air-france-waitYour flights are booked, your hotel room is paid for, bags are packed and you’re all ready to jet off. And then the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning or alert for the exact destination you’re planning to visit.

What do you do? Risk it and go, or play it safe and cancel the trip?

Before you decide, it’s important to know the difference between a warning and an alert.

The purpose behind a travel warning is that the State Department wants travelers to know the risks associated with traveling to these specific places and to carefully consider traveling there. Reasons the State Department may issue a travel warning include civil war, unstable government, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. Travel warnings are issued and remain in place until the situation changes; sometimes, they remain in effect for years.

State Department travel alerts are for short-term events people should know about when planning to travel to different countries. When these short-term events end, the State Department cancels the corresponding alert. Travel alerts are issued for a health concern like an outbreak of Ebola or Zika virus, evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks, or an election that may result in strikes, demonstrations or disturbances.

In the event that a warning or alert is issued, whether you should go or cancel the trip isn’t so cut and dry – it really depends on what the warning or alert says.

For instance, the State Department issued a warning for travel to Pakistan in August 2015 and recently updated it – it is warning U.S. citizens against all non-essential travel to this country due to significant terrorist violence. In this case, you should reconsider a vacation here.

On the other hand, the State Department recently issued a travel alert for Laos due to shooting attacks on a specific road in this country. In this case, the State Department’s alert is focused on alerting travelers of this incident and to avoid using this specific road. If you have a trip scheduled here, don’t cancel it, but be more aware of your surroundings, be mindful of where you are and, of course, avoid the road noted in the alert.

Similarly, some warnings and alerts are focused on specific portions of countries, like Mexico. A travel warning for Mexico raises travelers’ awareness of violent crimes by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states – there are states in Mexico that have no advisories in effect and there are others that warn against non-essential travel.

The bottom line: if a travel alert or warning is issued, read it carefully. Unless there’s a current or imminent threat in your destination, you should still go, but with a heightened awareness of your surroundings.

Photo from Argophilia Travel News.


About The Author

Nicole Jenet is a writer at Scribewise. There's nothing she loves more than the feeling of warm sand beneath her feet and trying new, exotic cuisine. Visit


  1. […] In addition to reading and watching the news, you can also keep yourself aware of serious situations by reviewing the State Department’s travel alerts and warnings. […]

  2. […] Due to the threat of terrorism and conflict in many Middle Eastern countries, you should check the U.S. Department of State’s travel alerts and warnings before booking your trip or traveling. […]

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