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Eritrea Travel Warning

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Eritrea and strongly recommends U.S. citizens not travel to the country since there is increasing possibility U.S. citizens will not receive the requisite exit permit from Eritrean authorities.

This replaces the Travel Warning for Eritrea of November 18, 2013 to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Eritrea

The Eritrean government continues to restrict the travel of all foreign nationals.  These restrictions require all visitors and residents, including U.S. diplomats (who must apply 10 days in advance) for permission to travel 25 kilometers outside Asmara's city limits.  Permission is usually granted to areas such as Massawa and Keren, which are known tourist destinations; however, requests to areas near the borders and regions not frequently traveled by diplomats are typically turned down.  As a result, the U.S. Embassy cannot guarantee its ability to provide consular assistance outside of Asmara.

Travelers should also be aware that travel permits are only valid for the approved final destination and do not allow for additional stops along the way to, or in the proximity of, the approved destination.  Travel to religious institutions, for example monasteries, requires separate travel permission even when such facilities are located in or near approved destination cities. Foreign travelers not adhering strictly to the terms of travel permits have reported being detained by law enforcement authorities, and their drivers have been jailed.

The Consular Section is aware that there have been incidents of Eritrean officials refusing to issue exit permits to U.S. passport holders even if they were born in the United States and entered Eritrea on visas issued by the Eritrea government. 

Eritrean-U.S. dual citizens may be at risk of arrest in Eritrea. Once arrested, detainees may be held for extended periods without being charged with a crime.  Conditions are harsh – those incarcerated may be held in very small quarters without access to restrooms, bedding, food, or clean water.  The Eritrean government does not inform the U.S. Embassy when U.S. citizens, particularly dual nationals, have been arrested or detained.  Should the U.S. Embassy learn of the arrest of a U.S. citizen, the Eritrean government rarely allows consular access, regardless of the reason the U.S. citizen is being held.  U.S. citizens are cautioned to always carry appropriate documentation with them.  At times, armed persons may round up individuals who are not carrying documentation of their identity and military status.

Beginning in 2012, the Government of Eritrea began arming its citizens with automatic rifles to form citizen militias.  U.S. citizens are cautioned that these armed civilian militias patrol at night and are ordered to check individuals for documentation.  The U.S. Embassy warns U.S. citizens to use extreme caution when encountering armed citizens. 

The Eritrean government-controlled media frequently broadcast anti-U.S. rhetoric, and have done so repeatedly since December 2009, when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) first imposed sanctions on Eritrea.  Although there have been no specific incidents of violence targeting U.S. citizens, U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution, stay current with media coverage of local events, and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid travel near the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and the Southern Red Sea region because of the presence of large numbers of Eritrean and Ethiopian troops along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and the existing political and military tensions between the two countries.  In October 2013, riots broke out in Eritrean refugee camps close to the Eritrean-Ethiopian border during a memorial service dedicated to the victims of the October 3 Lampedusa boat sinking.  In March 2012, Ethiopian troops attacked three locations approximately 10 miles inside Eritrean territory, and in January and February 2010, skirmishes between Eritrean and Ethiopian troops resulted in military fatalities.  Although Eritrean forces have withdrawn from disputed territory at the border with Djibouti, tensions in this area remain high and Qatari troops are stationed along the border. 

U.S. citizens on ships and sailing vessels are strongly advised not to sail off the Eritrean coast nor to attempt to dock in Eritrean ports or travel through Eritrean waters.  U.S. citizens are also urged to avoid remote Eritrean islands, some of which may be used for Eritrean military training and could therefore be unsafe.  The Eritrean government does not issue visas to persons arriving by marine vessel.  Additionally, fuel and provisions are often unavailable in Massawa and other parts of Eritrea, and are often scarce in the capital city of Asmara.

Piracy on the Red Sea continues to occur.  Recreational vessels are strongly encouraged to avoid the region entirely, and commercial vessels without explicit agreements with Eritrean authorities are urged to avoid Eritrean territorial waters.  There have been incidents involving the seizure of ships by the Eritrean government as recently as December 2013.  These seizures have resulted in lengthy detentions of international crew members, including U.S. nationals.  Though the incidents were ultimately resolved and both ships and crew released the concern that future seizures may occur has not abated.  U.S. citizens are cautioned that commercial/tourist ships are not allowed to dock at some Eritrean ports, even to refuel.

In August 2011, three separate incidents of piracy were reported off the Eritrean coast near the Port of Assab.  High-speed skiffs with armed persons on board continue to attack merchant vessels.  If transit around the Horn of Africa is necessary, vessels should travel in convoys, maintain good communications contact at all times, and follow the guidance provided by the Maritime Security Center – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA).  U.S. citizens should consult the Maritime Administration's Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in the region.

Landmines and unexploded ordnance remain a serious problem throughout the country.  There are reports of accidents and incidents in which vehicles or people occasionally detonate mines.  Many detonations have occurred on relatively well-traveled roads in and near the Gash Barka region of western Eritrea; subsequent investigations indicated that several mines were recently laid.  In September 2011, press reported that a vehicle in Senafe, 60 miles south of Asmara, ran over a landmine, killing five people and injuring 34.  Vast areas of the country still have not been certified free of mines and unexploded ordnance following the 30-year war for independence and the subsequent 1998-2000 border conflict with Ethiopia.  Visitors should avoid walking alone and hiking in riverbeds or areas that local government officials have not certified as safe.

U.S. citizens choosing to travel to Eritrea despite this Travel Warning must obtain an Eritrean visa before their arrival.  Persons arriving in Eritrea without a visa are generally refused admission and returned on the next flight to their point of origin.  However, the Embassy is aware of persons being jailed for several months after arriving without visas.  The Embassy urges all U.S.-Eritrean dual citizens to obtain Eritrean visas in their U.S. passports before traveling to Eritrea and to enter the country as U.S. citizens.  The Embassy is aware of numerous cases where U.S. citizens entering Eritrea on passports of their other nationality have been detained and not permitted to leave the country.  U.S.-Eritrean dual citizens who enter Eritrea with an Eritrean ID card may find it difficult to obtain the required visa to exit the country legally.  Traveling to Eritrea even with a valid entry visa in a U.S. passport does not guarantee entry.  The Embassy cautions travelers not to stay beyond the period of time granted at the time of admission by Eritrean Immigration.

Crime in Asmara has increased as a result of deteriorating economic conditions accompanied by persistent food, water, and fuel shortages, and rapid price inflation.  The combination of forced, open-ended, low-paying, national service for many Eritreans and severe unemployment leads some Eritreans to commit crime to support their families.  Eritrean authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate crime or prosecute perpetrators.

Modern telecommunications options are limited in Eritrea and cannot be counted upon in an emergency.  International cell phone service plans do not work on Eritrean networks.  Local cellular phone service is tightly controlled by the Eritrean government and difficult to obtain.  When available, international cell phone calls are extremely expensive and only available using pre-paid minutes.  Internet cafés are widespread but often lack power.  Internet service is limited and slow, and generally does not support Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype.

The U.S. Embassy in Asmara strongly urges U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Eritrea despite this Travel Warning to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so you can receive the most up-to-date security information.  Please keep all of your information in STEP current.  It is important when enrolling or updating information to include multiple phone numbers and email addresses to facilitate communication in the event of an emergency.

The consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Asmara is open for all U.S. citizen services between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or by appointment.  The U.S. Embassy in Asmara is located at 179 Alaa Street, P.O. Box 211, Asmara; telephone +291-1-12-00-04, available 24 hours in case of emergency; fax +291-1-124-255 and +291-1-127-584.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Eritrea, the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts and the Worldwide Caution, as well as the International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.  Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.

Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

Israel, The West Bank and Gaza Travel Warning

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to the complex security environment there and the potential for violence and renewed hostilities.

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on July 21, 2014.  

The Department of State continues its longstanding strong warning to U.S. citizens against travel to the Gaza Strip; the U.S. government does not permit employees to conduct official or personal travel there. Please see the section below on the situation in the Gaza Strip.  Additionally, U.S government officials may only travel to designated parts of the West Bank for personal travel.  Please see the section below on the West Bank. 

During the recent conflict between Israel and terrorist organizations in Gaza, long-range rockets launched from Gaza reached many locations in Israel and the West Bank – including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other cities in the north and south. A ceasefire was announced on August 26 and, as of the date of this Travel Warning, is holding. The Government of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has successfully intercepted many rockets. However, in some cases missile impacts caused damage and injuries. U.S. citizen visitors to and U.S. citizen residents of Israel and the West Bank should familiarize themselves with the location of the nearest bomb shelter or other hardened site.  Consult municipality websites, such as those for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, for lists of public bomb shelters and other emergency preparedness information. Visitors should seek information on shelters from hotel staff or building managers. We advise all U.S. citizens to follow the instructions of the Home Front Command on proper procedures in the event of rocket attacks or other crisis events.

