Recognizing that most people don't know the difference
between a "travel warning" and a "travel alert," the State
Department has overhauled its country-specific travel advisory system.
Every nation in the world now has a travel advisory ranking from
1 to 4,
with level 4 meaning "do not travel" and level 1 "exercise
Popular destinations for U.S. travelers such as Mexico,
France and the United Kingdom register a 2, "exercise increased caution,"
while countries including Cuba, Turkey, and Russia have been given level 3, "reconsider
An interactive map color-codes the country by its ranking: red for 4 (Iran, Yemen, North Korea),
orange for 3 (Cuba, Turkey, Russia), and yellow for 2 (Spain, India, Brazil).
Countries with a level 1 ranking (Canada, Sweden, Mongolia) are not
For countries deemed level 2 and above, the risks and
threats of traveling there are further specified. For example, terrorism in Western
European countries and crime in Central and South American nations.
"It's laid out in a format that is much more readily
accessible, much more easily understandable, and I think far more actionable
than our other travel warnings and travel alerts," said Michelle
Bernier-Toth, acting deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizen
The State Department has not changed its methods for
determining the country-specific threats.
"We already recommend people not to go to these
countries," Bernier-Toth said of the level 4 nations. "How we assess
the threat level in a country hasn't changed. … It's how we describe those
conditions and set those levels that has changed."
Bernier-Toth said this was the first major overhaul of its
travel advisory system "in a very long time."
"I think people will find it easier to understand than
the old travel warnings," she said. "People often didn't understand
the difference between a travel alert and a travel warning. And we shouldn't
need to spend more time explaining the difference than we do explaining what
the threat actually is."