What is a Travel Warning?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A travel warning is an official statement from a government advising its citizens to consider avoiding travel to a particular nation. Travel warnings are not bans; citizens can still choose to travel to nations named in a travel warning, but they do so with increased risk and may want to evaluate this risk carefully before proceeding with travel plans. A lesser notification called a travel alert is used when a temporary condition makes travel potentially unsafe, and a government wants to advise citizens to delay travel plans.

It's not illegal to have your passport stamped from a country where there is a travel warning.
It's not illegal to have your passport stamped from a country where there is a travel warning.

Travel warnings are issued when it is clear that long term problems are present in a country and are unlikely to be addressed in the near future. This can include severe political instability, concerns about the risk of terrorism, and other issues. It may not be possible to staff embassies in that nation, and in some cases, embassy personnel are expelled or advised to evacuate. Citizens traveling in that country do so with the understanding that they may not be able to receive embassy assistance if they get into trouble.

If a travel warning is issued, it may be able for a passenger to obtain a refund from an airline.
If a travel warning is issued, it may be able for a passenger to obtain a refund from an airline.

By contrast, a travel alert warns of temporary conditions like political unrest or an outbreak of disease. The travel alert suggests that people may want to delay until the issue is resolved, but is indicative of a belief that the country will be safe to travel to in the near future.

If a travel warning or alert is issued after people have made travel plans, it may be possible to obtain a refund or credit with airlines, hotels, travel agents, and so forth. This is provided as a courtesy and is designed to prevent people from feeling obligated to travel in an unsafe location because they have already paid for it. People who choose to travel anyway may want to read the travel warning carefully to get information about specific safety concerns so they can take reasonable precautions.

People reentering their home nations with immigration stamps from a country the government has issued a travel warning about should not be detained or otherwise interfered with, as they have not broken the law. The exception to this rule is people who have been flagged by the government as causes for concern, or people who are dual citizens or resident aliens. These individuals may be viewed with suspicion if they have traveled to a country where terrorist activity is present, as there may be concerns about the reasons behind their travel decisions.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


My wife and I are planning a vacation and are worried about the Mexico travel warnings we have been reading. It paints a pretty grim picture of the area, from drug cartels to foreigners being murdered. I am just wondering, which is the best way to confirm the area you are going to is safe?

Our travel agent has assured us that the resort we are going to is not in the area listed by the state dept travel warnings and that we shouldn't worry. Which is the easiest way to confirm that we are indeed in the clear?

I don't want us to get into a dangerous situation because we didn't follow a travel warning.


There have been some pretty strange travel warnings issued over the years so I would take some state department travel warnings with a grain of salt. It is always best to do your own research about a situation before getting worked up about a potential situation.

I remember there was a big thing on the news awhile back about the travel warnings in Australia, listing British Columbia in Canada a potentially dangerous area to visit. It really made me do a double take, especially when it said avalanches were a big problem. There are avalanches there yes, but they aren't a worry if you follow local advisories and aren't near the mountains.


Whenever I go to a new country I always check the travel advisory government site to make sure that everything is cool. On my recent trip to Asia there were several Thailand travel warnings, and although they were severe, they didn't really impact the areas I was traveling to. I think it is a good idea to make sure the travel warnings you see don't frighten you from visiting a country you'd love to see.

I know that the travel warning for Thailand was mostly related to the border areas of Cambodia and Myanmar, which was quite far from where I was going. Even with the big flooding scare of 2011, central Bangkok was totally fine and I felt safe there.

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