Ben Gurion Airport is open and commercial flights are operating normally, although delays and cancellations can occur. Travelers should check with their airline prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. Other border crossings are generally operating as normal; however, travelers should check the status of crossings before embarking on trips. See information on the status of the airport and other crossings. 

U.S. citizens seeking to depart Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. U.S. government-facilitated evacuations occur only when no viable commercial alternatives exist. The lack of a valid U.S. passport may hinder U.S. citizens' ability to depart the country and may slow the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General's ability to provide assistance. 

U.S. citizens who do travel to or remain in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza should take into consideration the rules governing travel by U.S. government employees: 

  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to conduct official or personal travel to the Gaza Strip; 
  • U.S. government personnel are restricted from conducting personal travel to most parts of the West Bank (see below for details); travel for official business is done with special security arrangements coordinated by the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem;
  • Because of the security situation, travel restrictions remain in effect for southern Israel, including Be’er Sheeva and areas south of Be’er Sheeva.  
  • All travel south of Ashdod remains prohibited for embassy employees and their families.
  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to travel east of Route 90 without advance approval;
  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to travel east of the Jordan River or east of Route 92 in the Golan area (although Route 92 itself is permitted if approved in advance);
  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use public buses anywhere in Israel or the West Bank due to past attacks on public transportation. 

View a map of the Golan area.

Major Metropolitan Areas in Israel

Personal safety conditions in major metropolitan areas, including Tel Aviv and Haifa and their surrounding regions, are comparable to or better than those in other major global cities. Please see below for specific information regarding Jerusalem. Visitors should observe appropriate personal security practices to reduce their vulnerability to crime, particularly late at night or in isolated or economically depressed areas, including in the countryside. Visitors are advised to avoid large gatherings or demonstrations and keep current with local news, which is available through numerous English language sources. 

The Government of Israel has had a long-standing policy of issuing gas masks to its citizens and, starting in 2010, it began issuing replacement masks. It stopped this distribution process in early 2014 in response to regional events. Visitors and foreign residents in Israel are not issued masks and must individually procure them, if desired. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General do not provide gas masks for persons who are not U.S. government employees or their dependents. For further emergency preparedness guidance, please visit the website of the Government of Israel's Home Front Command, which provides information on how to choose a secure space in a home or apartment, as well as a list of the types of protective kits (gas masks) issued by the Government of Israel to its citizens. 

Gaza Vicinity

The Department of State recommends against travel to areas of Israel in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip.  Travelers should be aware of the risks presented by the potential for military conflict between Hamas and Israel. In July 2014, Israel conducted ground operations in Gaza. Travelers in the regions immediately bordering Gaza may encounter small arms fire, anti-tank weapons, rockets, and mortars launched from inside Gaza toward Israeli cities and towns. These attacks can come with little or no warning. Visitors to these areas should remain aware of their surroundings and of the location of bomb shelters and should take note of announcements and guidance provided by the Home Front Command.   

Both Embassy and Consulate General personnel are currently not permitted to travel south of Ashdod, and travel to and south of Be’er Sheeva requires approval from the Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Visitors to these areas should remain aware of their surroundings and should take note of announcements and guidance provided by the Israeli Home Front Command.

Travelers should also be aware of the heightened state of alert maintained by Israeli authorities along Israel's border with Egypt. There have been cross-border incidents from Egypt, including rocket attacks and ground incursions, such as an attack that took place in August 2013 and one on January 20, 2014. Rockets were fired from Sinai in the direction of Eilat on July 15, 2014.   

Northern Israel 

Rocket attacks into Israel from Lebanon have occurred without warning along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Tensions have increased along portions of the Disengagement Zone with Syria in the Golan Heights as a result of the internal conflict occurring in Syria. Sporadic gunfire has occurred along the border region. There have been several incidents of mortar shells and light arms fire impacting on the Israeli-controlled side of the zone as a result of spillover from the fighting in Syria. Travelers should be aware that cross-border gunfire can occur without warning. Furthermore, there are active land mines in areas of the Golan Heights, so visitors should walk only on established roads or trails. The Syrian conflict is sporadic and unpredictable. U.S. government personnel who wish to travel east of Route 90 require advance approval. In addition, personal travel for U.S. government officials is not permitted east of the Jordan River or east of Route 92 in the Golan area, although Route 92 itself is permitted with advance approval.

Jerusalem 

U.S. citizens visiting and living in Jerusalem should be aware of the numerous political, cultural, and religious tensions that permeate the city. These sensitivities have the potential to fuel protest-related activities, clashes, and civil unrest. Protest activities have occurred within the Old City and areas around Salah Ed-Din Street, Damascus Gate, Silwan, and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods. Recently, demonstrations and clashes have occurred in several East Jerusalem areas, such as Shufat, Beit Hanina, Mt. of Olives, As Suwaneh, Abu Deis, Silwan, Shuafat Refugee Camp, inside the Old City (near Lions Gate), Issawiyeh, and Tsur Baher. Such events have recently resulted in violence between protesters and Israeli National Police (INP). The intensity of these violent clashes appears to have diminished, although the possibility of renewed clashes remains, mainly during evening hours. The INP continues to deploy a heavy presence in many of the neighborhoods that have seen clashes and may restrict vehicular traffic to some of these neighborhoods without notice. The clashes and demonstrations have not been anti-American in nature to date, but U.S. citizens are advised not to enter any neighborhoods restricted by the INP and to avoid any locations with active clashes. Since June 2014, Jerusalem has seen a marked increase in random violent activities. These random acts of violence have not been anti-American in nature, yet underscore the sometimes volatile nature of the current local security environment.    

Travelers are reminded to exercise caution at Muslim religious sites on Fridays and on holy days, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. There has recently been an increased police presence near the Damascus Gate, particularly on Fridays. The INP often imposes restrictions on visitors to the Old City’s Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif. Travelers should be aware that the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is often closed without warning by the INP. Additionally, sporadic demonstrations can lead to violent clashes. U.S. government employees are prohibited from entering the Old City on Fridays during Ramadan due to congestion and security-related access restrictions.

U.S. citizens are advised to avoid open air public parks after dark as they are poorly lit and policed. There have been numerous reports received of after dark criminal activity associated with these parks. 

While U.S. government employees are authorized to use the light rail system in Jerusalem, there has been an increase in individuals throwing stones at light rail trains, particularly near Shufat and along the northern end of the route. 

The West Bank

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling to the West Bank. In June 2014, three Israeli teenagers, including a dual U.S. citizen, were kidnapped and murdered after attempting to hitchhike near Hebron. Demonstrations and violent incidents can occur without warning, and vehicles are regularly targeted by rocks, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire on West Bank roads. U.S citizens have been killed in such attacks. There have also been an increasing number of violent incidents involving Israeli settlers and Palestinian villagers in the corridor stretching from Ramallah to Nablus, including attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian villages in which U.S. citizens have suffered injury or property damage, and attacks by Palestinians on settlements. U.S. citizens can be caught in the middle of potentially dangerous situations, and some U.S. citizens involved in political demonstrations in the West Bank have sustained serious injuries. The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all demonstrations for their own safety. During periods of unrest, the Israeli Government may restrict access to the West Bank, and some areas may be placed under curfew. All persons in areas under curfew should remain indoors to avoid arrest or injury. Security conditions in the West Bank may hinder the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens. 

Personal travel in the West Bank by U.S. government personnel and their families is permitted to the towns of Bethlehem and Jericho and on Routes 1, 443, and 90. The Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem has recently seen an increase in public demonstrations, which have the potential to become violent. U.S. government officials may also engage in personal travel to Qumran off Route 90 by the Dead Sea and to the Allenby Bridge crossing to Jordan, as well as stops at roadside facilities along Routes 1 and 90. All other personal travel by U.S. government personnel in the West Bank is prohibited. U.S. government personnel routinely travel to the West Bank for official business, but do so with special security arrangements.

The Gaza Strip

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip, which is under the control of Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization. U.S. citizens in Gaza are advised to depart immediately. The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. Exchanges of fire between the Israel Defense Forces and militant groups in Gaza take place regularly, and civilians have been caught in the crossfire in the past. Although the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt normally allows for some passenger travel, prior coordination with local authorities - which could take days or weeks to process - may be required, and crossing points may be closed for days or weeks. Travelers who enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing must also exit through the Rafah crossing, and those entering the Gaza Strip may not be able to depart at a time of their choosing. Many U.S. citizens have been unable to exit Gaza or faced lengthy delays in doing so. Furthermore, the schedule and requirements for exiting through the Rafah crossing are unpredictable and can involve significant expense. Because U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. government are not allowed to enter the Gaza Strip or have contact with Hamas, the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens, including assistance departing Gaza, is extremely limited. The Consulate General and Embassy do not generally assist U.S. citizens to exit Gaza via the Erez crossing to Israel. U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Gaza cannot rely on the U.S. government to assist them in departing Gaza. 

