends Travelers Show Caution
Due to the increase of unrest around the nation, the U.S. Department of State recommends that travelers avoid trips to any of the aforementioned regions (North, Far North, Northwest, and Southwest). They note that all travelers should avoid any demonstrations, no matter the region, and to monitor the Embassy’s Security Messages for updates on protests and communication restrictions within Cameroon.
Disruptions in communication services in the country are common and may limit the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular or emergencies services. For this reason, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution while traveling within 60 miles of the border with Nigeria’s Adamawa State in the North and Adamawa Regions of Cameroon, the border area with Chad, and the border areas with the Central African Republic (CAR). Each of these nations is under a Travel Warning by the U.S. Department of State. Sometimes, violence, criminal activity, and military operations may cross the border with Cameroon.
Non-Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Listed by the CDC
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) lists several non-vaccine-preventable diseases that can occur in Cameroon. Many of these diseases are due to insect bites, such as African Sleeping Sickness, African Tick-Bite Fever, Dengue, and Chikungunya. Travelers who are spending a lot of time in the outdoors are more at risk to contract these diseases. The CDC recommends considering wearing clothing and other protection against bug bites while traveling in Cameroon.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba. Over the past several months, numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks. These employees have suffered significant injuries as a consequence of these attacks. Affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms including ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.
The Governments of the United States and Cuba have not yet identified the responsible party, but the Government of Cuba is responsible for taking all appropriate steps to prevent attacks on our diplomatic personnel and U.S. citizens in Cuba. Because our personnel's safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba. Attacks have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens. On September 29, the Department ordered the departure of nonemergency U.S. government employees and their family members to protect the safety of our personnel.
Due to the drawdown in staff, the U.S. Embassy in Havana has limited ability to assist U.S. citizens. The Embassy will provide only emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens in Cuba in need of emergency assistance should contact the Embassy by telephone at +(53)(7) 839-4100 or the Department of State at 1-202-501-4444. U.S. citizens should not attempt to go to the U.S. Embassy as it suffered severe flood damage during Hurricane Irma.
Travelers should apprise family and friends in the United States of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their travel agency and hotel staff.
The U.S. Department of State has updated the Travel Warning issued for Turkey. This, however, does not remove the travel restrictions put in place by the Department of State for embassy personnel and their families. “Restrictions on travel by U.S. government personnel to certain areas in southeast Turkey, including Adana, remain.” This Travel Warning replaces the warning from March 28, 2017.
Overview of the Situation in Turkey
Throughout 2016, terrorist attacks involving shootings, suicide bombings and vehicle-borne bombings throughout Turkey resulted in hundreds of deaths. The most recent attacks included a mass shooting at the Istanbul’s Besiktas/Vodafone Soccer Stadium on December 10, 2016. According to Al Jazeera, the blast killed 38 people and injured hundreds of others. The following video has not yet been updated for the most recent Travel Warning.
Before the bombing at the Soccer Stadium, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in June. Also, 57 people, 34 of them children, were killed in an ISIL-linked bombing at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city Gaziantep. In addition to the local attacks, there is an increase in anti-American rhetoric that has potential to inspire violence against U.S. citizens. According to the U.S. travel warning, attacks can occur at major events, tourist sites, restaurants, nightclubs, commercial centers, places of worship and transportation hubs.
In July of 2016, the Turkish government declared the country in a state of emergency following an attempted coup. On January 4, that state of emergency was extended another three months until mid-April 2017. Due to this state of emergency, the Turkish security forces have expanded powers and the government has restricted internet access and media content to the nation. Heightened political power in Turkey has resulted in an increased number of United States citizens being deported or detained without access to lawyers or family members. The U.S. Department of State continues to monitor the situation in Turkey to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens in the nation.
The U.S. Department of State maintains the decision to have direct family members of U.S. Consulate General employees in Istanbul leave Turkey. Currently, all travel for U.S. personnel in and out of Turkey requires U.S. Department of State approval. According to the Travel Warning, this “order departure is based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing frequent and aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens...in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.”
Travelers should note that this order only applies to U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, not the other diplomatic posts in Turkey. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara and Consulate in Adana remain open and are providing full services.
U.S. Department of State Travel Recommendations for Turkey
The Travel Warning also notes terrorist organizations in Turkey target foreign and U.S. tourists for kidnapping and assassinations. Any U.S. citizen traveling to Turkey is reminded by the Department of State to review their personal security plans including communication preparedness. Travelers should monitor local news for breaking events and remain vigilant at all times. The Travel Warning urges travelers to check in with loved ones after they hear about attacks in the country.
The U.S. government wants to remind travelers that the Government of Turkey has closed its border to Syria. No one is allowed to cross the border from Syria into Turkey, even if they left Turkey to enter Syria at one point. Because of increased tensions along the border with Syria, the U.S. Department of State urges travelers to defer trips to large urban areas near the border.
In addition to the current Travel Warning for Kenya, the U.S. Department of State has issued a Travel Alert to all U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Kenya due to the August 2017 general elections, that have been rescheduled to October 23, 2017. This Travel Alert expires on November 30, 2017.
The Department of State expects rallies, demonstrations and protests to occur with little notice as the election process initiates and continues until August. Candidate selection for both the national and county offices will take place throughout the month of April. Nationwide campaigning will lead up to the August 8, 2017, election.
Kenya was named the number one African elections to watch in 2017 by Newsweek. Newsweek reports that the preparations for the elections has not been going smoothly, and currently clashes of political parties invoke memories of the 2007 Kenyan national election where around 1,200 people were killed. After the 2007 election, The New York Times reported that only 15 minutes after the election results were announced, the opposition resorted to bloodshed. They vowed to inaugurate its leader, Raila Odinga, and the standing government warned it would be seen as a coup.
Tensions began to increase in Kenya months before the election. Voter registration has already begun around the nation as well. Protests for the August 2017 election may start out peaceful and then escalate into violence. This opens the opportunity for criminal elements or terrorist to target participants of the protests and visitors near the protests. The U.S. Department of State recommends avoiding areas with gatherings, protests, and demonstrations and exercise extreme caution if in the vicinity of any such events.
Replacing a U.S. Travel Warning from August 26, 2016, the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning for all travel to Eritrea. The Government of Eritrea restricts the travel of all foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens and diplomats. Because of these restrictions, the United States Embassy in Asmara has difficulty providing emergency consular services to U.S. citizens outside the city.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Eritrea. The Government of Eritrea restricts the travel of all foreign nationals in the country, including U.S. diplomats. These restrictions make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens outside the city of Asmara. This replaces the Travel Warning dated February 22, 2017.
U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid travel near the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and the Southern Red Sea Region because of the presence of large numbers of Eritrean and Ethiopian troops along the contested border area, and because of the military tensions between the two countries. In June 2016, fighting in this region resulted in numerous deaths. U.S. citizens should also avoid travel to the contested Eritrea-Djibouti border region, where military troops patrol and tensions are high.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Haiti due to its current security environment and lack of adequate medical facilities and response. U.S. citizens are informed that the U.S. Embassy has resumed normal operations following Hurricane Irma. The authorized departure of non-emergency employees was lifted September 12, 2017. This is an update to Travel Warning issued on September 05, 2017.
Rates of kidnapping, murder, and rape rose in 2016. While there is no indication that U. S. citizens are specifically targeted, kidnapping for ransom can affect anyone in Haiti, particularly long-term residents. Armed robberies and violent assaults reported by U.S. citizens have risen in recent years. Do not share specific travel plans with strangers. Be aware that newly arrived travelers are targeted. Arrange to have your host or organization meet you at the airport upon arrival or pre-arranged airport to hotel transfers. Be cautious when visiting banks and ATMs, which are often targeted by criminals. Fewer incidents of crime are reported outside of Port-au-Prince, but Haitian authorities' ability to respond to emergencies is limited and in some areas nonexistent. U.S. Embassy employees are discouraged from walking in city neighborhoods, including in Petionville. Visit only establishments with secured parking lots. U.S. Embassy personnel are under a curfew from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Embassy personnel must receive permission from the Embassy security officer to travel to some areas of Port-au-Prince and some regions of the country, thus limiting the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.
Protests, including tire burning and road blockages, are frequent and often spontaneous. Avoid all demonstrations. The Haitian National Police’s ability to assist U.S. citizens during disturbances is limited. Have your own plans for quickly exiting the country if necessary.
The U.S. Embassy remains concerned about the security situation in the southern peninsula departments of Grand Anse and Sud following the devastation of Hurricane Matthew. Embassy employees are not permitted to travel to those departments without special approval for and official trips only.
Medical care infrastructure, ambulances, and other emergency services are limited throughout Haiti. Check that your organization has reliable infrastructure, evacuation, and medical support in place. Comprehensive medical evacuation insurance is strongly advised for all travelers.
The authorized departure of non-emergency employees has been lifted. This is an update to Travel Warning issued on September 05, 2017.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the border area between Somalia and Kenya because of threats by the terrorist group al-Shabaab. U.S. citizens should also be aware of potential terrorist threats and the high risk of crime throughout the country. This replaces the Travel Warning dated January 13, 2017.
Overview of the Situation in Kenya
According to the U.S. Department of State, 122 fatalities occurred through 2016 due to terrorist attacks involving “shootings, grenades, or other explosive devices.” This threat has continued in 2017 in Kenya, particularly the Nairobi area, along the coast and within the northeastern region of the country. The bulk of the past incidents occurred in Wajir, Garissa, Lamu and Mandera counties.
According to the travel warning, these terrorist targets include several types of places: Kenyan and foreign government sites, police stations and vehicles, hotels, public transportation and other infrastructure targets, nightclubs and bars, religious and academic institutions, and shopping areas.
A police station in Mombasa was a target for a terrorist attack on September 11, 2016. Three women with knives and petrol bombs entered the station and, eyewitnesses say, stabbed an officer before being killed herself. All three of the women were killed after they injured two police officers in the attack.
On October 25, 2016, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack that claimed the life of 12 people. The victims were members of a theater group who were performing for schools in Mandera. President Uhuru Kenyatta, of Kenya, called the attack “heinous.” Two days later, according to The New York Times, a terrorist with a knife attacked a police officer guarding the United States Embassy visa section, which was closed at the time. The officer, who was stabbed in the face, shot the assailant four times in response.
