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Travel Tip: State Department Travel Alerts And Warnings

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With the civil unrest and natural disasters we’ve seen in the news lately, it’s hard to decipher all the travel precautions, especially from our own State Department.

Here’s what it all means…

The State Department issues two kinds of notices to travelers: alerts and warnings.

An alert is issued when there is short-term situation that could make travel difficult or unwise.

This can involve anything from a natural disaster to protests. It could even involve a major sporting event.

A travel warning involves longer-term situations. That could mean political unrest or wartime conditions, or it could mean that the American embassy or consulate has limited staff.

For example, Tunisia received an alert, but Egypt’s civil unrest merited a warning because the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was only staffed by emergency personnel.

Does that mean you should cancel your travel plans? Not necessarily.

Remember the terrorist alert in Europe last fall? That one was so vague that no one knew what to do.

My advice is to educate yourself before making a decision.

Check what other governments have to say about the situation, and read the local English-language paper to get a sense of the conditions out there.

For more on this topic, check out State Department Travel Alerts Versus Travel Warnings.

For more travel safety tips, visit our Travel Safety & Security section.

And check out the rest of our Daily Travel Tips here.

Don’t forget to check out Peter’s advice on State Department travel advisories in this video…