Entry/Exit Difficulties

Some U.S. citizens holding Israeli nationality, possessing a Palestinian identity card, or who are of Arab or Muslim origin have experienced significant difficulties in entering or exiting Israel or the West Bank. U.S. citizens planning to travel to Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza should consult the detailed information concerning entry and exit difficulties in the Country Specific Information.  

Contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy for information and assistance in Israel, the Golan Heights, and ports of entry at Ben Gurion Airport, Haifa Port, the northern (Jordan River/Sheikh Hussein) and southern (Arava) border crossings connecting Israel and Jordan, and the border crossings between Israel and Egypt. An embassy officer can be contacted at (972) (3) 519-7575 from Monday through Friday during working hours. The after-hours emergency number is (972) (3) 519-7551.

Contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem for information and assistance in Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, at (972) (2) 630-4000 from Monday through Friday during working hours. The after-hours emergency number is (972) (2) 622-7250.

For More Information 

The Department of State urges those U.S. citizens who live in or travel to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to obtain the most current information on travel and security within Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.  Enrollment in STEP makes it easier for the Embassy or Consulate General to contact U.S. citizens in case of emergency.  

For information on "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis," please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Emergencies and Crisis link at www.travel.state.gov

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website where the Worldwide Caution,  Country Specific Information for Israel, the West Bank and GazaTravel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found, including the current Travel Warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.  You can also follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and on Facebook.  Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at http://israel.usembassy.govhttp://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov or on the Embassy and Consulate General Facebook pages. 

Up-to-date information on travel and security in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).   

Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

Afghanistan Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan.

The security situation in Afghanistan is extremely unstable, and the threat to all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan remains critical.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued on February 20, 2014.

No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and crime, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time.  Elements of the former Taliban regime and members of other terrorist organizations hostile to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and foreign nationals remain active in every province of the country.  Furthermore, travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to ongoing military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices.  The threat situation in Afghanistan is still considered critical and is expected to remain so through the current political and military transition.

There is an ongoing and serious risk throughout the country of injury and death to U.S. citizens, including those with protective security details or with Afghan and coalition security forces nearby.  In March 2014, four insurgents armed with small arms infiltrated and attacked the Serena Hotel, killing ten civilians including four foreigners, one of whom was a U.S. citizen. Also in March 2014, a suicide bomber and three insurgents attacked the compound of an international non-government organization, killing two Afghan citizens and wounding another ten. On April 24, an Afghan guard at Cure Hospital killed three U.S. doctors and wounded another U.S. doctor and nurse.

Despite numerous security operations and checkpoints by Afghan and coalition forces in and around the city, Kabul remains at high risk for militant attacks, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED), direct and indirect fire, and suicide bombings.  Buildings or compounds that lack robust security measures in comparison to neighbouring facilities may be viewed as targets of opportunity by insurgents.  Twice in March 2014, groups of insurgents attacked the office complex of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission with person-borne improvised devices, rocket propelled grenades, and small arms killing two Afghan policemen and three civilians, and wounding five others. On July 17, 2014, a group of insurgents detonated a VBIED and occupied a building north of Kabul International Airport, targeting the airport with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

Proximity to or presence in areas and facilities under coalition force or U.S. government control is no guarantee of safety and should not lull U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Kabul into a false sense of security. On July 22, 2014, a suicide bomber attacked a U.S. base near the Kabul International Airport, killing six guards and wounding ten. On August 6, a lone gunman opened fire on a group of high-level military officers inspecting Marshal Fahim National Defense University, killing a U.S. two-star General and wounding twelve others, which included U.S. citizens. On August 20, an assailant stabbed a U.S. soldier to death near Kabul International Airport.

Riots and incidents of civil disturbance can occur in Afghanistan, often without warning.  U.S. citizens should avoid all rallies and demonstrations.  Protests intended as peaceful can become confrontational and escalate into violence at any point.  The size of these demonstrations has ranged from as small as 50 to as large as 2,500 people.  The issues that typically prompt demonstrations include grievances against the government and coalition forces, as well as spontaneous, public expressions of social, political, and ethnic tensions. 

Ambushes, kidnappings, robberies, and violent crime can add to the insecurity in many areas of the country.  U.S. citizens representing various foreign interests in property or contract disputes -- a common problem for U.S. and foreign companies doing business in Afghanistan -- have reported that local counterparties to the disputes have threatened their lives or held them or their employees captive under extrajudicial conditions while awaiting payouts or intervention by local authorities.  U.S. citizens who find themselves in such situations should not assume that local law enforcement or the U.S. Embassy will assist them in resolving such disputes or intervene on their behalf with Afghan officials.

The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Afghanistan sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions.  All locations outside the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. government facilities are considered off limits to Embassy personnel unless there is a compelling government interest in permitting such travel that outweighs the risk.  In addition, the internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be changed or adjusted at any time and without advance notice.  Periodically, the Embassy will restrict or prohibit movements by its personnel, often on short notice and for reasons such as terrorist attacks, security threats, or demonstrations.  Potential target areas include key national or international government establishments, international organizations, universities, and locations frequented by the expatriate community, such as restaurants, hotels, and guesthouses. 

The U.S. Embassy's ability to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited, particularly for those persons outside of Kabul.  U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Afghanistan despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to monitor the Embassy’s website and to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to obtain the most current information on travel and security within Afghanistan.  Enrollment in STEP makes it easier for the Embassy to contact U.S. citizens in case of emergency.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy.

U.S. government-facilitated evacuations occur only when no safe, commercial alternatives exist. Evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveller must reimburse the U.S. government for travel costs. The lack of a valid U.S. passport and Afghan visa may hinder a U.S. citizen’s ability to depart the country and may slow the U.S. Embassy's ability to assist.  U.S. citizens in Afghanistan should ensure that they have proper and current documentation at all times. Evacuation options from Afghanistan are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints, and other security concerns.  The U.S. government typically evacuates U.S. citizens to a safe haven, and travellers are responsible for making their own onward travel plans.  U.S. citizens should not expect to be evacuated to the United States and should always maintain medevac insurance while living or traveling abroad in case they need emergency medical evacuation back to the United States, which can be a significant expense.  For more information, see "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis."

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul is located at Great Massoud Road (also known as Bibi Mahru or Airport Road) between Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) and the Ministry of Public Health.  The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy can be reached at 301-490-1042, ext. 8499, from the United States or +93(0) 700-108-499 from abroad during business hours, Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Kabul time.  For after-hours, truly exigent emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the Embassy Duty Officer at +93-(0)700-108-001.  Any routine consular correspondence relating to services for U.S. citizens may be sent to KabulACS@state.gov.

The U.S. Embassy often receives threat information concerning U.S. citizens and interests in Afghanistan.  For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Consular Affairs’ website where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings, and Country Specific Information for Afghanistan can be found.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers in other countries, by calling a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The U.S. Embassy also encourages U.S. citizens to review the Traveler's Checklist, which includes valuable security information for those living or traveling abroad.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

Lesotho Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Lesotho at this time due to concerns over a possible deterioration of the security situation in Lesotho.

The Department of State has ordered the departure of non-working eligible family members of the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho. The U.S. Peace Corps is also taking steps to ensure safety of its staff and volunteers. 

Following a violent confrontation between police and the army on Saturday August 30, leaders of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service have publically stated that the LMPS is not capable of performing its duties. The LMPS are not in uniform for fear of further attacks from the Lesotho Defense Force and are not conducting normal police security functions.

The U.S. Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho is open for emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens should be aware that depending on the security situation, the U.S. Embassy may be forced to suspend operations without advance notice. The international airport in Maseru is currently operating normally, however, flights may be suspended if the security situation deteriorates. Land borders are also open at this time, but may close without warning. U.S. citizens who remain in Lesotho despite this Travel Warning are urged to stay in their homes until the security situation returns to normal, to closely monitor media reports, and to follow all official instructions. U.S. citizens who must leave their homes for any reason are urged to exercise extreme caution, be particularly alert to their surroundings, and to avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering. 