Recommendations for Travelers to Kenya
While thousands of travelers safely visit Kenya every year, the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security noted the crime rate as “critical” in the Kenya 2016 Crime and Safety Report. The U.S. Government notes in the travel warning that violent crimes are not restricted to terrorist attacks. They also address armed carjackings, muggings, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings as being a risk for travelers.
The United Kingdom Government also states that bag lifting is a popular crime in major cities of Kenya. The U.K. Government advises travelers to avoid walking around after dark, carrying a large amount of cash or wearing expensive accessories on your person.
To remain safe, the U.S. Government recommends avoiding travel in the northeastern Kenyan counties of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa, the coastal counties of Tana River and Lamu in their entirety, all areas north of Malindi in Kilifi County, and the Nairobi neighborhood of Eastleigh. The Travel Warning also notes U.S. Embassy officials recommend U.S. travelers and citizens only visit Old Town during daylight hours and completely avoid using the Likoni ferry.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that Kenya is located in the “meningitis belt.” The “meningitis belt” stretches across the sub-Sahara region of Africa. The CDC recommends all travelers get the meningitis vaccine if visiting during the dry season (December to June) when the disease is most common. The CDC also recommends the following vaccines or medications to travelers: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis B, Malaria, Rabies and Yellow Fever.
The Department of State recommends U.S. citizens avoid all travel to The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands due to Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm. On September 6, the Department ordered the departure of non-essential U.S. government employees and their family members due to Hurricane Irma.
A Hurricane Warning has been issued for Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas. A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the Central Bahamas. Storm conditions are expected to reach the southern Bahamas by September 7 and Nassau by September 8. U.S. citizens residing and traveling in coastal areas in this region should be alert to flooding.
We recommend U.S. citizens depart The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands if possible and work with commercial air carriers to leave prior to the arrival of the hurricane. Airports will close once conditions deteriorate and safe travel will not be possible, expected sometime on September 8. We recommend those citizens who are unable to depart to shelter in place in a secure location.
Travelers should apprise family and friends in the United States of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their tour operator, hotel staff, and local officials for evacuation instructions. Travelers should also protect their travel and identity documents against loss or damage, as the need to replace lost documentation could hamper or delay return to the United States.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully reconsider travel to the Dominican Republic due to Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm projected to impact the Dominican Republic. This storm may bring significant rainfall and wind that may result in life-threating flooding, flash flooding, mudslides, and storm surge. Disruptions to travel and services are likely throughout the country, particularly in eastern and northern regions. On September 5, the Department authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. government employees and their family members due to Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Irma is expected to hit the Dominican Republic at a level of Category 5. This is one of the largest and strongest hurricanes of the 2017 Hurricane Season, if not history. The winds were recorded reaching catastrophic levels at 185 mph.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Ethiopia due to the potential for civil unrest and arbitrary detention. There continue to be reports of unrest, particularly in the Gondar region and Bahir Dar in Amhara State, and parts of Oromia State. This replaces the Travel Warning of June 13, 2017.
The Government of Ethiopia routinely restricts or shuts downs internet, cellular data, and phone services, impeding the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with U.S. citizens in Ethiopia and limiting the Embassy’s ability to provide consular services. Additionally, the Government of Ethiopia does not inform the U.S. Embassy of detentions or arrests of U.S. citizens in Ethiopia. This Travel Warning comes after the Ethiopian Government shut down the internet service without warning in early June 2017. In 2016, the government shut down internet service after student exams were being posted and distributed. Students have once again entered into exam periods.
Avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, continuously assess your surroundings, and evaluate your personal level of safety. Remember that the government may use force and live fire in response to demonstrations, and that even gatherings intended to be peaceful can be met with a violent response or turn violent without warning. U.S. citizens in Ethiopia should monitor their security situation and have contingency plans in place in case you need to depart suddenly.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of continuing threats from terrorist groups in Bangladesh and to consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country. The Department is updating this travel warning to reflect the change in the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka’s status to “partially accompanied,” effective August 24, 2017, allowing all spouses/partners of U.S. government personnel to remain in or return to Dhaka. Previously, only adult family members employed by the U.S. government were permitted to remain or return to Dhaka. Minor dependents are still prohibited from residing in Dhaka. The U.S. Embassy remains open and will provide all consular services. This travel warning replaces the travel warning dated January 5, 2017.
Overview of the Situation in Bangladesh
The original travel warning was issued after militants, on July 1, 2016, killed more than 20 people at the Holey Artisan Bakery, frequented by foreigners in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave. Among the people killed were 20 hostages– locals and foreigners, police officers, the gunmen and two bakery staff members. According to The New York Times, ISIS had claimed responsibility, praising the gunmen who perpetrated the attack.
In October 2016, according to the U.S. Department of State, Da’esh (also known as IS, ISIL or ISIS) threatened to target non-nationals in the most “secured zones” in Bangladesh. Muslims in Bangladesh have been targeting Hindu’s. Because of this threat, the U.S. government has restricted U.S. government personnel in Bangladesh to live, work and travel under strict security guidelines. The U.S. government advises that the internal security policies may be adjusted or changed without any advance notice to keep personnel safe.
Recommendations to Travelers from The United States Government
The United States government gives the clear recommendation to all non-government employed citizens in Bangladesh to take extreme security measures, remain vigilant and be alert to local security developments. U.S. government officials and their families are currently not permitted to visit public establishments or places, travel on foot, motorbike, bike, rickshaw or other uncovered means on public streets and sidewalks, or attend large gatherings.
The Canadian Government warned, in their October 7, 2016, Department of Canada Advisory to travelers to Bangladesh, that attacks could occur at any time and often target areas frequented by foreigners. The Canadian Government advises limiting the attendance of events where a large number of people will gather, including outdoor recreation and cultural events, places of worship, festivals, hotels and conference centers.
The worldwide travel experts at Collette, a travel tour company, recommend destinations in India, specifically the Golden Triangle area, for travelers who are worried about taking a trip to Bangladesh.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all travelers are up-to-date with their routine vaccinations prior to visiting Bangladesh. If you are traveling from the United States, a Yellow Fever vaccination is not required. Travelers visiting an area of the world that is at risk from Yellow Fever prior to visiting Bangladesh will be required to have proof you have had the vaccination administered. Rabies can be found in mammals in Bangladesh, especially dogs and bats. The CDC recommends travelers who are children or spending a lot of time doing activities outside should be vaccinated prior to traveling to Bangladesh.
The CDC also recommends taking malaria medication before, during and after a trip to Bangladesh, as the mosquitoes transmit the disease. If travelers are spending more than a month in the country, the CDC recommends being vaccinated for Japanese Encephalitis. Depending on the area of Bangladesh being visited, travelers may want to consider a cholera vaccination. Food and water in Bangladesh can transmit Typhoid and Hepatitis A, so the CDC recommends travelers be vaccinated for those as well. Lastly, the CDC recommends a vaccination for Hepatitis B if travelers are concerned about the disease being transmitted sexually or through needles while getting a tattoo or piercings.
The United States Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for Mexico. The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations in those areas. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico issued December 8, 2016.
Overview of the Travel Situation in Mexico
Due to the high level of violent crimes in regions across Mexico, U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to areas the U.S. Department of State refer to in this Travel Warning as “non-essential travel” regions. The response time for emergencies in these areas from the U.S. Embassy officials may be hampered or delayed.
Although the Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protecting visitors in major tourist areas, gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities often occur in public areas and streets in broad daylight. The Travel Warning specifically states that “resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico general do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime”.
Kidnappings are particularly prevalent in Mexico currently. U.S authorities warn U.S. travelers in Mexico against the potential of kidnappings. While most travelers will understand a kidnapping in the traditional sense, new technology changes the face of kidnapping. Some criminals will temporarily kidnap travelers to force them to empty their bank accounts at one or more ATMs. This is known as “Express” kidnapping. Others have begun to extort travelers through deception through “Virtual” kidnapping, where a victim will be contacted by phone and then coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of friends and family or they use online information to get phone numbers and names. Recently, hotel guests in Mexico have been targets of such schemes.
Regions to Avoid Travel on Roads, Especially at Night
Many of the regions listed in the Travel Warning are due to concerns of U.S. citizens traveling on the roads between cities and to/from the country borders. This could include avoiding any travel at all, avoiding travel after dark or avoiding use of certain cars. The following regions are on the U.S. Department of State’s list to be more vigilant:
Chihuahua - Travel only during daylight hours between cities and within the cities.
Ciudad Juarez - U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling after dark west of Eje.
Ojinaga - Travel via U.S. Highway 67 through the Presidio, Texas port-of-entry.
Palomas and the Neuvo Casas Grande/Paquime region - Travel via U.S. Highway 11 through the Columbus, New Mexico port-of-entry.
Colima (includes Manzanillo) - Do not travel at night and within 12 miles of Colima - Michoacan border.
Durango - Only use toll roads during daylight hours on toll roads and must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew of 1am to 6am.
Jalisco (includes Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Lake Chapala) - Do not travel intercity after hours and do not use Highway 80 between Cocula and La Huerta.
Michoacan (includes Morelia) - U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling by land in Michoacan expect on federal toll road 15D during daylight hours.
Morelos (includes Cuernavaca) - Defer non-essential travel on any roads between Huitzilac in the northwest corner of the state.
Nayarit (includes the Riviera Nayarit coast, including the cities of Tepic, Xalisco, and San Blas) - Use only major highways and do not travel at night.
Nuevo Leon (Includes Monterrey) - Travel outside the city only during daylight hours and do not travel during the imposed curfew hours of 1am to 6am, unless traveling to the airport after 5am.
San Luis Potosi - Travel outside the city only during daylight hours on toll roads and must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew of 1am to 6am.
Zacatecas - Travel outside the city during daylight hours on toll roads and must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew of 1am to 6am.
Regions to Avoid Due to Violent Acts of Crime
Baja California - The state of Baja California experienced an increase in homicide rates from January to July 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Most of the homicide appear to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, but turf battles between criminal groups have erupted in areas where U.S. citizens frequent during daylight hours.
