The US Government Just Sent a New Worldwide Travel Security Caution

I’ve always found US government travel warnings to be overly cautious. I have no problem transiting the Istanbul airport, booking an award on Turkish Airlines (just hope your seat opponent doesn’t whisper to a flight attendant that you’re a Gulenist).

There’s a travel warning to Mexico, Israel, and Colombia.

Since I’m willing to go places like this, it seems worth highlighting a counterpoint. The government doesn’t say ‘don’t go to Mexico’ just that there are some Bad Hombres™ there.

Here’s the latest travel warning which takes the place of the government’s worldwide warning from September 9. And don’t stay at the Ninawa International Hotel.


Sent: Sunday, March 05, 2017 8:50 AM

Subject: Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Worldwide Caution


U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi

U.S. Consulate General Dubai

Security Message for U.S. Citizens

March 5, 2017

As part of the Department of State’s continuous efforts to provide U.S. citizens traveling abroad with information about safety and security events, we are updating the Worldwide Caution with information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions, political violence, and criminal activity against U.S. citizens and interests abroad.  This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated September 9, 2016.

As terrorist attacks, political upheaval, and violence often take place without any warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling.  To better prepare for possible emergencies, U.S. citizens are encouraged to read Country Specific Information pages, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts on before planning a trip.

Travelers are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP)to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.  The Department uses these security messages to convey information about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, natural disasters, etc.  In an emergency, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate or call the following numbers: 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.

U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert.  These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture.  In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Qa’ida, their associates, and those inspired by such organizations, are intent on attacking U.S. citizens wherever they are.  Extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons to target U.S. government and private interests.  Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack to more effectively target crowds, including the use of edged weapons, pistols, and vehicles as weapons.  Extremists increasingly aim to assault “soft” targets, such as:

  • high-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
  • hotels, clubs, and restaurants
  • places of worship
  • schools
  • parks
  • shopping malls and markets
  • tourism infrastructure
  • public transportation systems
  • airports

In multiple regions, terrorists, guerrilla groups, and criminals seek to kidnap U.S. citizens to finance their operations or for political purposes.  In the wake of well-publicized attacks against commercial aircraft in Egypt by ISIS and Somalia by al-Shabaab, the Department remains concerned that terrorists could again seek to down aircraft using concealed explosives or hijack commercial flights.

Private U.S. citizens should not travel to any country to participate in armed conflict.  U.S. citizens are reminded that fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of support to designated terrorist organizations can constitute the provision of material support for terrorism, which is a serious crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines.

In addition to concerns stemming from terrorism, travelers should be alert to the possibility of political unrest, violence, demonstrations, and criminal activities when traveling.  Country-specific information pages and Travel Warnings should be consulted to obtain the latest data on such threats.

Below, we provide information specific to different regions and countries.  Please consult for additional information.

AFRICA:  An array of terrorists, guerilla, and insurgent groups are active across Sub-Saharan Africa, and the threat of al-Qa’ida and ISIS-inspired attacks constitutes a growing concern.  U.S. citizens remain at risk from car bombings to complex assaults on hotels and tourist sites.  In Somalia, terrorists frequently target hotels and the commercial aviation sector has been attacked.  Additionally, a number of the aforementioned groups continue to target Americans traveling and working in the region for kidnap-for-ransom operations.  Travel Warnings are in effect for the following countries:

EAST ASIA and PACIFIC:  Armed terrorist and criminal groups are operating in the East Asian and Pacific region and may attempt to target U.S. citizens, particularly for kidnapping in the coastal areas and outlying islands of the eastern part of the Malaysian state of Sabah, and the southern Philippines.  Indonesia has witnessed an increase in terrorist-related arrests and foiled plots, and several small-scale attacks or attempted attacks have occurred.  Periodic acts of violence in Thailand remain a concern.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid all travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement. Travel Warnings are in effect for the following countries:

EUROPE: Terrorist groups continue to plot attacks in Europe as foreign fighters return home from Syria and Iraq, while other individuals may be radicalized or inspired by ISIS propaganda.  European authorities continue to warn of additional attacks on major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers, places of worship, and the transportation sector, frequently prompting heightened security at notable public venues and coordinated counterterrorism operations.   Travel Warnings are in effect for the following countries:

MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA:  Terrorist groups are very active in the Middle East and North Africa.  The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests in the region.  Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya are considered violent and unpredictable war zones, and there is no official U.S. diplomatic presence in the latter three countries.  U.S. citizens should avoid these areas.  Terrorist groups have demonstrated capability to conduct attacks throughout the region, posing both a direct and indirect threat to U.S. citizens.  Government officials throughout the region are concerned about the potential return of foreign fighters following ISIS’s territorial losses in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.  Travel Warnings are in effect for the following countries:

SOUTH and CENTRAL ASIA:  The U.S. government assesses terrorist groups in South Asia may be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. facilities, citizens, and interests.  U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Afghanistan, as no region in the country is immune from violence.  A number of established terrorist organizations, indigenous sectarian groups, and other militants pose a danger to U.S. citizens in Pakistan. Extremist elements are also active in India, as outlined in a recent emergency message.  Terrorists have hit a wide variety of targets and institutions in Bangladesh.  Travel Warnings are in effect for the following countries:

Western Hemisphere:  Insurgent groups, armed criminal gangs, and terrorists remain active in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada.  U.S. citizens are particularly vulnerable to kidnap-for-ransom attempts and violent crimes of opportunity while visiting a variety of countries.  Gang- and narcotics-related violence is of concern in several countries throughout the region.  Travel Warnings are in effect for the following countries:

For further information:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “I have no problem transiting the Istanbul airport…”

    You were not there when there was a terrorist attack, though. If you were, bet your article would start off different.

  2. @Bannon yea, it happened outside security. I would have no problem transiting there either. The people who flat out refuse to travel to some place because there was a terrorist attack in the past are giving terrorists exactly what they want.

  3. Yeah, how about the US woman that died in Istanbul airport custody last year waiting for a transfer flight and never leaving the airport?..

  4. I find the UK FCO information far more complete and accurate. Too much politics in the US State Department.

    BTW, those who stay away from IST airport should never set foot in FLL airport either.

  5. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that they didn’t issue a travel advisory for Large US cities. There were multiple terror attacks in NYC, gang violence in Chicago, and air quality issues in LA.

    FWIW, I’ve never heard of a US citizen being held for ransom in Canada.

  6. I use the same logic today that my parents used when I was a child.

    Never travel anywhere without doing your own research. Try to understand the geography and customs of the place you’re visiting. Not only does this make you cognizant of your surroundings and how to stay safe, but you’re also able to better blend in with the local population (at least in developed countries or areas).

    And, FWIW, my parents would routinely change our vacation destinations based on terrorist attacks. Not to avoid those locations, but to actively visit them (as long as the attacks weren’t a prelude to out and out civil war). They understood that even the most heinous attacks were isolated events, statistically unlikely to impact us, and that the panic they instilled in travelers meant lower hotel rates, less crowds, and locals more appreciative of visitors.

    Closest I ever came to a terror attack was in London, when, in 1983, an IRA bomb was set off outside Harrod’s. I missed that attack by about 12 hours. And, to be frank, I don’t even consider that a close call, given that I was one of many thousands of people who’d been in that spot in the hours preceding the blast. The 6 dead and 90 injured in that attack was tragic, but, from a purely mathematical standpoint, the odds of being killed in a random act of violence in our own homes is exponentially greater.

    These far reaching alerts are, in my opinion, unproductive, as they create an atmosphere of fear that clouds and obscures notifications about places that are actually dangerous.

  7. Flew JFK-IST-BKK roundtrip in Feb 2017. Enjoyed Turkish Airlines lounge so much and did not encounter any problems. The only “downside” I had is the 5x security check that passengers encountered after landing in IST and before reaching the gate of IST-JFK Turkish Airline flight.

    First is the handcarry security check via xray and passing thru the scanner.

    Second is the Q&A – mostly random questions.

    Third is document verification.

    Fourth is manual inspection of all items you have in your carry on. This includes turning on/off electronic gadgets such as cellphone, cameras, laptops, etc.

    Fifth is pat down.

    By the time this is done, you now have to put everything inside your bag and free to walk to the gate of your flight to JFK.

    For this very reason, once a gate has been assigned to your IST-JFK flight, make sure you go to the gate to avoid long queue. There is a separate line for business class but that is just for Q&A. Everyone will use the same line/queue after that.

  8. I tend to read the Canadian & UK travel advisories and completely ignore the US ones.


    Canada’s take on the USA is quite honest. “The possession of firearms and the frequency of violent crime are generally more prevalent in the U.S. than in Canada. Within large metropolitan areas, violent crime more commonly occurs in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods, particularly from dusk to dawn, and often involves alcohol and/or drug consumption.”

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