U.S. citizens should carry their travel documents (i.e. U.S. passport, birth certificate, picture IDs, etc.) with them at all times or secure them by placing them in a safe, waterproof location. Additionally, all U.S. citizens in the area are reminded to stay in contact with friends and family in the United States to keep them apprised of their current whereabouts.

All U.S. citizens traveling to or remaining in Lesotho despite this Travel Warning are urged to register with the Department of State through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so you can receive the most up-to-date security information. Please keep all of your information in STEP current. It is important when enrolling or updating information to include multiple phone numbers and email addresses to facilitate communication in the event of an emergency. 

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Lesotho, the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts and the Worldwide Caution  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.  Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. 

Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

Ukraine Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to eastern Ukraine due to ongoing violent clashes between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

In addition, Russian military forces continue to occupy the Crimean Peninsula and are present on the eastern border of Ukraine.This supersedes the Travel Warning for Ukraine dated August 1 to provide updated information on the security situation in southern and eastern Ukraine.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel to the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.  Russia-backed separatists continue to control areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.  These groups have established illegal checkpoints and have threatened, detained, or kidnapped individuals, including U.S. citizens, for hours or days.  The Ukrainian armed forces have launched an operation to reclaim these areas.  Violent clashes between the Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have escalated over the past month and have resulted in hundreds of injuries and deaths.  Some of these clashes have included the use of armored vehicles, aircraft, and other military weapons including surface to air missiles, the use of which was responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17.  Widespread disorder and looting has been confirmed in areas controlled by Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.  These Russian-supported groups have taken on a more strident anti-American tone, especially in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.  U.S. citizens who choose to remain in conflict areas should maintain a low profile and avoid large crowds and gatherings.

The Department of State also warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel to the Crimean Peninsula, and to exercise caution in the regions of Odesa, Kharkhiv, Zaporizhia and Kherson.  Russian forces have occupied the Crimean Peninsula in support of the Russian Federation's attempted annexation of Crimea and these forces are likely to continue to take further actions in the Crimean Peninsula consistent with Russia's continuing occupation of this part of Ukraine.  The international community, including the United States and Ukraine, does not recognize this purported annexation.  The Russian Federation maintains an extensive military presence in Crimea and along the border of eastern Ukraine.  In addition, there are continuing reports of abuses against the local population by de facto authorities in Crimea, particularly against those who are seen as challenging the current status quo on the peninsula

The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly.  U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine should avoid large crowds and be prepared to remain indoors and shelter in place for extended periods of time should clashes occur in their vicinity.

Peace Corps Volunteers departed Ukraine on February 25, and remain out of the country at this time.  U.S. Embassy Kyiv's Consular Section is open for all public services; however, in light of the ongoing unrest, the Embassy has severely restricted the travel of U.S. Government personnel to areas in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, and occasionally limits travel to other adjacent regions.  As a result, the Embassy's ability to respond to emergencies involving U.S. citizens in eastern Ukraine and Ukraine's Crimean region is extremely limited. 

Ground transportation may be disrupted throughout the country.  Drivers may encounter roadblocks that restrict access on certain roads.  Following the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to prohibit all U.S. flight operations within Dnipropetrovsk Flight Information Regions.  This expanded the FAA’s previous NOTAM restricting U.S. flight operations within the

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Ukraine are strongly encouraged to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest travel updates and to obtain updated information on security within Ukraine.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

For inquiries regarding U.S. citizens in Ukraine related to the current unrest, please call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444, or email the Department of State at UkraineEmergencyUSC@state.gov.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  For emergency assistance for U.S. citizens in Ukraine, you may contact the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv at +380-44-521-5566 during regular business hours, or after-hours at +380-44-521-5000.  The U.S. Embassy is located at 4 A.I. Sikorsky St. (formerly Tankova) in Kyiv.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings, and Country Specific Information can be found.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook  as well.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

Potential Implications for Travel Because of Ebola in Parts of West Africa

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to screening procedures, travel restrictions, and reduced aviation transportation options in response to the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

  This Travel Alert will expire on February 27, 2015.

Due to an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued  Level 3 Travel Warnings for those three countries advising against non-essential travel and provided guidance to reduce the potential for spread of EVD.  The CDC also issued a Level 2 Travel Alert for Nigeria to notify travelers of the Ebola outbreak in that country.  The Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website prominently features an Ebola Fact Sheet and links to the CDC Health Travel Warnings, Travel Alert, and general guidance about Ebola.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC have also published and provided interim guidance to public health authorities, airlines, and other partners in West Africa for evaluating risk of exposure of persons coming from countries affected by EVD.  Measures can include screening, medical evaluation, movement restrictions up to 21 days, and infection control precautions.  Travelers who exhibit symptoms indicative of possible Ebola infection may be prevented from boarding and restricted from traveling for the 21-day period.  Please note neither the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs nor the U.S. Embassy have authority over quarantine issues and cannot prevent a U.S. citizen from being quarantined should local health authorities require it.  For questions about quarantine, please visit the CDC website that addresses quarantine and isolation issues.

The cost for a medical evacuation is very expensive.  We encourage U.S. citizens travelling to Ebola-affected countries to purchase travel insurance that includes medical evacuation for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).  Policy holders should confirm the availability of medical care and evacuation services at their travel destinations prior to travel. 

Some local, regional, and international air carriers have curtailed or temporarily suspended service to or from Ebola-affected countries.  U.S. citizens planning travel to or from these countries, in accordance with the CDC Health Travel Warnings and Health Travel Alert, should contact their airline to verify seat availability, confirm departure schedules, inquire about screening procedures, and be aware of other airline options. 

The Department is aware that some countries have put in place procedures relating to the travel of individuals from the affected countries, including complete travel bans.  Changes to existing procedures may occur with little or no notice.  Please consult your airline or the embassy of your destination country for additional information. 

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment allows you to receive the Department’s safety and security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you do not have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where you can find current Travel Warning and Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution, and read the Country Specific Information for your destination countries.  For additional information, refer to the "Traveler's Checklist" on the State Department's website.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Posted in Travel Alerts (U.S. Dept of State)

Lebanon Travel Warning

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of ongoing safety and security concerns.

U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks.  This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on January 31, 2014. 

The potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists in particular because of the frequency of terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country.  Many of the attacks have targeted specific individuals or venues, but nearly all cases have resulted in death and injuries to passersby in the vicinity.  Although there is no evidence these attacks were directed specifically at U.S. citizens at this time, there is a real possibility of “wrong place, wrong time” harm to U.S. citizens.  The most recent wave of bombings began in June 2013, with four bombings in Beirut and Tripoli that collectively left hundreds dead and wounded.  In November 2013, two suicide bombers attacked the Iranian embassy, killing 23 and injuring more than 150.  In December 2013, former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah and six others were killed by a car bomb in downtown Beirut.  On February 19, in an attack against the Iranian Cultural Center, two suicide bombers killed at least five and wounded over 30 in southern Beirut.  On February 22 a car bomb was detonated at a check point in Hermel, killing one and wounding 14.  On March 17, a car bomb exploded in the eastern Bekaa town of Nabi Othman, causing two deaths and more than 10 injuries. On June 20 a suicide bomber detonated himself at a checkpoint on the main Damascus-Beirut highway, resulting in one killed, and over 30 injured.  On June 24 a suicide car bomb was detonated in southern Beirut after Lebanese authorities stopped the driver, killing two and wounding a dozen people at a nearby cafe.  On June 26, a suicide bomber detonated his vest as security forces were closing in on him at a local tourist hotel in downtown Beirut, wounding three of the security forces.

Attacks now regularly involve suicide bombers.  Similar incidents can occur without warning.  In addition to these attacks, there have been numerous reports in the media of Lebanese security forces disrupting other planned bombings.  To date, Lebanese security forces have been successful against potential suicide bombers, who have often been forced to detonate their vests or vehicles short of their targets.  This practice of suicide bombers adds an additional element of unpredictability, since just avoiding potential target areas does not provide any guarantee from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sudden outbreaks of violence can occur at any time in the country, and major cities in Lebanon have seen armed clashes.  There are frequent armed clashes in the city of Tripoli, particularly between the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, which have resulted in deaths and injuries.  The Lebanese Armed Forces are routinely brought in to quell the violence in these situations.  The Lebanese government cannot guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country in the event violence should occur suddenly.  Access to borders, airports, roads, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning.  Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have become violent in some instances.  Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning.  The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services is severely limited. 

The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. Government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions.  The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.  These practices limit, and may prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of the country, especially to parts of metropolitan Beirut, the city of Tripoli, northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and southern Lebanon.  Because of security concerns, unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S. Government employees and their family members is strictly limited, and requires the Department of State’s prior approval. 

Extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including some such as Hizballah, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), and al-Nusrah Front (ANF), that the U.S. Government has designated as terrorist organizations.  ISIL and ANF have claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Lebanon, and these groups are active in north Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and in border areas with Syria.  U.S. citizens have been the target of terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past, and the threat of anti-Western terrorist activity remains in Lebanon.  U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Lebanon despite this Travel Warning should keep a low profile, assess their personal security, and vary times and routes for all required travel.  U.S. citizens also should pay close attention to their personal security at locations where Westerners generally are known to congregate, and should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.  They should consider avoiding areas where bombings have taken place recently.  The most recent Security Messages are posted on the U.S. Embassy Beirut website.

Hizballah maintains a strong presence in parts of south Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and areas in southern Lebanon.  Hizballah has been the target of attacks by other extremist groups for their support of the Asad regime in Syria.  The potential for violence between Hizballah and other extremist groups throughout the country remains a strong possibility.  Hizballah and other groups have at times detained and extensively interrogated U.S. citizens or other foreigners for political motivations. 

U.S. citizens in Lebanon should monitor ongoing political and security developments in Syria, as these often impact stability in Lebanon.  The conflict in Syria has resulted in numerous security incidents in the border regions with Lebanon, as well as in other parts of the country.  Over the past year, there were numerous incidents of cross-border shelling and air strikes of Lebanese villages from Syria, which resulted in deaths and injuries, as well as reports of armed groups from Syria who kidnapped or attacked Lebanese citizens living in the border area.  Clashes between Lebanese authorities and criminal elements occurred in areas of the Bekaa Valley and border regions.  Similar incidents could occur again without warning.  With the potential for violence and abductions, the U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Lebanese-Syrian border region altogether.

Kidnapping, whether for ransom or political motives, remains a problem in Lebanon.  Kidnappers have abducted business people under the guise of coming to Lebanon for meetings. Suspects in kidnappings sometimes have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations.  Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to hostage takers.  U.S. law also makes it illegal to provide material support to terrorist organizations. 

Demonstrators sometimes block the primary road between downtown Beirut and Rafiq Hariri International Airport without warning.  Access to the airport also may be cut off, sometimes for extended periods, if the security situation deteriorates.

Rocket attacks from southern Lebanon into Israel have occurred at an increased rate, in connection with the violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.  These attacks, normally consisting of a few unsophisticated rockets fired at northern Israel, often provoke a prompt military response from Israel in the form of artillery fire.  The rocket attacks and responses can occur with no warning.  Skirmishes and tense exchanges between the LAF and the Israel Defense Forces along Lebanon's southern border also may occur with no warning.  Landmines and unexploded ordnance pose significant dangers throughout southern Lebanon, particularly south of the Litani River, as well as in areas of the country where fighting was intense during the civil war.  More than 40 civilians have been killed and more than 300 injured by unexploded ordnance remaining from the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war.  Travelers should watch for posted landmine warnings and strictly avoid all areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance may be present.

Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the United States operate largely autonomously in different areas of the country inside refugee camps.  Intra-communal violence within the camps has resulted in shootings and explosions.  U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Palestinian refugee camps. 

In the event that the security climate in Lebanon and the region worsens, U.S. citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon.  U.S. citizens should be aware that the Embassy does not offer “protection” services to individuals who feel unsafe.   U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining given their condition, and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country.

U.S. government-facilitated evacuations, such as the evacuation that took place from Lebanon in 2006, occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist.  Evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. Government for travel costs.  The lack of a valid U.S. passport may hinder U.S. citizens' ability to depart the country and may slow the U.S. Embassy's ability to provide assistance.  U.S. citizens in Lebanon should therefore ensure that they have proper and current documentation at all times.  U.S. Legal Permanent Residents should consult with the Department of Homeland Security before they depart the United States to ensure they have proper documentation to re-enter.  Further information on the Department’s role during emergencies is provided on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.  

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Lebanon should enroll in the Department of Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), at the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, Travel.State.Gov, to receive the latest travel updates and information and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Lebanon.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located in Awkar, near Antelias, Beirut, Lebanon.  Public access hours for U.S. citizens are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  U.S. citizens must make appointments in advance.  U.S. citizens who require emergency services outside these hours may contact the Embassy by telephone at any time.  The Embassy’s telephone numbers are (961-4) 542-600, (961-4) 543-600, and fax (961-4) 544-209 (Note:  the (961) is only necessary when dialing from outside the country.  When dialing inside the country, use ‘0’ before the number, e.g., 04 542-600).

Information on consular services and enrollment in STEP can also be found at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut's website, or by phone at the above telephone numbers between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday local time.  U.S. citizens in Lebanon may also contact the consular section by email atBeirutACS@state.gov

Up-to-date information on travel and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday(except U.S. federal holidays).

For additional information, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information Country Specific Information for Lebanon.  You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, Travel.State.Gov, which also contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook.

Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

Lebanon Travel Warning

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of ongoing safety and security concerns.

U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks.  This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on January 31, 2014. 

The potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists in particular because of the frequency of terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country.  Many of the attacks have targeted specific individuals or venues, but nearly all cases have resulted in death and injuries to passersby in the vicinity.  Although there is no evidence these attacks were directed specifically at U.S. citizens at this time, there is a real possibility of “wrong place, wrong time” harm to U.S. citizens.  The most recent wave of bombings began in June 2013, with four bombings in Beirut and Tripoli that collectively left hundreds dead and wounded.  In November 2013, two suicide bombers attacked the Iranian embassy, killing 23 and injuring more than 150.  In December 2013, former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah and six others were killed by a car bomb in downtown Beirut.  On February 19, in an attack against the Iranian Cultural Center, two suicide bombers killed at least five and wounded over 30 in southern Beirut.  On February 22 a car bomb was detonated at a check point in Hermel, killing one and wounding 14.  On March 17, a car bomb exploded in the eastern Bekaa town of Nabi Othman, causing two deaths and more than 10 injuries. On June 20 a suicide bomber detonated himself at a checkpoint on the main Damascus-Beirut highway, resulting in one killed, and over 30 injured.  On June 24 a suicide car bomb was detonated in southern Beirut after Lebanese authorities stopped the driver, killing two and wounding a dozen people at a nearby cafe.  On June 26, a suicide bomber detonated his vest as security forces were closing in on him at a local tourist hotel in downtown Beirut, wounding three of the security forces.

Attacks now regularly involve suicide bombers.  Similar incidents can occur without warning.  In addition to these attacks, there have been numerous reports in the media of Lebanese security forces disrupting other planned bombings.  To date, Lebanese security forces have been successful against potential suicide bombers, who have often been forced to detonate their vests or vehicles short of their targets.  This practice of suicide bombers adds an additional element of unpredictability, since just avoiding potential target areas does not provide any guarantee from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sudden outbreaks of violence can occur at any time in the country, and major cities in Lebanon have seen armed clashes.  There are frequent armed clashes in the city of Tripoli, particularly between the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, which have resulted in deaths and injuries.  The Lebanese Armed Forces are routinely brought in to quell the violence in these situations.  The Lebanese government cannot guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country in the event violence should occur suddenly.  Access to borders, airports, roads, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning.  Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have become violent in some instances.  Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning.  The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services is severely limited. 

The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. Government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions.  The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.  These practices limit, and may prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of the country, especially to parts of metropolitan Beirut, the city of Tripoli, northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and southern Lebanon.  Because of security concerns, unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S. Government employees and their family members is strictly limited, and requires the Department of State’s prior approval. 

Extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including some such as Hizballah, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), and al-Nusrah Front (ANF), that the U.S. Government has designated as terrorist organizations.  ISIL and ANF have claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Lebanon, and these groups are active in north Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and in border areas with Syria.  U.S. citizens have been the target of terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past, and the threat of anti-Western terrorist activity remains in Lebanon.  U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Lebanon despite this Travel Warning should keep a low profile, assess their personal security, and vary times and routes for all required travel.  U.S. citizens also should pay close attention to their personal security at locations where Westerners generally are known to congregate, and should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.  They should consider avoiding areas where bombings have taken place recently.  The most recent Security Messages are posted on the U.S. Embassy Beirut website.

Hizballah maintains a strong presence in parts of south Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and areas in southern Lebanon.  Hizballah has been the target of attacks by other extremist groups for their support of the Asad regime in Syria.  The potential for violence between Hizballah and other extremist groups throughout the country remains a strong possibility.  Hizballah and other groups have at times detained and extensively interrogated U.S. citizens or other foreigners for political motivations. 