Baja California Sur (includes Cabo San Lucas and La Paz) - There have been high rates of homicide in the state capital of La Paz. In the capital there have been public acts of violence between rival criminal organizations. Cabo San Lucas is a popular destination in Mexico for Spring Breakers between the ages of 18 and 22. Visitors should stay vigilant during their trip to the area and remain close to the resorts.
Coahuila - The Travel Warning refers all U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to all parts of Coahuila with the exception of Saltillo, Bosques de Monterral, and Parras de la Fuente. These recommendations are due to violence and criminal activity including homicide, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion and sexual assault.
Guerrero (includes Acapulco, Iztapa, Taxco, and Zihuatanejo) - This state was the most violent area of Mexico in 2015, for the third year in a row. Self-defense groups operate independently from government authorities and armed members of the groups frequently maintain roadblocks. They, reportedly, are not considered hostile to tourists. Acapulco is a Mexican hot-spot for tourists, and they are not in any elevated dangers to visitors in the “tourist strip”. Visitors should feel comfortable while traveling there, as long as they stay in tourist locations.
Quintana Roo - This state includes major tourist hot spots Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riveria Maya and Tulum. While there is no current advisory in effect for this state, but the Travel Warning reminds U.S. citizens that they should exercise caution when traveling the area because cellular and internet services are “virtually non-existent”.
Recommendations for U.S. Travelers in Mexico
Generally, the U.S. Department of State recommends U.S. citizens traveling by day and to use toll roads whenever possible. They recommend always abiding by the Mexican authority checkpoints on a roads, but being aware that some crime organizations set up fake/corrupt checkpoints for purposes of kidnapping, extortion and other violent crimes. All travel between cities, according to Frommer's, is recommended to occur during daylight hours.
Food and water regulations in Mexico are very different than in the United States. USA Today recommends all travelers consume bottled water and thoroughly wash any fresh fruits and vegetables prior to consuming.
While there were no specific immunizations recommended by the CDC, Mexico is currently under a Level 2 Warning for the Zika Virus. This means that travelers should “practice enhanced precautions” from mosquito bites while traveling in Mexico. The Zika Virus, primarily spread by mosquito bites, has no immunization or vaccine available. While most people who are infected with the virus will not even know, some may have symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain and/or red eyes. The Zika Virus can negatively affect a fetus during pregnancy, most commonly resulting in a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. The CDC recommends taking enhanced precautions while in Mexico, especially if you are pregnant or plan to be in the next 6 weeks.
When travelers return home, they should continue to take precautions against bug bites for up to three weeks after their return. The Zika Virus is transmitted by mosquitos and if a traveler is bitten by a mosquito when they return home, there is a risk of the Virus being spread.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Iran. This replaces the Travel Warning for Iran dated August 22, 2016, to reiterate and highlight the risk of arrest and detention for U.S. citizens, particularly dual national Iranian-Americans. Foreigners, in particular dual nationals of Iran and other countries, including the United States, continue to be detained or prevented from leaving Iran. U.S. citizens should very carefully weigh the risks of and consider postponing planned travel to Iran. U.S. citizens residing in Iran should closely follow media reports, monitor local conditions, and evaluate the risks of remaining in the country.
Iranian authorities continue to unjustly detain and imprison U.S. citizens, particularly Iranian-Americans, including students, journalists, business travelers, and academics, on charges including espionage and posing a threat to national security. Iranian authorities have also prevented the departure, in some cases for months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons.
In June 2017, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it would take “reciprocal action” in response to the implementation of Executive Order 13780. This Executive Order prohibits the issuance of U.S. visas to nationals of Iran and five other countries unless they are either exempt or are issued a waiver. The Department of State has received reports that Iran is denying visas to U.S. citizens in response.
The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with Iran and, therefore, cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens there. The Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran. The range of consular services provided by the Foreign Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy is limited and may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. embassies or consulates.
The Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality and will not allow the Swiss to provide protective services for U.S. citizens who are also Iranian nationals. Iranian authorities make the determination of a dual national’s Iranian citizenship without regard to the dual national’s personal wishes. Consular access to detained U.S. citizens without dual nationality is often delayed.
The Iranian government continues to repress minority religious and ethnic groups, including Christians, Baha'i, Arabs, Kurds, Azeris, and others. Consequently, some areas within the country where these minorities reside, including the province of Sistan-Baluchistan near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan and the provinces of Kurdistan and East-Azerbaijan in the northwest of the country near the Iraqi border, remain unsafe. Iranian authorities have detained and harassed U.S. citizens, particularly those of Iranian origin. Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, religious activists, and persons who encourage Muslims to convert are subject to arrest and prosecution. See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report and Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for more information on the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran.
The Secretary of State published a Notice on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 that will restrict the use of U.S. passports to travel into, in, or through North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), effective Friday, September 1, 2017. The Secretary has authorized the restriction due to the serious and mounting risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. citizens under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, per 22 C.F.R. 51.63.
Persons who wish to travel to North Korea on a U.S. passport must obtain a special passport validation under 22 C.F.R. 51.64, and such validations will be granted only under very limited circumstances. The statute says, a special validation may be determined to be in the national interest if:
The Department of State will publish information on how to apply for a passport with a special validation on travel.state.gov when OMB approval is effective. Since OMB issues the approval, the Department cannot provide any further information as to timing. More information on how to apply for the special validation is available on the Federal Register notice published here.
Persons currently in North Korea on a U.S. passport should depart North Korea before the travel restriction enters into effect on Friday, September 1, 2017. Persons, including those currently in North Korea, who believe they meet the criteria for a limited-validity passport and special passport validation under 22 C.F.R. 51.64 should apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
For further information about the dangers of traveling to North Korea, please see the current Travel Warning for the DRPK.
The United States government warns travelers about Jordan due to the threats of terrorist groups throughout the country. Terrorist groups, such as ISIL and its affiliates, have conducted attacks around the nation and continue to plot new assaults. Jordan’s role in the counter-ISIL coalition, and its borders with Iraq and Syria, “increase the potential for future terrorist incidents.” This warning replaces one from December 23, 2016 as the terrorist threats are persistent.
An Overview of the Situation in Jordan
In 2015 and 2016, both Jordan and United States interests had been the target of a terrorist attack. On December 10, 2016, 10 people were killed at a tourist site in Karak. Two days later, in the same location, a shootout between Jordanian security forces and a group of gunmen occurred without any injuries. On June 6, 2016, a lone gunman killed five Jordanian security personnel at a security office in Baqaa.
U.S. Citizens a Target for Terrorist Extremists in Jordan
The U.S. Department of State notes that terrorist extremists have expressed U.S. citizens and Westerners in Jordan as targets for attacks. The terrorist groups have expressed interest in attacking “soft targets” in Jordan, such as malls, hotels and restaurants. In 2016, the Jordanian government alerted the U.S. Embassy to several disrupted terrorist plots against U.S. citizens and Westerners. The U.S. Department of State reminds travelers that the borders with Syria and Iraq are especially sensitive to potential terrorist attacks. U.S. government personnel on personal travel are not permitted to travel to the border regions or refugee camps.
Due to fighting, intercommunal violence and violent crime, the United States Department of State has issued a travel warning for the Republic of the South Sudan. This replaces the Travel Warning dated January 4, 2017.
An overview of the situation in the South Sudan
The original travel warning in July of 2016 was due to violent clashes between the South Sudan government and opposition forces in Juba. At the time the U.S. Department of State had implemented an “ordered departure” from the nation. Since the original travel warning, instability in the region has continued with increased intertribal and intercommunal violence, cattle raiding, economic uncertainty, and increased violent crime.
The U.S. Department of State notes that aid workers, often U.S. citizens, have been targets of violence, including shootings, ambushes, violent assaults, harassment and robberies. According to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2017, in November of 2016, the “UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng said the ongoing violence had transformed the conflict into an ‘ethnic war’ and warned of a ‘potential for genocide’.”
The South Sudan News Agency reports that the UN Mission is “deeply concerned” about the increased fighting around Malakal. They end the article stating this is the fourth year the Republic of the South Sudan has been in the midst of a civil war. This has been continuing since 2013 when a political contest erupted between President Salva Kiir and his rival, Former Vice President Riek Machar.
Travel Recommendations for South Sudan Visitors
The U.S. Department of State recommends that all U.S. citizens have evacuation plans from the South Sudan that do not involve the U.S. government. The U.S. Travel Warning specifically notes that citizens should travel with medical evacuation insurance.
The United States also recommends, if travel outside of Juba is necessary, U.S. citizens take precautions. The Travel Warning states, “a minimum of two vehicles and appropriate recovery and medical equipment” should be taken in case of mechanical issues with the vehicles or other emergencies.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers visiting the Republic of the South Sudan are up-to-date with routine vaccinations. The CDC also notes travelers should talk to a physician about taking malaria drugs before, during and after the trip. The South Sudan is located in the Meningitis Belt of Africa, therefore the CDC recommends travelers who will be in the country from December to June should be vaccinated for meningitis before traveling. Other vaccinations on the list to discuss with a physician are as follows: Cholera, Hepatitis A and B, Rabies, Typhoid and Yellow Fever.
After a series of known threats from terrorist groups in the country of Egypt, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for this nation. The U.S. Department of State urges citizens and travelers to consider the risks of travel to Egypt. Any diplomatic personnel in the area are prohibited, by the U.S. Mission in Egypt, from traveling to the Western Desert and the Sinai Peninsula outside the beach resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. Personnel is only permitted to travel to and from the resort by way of air; land travel is not allowed in the Sinai Peninsula. This replaces the Travel Warning issued on December 23, 2016. A number of terrorist groups, including ISIS, have committed multiple deadly attacks in Egypt, targeting government officials and security forces, public venues, tourist sites, civil aviation and other modes of public transportation, and a diplomatic facility. Terrorists continue to threaten Egypt’s religious minorities and have attacked sites and people associated with the Egyptian Coptic Church.
