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What countries to avoid on your travels, according to the U.S. government

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The U.S. State Department regularly updates travel advisory levels for more than 200 countries globally. Levels depend on risk factors such as health, terrorism and civil unrest. Currently, 10% of countries, 19 total, have a level four advisory, meaning no one should travel to that location, per U.S. News & World Report.

Twenty-four countries have a level three travel advisory, meaning to reconsider travel. While citizens are not barred from traveling, additional advice is given because of the severity of risks to safety and security, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Which countries have updated ‘do not travel’ warnings?

Level four is the highest and most dangerous advisory the U.S. government gives. Here are the areas to not travel to and the reasons why, in order of date updated, according to the State Department website.

Burma (Myanmar)

With armed conflict, civil unrest and arbitrary law enforcement, Burma was updated to a level four on Jan. 22.

  • Certain areas within the country, Shan, Chin and Kachin, also contain unidentifiable or unmarked landmines.
  • Many U.S. citizens have been wrongfully detained without due process.
  • Explosives are used during armed conflicts.
  • There are limited medical resources because of shortage in staffing and medical supplies.

Iran

Information on Iran was updated on Jan. 11. Terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping and the arrest of U.S. citizens are risk factors for Iran.

  • Terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, operate in Iran.
  • The U.S. is unable to provide emergency services.

Which countries should tourists highly consider not traveling to?

Where possible, U.S. citizens should stay away from countries with a level three travel advisory. However, if necessary, appoint one family member to serve as the point of contact with others in emergencies; keep travel documents up-to-date; avoid demonstrations or crowds and do not touch unknown objects.

Here are the areas to reconsider traveling to and the reasons why, in order of date updated, according to the State Department website.

Lebanon

Crime, civil unrest, terrorism, kidnapping, landmines and armed conflict causes Lebanon to have a level three advisory. Southern Lebanon, the border with Syria or refugee settlements have a level four, do not travel, advisory. Lebanon’s advisory was updated on Jan. 29.

  • The U.S. Embassy is sometimes unable to assist travelers.
  • Terrorist groups are plotting attacks, especially in tourist locations.
  • Disputes often escalate quickly within families and neighborhoods, causing gunfire or other violence.
  • Kidnapping occurs due to the want of money, political motives and family disputes.
  • Landmines are found in roadside ditches, shoulders and unmarked trails.
  • Protester gatherings often turn violent. Major roads can be blocked for the protests.

Saudi Arabia

Updated on Jan. 24, Saudi Arabia has a level three advisory. There are currently threats of missile and drone attacks, terrorism, arrests due to social media activity and prohibited items within the country.

  • The U.S. government is unable to provide aid for most emergencies.
  • Iran has conducted destructive and lethal attacks with missiles and drones against government and civilian sites.
  • Debris from drone and missile attacks are dangerous.
  • U.S. citizens have been arrested for social media comments, likes, posts or reposts that are deemed critical of Saudi Arabia.
  • Drugs, weapons, pornographic material and other illegal items are often imported into the country.

Jamaica

Travel to Jamaica should be reconsidered because of crime and reduced medical services. The country’s travel advisory was updated on Jan. 23.

  • Violent crimes such as sexual assault, armed robberies and home invasions occur.
  • Police respond poorly to criminal incidents.
  • Families of U.S. citizens are often killed in homicides with death certificates given a year or more later.
  • Hospitals are under-resourced.

Papua New Guinea

Crime, civil unrest, piracy, kidnapping, limited health care services and natural disasters cause Papua New Guinea’s level three advisory, updated on Jan. 17, 2024.

  • Violent crime such as assault, home invasions, carjacking and robberies occur.
  • Criminals attack foreign tourist hotspots for money.
  • Police presence and their resources are limited.
  • Piracy is active in the surrounding water. The criminals often use physical violence.
  • Foreign citizens have been kidnapped.

Nicaragua

Updated on Jan. 11, Nicaragua has increased in arbitrary law enforcement, limited health care and false detention.

  • Nicaragua’s government searches and seizes personal items, targets pro-democracy advocates and families, and prevent individuals from departing.
  • U.S. citizens can find themselves charged without fair trials.

Niger

Travel to Niger should be reconsidered because of crime, kidnapping and terrorism. The travel advisory was updated on Jan. 8.

  • Demonstrations often become violent.
  • Terrorists operate in different areas within the country and have attacked security forces.
  • Robbery is common.

Colombia

Crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping are current risks in Colombia. The level three travel advisory was updated on Jan. 2.

  • Violent crimes such as assault, homicide and robbery occur.
  • Terrorist groups carry out attacks in both local and tourist locations.
  • Demonstrations regularly shut down major roads and have resulted in fatalities.

Navigating fear when the world seems unsafe

Does it ever feel like you hear news about tragedy constantly? Living in a digital age allows us to hear or see recent crises in an instant.

However, for me, I’ve found that being in constant fear makes life difficult. Learning how to cope while dealing with fear has been important as I want to continue to be immersed in the news.

Promises Behavioral Health offers five ways to cope with fear to help prevent bigger problems, like depression or substance abuse, down the line.

  1. Pay attention: Take the time to recognize what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. Running from fear can make someone more anxious and depressed long-term.
  2. Give fear a shape: Give your fear a silly or child-like identity, an appearance or even a name. You can then speak to your “fear” as a parent talking to a child or a person trying to get someone annoying to know why they’re wrong.
  3. Focus on your present reality: Take the time to understand if you are overgeneralizing. Though there are bad people, not every one has lost kindness. Question if your thoughts are actually true or if you are just convincing yourself something bad will happen.
  4. Balance the negative with the positive: Notice the good things happening around you. If you want to look into tragic events, look into heroic stories as well for balance. You can also inspire yourself and others to take action against injustices you see.
  5. Get help: Never be afraid to get help if fear is consuming and creating problems in your life. Therapy and help from friends or family can be effective.
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