U.S. citizens in Lebanon should monitor ongoing political and security developments in Syria, as these often impact stability in Lebanon.  The conflict in Syria has resulted in numerous security incidents in the border regions with Lebanon, as well as in other parts of the country.  Over the past year, there were numerous incidents of cross-border shelling and air strikes of Lebanese villages from Syria, which resulted in deaths and injuries, as well as reports of armed groups from Syria who kidnapped or attacked Lebanese citizens living in the border area.  Clashes between Lebanese authorities and criminal elements occurred in areas of the Bekaa Valley and border regions.  Similar incidents could occur again without warning.  With the potential for violence and abductions, the U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Lebanese-Syrian border region altogether.

Kidnapping, whether for ransom or political motives, remains a problem in Lebanon.  Kidnappers have abducted business people under the guise of coming to Lebanon for meetings. Suspects in kidnappings sometimes have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations.  Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to hostage takers.  U.S. law also makes it illegal to provide material support to terrorist organizations. 

Demonstrators sometimes block the primary road between downtown Beirut and Rafiq Hariri International Airport without warning.  Access to the airport also may be cut off, sometimes for extended periods, if the security situation deteriorates.

Rocket attacks from southern Lebanon into Israel have occurred at an increased rate, in connection with the violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.  These attacks, normally consisting of a few unsophisticated rockets fired at northern Israel, often provoke a prompt military response from Israel in the form of artillery fire.  The rocket attacks and responses can occur with no warning.  Skirmishes and tense exchanges between the LAF and the Israel Defense Forces along Lebanon's southern border also may occur with no warning.  Landmines and unexploded ordnance pose significant dangers throughout southern Lebanon, particularly south of the Litani River, as well as in areas of the country where fighting was intense during the civil war.  More than 40 civilians have been killed and more than 300 injured by unexploded ordnance remaining from the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war.  Travelers should watch for posted landmine warnings and strictly avoid all areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance may be present.

Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the United States operate largely autonomously in different areas of the country inside refugee camps.  Intra-communal violence within the camps has resulted in shootings and explosions.  U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Palestinian refugee camps. 

In the event that the security climate in Lebanon and the region worsens, U.S. citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon.  U.S. citizens should be aware that the Embassy does not offer “protection” services to individuals who feel unsafe.   U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining given their condition, and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country.

U.S. government-facilitated evacuations, such as the evacuation that took place from Lebanon in 2006, occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist.  Evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. Government for travel costs.  The lack of a valid U.S. passport may hinder U.S. citizens' ability to depart the country and may slow the U.S. Embassy's ability to provide assistance.  U.S. citizens in Lebanon should therefore ensure that they have proper and current documentation at all times.  U.S. Legal Permanent Residents should consult with the Department of Homeland Security before they depart the United States to ensure they have proper documentation to re-enter.  Further information on the Department’s role during emergencies is provided on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.  

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Lebanon should enroll in the Department of Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), at the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, Travel.State.Gov, to receive the latest travel updates and information and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Lebanon.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located in Awkar, near Antelias, Beirut, Lebanon.  Public access hours for U.S. citizens are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  U.S. citizens must make appointments in advance.  U.S. citizens who require emergency services outside these hours may contact the Embassy by telephone at any time.  The Embassy’s telephone numbers are (961-4) 542-600, (961-4) 543-600, and fax (961-4) 544-209 (Note:  the (961) is only necessary when dialing from outside the country.  When dialing inside the country, use ‘0’ before the number, e.g., 04 542-600).

Information on consular services and enrollment in STEP can also be found at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut's website, or by phone at the above telephone numbers between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday local time.  U.S. citizens in Lebanon may also contact the consular section by email atBeirutACS@state.gov

Up-to-date information on travel and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday(except U.S. federal holidays).

For additional information, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information Country Specific Information for Lebanon.  You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, Travel.State.Gov, which also contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook.

 

Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

Mexico Travel Warning

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by organized criminal groups in the country.



U.S. citizens have been the target of violent crimes, such as kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states.  For information on security conditions in specific regions of Mexico, which can vary, travelers should reference the state-by-state assessments further below. 

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued January 9, 2014, to update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel.

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued January 9, 2014, to update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel. 

General Conditions: 

Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day.  The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that organized criminal groups have targeted U.S. visitors or residents based on their nationality.  Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes. 

Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter organized criminal groups that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico.  The groups themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity.  Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere.  U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery.  While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence have themselves been involved in criminal activity, innocent persons have also been killed.  The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico was 71 in 2012 and 81 in 2013. 

Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico.  Gun battles have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs.  During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. Criminal organizations have used stolen cars, buses, and trucks to create roadblocks on major thoroughfares, preventing the military and police from responding to criminal activity. The location and timing of future armed engagements is unpredictable.  We recommend that you defer travel to the areas specifically identified in this Travel Warning and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the other areas for which advisories are in effect. 

The number of kidnappings throughout Mexico is of particular concern and appears to be on the rise.  According to statistics published by the Mexican Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), in 2013 kidnappings nationwide increased 20 percent over the previous year.  While kidnappings can occur anywhere, according to SEGOB, during this timeframe, the states with the highest numbers of kidnappings were Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos.  Additionally, according to a widely publicized study by the agency responsible for national statistics (INEGI, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography), Mexico suffered an estimated 105,682 kidnappings in 2012; only 1,317 were reported to the police.  Police have been implicated in some of these incidents.  Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized.  Nearly 70 kidnappings of U.S. citizens were reported to the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico between January and June of 2014.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to lower their personal profiles and to avoid displaying indicators of wealth such as expensive or expensive-looking jewelry, watches, or cameras.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain awareness of their surroundings and avoid situations in which they may be isolated or stand out as potential victims.

Kidnappings in Mexico have included traditional, "express," and "virtual" kidnappings. Victims of traditional kidnappings are physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release.  "Express" kidnappings are those in which a victim is abducted for a short time and forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released.  A "virtual" kidnapping is an extortion-by-deception scheme wherein a victim is contacted by phone and convinced to isolate themselves from family and friends until a ransom is paid.  The victim is coerced (by threat of violence) to remain isolated and to provide phone numbers for the victim's family or loved ones.  The victim's family is then contacted and a ransom for the "kidnapped" extracted.  Recently, some travelers to Mexico staying at hotels as guests have been targets of such "virtual" kidnapping schemes.

Of particular safety concern are casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments.  U.S. government personnel are specifically prohibited from patronizing these establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas. 

Carjacking and highway robbery are serious problems in many parts of the border region, and U.S. citizens have been murdered in such incidents.  Most victims who complied with carjackers' demands have reported that they were not physically harmed.  Carjackers have shot at vehicles that have attempted to flee.  Incidents have occurred during the day and at night, and carjackers have used a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds.  There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs.  However, even drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States have been targeted.  While violent incidents can occur anywhere and at any time, they most frequently occur at night and on isolated roads.  To reduce risk when traveling by road, we strongly urge you to travel between cities throughout Mexico only during daylight hours, to avoid isolated roads, and to use toll roads ("cuotas") whenever possible. 

The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat organized criminal groups.  U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military or law enforcement personnel.  In some places, criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them.  You should cooperate at all checkpoints. 

The Department imposes restrictions on U.S. government employees' travel in Mexico.  Since July 2010, USG employees are prohibited from driving on non-official travel from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior of Mexico or Central America.  One exception is that personal travel by motor vehicle is permitted on Highway 15 toll road between Hermosillo and Nogales during daylight hours.  

U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas to which it is advised to "defer non-essential travel".  When travel for official purposes is essential, it is conducted with extensive security precautions.  U.S. government personnel and their families are allowed to travel for personal reasons to the areas where no advisory is in effect or where the advisory is to exercise caution.  While the general public is not forbidden from visiting places categorized under "defer non-essential travel," U.S. government personnel will not be able to respond quickly to an emergency situation in those areas due to security precautions that must be taken by U.S. government personnel to travel to those areas. 

For more information on road safety and crime along Mexico's roadways, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information

State-by-State Assessment: 

Below is a state-by-state assessment of security conditions throughout Mexico.  Travelers should be mindful that even if no advisories are in effect for a given state, crime and violence can still occur.  For general information about travel and other conditions in Mexico, see our Country Specific Information.  

Aguascalientes: You should exercise caution when traveling to the areas of the state that border the state of Zacatecas, as criminal organization activity in that region continues.  There is no advisory in effect for daytime travel to the areas of the state that do not border Zacatecas; however, intercity travel at night is not recommended.   

Baja California: Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada and Mexicali are major cities/travel destinations in the state of Baja California - Exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night.  Criminal activity along highways and at beaches is a continuing security concern.  In 2013, homicide rates in Tijuana and Rosarito increased 48 percent and 67 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Baja State Secretariat for Public Security, and both cities experienced further increases in homicide rates during the first half of 2014.  While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens.  Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours.  