Overview of the Situation in Egypt
Egypt has been a point of terrorist activity for over two years by extremist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). “You should not go to Sinai, that’s the area of military conflict between Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, that’s an ISIS franchise, and they pretty regularly have either suicide attacks, armed attacks, or IEDs (improvised explosive devices) against the security forces of Egypt,” says Dr. Richard Lobban, an anthropologist and adjunct professor for the US Navy. ISIL (also discussed as ISIS) and other terrorist groups have conducted terrorist attacks on the Egyptian government and security forces, tourist sites, commercial airlines, other public transportation and a diplomatic facility.
The U.S. Department of State references two specific attacks prior to the travel warning for Egypt being issued. On December 11, 2016, dozens of civilians were killed when a suicide bomber targeted the main Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. Nearly 50 civilians, mostly women and children, were injured in the blast. Although no terrorist group officially claimed responsibility, according to The New York Times, it is the “hallmark of Islamist militants fighting President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.” This was the second bombing in Egypt’s capital that week, the first claiming the life of six Egyptian police officers at a security checkpoint. That first bombing was a few kilometers away from the Pyramids at Giza.
On January 10th, 2017, the United Nations Security Council condemned a terrorist attack in Egypt that occurred the day before, killing nine police officers and injuring 13 others. The BBC reported a group of militants opened fire at a police station; the attack had not been claimed by any particular terrorist group.
While Egyptian Military conduct active anti-terrorist operations along the country’s border with Gaza and Libya, the U.S. Department of State recommends U.S. citizens avoid the following areas altogether: northeastern Sinai Peninsula, west of the greater Cairo, the Nile Valley and various oasis towns in the area.
CDC Health Precaution Recommendations for Travelers Visiting Egypt
The CDC recommends all people traveling to Egypt visit a physician four to six weeks prior to departing on your trip to review your vaccinations for the following Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies, yellow fever and routine vaccines. Routine vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
Egypt’s customs, laws and regulations are rooted in Islamic scripture, practices and beliefs. It is not required by law that tourists adhere to these modesty expectations; however, many governments - including the Canadian government - recommend observing modesty while traveling there. Both men and women should be aware of their wardrobe while traveling and level of affection shown in public for a significant other, as showing too much skin or being overly affectionate would cross-cultural expectations.
The religious month of Ramadan changes cultural expectations during sunrise and sunset. Travelers should be aware that Islamic traditions limit drinking, eating and smoking during the daylight hours. In 2017, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 27.
In regards to safe places to visit in Egypt, the U.S. Department of State recommends the major tourist sites, like Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, other beach resorts on the Red Sea and on the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria, and at many of the temples and archaeological sites located in and around greater Cairo and in the Nile Valley, such as Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel. The Egyptian Government maintains a heavy security presence in these areas; however, the U.S. Department of State reminds travelers that terrorist attacks can occur anywhere in the country.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid any non-essential travel to certain regions of the Philippines, including the city of Marawi, Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago including the southern Sulu Sea, and to exercise extreme caution when traveling to other regions of Mindanao, due to terrorist threats, insurgent activities, and kidnappings. Similar threats also occurred throughout the Philippines in 2017. This replaces the Travel Warning dated December 20, 2016.
An Overview of the Violence in the Philippines
Terrorist and insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago target foreigners for kidnappings in the eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and the southern Sulu Sea area. Separatists and terrorist groups also continue to carry out attacks and kidnappings against civilians, foreigners, political leaders and Philippine security forces. Global Risk Insights reports that in the years of 2014-2016, there have been nearly 15 kidnappings with as many as 40 victims from terrorist groups in the Philippines. In this area, terrorist, insurgent, and criminal gangs regularly conduct kidnappings for ransom.
In central Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces. The Philippine government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence to protect citizens and travelers.
September 2016, a terrorist group conducted a bombing in Davao City; originally Abu Sayyaf reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, later recanting and blaming their ally, the Daulat Ul-Islamiya. Fifteen people were killed and 69 others were wounded in the attack. In October 2016, three of the 10 suspects, linked to the Maute Group, were arrested in connection to the bombing.
State of Emergency Declared in Mindanao
After this terrorist attack, the Philippine government declared a “State of National Emergency on Account of Lawless Violence in Mindanao". The declaration was made by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte only two days after the bombing in Davao City. Also known as Proclamation No. 55, this State of Emergency allows the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to suppress all forms of lawless violence and to take measures to keep the violence from spreading to other areas of the Philippines. The Travel Warning notes, there have been reports of American citizens being targeted specifically because of their nationality. The U.S. Department of State continues to be concerned about general threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners in the area.
United States citizens traveling to Mali are warned by the U.S. Department of State of ongoing terrorist attacks and criminal violence. The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mali due to ongoing terrorist attacks, criminal violence, and potential political instability. U.S. citizens in Mali are reminded to stay vigilant, remain aware of their surroundings, and exercise caution, especially at night. This Travel Warning replaces one from December 23,2016.
An Overview of the Terrorist Threats in Mali
Northern Mali and parts of central Mali continue to be at high risk for terrorist attacks and other forms of conflict. The security environment in Mali is ever changing; every part of the country is at risk for potential terrorist attacks, including in Bamako. Locations Western travelers visit, including hotels and restaurants, continue to be targeted.
Violent groups, including al-Qa'ida in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Murabitoun, have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks in Mali over the past year. The groups also claim responsibility for kidnappings in Timbuktu and along the border with Burkina Faso. These violent attacks sometimes defy the borders of neighboring countries, such as the kidnapping in October 2016, when extremists kidnapped a U.S. citizen in Niger and reportedly took him to Mali.
U.S. citizens have been the victim of some of these attacks by extremists. In November 2015, one U.S. citizen and 19 other visitors of Mali were killed when armed assailants stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako. The extremists, yelling “Allahu Akbar” at the time of the attack, got past the hotel security by moving quickly and pretending to be government diplomats. The New York Times reported that 19 people were killed during the attack. The assailants were armed with gunfire and grenades; AQIM and al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for this attack.
In March 2015, armed gunmen attacked “the La Terrasse restaurant in Bamako and killed five people, including French and Belgian citizens.” The lone, masked gunman took the life of four people, a Belgian security officer working for the EU and three Malians. This attack, claimed by al-Murabitoun, was followed by the Government of Mali declaring a State of Emergency in the nation. They increased their security presence in Bamako by adding roadblocks and random police checkpoints around the city between sundown and sun-up. Al Jazeera reports the State of Emergency in Mali is in effect until March 2017.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Crimea and the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Ukraine dated December 14, 2016.
Russian-led separatists continue to control areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where violent clashes have resulted in over 9,000 deaths. A ceasefire agreement established a de facto dividing line between Ukrainian government-controlled and non-government controlled areas of Ukraine, with a limited number of operational checkpoints controlled by government and Russian-led separatist forces. There have been multiple casualties due to land mines in areas previously controlled by the Russian-led separatists, and both sides of the contact line are mined. So-called “separatist leaders” have made statements indicating their desire to push the contact line to the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Artillery and rocket attacks near the line of contact continue to occur regularly. Individuals, including U.S. citizens, have been threatened, detained, or kidnapped for hours or days after being stopped at separatist checkpoints, and one U.S. citizen working for OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine was killed inside the non-government controlled area of Donetsk. The Government of Ukraine has stated that foreigners, including U.S. citizens, who enter Ukraine from Russia through non-government controlled territory, will not be allowed through checkpoints into government-controlled territory.
The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly. U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine should avoid large crowds and be prepared to remain indoors should protests or demonstrations escalate.
U.S. Embassy Kyiv's Consular Section is open for all public services; however, in light of the ongoing unrest, the Embassy has severely restricted the travel of U.S. government personnel to Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and Crimea, and occasionally limits travel to adjacent regions. As a result, the Embassy's ability to provide consular services, including responding to emergencies, to U.S. citizens in eastern Ukraine and Ukraine's Crimean region is extremely limited.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Burundi due to political tensions, political and criminal violence, and the potential for civil unrest. This replaces the Travel Warning dated November 15, 2016.
The political situation in Burundi is tenuous, and there is sporadic violence throughout the country, including frequent gunfire and grenade attacks by armed groups. Police and military checkpoints throughout the country restrict freedom of movement, and police have searched the homes of private U.S. citizens as a part of larger weapons searches. U.S. citizens should take these facts into consideration when developing their personal safety plans.
Rebel forces, ex-combatants, and youth gangs have crossed into Burundi from the Democratic Republic of Congo and attacked and kidnapped civilians. Armed criminals have ambushed vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. Use caution if traveling by car, and travel with multiple vehicles when possible.
U.S. Embassy personnel are subject to restrictions when traveling in certain areas of Burundi and may be subject to other constraints as security conditions warrant. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from traveling outside of Bujumbura at night, and trips to the Bujumbura neighborhoods of Cibitoke, Gasenyi, Kamenge, Kinama, Musaga, Mutakura, and Ngagara require advance approval.
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to remote areas of Algeria due to the threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping. This replaces the Travel Warning for Algeria dated December 13, 2016.
While violence has reduced significantly in recent years, terrorist groups remain active in some parts of the country. Although major cities are heavily policed, the possibility of terrorist acts in urban areas cannot be excluded. Extremists have conducted attacks in the following areas:
Although most attacks are directed towards Algerian military or police, in September 2014, an ISIL-affiliated group abducted and killed a French citizen in the Kabylie region. In January 2013, an Al-Qaeda-linked organization attacked a gas production facility near In Amenas, Algeria, near the Libyan border, holding foreign and Algerian workers hostage, with dozens killed, including three U.S. citizens.
U.S. citizens should:
The Algerian government requires foreign diplomats and most foreign workers to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when traveling between wilayas (provinces) so that the government can evaluate the need for police coordination, to include escorts. This requirement to coordinate travel may also limit the availability of U.S. consular services outside of the Algiers wilaya.
The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Due to the serious and mounting risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. citizens, effective September 1, 2017, U.S. passports were invalidated for travel into, in, or through North Korea. Persons who wish to travel to North Korea on a U.S. passport must obtain a special validation passport. Information on how to apply for a passport with a special validation is available on the Department of State’s website. Such validations are issued by the Department of State and are granted only under very limited circumstances. Further, obtaining a special validation does not diminish the bearer’s risk of harassment, arrest, or long term detention as a result of traveling to the DPRK. This notice replaces the Travel Warning dated August 10, 2017 to update the Geographical Travel Restriction and the sections on Sanctions, and the Federal Aviation Administrations’ flight prohibition.
