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Beyond Borders: Here’s How You Can Ensure Your Safety When Traveling to Another Country

03 May 2023

Now that most of the COVID-related travel restrictions have been lifted, airports across the globe have found themselves crowded by eager travelers.

Despite this positive development, safety is still a top priority for both seasoned and novice travelers. After all, any risk, threat, or unforeseen event brings the possibility of derailing a well-planned vacation. 

To ensure the safety of its citizens on foreign soil, the U.S. Department of State came up with a four-tiered system that classifies each country based on its current safety and security conditions. Moreover, the rankings are updated and reviewed regularly.

Even though this system was made for U.S. citizens, it is still a useful tool for assessing whether the destination you plan to travel to is safe or not.

Before we dive deeper into the topic, we have to explain how the U.S. Department of State ranks each country’s level of safety and security. 

Travel Advisory Risk Factors

The level assigned to each country is based on the following risk indicators:

  • Crime - Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of a specific country. The ability of local law enforcement to respond to serious crimes is also taken into account..
  • Terrorism - Terrorist attacks have occurred, and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets may exist.
  • Civil Unrest - Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exists and may cause violence, and other safety risks.
  • Health - Includes current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice is also a factor. 
  • Natural Disaster - A natural disaster and its aftermath poses a danger to both citizens and tourists.
  • Time-limited Event - A short-term event, such as elections, sporting events, or other incidents that may pose safety risks.
  • Kidnapping or Hostage Taking - Criminal or terrorist groups have threatened to and/or have seized or detained and threatened to kill, injure or continue to detain individuals in order to compel a third party like a government or any of its agencies to do or abstain from doing something as a condition of release.  
  • Wrongful Detention - The risk of unlawful detention of U.S. nationals by a foreign government exists. 
  • Other - These are potential risks not covered by previously mentioned risk indicators. 

It’s important to note that the U.S. Department of State may place a country under Level 2, but categorize a specific area or region within that territory under Level 3. This is because the safety level of an area may vary.

Now that you know how a safety level of a country is ranked by the U.S., it’s time to explain what each level  in a U.S. travel advisory means.

Travel Advisory Levels

Level 1 - Exercise Normal Precautions

Countries listed in this level are generally safe for travelers since these destinations pose the lowest safety and security risk. 

Despite that, travelers to these countries are advised to remain cautious because safety conditions in these areas could vary at any given time. At present, there are more than 90 countries under this level. Here are some of the more notable destinations in this level:

  • Angola
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Australia
  • Cambodia
  • Kuwait
  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Zambia
  • Namibia
Level 2 - Exercise Increased Caution

Travelers who plan to visit countries under this level need to be aware of the heightened safety and security risks present in the area. The Department of State has additional guidelines for  travelers who want to visit areas under Level 2. 

Here are some of the countries under Level 2 as of April 2023:

  • Belgium
  • Brazil 
  • Costa Rica
  • Denmark
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gambia
  • Germany 
  • Ghana
  • Spain
  • India
  • Philippines
  • Antarctica
  • Bolivia
  • Sweden
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Netherlands
  • Indonesia
  • Dominican Republic 
Level 3 - Reconsider Travel

The Department of State advises travelers to avoid traveling to countries in this level because of serious risks to safety and security. These include terrorism threats, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks.

The following are some of the countries under Level 3 as of April 2023:

  • China
  • Macau
  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • Uganda
  • Nigeria 
  • Ethiopia 
  • Papua New Guinea 
  • Guatemala
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Pakistan
  • Lebanon
Level 4 - Do Not Travel

Due to the increased probability of life-threatening risks, the Department of State advises travelers not to visit the countries listed under this level. 

Risk indicators for this level include nuclear terrorism threats, ongoing rebellions, armed conflict, civil unrest, crime, kidnapping, war, and bombings.  

As of April 2023, there are more than 15 countries in Level 4:

  • Afghanistan
  • Burkina Faso
  • Central African Republic
  • Libya
  • North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
  • South Sudan 
  • Syria
  • Yemen
  • Ukraine
  • Haiti
  • Iraq
  • Venezuela 
  • Mali
  • Iran 
  • Russia
  • Burma (Myanmar) 
  • Belarus

For more information on the recent travel advisories issued by the US State Department, you may visit its website. You can also access the government agency’s interactive map to view countries color-coded with the Travel Advisory levels.

Aside from keeping track of U.S. State Department travel advisories, consider checking the list of banned airlines. 

Banned Airlines by the EU

In January 2023, Mirror, a British newspaper, published a list of countries whose airlines were banned from European airspace. 

For your reference, this is a list of countries whose airlines were banned by the European Union Air Safety Committee:

  • Afghanistan 
  • Armenia 
  • Angola 
  • Congo  
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Djibouti 
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Nepal
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Sierra Leone
  • Sudan

Additionally, these airlines were also added to EU’s list of banned airlines: 

  • Avior Airlines (Venezuela)
  • Blue Wing Airlines (Suriname)
  • Iran Aseman Airlines (Iran)
  • Iraqi Airways (Iraq)
  • Med-View Airlines (Nigeria)
  • Zimbabwe Airlines (Zimbabwe)

Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a rookie adventurer, make sure to do your homework on the places you plan to visit before setting off on your journey. After all, ensuring your safety is the most important step you must take regardless of your destination.

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