With all the news about the coronavirus, the world can seem like a scary place. If you have travel plans in the works, and the country you’re going to is lit up with a travel advisory, it’s easy for the imagination to run amok.

Luckily, the State Department website issues “travel advisories,” which alert travelers of the exact risks involved with a particular destination.  

What is a travel advisory?

A travel advisory is an official warning from the U.S. Government — in this case, the State department. First, they monitor the goings-on of the world, and clue us in on any dangers, if any, to watch for. They also let us know if a country has a spike in crime, a health crisis, or brutal weather conditions, to name a few. And they also outline other destination specifics, including a country’s vaccinations and visa/passport requirements.

Should you cancel your trip when there’s a travel advisory?

Not necessarily. Each travel advisory has a threat level. And each level clues you in on whether it’s safe to go, and what, specifically, to be on the lookout for.

They break down like this:

Level 1: Exercise normal precautions

This means, hey, it’s safe to go — just have your wits about you. For example, the State Department warns that Nauru, an island northeast of Australia, has shoddy regulation when it comes to safety inspections for equipment and venues related to tourism. When it comes to crime, though, it’s pretty safe. Enjoy the palm-fringed beaches, but do your due diligence if you’re thinking of, say, zip-lining.

Level 2: Exercise increased caution 

Now we’re at, hey, you can go, but please, please be careful. Think the climes of Antarctica: while crime’s at threat-level zero, it’s still really cold … like, the coldest continent on Earth. And the weather there can get extreme, changing on a dime. Which is why the State Department advises going with a “professional guide or organization.”

Other places, like Algeria, unfortunately experience terrorist acts. But they typically occur outside of major cities — especially the Algiers province where there’s greater U.S. governmental presence.

Level 3: Reconsider travel

This means: do you really need to go? As of January 30, 2020, China was at Level 3 because of the coronavirus, a new viral strain that’s highly contagious and has resulted in hundreds of deaths worldwide. For this reason, many countries, including the U.S., are cancelling all flights to Wuhan, where the first known cases of the virus occurred. 

Level 4: Do not travel

As of January 31, however, China has since been elevated to Level 4. Wuhan is under quarantine — no one can leave and no one can come in — and evacuees are being screened at airports worldwide. Many airports are even screening passengers who’ve been to Wuhan in the last 30 days. 

Other reasons an area might be given a Level 4 advisory include:

  • Armed conflict and civil upheaval
  • Arbitrary imprisonment of U.S. citizens
  • Widespread crime
  • Poor health infrastructure

These warnings are particularly potent if the U.S. has poor diplomatic relations with a country.

What to do before you travel to a higher-risk area

Remember: going to a high-risk place puts your life, and possibly the lives of others, in danger. In some cases, the U.S. government can’t help you.

If you’re going to a country that’s higher than Level 1, the State Department advises enrolling in their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s a free service that connects you with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate when abroad. That way, you have a direct lifeline to the Embassy in case of an emergency — they can contact you, if need be, and you can contact them.

Get travel insurance

The State Department also encourages travelers to get insured. Many medical providers abroad require cash payment upfront and don’t take U.S. health insurance. What’s more, emergency evacuations can cost as much as $100,000.

Luckily, our partner, Travel Guard®, offers insurance plans that help cover everything from medical treatments to emergency evacuations. They can also help sync you up with medical facilities abroad. On top of medical treatment, they help cover the lost expenses related to normal mishaps that happen with any kind of travel, like:

  • Lost or stolen luggage
  • Ending a trip early
  • Delayed or cancelled flights
  • Lost passports

Get your shots. Get your passport. Enroll in STEP. Adhere to any travel advisory. And start a quick, free travel insurance quote today for added peace of mind on your next excursion.

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about Evan

From writing content for life coaches to working on indie film press releases, Evan’s motley repertoire has been considerable in the last couple of years. Now he employs his varied aptitude as a content writer for Esurance. He’s also a self-proclaimed polyglot in training with a proclivity for dog-eared books.