Overview of the Ongoing Situation in North Korea
Over the last ten years, the DPRK government has detained 16 U.S. citizens who were traveling both individually and with tour groups. Being a part of a tour group does not limit or eliminate the risk of being detained. Even though private tour groups often advocate and try to ensure release of the traveler, they have never been successful.
The most recent incidents were the detainment of Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song, both who worked at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Tony Kim was detained at the Pyongyang airport two weeks prior to Kim Hak-song's detainment on May 6, 2017. Both were detained for reasons of "suspicion of committing “hostile acts" and that a "detailed investigation into his crimes" was underway."
The first U.S. citizens to be detained by the DPRK after the Korean War was Evan Hunziker. He was detained in August of 1996 after swimming across the Yalu River from China, drunk and naked. Officially, he was detained for reasons of espionage (spying for South Korea), but he was released 95 days later in November 1996.
Currently, there is currently 1 U.S. citizens being detained in North Korea by the DPRK: businessman, Kim Dong Chul. Kim Dong Chul, who is a South Korean born, U.S. naturalized citizen, allegedly admitted to espionage for South Korea and the United States. The United States has not been able to confirm the details of his arrest, as he has only been available for conversation through a North Korean translator. Previously detained in DPRK, an American student Otto Warmbier was arrested over the alleged theft of a propaganda poster for the DPRK on January 2, 2016. Warmbier was in North Korea on a tour with an independent travel company. Reported by the New York Times, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for hostile acts against the DPRK. He was released from prison and returned to the United States in June 2017. He died on June 19, 2017, allegedly from botilism (according to the DPRK) although American doctors cannot determine the cause of death.
Any media critical to the DPRK government will be considered a criminal act and is punishable by long-term detention in hard labor camps as well as heavy fines. Any traveler to North Korea should understand there is no privacy in the country’s borders. As reported in BBC, all electronics and multimedia, including cell phones, are subject to search for banned content. Cell phones can only be used on the DPRK mobile services, which are monitored by the DPRK government.
When the DPRK detains foreigners, it’s often without charging them with a crime, yet expecting them to make public statements, as with Kim Dong Chul, and be held on public trial without proper counsel. The DPRK government often detains foreigners for actions not seen as crimes by the U.S. government. For instance, the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning lists the following reasons for past detainments:
Embassy Information for Travelers to North Korea
As stated before, the U.S. government does not have an embassy or consulate in North Korea. Because of this, they cannot officially help any U.S. citizens within the country. The Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, however, has “Protecting Power” for U.S. citizens in the DPRK. The Embassy of Sweden can provide limited services to U.S. citizens in need.
Although the U.S.-DPRK Interim Consular Agreement has been laid out, the DPRK routinely ignores and delays the stipulations to notify the Embassy of Sweden of a detainment and allow timely consular visits. For this reason, any U.S. citizens who are traveling to North Korea against the United States warning are encouraged by the U.S. government to notify the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as well as the Embassy of Sweden in North Korea prior to leaving on the trip. Provide both embassies important identification information and emergency contact information as well as travel plan details.
Also, the U.S. government urges travelers to review the North Korea Country Information page on the travel.state.gov website. It provides important information to keep travelers in compliance with travel documents and expectations.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risk of travel to Colombia. U.S. citizens should exercise caution, as violence linked to domestic insurgency, narco-trafficking, crime, and kidnapping occur in some rural and urban areas. This replaces the previous travel warning dated April 5, 2016.
In June in 2017, a bomb was denotated in a women's restroom in an upscale mall in Bogota, Colombia. The blast killed three people and injured nine. NPR reported, "Colombian authorities called it an act of terrorism; no one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing." After the bombing, the mall was evacuated and the scene is under investigation.
Organized political and criminal armed groups are active throughout much of the country and their methods include the use of explosives and bomb threats in public spaces. Violence associated with the armed groups occurs in rural areas as well as Colombia's major cities, including in the capital. These groups are heavily involved in the drug trade, extortion, kidnapping, and robbery. On November 30, 2016, the Colombian government approved a peace accord with the largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The peace agreement is in the process of being implemented and does not include other active armed groups.
Violent crime is a threat throughout Colombia. Kidnapping remains a threat, although U.S. citizens are not specifically targeted. Violent political groups and other criminal organizations occasionally kidnap and hold civilians, including foreigners, for ransom.
U.S. government officials and their families are generally permitted to travel to major cities only by air. They may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation or travel by road outside urban areas at night. During daylight, they are permitted to use only the following routes:
All other travel by U.S. government personnel and their families requires a security review and specific authorization.
If you do travel to Colombia, review your personal security plans, remain alert to your surroundings, and learn more about staying safe on our Country Specific Information page for Colombia. U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have contingency plans for emergency situations.
The United States Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for Iraq. Travel to Iraq continues to be very dangerous and the U.S. Embassy has very limited ability to help U.S. citizens traveling to Iraq that need assistance. U.S. citizens traveling to Iraq are at risk for kidnapping and violence due to numerous terrorist and extremist groups, including ISIL. Travel within Iraq remains very dangerous, and the ability of the Embassy to assist U.S. citizens facing difficulty is extremely limited. This supersedes the Travel Warning dated January 31, 2017.
Overview of the Situation in Iraq
ISIL extremists regularly attack Iraqi security forces and civilians around the country. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens. Frequent kidnappings and abundant improvised explosive devices (IED) are found throughout the country, including Baghdad. 492 people were killed in or injured in Baghdad when a lorry (a large truck) filled with explosives was detonated in a busy commercial area in July of 2016. The U.S. Department of State notes in the Travel Warning that, “methods of attack have included explosively formed penetrators, magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles, human and vehicle-borne IEDs, mines placed on or concealed near roads, mortars and rockets, and shootings using various direct fire weapons.”
The U.S. government reminds travelers that terrorist attacks are common around religious and civic holidays. Attacks frequent public venues, like cafes and markets as well as facilities of KRG, U.S. government and western interests. The U.S. government warns private travelers from engaging in violence. Not only are travelers at risk of kidnapping, injury or death by engaging in violence, but also legal risks such as arrest, fines and expulsion from the country.
The United States Government Travel Recommendations
The United States Department of State notes in the Travel Warning to avoid travel to the borders of Syria, Turkey or Iran as travelers are at risk for violence. People in these areas can be subject to aerial and artillery bombings, unmarked minefields, skirmish with smugglers and refugee flow. Neighboring governments sometimes detain U.S. citizens who approach the border. In 2009, three American citizens were hiking near the border of Iran when they were arrested for espionage by the Iranian government. The New York Times reports, one of the hikers was released in 2010, but the other two were detained until the United States government negotiated their release in 2011.
The U.S. government reminds traveling U.S. citizens to always carry proper documentation while in Iraq. The Government of Iraq strictly enforces visas and entry regulations, as well as authorization for weapons and movement checkpoints. U.S. travelers can find the information they need on the U.S. government website country specific information for Iraq.
If U.S. citizens are lodging in the area of the Tigris River, the U.S. government recommends having contingency plans for travel. Iraq has employed an Italian company to improve the Mosul Dam, but the structural integrity could still lead to severe flooding in the area. Al Jazeera reports that scientists noted that the collapse of the Mosul Dam would be “worse than a nuclear bomb”. If this should happen, U.S. citizens in the area will need other options for lodging immediately. Travelers in this area are urged to continue listening to media reports for a status on the Dam.
The U.S. government reminds traveling U.S. citizens that travelers are responsible for their own medical needs and emergency transport. The U.S. Department of State recommends traveling with medical insurance that will cover emergencies in Iraq, as the government will not transport non-government personnel from the country due to medical needs.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burkina Faso, and recommends they avoid travel to the northern part of the Sahel region, and exercise caution in the rest of Burkina Faso, due to continuing threats to safety and security, including terrorism. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services in remote and rural areas of the country is limited. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on January 20, 2016.
The security environment in Burkina Faso is fluid and attacks are possible anywhere in the country, including Ouagadougou. ISIS, al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and al-Murabitun terrorist organizations and affiliates have declared their intention to attack foreign targets in North and West Africa. In January 2016, armed assailants attacked civilians at the Splendid Hotel and Cappuccino restaurant in Ouagadougou, killing 30 people, including one U.S. citizen. According to CNN, the terrorists later released 126 hostages from the hotel. AQIM and al-Murabitun claimed responsibility for the attack. Violent extremist groups increased their activities in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region in 2016 and 2017, attacking police stations, customs offices, military posts, and schools in Koutougou, Intangom, Markoye, Tinakoff, Nassoumbou, Kourfayel, and Baraboule. In December 2016, a group of nearly 40 unidentified gunmen openned fire on soldiers at a military post near the border with Mali.
In March of 2017, simultanious attacks on police stations throughout two towns in Burkina Faso were claimed by Ansarul Islam.
In the border regions shared by Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, extremist groups and linked criminal networks have targeted Westerners for kidnapping. These northern regions are extremely remote, and the ability of the governments of either Burkina Faso or the United States to provide emergency assistance there is very limited.
Due to the risk of attacks throughout the Sahel region, the U.S. Embassy has placed restrictions on official government travel to Dori and Djibo, the road that connects these cities, and all areas north of that road. Embassy personnel traveling to or staying at Parc National du W (Parc W), the regional national park located on Burkina Faso’s southeastern border with Niger and Benin, must arrange armed escort with Burkina Faso security forces. U.S. citizens are encouraged to follow the same guidance.
U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Burkina Faso should maintain situational awareness at all times, and have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance. Take steps to mitigate the risk of becoming a victim of violence, including limiting trips to locations frequented by Westerners.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of ongoing tensions and potential terrorist activity throughout Chad. U.S. citizens should avoid all travel to the border regions, particularly the Lake Chad region, and exercise extreme caution elsewhere in the country. U.S. Embassy personnel are subject to restrictions when traveling in certain areas of N’Djamena as well as outside of the capital, including the Lake Chad Basin. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services outside of N’Djamena is limited. This replaces the Travel Warning issued on November 4, 2016.
