PhotoPlanning on going out of the U.S. this summer? Then, taking five minutes to read this story is a must.

Let’s start with a quick quiz: which of these countries do you think the U.S. Department of State lists as destinations travelers should “exercise increased caution” in going to?

  • A. United Kingdom
  • B. France
  • C. Belize
  • D. Netherlands
  • E. All of the above

Did you say E -- All of the above? If so, then you get an extra pack of honey roasted peanuts on your next flight. (If only...)

There are many places that Americans like to travel to and have always considered safe -- like France, the United Kingdom, and the Bahamas. But the fact is that the world isn’t the arms-opened-wide place it used to be, and travelers can’t be footloose and fancy free like they once were.

With heightened alerts on every aspect of a vacation, from a leisurely stroll on the beach at sunset to possible terror attacks at cultural events, there are 57 countries on the U.S. Department of State’s list that are considered to be level 2 -- exercise increased caution; level 3 -- reconsider travel; or level 4 -- do not travel.

Keep in mind that the Department of State isn’t asking travelers to completely ditch their vacation plans, but rather be cautious and aware. And in trying to have the traveler’s back, the agency leaves no stone unturned in its assessments.

Advisories vary by country

For example, its advisory for Italy details how terrorism is something consumers should be wary of if they plan to visit.

“Exercise increased caution in Italy due to terrorism.Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Italy. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas,” the advisory reads.

Every country poses different sets of circumstance. In China, for example, travelers may be detained and/or deported for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government. Unfortunately, most of those detentions don’t manifest themselves until a traveler is exiting the country and without access to U.S. consular services..

“Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years. China uses exit bans coercively,” writes the Department of State in its travel advisory for China.

What countries are flagged?

Here’s an alphabetical list of countries the Department of State considers level 2, 3, and 4. Clicking on the link for the advisory will take you straight to that particular country’s warning.

  

Afghanistan Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Algeria Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Bangladesh Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Burkina Faso Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Burma (Myanmar) Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Burundi Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Cameroon Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Central African Republic Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Chad Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Colombia Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Dominican Republic Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Ecuador Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

El Salvador Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Eritrea Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Ethiopia Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

France Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Guatemala Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Guinea-Bissau Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Haiti Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Honduras Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

India Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Iran Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Iraq Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Jamaica Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Kenya Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Lebanon Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Libya Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Maldives Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Mali Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Mauritania Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Mexico Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Morocco Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Nicaragua Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Niger Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Nigeria Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Pakistan Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Papua New Guinea Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Philippines Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Republic of the Congo Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Russia Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Saudi Arabia Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Somalia Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

South Sudan Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Spain Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Sri Lanka Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Sudan Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Syria Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Tanzania Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

The Bahamas Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Trinidad and Tobago Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Turkey Travel Advisory

Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Turks and Caicos Islands Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Uganda Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Ukraine Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

United Kingdom Travel Advisory

Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Venezuela Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Yemen Travel Advisory

Level 4: Do Not Travel

Don’t wing it -- be prepared in advance

The Department of State offers some basic advice for all travelers, whether they’re headed to a place with no restrictions or one that causes concern.

  • At the top of that list is STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), which sends travelers alerts and makes it easier for the local U.S. embassy or other U.S.-friendly agencies to locate travelers in an emergency.

  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Review the Crime and Safety reports for the countries you plan on visiting.

  • Have a contingency plan for emergency situations. The Traveler’s Checklist.is a good place to start.

  • Some U.S. citizens with special considerations – such as students, women, and LGBTI travelers – may face additional challenges when abroad. Take time to know what those are and what accommodations may have to be made.

  • Some countries have restrictions on electronic communications. For example, if your life revolves around all things Google (like YouTube and G-Mail), you’ll probably be out of luck in most Arab countries. There are ways to get around that issue, like using a VPN (Virtual Proxy Network); however, doing so requires some technical knowledge and skill.

 

In the Department of State’s way of thinking, the bottom line is this: if you do decide to travel, make a plan for what to do if something goes wrong overseas.

Best to leave that sea turtle where you found it

One last thing…

There are products countries don’t want travelers either bringing in or taking out. Those items range from food to medications. Many are wildlife-oriented, like feather products from wild birds and products made from sea turtles. There’s also a ban on bringing in any shape, size, or form of coral back into the U.S.

The risk? Simple -- confiscation and a potential fine. For a complete list of what not to bring back into the U.S., check out both the U.S. Customs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s site. For details on what items can’t be brought into specific countries, it’s best to check each country’s particular restrictions.


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