Travel warnings: what exactly is a travel advisory? Should you worry about them?

Travel warnings and alerts — what are they, are they consistent, should you change your travel plans because of them?

What is a travel warning and should you worry about it? 
What is a travel warning and should you worry about it? 

Safety when travelling is something that should always be a priority and, for the majority of tourists, pre-trip vaccinations, well-stocked first-aid kits and adequate travel insurance are common precursors to most holiday plans.

But what happens when a travel alert or warning is issued for a destination you are planning to visit. Should you worry about it?

Should I worry about travel advice?

If you worried every time a country issued a travel alert, then you would live in a constant state of anxiety. If you have travel plans, check out what information already exists for that destination.

Remember that travel alerts and warnings are often put in place very quickly after an incident, but that they often take time to be removed.

Advice will also often be more cautious from some governments for some countries depending on the presence of an embassy in that destination and any bilateral situations of note. This means that a country could be classified as a Level 3 in the US, but be shown in green on the UK's travel warning maps.

Travel alerts can also be confusing. On May 14, the US embassy in the UAE tweeted a message for US citizens to maintain high levels of vigilance in the country. Yet, on the official Travel State Gov website, the United Arab Emirates is listed as Level 1: Exercise normal precautions.

The takeaway from this is to not panic if alerts or warnings are issued when you are travelling. .

Stay informed of advice, but also get your facts from trusted news sources, review important safety pointers and use common sense to judge whether to change your travel plans or take other appropriate action.

What is a travel alert?

Travel alerts are usually issued short-term after major events. They are issued after things happen that are seen as having the potential to put people in danger. These could be related to a health crisis, weather warnings, political unrest, a recent terrorist activity or the anniversary of a terrorist event.

Essentially, they provide information on things that could be bad, but that typically are not expected to last a long time.

What is a travel warning?

Travel warnings tend to be more serious and are normally issued when a country does not think that its citizens should travel somewhere.

That being said, not all warnings are equal. Some tell travellers not to visit an entire country but others break down specific areas of a country that pose more of a threat than others.

What is a travel ban?

A travel ban is issued when a country has decided to take the responsibility for visiting a country away from individual travellers and enforces a policy that does not allow people to visit a destination.

For US citizens, North Korea is banned while the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation lists bans on travel to Qatar, Karabakh and Lebanon.

When an alert, warning or ban is issued is it a worldwide policy?

No, far from it. In the United States, an overall Travel Advisory level is issued for citizens in relation to every country in the world. There are four levels, ranging from Level 1, which means Exercise Normal Precautions, to Level 4: do not travel.

In the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) uses a traffic-light colour system to depict travel warnings. Red areas on a map advise against all travel, yellow means that all but essential travel is advised against and green areas have no warnings — but travellers should still check for travel alerts.

The UAE maintains a list of current travel warnings, including information on the reason for each advisory. These range from political reasons, to health issues and security situations. At the time of publishing, current travel warnings from the UAE included Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Ukraine and northern Nigeria.

In Europe, the foreign ministries of each country are responsible for providing travel advice to their citizens. The European Commission Travel Advice website is an easy-to-navigate site that lets you check travel advice from various countries on particular destinations.

It's a good idea to check the advice of your embassy in the country you are visiting before travelling. The below sites could be useful resources:

Published: May 16, 2019 03:38 PM


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