Violent extremist organizations in the region, such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash-Sham –West Africa (ISIS-WA), can easily cross borders and target foreigners, local security forces, and civilians. In May 2017, Boko Haram attacked a Chadian military base in the Lake Chad region. A radicalized Chadian, driving a motorbike, fired shots outside the U.S. Embassy building in November 2016. They arrested the shooter nearly 10 minutes after the incident occured. Kidnapping for ransom is common - in March 2017 a French citizen was abducted in eastern Chad and held for more than six weeks. The French traveler was taken along the Sudan border of the Dafur region. He was released six weeks later at the French Embassy in Sudan.
Exercise extreme caution throughout the country due to the threat of indiscriminate crime. U.S. citizens should be vigilant at public gatherings and any locations frequented by foreigners, including markets, hotels, restaurants, bars, and places of worship. Maintain situational awareness and avoid crowds, as even peaceful gatherings can turn violent unexpectedly. Border crossings may close without notice.
U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts should develop an evacuation plan with the United Nations agency coordinating their work. All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance.
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the Hurricane and Typhoon Seasons in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane and Typhoon Season will last through November 2017, though most tropical cyclones typically develop between May and October. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends that those in hurricane and typhoon prone regions begin preparations for the upcoming seasons now. This Travel Alert expires on December 1, 2017.
The Atlantic Basin, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea: Hurricane Season in the Atlantic began June 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Centerexpects a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season. NOAA predicts a 70 percent chance of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of those, five to nine are predicted to strengthen to a hurricane (winds of 74 mph or higher) and two to four are expected to become major hurricanes (with winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale). NOAA recommends that those in hurricane-prone regions begin preparations for the upcoming season now.
The Eastern Pacific: Hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific began on May 15, 2017. NOAA expects a near- or above-normal season, with a 40 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season. NOAA predicts a 70 percent chance of 14 to 20 named storms, of which six to eleven are expected to become hurricane strength. Of those, three to seven are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).
Western and Central Pacific: Typhoon season in the Western and Central Pacific runs from June 1 to November 30. NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) predicts an 80 percent chance of a near or above normal season. CPHC expects five to eight tropical cyclones to affect the central Pacific this season. For information on typhoon warnings, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu, the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center, and the Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (RSMC) Tokyo - Typhoon Center.
In the past, U.S. citizens were forced to delay travel (including return travel to the United States) due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability. If you are planning to travel to regions of the world often affected by hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones, know the information about the potential dangers and inconveniences associated with your travel before finalizing plans.
If you live in or are traveling to storm-prone regions, prepare by organizing a kit in a waterproof container that includes a supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, any medications taken regularly, and vital documents, especially your passport and other identification. Emergency shelters often provide only very basic resources and may have limited medical and food supplies.
The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning against all travel to Yemen because of the high-security threat level posed by ongoing conflict and terrorist activities. This travel warning supersedes the travel warning from October 6, 2016, continues to urge U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Yemen and any U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart as soon as possible.
The Overview of the Situation in Yemen
Since March 2015, rebel groups in Sanaa have been systematically targeting and detaining U.S citizens. The Travel Warning notes, “U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, are being targeted by virtue of their citizenship, regardless of the amount of time they have spent in Yemen, their established connections with the rebel groups, or their connections with local businesses or humanitarian organizations aimed at providing relief to those in need.” When the citizens are detained, in some cases for over a year, they are not able to contact their families or be visited by U.S. consular personnel.
In addition to the threat of detention, there are high risks due to ongoing conflict and heightened terrorist activity, such as kidnappings for ransom. In August 2016, a nationwide cessation of hostilities resulted in high levels of violence, to include armed conflict, artillery shelling, and airstrikes, now persist in areas throughout the country. This military conflict has caused significant damage to the infrastructure, limiting the availability of crucial resources like electricity, clean water, and medical care. It also slows the ability for humanitarian organizations to deliver critically needed food, medicine, and water to areas of Yemen. There is no guarantee if U.S. citizens travel to Yemen that they will be able to find or keep any supplies, food or resources needed during the trip.
Terrorist Groups Present in Yemen
While most of the military violence is due to the conflict between an exiled government and the rebels, other terrorist groups are present in Yemen. These groups include Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has taken advantage of the conflict and expanded its influence in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict. Because of the instability in Yemen, the internationally recognized government cannot enforce counterterrorism measures. The AQAP primarily expanded its presence in the southern and eastern governorates.
ISIL is also present in Yemen and has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks in the nation throughout 2016. Methods for these terrorist attacks included suicide bombers, VBIEDs, ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations. Due to the inability for counterterrorism measures by the recognized government, U.S. government remains extremely concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Yemen), and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.
Maritime Concerns in Waters Bordering Yemen
Yemen is boarded on two sides by water: Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden. Anyone traveling in these waters should operate under a heightened state of alert as increase tensions in the region may escalate the potential for direct or collateral damage in this area. A maritime advisory is currently in effect for the area. In October 2016 there was a Houthi-claimed attack on a UAE vessel. The USS Mason has also been the target of Houthi missiles strikes from a nearby territory.
U.S. Embassy Limitations Since Rebel Takeover
The U.S. Embassy personnel has a severely limited ability to assist citizens in detention. There is no U.S. government presence in Sanaa since the rebel takeover, adding to the limitations of helping U.S. citizens. All Embassy personnel has been relocated out of Yemen as of February 2015.
There is currently no active U.S. Embassy in Yemen. The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a suspended operations on February 11, 2015, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Yemen.
The U.S. Department of State is replacing a Travel Warning for southeastern Tunisia; the original was issued September 29, 2016. The regions highlighted by the U.S. government in the travel warning is the southeastern region of Tunisia along the Libyan border as well as certain mountainous areas in the country’s west, due to the threat of terrorism.
An Overview of the Terrorism Threats in Tunisia
In the past couple of years, several terrorist attacks have targeted Tunisian government and security forces as well as popular tourist sites. ISIS has claimed responsibility for all of the following attacks:
Regions of Tunisia to Remain Vigilant During Travel
The U.S. Department of State warns travelers about certain mountains of Western Tunisia where co-groups of militants continue to operate: Jebel Chaambi, Sammama, and Selloum. The Tunisian government continues security force operations against the following terrorist groups: Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AAS-T), ISIS, and al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from travel in areas outside greater Tunis. These restrictions prevent the Embassy from providing consular services outside of the capital. U.S. citizens should specifically avoid the following areas to ensure the U.S. Embassy can fully support them during their travels.
The U.S Department of State warns all U.S. citizens against traveling to the Gaza Strip. While the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority both make considerable efforts to ensure security, the security situation remains complex and fluid, changing quickly depending on the political environment and recent events. This Travel Warning replaces one issued August 23, 2016.
Understanding the History of the Conflict in the Gaza Strip
Currently, Gaza is under control of Hamas, a foreign organization the U.S. government has designated as terrorist. The security situation in Gaza and on its borders is dangerous and volatile. The U.S. Department of State reminds U.S. citizens to exercise caution and remain aware of their surroundings when traveling to areas with heightened tensions and security risks. Violent demonstrations and shootings occur frequent basis with high collateral risks.
Reported by The Palestinian Chronicle, at least 178 Palestinians were injured and eight were killed in Gaza by Israeli Forces in 2016. Typically these injuries and deaths occurred during clashes with Israeli Forces along the security barrier between the territory and Israel. Most recently, in February 2017, a 16-year-old Palestinian was injured.
While U.S. citizens sometimes are killed or wounded in attacks, there is little no indication that they were targeted due to their nationality. In most cases, their perceived religion was a factor in the attacks. The majority of recent attacks have targeted uniformed Israeli security forces often in proximity to checkpoints throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank, especially near religious sites significant to multiple faiths. In August 2016, a group of “ultra-Orthodox Jews” was attacked by Palestinians when they took a trip to Joseph’s Tomb.
Travel Recommendations for U.S Citizens Going to Gaza
If U.S. citizens should still choose to travel to Gaza, they should stay alert while traveling around the region. If caught in an area where violence erupts, attacks can be carried out using knives, vehicles and/or guns. Israeli security forces react with deadly force, which has resulted in bystanders being injured or killed in the crossfire. Prior to traveling throughout the area, U.S. citizens should review local media to understand the current climate.
The U.S Department of State recommends the following to U.S. Citizens
The U.S. Department of State also recommends that all U.S. citizens travel within the same rules and restrictions applied to U.S. government employee travel in the area:
Traveling U.S. citizens are warned by the U.S. Department of State about trips to several regions of Nigeria. The Travel Warning recommends avoiding all but essential travel to the areas of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, and Yobe because of fluid and unstable security situation and the areas of Bayelsa, Delta, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara states due to risk of robberies, kidnappings and other violent crimes. The security situation in northeast Nigeria “remains fluid and unpredictable.” This Travel Warning replaces the one dated February 8, 2017.
The risks for travelers in Nigeria are kidnappings, robberies and other armed attacks. Poor transportation infrastructure also makes it difficult for the U.S. Mission to provide consular services in parts of Nigeria. Because of this, the U.S government recommends all travelers have an evacuation option that does not involve the U.S. government.
The violence in Nigeria is primarily due to Boko Haram, an extremist group based in the northeast part of the country. The terrorist group typically targets churches, schools, mosques, government installations, educational institutions and entertainment venues. In 2014, the Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok. Recently, in early 2017, one of the girls was found while being interrogated after an army raid.
The United States government suggests exercising extreme caution throughout the country due to threats of indiscriminate violence. Terrorist attacks could happen anywhere, including markets, hotels, restaurants, bars and places of worship. As reported by Fox News, in December 2016, a young girl drove a suicide bomb into a crowded market in the name of Boko Haram. Most recently, in February of 2017, the Nigerian government announced that the Muslim Brotherhood (associated with Boko Haram) is planning to attack banks, arms depots and prisons across the country. The travel warning also notes that travel to the Gulf of Guinea should be avoided due to the threat of piracy. In 2016, 32 seafarers were kidnapped in the first five months of the year.
Zika is endemic in Nigeria, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk to travelers is low. They recommend using DEET and long sleeve clothing while outside. Zika is transferred through mosquito bites, so the CDC recommends maintaining these precautions when travelers return home.