Baja California (Sur): Cabo San Lucas and La Paz are major cities/travel destinations in the state of Southern Baja California - No advisory is in effect. 

Campeche: No advisory is in effect. 

Chiapas: San Cristobal de las Casas is a major city/travel destination in Chiapas - No advisory is in effect. 

Chihuahua: Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua City, and Copper Canyon are major cities/travel destinations in Chihuahua - Exercise caution in traveling to the business and shopping districts in the northeast section of Ciudad Juarez and its major industrial parks, and the central downtown section and major industrial parks in Chihuahua City.  U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to other areas of these cities and anywhere else in the state of Chihuahua and travel during daylight hours between cities.  In Ciudad Juarez, personal travel by U.S. government employees outside the north/central and northeast portion of the city near the Consulate General is restricted and private U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to those areas as well.  In Chihuahua City, U.S. government personnel and their family members are permitted to travel only to the central business districts and the city's airport.  Personal vehicular travel during daylight hours by U.S. government personnel and family members is authorized between Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua using the Highway 45 toll road.  Although homicide rates in Ciudad Juarez have decreased markedly from a peak several years ago, the city still has one of the highest homicide rates in Mexico.  Crime and violence remain serious problems throughout the state of Chihuahua, particularly in the southern portion of the state and in the Sierra Mountains, including Copper Canyon.  U.S. citizens do not, however, appear to be targeted based on their nationality.  

Coahuila
: Defer non-essential travel to the state of Coahuila except the city of Saltillo, where you should exercise caution.  Violence and criminal activity along the highways are continuing security concerns, particularly along the northern border between Piedras Negras and Nuevo Laredo.  The state of Coahuila continues to experience high rates of violent crimes and narcotics-related murders.  Criminal organizations continue to compete for territory and coveted border crossings to the United States.  Violent crime, including murder, kidnapping, and armed carjacking, continues to be a concern. 

Colima: Manzanillo is a major city/travel destination in Colima
- Defer non-essential travel to the areas of the state of Colima that border the state of Michoacán, including the city of Tecoman.  The security situation along the Michoacán border continues to be the most unstable in the state, with gun battles occurring between rival criminal groups and with Mexican authorities.  Intercity travel at night is not recommended.

Durango: Defer non-essential travel to the state of Durango except the city of Durango, where you should exercise caution.  Violence and criminal activity along the highways are a continuing security concern.  Several areas in the state continue to experience high rates of violence and remain volatile and unpredictable.  U.S. government personnel may not travel outside the city of Durango and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue. 

Estado de Mexico: Toluca and Teotihuacan are major travel destinations in Estado de Mexico - Defer non-essential travel to the municipalities of Coacalco, Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, La Paz, Valle del Chalco, Solidaridad, Chalco, and Ixtapaluca, which are eastern portions of the greater Mexico City metropolitan area, located just to the east of the Federal District of Mexico and Benito Juarez airport, unless traveling directly through the areas on major thoroughfares.  These areas have seen high rates of crime and insecurity.  You should also defer non-essential travel on any roads between Santa Marta in the southeast portion of the state and Huitzilac in the state of Morelos, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas. 

Guanajuato: San Miguel de Allende and Leon are major cities/travel destinations in Guanajuato - No advisory is in effect. 

Guerrero: Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco and Zihuatanejo are major cities/travel destinations in Guerrero
 - Defer non-essential travel to the northwestern and southern portions of the state (the area west and south of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and west and south of the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca), except for the cities of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa.  In those cities, you should exercise caution and stay within tourist areas.  You should also exercise caution and travel only during daylight hours on toll highway ("cuota") 95D between Mexico City and Acapulco.  Use the toll road towards the Playa Diamante area and avoid the highway running through the city of Acapulco for travel to and from Acapulco.  In Acapulco, defer non-essential travel to areas further than 2 blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas. Lodging for U.S. government personnel is limited to the "Hotel Zone" of Acapulco, beginning from the Hotel Avalon Excalibur Acapulco in the north and going south through Puerto Marquez including the Playa Diamante area.  Any activity outside the Hotel Zone for U.S. government personnel is limited to the coastal area from La Quebrada to the beginning of the Hotel Zone and only during daylight hours.  In general, the popular tourist area of Diamante, just south of the city, has been less affected by violence.  Flying into the coastal cities in southern Guerrero remains the preferred method of travel.  You should defer non-essential travel by land between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, travel to Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa only by air, and exercise caution while in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa.  If traveling by land, use toll highway 200 between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa.  You should also exercise caution in the northern region of Guerrero (the area north of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and north and east of the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca).  The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2013, with 2,087 homicides and 207 reported cases of kidnapping, according to the Mexican Secretariado Ejecutivo Nacional de Seguridad Publica.  Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero.  Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable. 

Hidalgo: No advisory is in effect. 

Jalisco: Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Lake Chapala are major cities/travel destinations in Jalisco - Defer non-essential travel to areas of the state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas.  The security situation along the Michoacán and Zacatecas borders continues to be unstable and gun battles between criminal groups and authorities occur.  Concerns include roadblocks placed by individuals posing as police or military personnel and recent gun battles between rival criminal organizations involving automatic weapons.  You should exercise caution in rural areas and when using secondary highways, particularly along the northern border of the state.  Except for the areas of the state that border Michoacán, there is no advisory in effect for daytime travel within major population centers or major highways in the state of Jalisco.  Intercity travel at night is not recommended.  There is no recommendation against travel to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.  There is also no recommendation against travel on principal highways in Jalisco between Guadalajara including the portions that cross into the southern portions of the state of Nayarit. 

Mexico City (also known as the Federal District): No advisory is in effect.  See also the discussion in the section on Estado de Mexico for areas within the greater Mexico City metropolitan area. 

Michoacán: Morelia is a major city/travel destination in Michoacán - Defer non-essential travel to the state of Michoacán except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas and the area north of federal toll road 15D, where you should exercise caution.  U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling by land in Michoacán except on federal toll road 15D during daylight hours.  Flying into Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas is the recommended method of travel.  Attacks on Mexican government officials, law enforcement and military personnel, and other incidents of organized crime-related violence, have occurred throughout Michoacán.  Federal authorities deployed some 9,000 federal security forces to Michoacán in January 2014 to address rising insecurity, particularly in the entire western part of the state.  Due to criminal activity in Lázaro Cardenas, the Mexican military assumed direct control of the port in late 2013.  Government authorities incorporated some of the self-defense groups that had operated independently of the government in recent months into a new state police unit in May.  Armed members of some other self-defense groups maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.  Some groups in Michoacán are reputed to be linked to organized crime. 

Morelos: Cuernavaca is a major city/travel destination in Morelos - Exercise caution in the state of Morelos due to the unpredictable nature of organized crime violence.  You should also defer non-essential travel on any roads between Huitzilac in the northwest corner of the state and Santa Marta in the state of Mexico, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas.  On August 24, 2012, two U.S. government employees were injured after being fired upon by Federal Police officers on a non-toll road north of Tres Marias, Morelos.  Numerous incidents of organized crime-related violence have also occurred in the city of Cuernavaca. 

Nayarit: Defer non-essential travel to areas of the state of Nayarit that border the states of Sinaloa or Durango, as well as all rural areas and secondary highways.  There is no recommendation against travel to the Vallarta-Nayarit area in the southern portion of the state known as the Riviera Nayarit, Tepic, Xalisco, and San Blas, or to principal highways in the southern portion of the state used to travel from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta.  Intercity travel at night is not recommended.

Nuevo Leon: Monterrey is a major city/travel destination in Nuevo Leon - Defer non-essential travel to the state of Nuevo Leon except the metropolitan area of Monterrey, where you should exercise caution.  Although the level of organized crime-related violence and general insecurity in Monterrey has decreased dramatically within the last 18 months, sporadic incidents of violence have occurred in the greater Monterrey area.  Security services in and around Monterrey are robust and have proven responsive and effective in combating violent crimes; however, instances of violence remain a concern in the more remote regions of the state.  Criminal organizations have kidnapped, and in some cases murdered, U.S. citizens, even when ransom demands are met.  As a result of a Department of State assessment of the overall security situation, U.S. government personnel and their dependents may not travel outside the San Pedro Garza Garcia municipal boundaries between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., except for travel to the airport after 5 a.m.  

Oaxaca: Oaxaca, Huatulco and Puerto Escondido are major cities/travel destinations in Oaxaca - No advisory is in effect. 

Puebla: No advisory is in effect. 

Queretaro: No advisory is in effect. 

Quintana Roo: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum are major cities/travel destinations in Quintana Roo - No advisory is in effect. 