The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert for French Guiana due to widespread protests throughout the country. U.S. citizens traveling in French Guiana should expect very limited consular services by the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname. This travel alert expires April 30, 2017.
An Overview of the Protests in French Guiana
Protests in French Guiana are forming along the main roads leading to the bordering countries of Suriname and Brazil a few weeks before the next presidential elections. Protests have begun due to the French Guiana citizens being unhappy with “high crime, the cost of living and anger at the quality of social services such as health care,” reported by ABC News.
A Collective of 500 Brothers, the group largely behind the protest, is supported by 37 unions in the nation. The Collective of 500 Brothers identifies themselves by black t-shirts and masks over their face. They say they are not a private militia and actively fight against organized crime.
According to EuroNews, “their spokesman Mickaël Mancée said: ‘If we wanted to be a private militia, we would be armed, we would not have gone to see the authorities, and if we had to act we would have acted in the shadows.’” The group also wants the French Guiana government to improve the health care and education systems in the nation. Although a delegation from the government has been sent to negotiate, the group wants to wait for the most senior representatives from the government.
The protests, which take place largely along the roads leading to neighboring countries, are affecting day to day operations within the nation. Roads have been blocked by protesters, hindering the Cayenne airport. On Monday, March 27, 2017, the nation of French Guiana began a general strike of workers stretching from electricity workers, Kourou hospital workers, and workers of the Endel corporation. They have blocked the roads to Guyana space center in Kourou, after the launch of the latest mission (Arianespace VA263) was delayed on Thursday, March 23, 2017. The delayed mission is supposed to deliver two satellites into space, one for Brazil and one for South Korea.
Travel Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State
The U.S. Department of State advises all U.S. citizens traveling in French Guiana to monitor the local media and information sources for updated information on the location of the protests. These updates may affect travel in/out of the country as well as between cities. As of Friday, March 24, 2017, the international airport has closed. All travelers should contact travel suppliers to make new arrangements for expected travel.
Torrential rainfall in select regions of Peru has caused the U.S. Department of State to issue a Travel Alert. The Government of Peru has issued a state of emergency for the Carretera Central, affection various districts in multiple provinces, including Lima province and the northern and central mountains. The U.S. Department of State recommends all U.S. travelers avoid these areas under the state of emergency. This Travel Alert expires on April 30, 2017.
Updates on the Expectations of Rainfall in Peru
From the end of March into April, Peru’s meteorology service expects heavy rains to continue in the areas listed under the state of emergency. NASA reports, “This extremely warm water off Peru's western coast has been blamed for promoting the development of these storms.” Reuters reports that this increase in heavy rainfall is due to an “El Nino” phenomenon and warming of surface temperatures off the coast of Peru.
Already, the heavy rains have resulted in extensive damage to homes, water supply facilities, schools, hospitals, roads and bridges in rural Lima and northern coastal areas. Experts expect this to continue. The National Emergency Operations Center (COEN) has reported more than 80 deaths from the flooding since the beginning of December. The same report indicated that more than 650,000 Peruvians have been affected and more than 145,000 properties have been damaged during the floods, including at least 400 hospitals.
Twenty-four out of 25 the regions in Peru have been affected by the flooding. Cities are muddy water running through streets and the threat of mudslides is eminent. The town of Pisco was hit with mudslides after heavy rainfall. According to several weather sources and press organizations, this is the worst rainfall that Peru has seen in decades and it’s not over. Peruvians are bracing themselves for another month of rainfall and flooding.
Traveling Safely in Peru during El Nino Rainfall
While much of the country is afflicted by heavy rainfall, some popular tourist areas are not being affected. As the Travel Alert states, “The City of Cusco, the archaeological site of Machu Picchu and the tourist areas surrounding Lake Titicaca have not experienced flooding at this time.” Travelers are encouraged to visit a real-time map set up by Google to locate the areas most affected by the rainfall levels.
Traveling from city to city may be affected, and dangerous, due to flooded roads or mudslides. Hotels and other accommodations may be affected and unable to accept guests due to damage from floods or mudslides. The U.S. Department of State asks all U.S. travelers to carefully review the safety situation of their travel destination before leaving. The Travel Alert recommends anyone experiencing travel delays should contact local authorities at IPeru (01-574-8000; firstname.lastname@example.org) for alternative methods of transit.
A new Travel Warning has been issued for Afghanistan today by the U.S. Department of State, replacing the Travel Warning from October 5, 2016. The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens from traveling to Afghanistan due to continued instability and threats by terrorist groups against U.S. citizens.
An Overview of the Situation in Afghanistan
According to the Travel Warning, all areas of Afghanistan remain unsafe for U.S. citizens due to “ongoing risk of kidnapping, hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, militant attacks, direct and indirect fire, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IED).”
Attacks like these are not specific to one demographic or geographic location in the nation. Terrorist organizations continually attack official Afghan and U.S. government convoys and military installations as well as commercial entities, non-governmental organization offices, restaurants, hotels, airports and educational centers. A report by the United Nations documents over 11,000 civilian killings or injuries in Afghanistan in 2016 - the most since documentation started in 2009.
Events in 2017 that Have Lead to a Travel Warning
On January 10, 2017, the Islamist militant Afghan Taliban movement targeted a city street during rush hour with twin suicide bombs, killing 30 and wounding 70 people. Reuters reports the attackers were specifically targeted minibuses carrying members of Afghanistan's main intelligence agency. A spokesperson from the Taliban was quoted as saying “We did exactly what we planned.”
On February 7, 2017, an insurgent killed more than 20 people at the Afghan Supreme Court when detonating a suicide vest. As CNN reported, the attack was specifically targeting Afghan Supreme Court officials as they were leaving for the day. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack through Twitter that same day.
So far in March, three attacks from various terrorist organizations have killed nearly 60 people and injured over 100. Two of the attacks, from Taliban insurgents, targeted Afghan police stations in Kabul. Stars and Stripes, an independent news agency for the U.S. military community, says that the Taliban also claimed responsibility for attacks on a military academy and recruitment center the same day. Another attack, conducted by the ISIS-K, targeted the Afghan National Army Hospital in Kabul City. Several gunman, dressed in white coats to disguise themselves among the healthcare workers, invaded the hospital before opening fire and a suicide bomber detonated in the entrance of the hospital.
U.S. Citizens Targeted in Murders and Kidnappings
In August of 2016, two professors (one American and one Australian) were kidnapped in Kabul. The BBC reports, that gunmen wearing vests smashed the windows of their vehicle and forced them out of the car. According to the New York Times, the same group of insurgents stormed the university with which the professors were employed, killing dozens of people and forcing the school to close. In January, the Taliban released video of the professors pleading for their governments to arrange an exchange with the terrorist group. This video comes a couple months after a failed attempt at rescuing the professors by military force.
Earlier in 2016, a U.S. citizen journalist, David Gilkey, employed by National Public Radio (NPR) and his Afghan assistant, Zabihullah Tamanna, were killed when the Afghan army convoy they were traveling with came under attack in Helmand Province. Also, in August of 2016, insurgents sent a rocket-powered grenade at a bus carrying tourists from the EU and the U.S. in Herat Province. Reuters reports, six tourists were wounded when one of the two tourist buses was attacked while traveling between cities.
Travel Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State
All unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. government employees and their family members is restricted and requires approval from the Department of State. U.S. Embassy personnel currently in Afghanistan are restricted from traveling to all locations in Kabul, except the Embassy and other U.S. government facilities.
Travel to Afghanistan is not recommended due to the dangers of unexpected attacks by terrorist organizations. Some travelers do outweigh the risks of traveling to Kabul with the desire to see the world and give other potential travelers tips on how to stay safe. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular services to American citizens is “severely limited”, particularly outside of Kabul. Therefore, the U.S. Department of State encourages U.S. travelers to defer non-essential travel within Afghanistan. Because of the government infrastructure, geographic constraints and other security concerns, travelers will want an evacuation plan that doesn’t include the U.S. government.
The United States Department of State released a travel warning for Lebanon that supersedes the warning issued on July 29, 2016. The U.S. Department of State warns against travel to Lebanon due to threats of terrorism, armed clashes, kidnappings and outbreaks of violence, especially near the borders of Syria and Israel.
Overview of the Situation in Lebanon
Violent extremist groups, including ISIL, Hizballah, Al-Nusrah Front, Hamas, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, operate in Lebanon. ISIL and Al-Nusrah Front have claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings in Lebanon, including ones targeting U.S. citizens. On June 27, 2016, there were a series of blasts caused by suicide bombers in Qa’a, along the Lebanese border. The blasts killed five people and injured several others.
Sudden outbreaks of violence are frequent in the country and the Lebanese government cannot guarantee protection for U.S. citizens. On June 12, 2016, an explosion occurred outside a commercial bank in the central Beirut area of Verdun, causing severe damage to the building and injuring civilians. On January 21, 2017, Lebanese officers stopped an attempted suicide attack at a cafe in downtown Beirut.
Outside of frequent terrorist attacks, family and neighborhood disputes can escalate and very quickly lead to gunfire or other violence without warning. The U.S. Travel Warning states, “Armed clashes have resulted in deaths and injuries in these neighborhoods in the past and there are potentially large numbers of weapons in the hands of the non-governmental elements.” The Travel Warning notes the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen as areas of tension.
Kidnapping continues to occur throughout Lebanon for reasons of ransom, political motives or family disputes. Authorities have found that suspects in kidnappings have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations, in most cases. The U.S. Travel Warning reminds U.S. citizens that the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, however, it is government “policy not to make concessions to hostage takers.”
Areas to Avoid if Traveling to Lebanon
The U.S. Department of State outlines three areas to avoid if traveling to Lebanon: the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Lebanese-Israeli border and the Bekaa Valley. The Lebanese-Syrian border is a point of contention, as it often experiences incidents of cross-border shelling and airstrikes from Syria on border villages. These have resulted in death and injury as well as clashes between the Lebanese Army and Syrian-based extremists.
The Lebanon-Israel border is tense with the potential of violence, and the U.S. Travel Warning urges U.S. citizens to avoid this area altogether. There are several landmine fields with posted warnings and the extremist group Hizballah has stockpiled weapons for a future clash with Israel. The Bekaa Valley is an area of strong presence for the Hizballah. The Hizballah has been a target of other extremists for supporting the Asad regime in Syria. This makes the Bekaa Valley ripe for violence with no warning. U.S. citizens, according to the U.S. government, should avoid any travel to refugee camps in Lebanon. Violence within the formal and informal camps from Palestinian groups, hostile to both the Lebanese government and the United States, make them unsafe for U.S. citizens.
Emergency Travel Assistance from the U.S. Government is Limited
The U.S. Department of State reminds U.S. citizens that they are responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon, even in a state of emergency. The U.S. Embassy does not offer protection services to U.S. citizens who feel unsafe. U.S. government-assisted evacuation from Lebanon, like that in 2006, only occur when commercial air travel is not an option, however, each U.S. citizen is responsible for reimbursing the U.S. government for the transportation. When booking commercial flights in and out of Lebanon, the U.S. government warns against flights traveling in Syrian airspace.
The United States Department of State has issued a travel warning, replacing one from January 15, 2016, for El Salvador due to high rates of crime and violence. El Salvador has the highest level of homicide in the world. Crime rates are extremely high, as well, for extortion, assault and robbery.
Overview of the Gang Activity in El Salvador
El Salvador has the highest rate of homicide in the world: nearly 103 homicides per 100,000 residents last year, reported by The New York Times. ABC News reported that on average one homicide per hour occurred in the first three months of 2016, in El Salvador. This is a rate that is equivalent to historical wartime rates and makes El Salvador the murder capital of the world.
The U.S. Department of State’s Travel Warning attributes much of the homicide to gang violence within the towns and major cities of El Salvador. In 2011, it was estimated that 25,000 gang members were at large throughout the country and another 9,000 were incarcerated. In 2016, ABC news reported there were an estimated 600,000 gang members; El Salvador’s population is 6.5 million.
Among the homicides, gangs are also responsible for the majority of assaults and armed robberies throughout the country. Al Jazeera reports, gangs are extorting 70% of the businesses in El Salvador. Business owners have been murder for less than $25 because they have not complied with the extortion demands. The Travel Warning from the U.S. government notes that U.S. citizens are not particularly targeted in these crimes, but rather victims of “wrong place wrong time”.
Travel Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State
At anytime of the day or night, travelers are targets for armed robberies at tourist sights and ATMs or banks. Be vigilant if traveling to these areas and do not keep a large amount of money on your person. The POLITUR, a special tourist police that provides security and assistance to travelers in El Salvador, recommends never accepting help from locals when using an ATM or trying to withdraw money from a bank. The Travel Warning recommends not wearing expensive jewelry or accessories when traveling.
If traveling in national parks, the U.S. Department of State recommends hiring a professional tour guide. If travelers do not plan to work with tour companies, the POLITUR is available for hire in El Salvador. If travelers do not want to hire private security, the POLITUR recommends traveling in groups and using taxi’s that have the letter ‘A’ first on the license plate.
Generally, various political groups recommend avoiding travel at night, especially on foot. If driving at night, keep the windows rolled up and doors locked to avoid robberies. The POLITUR does provide “Night Tourism” groups that provide secure tour groups for travelers looking to experience El Salvador at night.
As of October 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has placed El Salvador under a Watch Level 2 for the Zika Virus. This means that travelers should “practice enhanced precautions” against mosquito bites: use DEET, cover exposed skin with light clothing, use permethrin-treated clothing to repel insects and use mosquito netting if sleeping outdoors.
The U.S. Department of State warns against all travel to Libya and urges any U.S. citizens currently in Libya to leave immediately. In July of 2014, the United States suspended all Embassy activity in Libya due to the violence of militias. Due to this, the U.S. Department of State is extremely limited in assisting citizens in Libya.
Militia groups in cities have been a point of tension between armed groups and government forces, as well as terrorist attacks, which often include hotels frequented by westerners. The militia controls checkpoints around the country and sometimes they detain travelers for arbitrary reasons and do not grant access to lawyers or legal processes. Because of this, the U.S. Department of State recommends citizens carry proof of citizenship and valid immigration status at all times, but it may not guarantee fair treatment.
Most international airports in Libya are closed. If the airport is open, the schedules are sporadic and flights may be canceled without warning. On December 23, 2016, an airplane traveling to Tripoli, Libya was hijacked and diverted by armed men threatening to blow up the plane. The situation ended without any casualties and the militants were detained at a Maltese airport. Due to the instability of the air, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) for Libya.
The United States Department of State Travel Warning states violent extremist activity in Libya remains high and extremist groups have made threats against U.S. government officials, citizens and interests. Threats against U.S. citizens may also include murder and kidnapping for ransom. Violence is possible at any time in Libya. In September 2016, reported by Reuters, two vehicle-borne bombs detonated in Tripoli; ISIL claimed responsibility.
Due to the violence, the United States Department of State urges citizens to avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution in large crowds and on the border, desert regions of the nation.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Somalia because of widespread terrorist and criminal activity. Militants associated with both the al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabaab, and the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) operate with relative impunity throughout large parts of the country, including Mogadishu, and attack civilian, military, and government targets. U.S. citizens should be aware that kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks and other violent incidents are common throughout Somalia, including Somaliland. There is no U.S. embassy presence in Somalia. This replaces the Travel Warning dated January 11, 2017.
An Overview of the Situation in Somalia
In 2016, al-Shabaab carried out 14 documented attacks directed at hotels, restaurants and the international airport in Mogadishu. According to the BBC, the al-Shabaab most likely has 7,000 to 9,000 members in Somalia alone. The terrorist group has carried out attacks in government-controlled territories of Somalia, targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and convoys, as well as commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals and the Somali diaspora.
According to CNN, in June of 2016, after detonating a car bomb at a hotel gate, the suspect stormed the hotel with a firearm and killed 15 people, injuring 25. In August, the UN condemned another terrorist attack– on another hotel claiming the lives of 13 people and injuring over 20 people– which al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.
Most recently, in January 2017, militants killed dozens of Kenyan troops at a remote military base in Somalia. The Guardian is reporting that two fighters drove suicide car bombs onto the base before the rest of the fighters stormed it, killing 57 Kenya soldiers. Also, CNN reports that 21 people were killed when a suicide bomber in a truck targeted a hotel in the city center of the capital, Mogadishu. Among the dead were seven journalists and four al-Shabaab militants. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for this latest attack.
Travel Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State
The U.S. Department of State travel warning notes that the terrorist threat is particularly in places where crowds are large and Westerners frequent. This includes airports, government buildings, hotels and shopping areas. The U.S. Department of State recommends avoiding travel to Somalia. There is no U.S. Embassy in Somalia and travelers going to the country must arrange travel and security without the assistance of the United States Government.
The travel warning also recommends travelers avoid sailing near the coast of Somalia due to the risks of pirate attacks. “Merchant vessels, fishing boats, and recreational craft all risk seizure and detention by pirates in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia.”
Like most African nations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends traveling with up-to-date routine vaccinations when traveling to Somalia. In addition, all travelers should talk to a physician about the following vaccinations: Hepatitis A and B, Cholera, Typhoid, Rabies, and Yellow Fever. Also, Malaria drugs before, during and after a trip to Somalia are recommended by the CDC.
The U.S. Department of State travel warning for The Gambia, officially known as the Islamic Republic of The Gambia, comes after the sitting ruler announced the December election results, in which he lost, were void and called for a new vote. His petition for a new vote will be heard by the nation’s Supreme Court on January 10, 2017. This heightens the risk of the potential civil unrest and violence. The U.S. Department of State warns against future travel to The Gambia because of the potential of civil unrest and violence.
Overview of the Situation in The Gambia
After The Gambia gained its independence from the United Kingdom in February of 1965, the current leader, Yahya Jammeh, seized power in 1994 through a coup. He has ruled the nation for 22 years but announced he would step down following the December 1 election, which declared Adama Barrow the new president.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken particular interest in The Gambia power shift as it’s committed to protecting the constitutional rights and democracy of all citizens and nations in West Africa. Because of Jammeh’s refusal to step down until May of 2017, the ECOWAS began military action on January 19th - the day that Jammeh was to step down and give power to his successor, Barrow. This course of action and the small size of The Gambia leads the entire nation to be under the Travel Warning.
Important Information for Residents and Travelers
The capital of The Gambia, Banjul, will be a point of contention during this change of power. The U.S. Department of State has authorized the departure of “all employees who need to accompany those individuals from the country.” The U.S. Department of State is ordering all unnecessary United States citizens to make arrangements to the leave the country immediately by way of a commercial airline.
All U.S. citizens are being asked to make transportation options now, without relying on government assistance, as the airports and ferry terminals may close without warning because of the unrest. As the power shift requires more military intervention, less and less commercial airlines will be active in The Gambia. For instance, Thomas Cook Airline will be organizing its last six repatriation flights from The Gambia on January 20, 2017. Access Gambia, the Gambian Information Source, recommends residents and travelers remaining in the country should not go out alone at night. If traveling during the day, alert someone to your expected locations.
The U.S. Department of State is recommending that all official documents are valid and up-to-date for travel. The Gambia consular services are already limited, only available in the capital city, due to poor transportation infrastructure and security conditions. According to Thomson Reuters Foundation News, shops and banks have closed throughout the nation as the Senegal military forces enter The Gambia to enforce the new presidential power. Jammeh still has not stepped down from the offices of presidency, regardless of Barrow being sworn in. Sending money to someone in The Gambia will be difficult due to these closers.
Health and Safety Concerns While Traveling to The Gambia
Aside from the Department of State’s warning, the CDC also lists special considerations while traveling to The Gambia. The CDC recommends visiting a primary care physician months before leaving to take the proper immunizations and vaccinations. Malaria and Yellow Fever are a risk throughout the nation and all travelers should take precautions and medications necessary to avoid contracting these illnesses. It is also recommended by the CDC that travelers inquire about immunizations for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Meningitis and Rabies.
The CDC also recommends the following: Avoid contact with wild animals and any livestock. Drink only filtered water to avoid bacteria unknown to your body. Know where to find emergency medical care. Take your antimalarial medication. Prevent bug bites even while indoors.