San Luis Potosi: Defer non-essential travel to the state of San Luis Potosi, except the city of San Luis Potosi, where you should exercise caution.  Violence and criminal activity along highways are continuing security concerns.  U.S. government personnel may not travel outside the City of San Luis Potosi and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue. 

Sinaloa: Mazatlan is a major city/travel destination in Sinaloa - Defer non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa except the city of Mazatlan, where you should exercise caution, particularly late at night and in the early morning.  One of Mexico's most powerful criminal organizations is based in the state of Sinaloa, and violent crime rates remain high in many parts of the state.  Travel off the toll roads in remote areas of Sinaloa is especially dangerous and should be avoided.  We recommend that any travel in Mazatlan be limited to Zona Dorada and the historic town center, as well as direct routes to/from these locations and the airport. 

Sonora: Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos are major cities/travel destinations in Sonora - Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous for travelers.  Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours.  The region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north, including the towns of Saric, Tubutama, and Altar, and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, are known centers of illegal activity, and non-essential travel between these cities should be avoided.  Travelers should also defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the state of Sonora, which borders the state of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa.  You should exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to roadblocks that can be instituted ad hoc by local indigenous and environmental groups.  U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours. 

Tabasco: Villahermosa is a major city/travel destination in Tabasco - No advisory is in effect. 

Tamaulipas: Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico are major cities/travel destinations in Tamaulipas -  Defer non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas.  All U.S. government employees are prohibited from personal travel on Tamaulipas highways outside of Matamoros, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo due to the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking, particularly along the northern border.  Traveling outside of cities after dark is not recommended.  While no highway routes through Tamaulipas are considered safe, the highways between Matamoros-Ciudad Victoria, Reynosa-Ciudad Victoria, Ciudad Victoria-Tampico, Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo, and Monterrey-Reynosa, are more prone to criminal activity.  In Matamoros, U.S. government employees are subject to movement restrictions between midnight and 6 a.m. 

Matamoros, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, and Ciudad Victoria have experienced numerous gun battles and attacks with explosive devices in the past year.  Violent conflicts between rival criminal elements and/or the Mexican military can occur in all parts of the region and at all times of the day.  The number of reported kidnappings for Tamaulipas is among the highest in Mexico, and the number of U.S. citizens reported to the consulates in Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo as being kidnapped, abducted, or disappearing involuntarily in the first half of 2014 has also increased.  In May 2014, a Mexican state and federal security initiative was announced focused on combating increased violence in the state.

Tlaxcala: No advisory is in effect. 

Veracruz: Exercise caution when traveling in the state of Veracruz.  The state of Veracruz continues to experience violence among rival criminal organizations.  Mexican federal security forces continue to assist state and local security forces in providing security and combating organized crime.  

Yucatan: Merida and Chichen Itza are major cities/travel destinations in Yucatan - No advisory is in effect. 

Zacatecas: Defer non-essential travel to areas of Zacatecas near the border with other Mexican states.  Exercise caution in the interior of the state including the city of Zacatecas.  Robberies, carjackings, and organized criminal activity remain a concern.  Gun battles between criminal groups and authorities have occurred in the area of the state bordering the state of Jalisco.  Extreme caution should be taken when traveling in the remainder of the state.  U.S. government personnel may not travel outside the city of Zacatecas after dark and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue. 

Further Information 

For more detailed information on staying safe in Mexico, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information for Mexico. 

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department's internet web site, where the current Worldwide CautionTravel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 001-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  U.S. citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to enroll with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.  For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate with responsibility for that person's location in Mexico.  For information on the ten U.S. consular districts in Mexico, complete with links to Embassy and Consulate websites, please consult the Mexico U.S. Consular District map.  The numbers provided below for the Embassy and Consulates are available around the clock.  The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. U.S. citizens may also contact the Embassy by e-mail

Consulates (with consular districts):

  • Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua): Paseo de la Victoria 3650, telephone. (011)(52)(656) 227-3000.
  • Guadalajara (Nayarit, Jalisco, Aguas Calientes, and Colima): Progreso 175, telephone (011)(52)(333) 268-2100.
  • Hermosillo (Sinaloa and the southern part of the state of Sonora): Avenida Monterrey 141, telephone (011)(52)(662) 289-3500.
  • Matamoros (the southern part of Tamaulipas with the exception of the city of Tampico): Avenida Primera 2002, telephone (011)(52)(868) 812-4402.
  • Merida (Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo): Calle 60 no. 338-K x 29 y 31, Col. Alcala Martin, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 97050, telephone (011)(52)(999) 942-5700 or 202-250-3711 (U.S. number).
  • Monterrey (Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and the southern part of Coahuila):Prolongacion Ave. Alfonso Reyes No. 150, Col. Valle Poniente, Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon, 66196, telephone (011)(52)(818) 047-3100.
  • Nogales (the northern part of Sonora): Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone (011)(52)(631) 311-8150.
  • Nuevo Laredo (the northern part of Coahuila and the northwestern part of Tamaulipas): Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, telephone (011)(52)(867) 714-0512.
  • Tijuana (Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur): Paseo de Las Culturas s/n Mesa de Otay, telephone (011) (52) (664) 977-2000.
  • All other Mexican states, the Federal District of Mexico City, and the city of Tampico, Tamaulipas, are part of the Embassy's consular district. 

Consular Agencies:

  • Acapulco: Hotel Emporio, Costera Miguel Aleman 121 – Suite 14, telephone (011)(52)(744) 481-0100 or (011)(52)(744) 484-0300.
  • Cancún: Blvd. Kukulcan Km 13 ZH Torre La Europea, Despacho 301 Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico C.P. 77500, telephone (011)(52)(998) 883-0272.
  • Los Cabos: Las Tiendas de Palmilla Local B221, Carretera Transpeninsular Km. 27.5, San José del Cabo, BCS, Mexico 23406 telephone, (624) 143-3566 Fax: (624) 143-6750.
  • Mazatlán: Playa Gaviotas #202, Zona Dorada, telephone (011)(52)(669) 916-5889.
  • Oaxaca: Macedonio Alcalá no. 407, interior 20, telephone (011)(52)(951) 514-3054, (011) (52)(951) 516-2853.
  • Piedras Negras: Abasolo #211, Zona Centro, Piedras Negras, Coah., telephone, (011)(52)(878) 782-5586.
  • Playa del Carmen: "The Palapa," Calle 1 Sur, between Avenida 15 and Avenida 20, telephone (011)(52)(984) 873-0303 or 202-370-6708(a U.S. number).
  • Puerto Vallarta: Paradise Plaza, Paseo de los Cocoteros #1, Local #4, Interior #17, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, telephone (011)(52)(322) 222-0069.
  • San Miguel de Allende: Centro Comercial La Luciernaga, Libramiento Manuel Zavala (Pepe KBZON), telephone (011)(52)(415) 152-2357.
Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

Sierra Leone Travel Warning

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against non-essential travel to Sierra Leone.

After review of health conditions and limited availability of medical evacuation options, the U.S. Department of State ordered the departure of family members residing with Embassy staff in Freetown to begin August 14, 2014.  U.S. government employees in Freetown will remain on active duty at the Embassy.

As of August 11, there have been 759 confirmed cases and 293 confirmed deaths due to an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Sierra Leone. The outbreak of EVD has overwhelmed Sierra Leone’s health system due to the lack of sufficient staff and/or resources to address the continuing transmission of EVD.  Options for obtaining routine medical care are severely limited.  In addition, most medical evacuation companies have suspended service to Ebola-affected countries and several airlines have suspended service to Freetown.  This severely limits options for medical evacuation in the case of EVD and non-EVD medical cases.  For more information concerning EVD, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.  Please direct inquiries regarding U.S. citizens in Sierra Leone to EbolaEmergencyUSC@state.gov. Callers in the United States and Canada may dial the toll free number 1-888-407-4747.  Callers outside the United States and Canada may dial 1-202-501-4444.

If you arrive in Sierra Leone and subsequently need routine or emergency medical care, you should expect limited, if any, options.  Travelers are advised that air carriers chartered by medical evacuation insurance companies are unable to reliably provide timely services in Sierra Leone or the region, and local ambulance services for transport to the airport are essentially unavailable.  Policyholders should confirm the availability of medical evacuation services prior to travel.  While commercial flights are still available from Sierra Leone, some airlines have discontinued service and flights may become more difficult to obtain.  If you plan to visit Sierra Leone despite this warning, you should purchase travel insurance that includes medical evacuation, and confirm under what circumstances coverage applies to Sierra Leone.

The Department of State urges those U.S. citizens who decide to travel to or remain in Sierra Leone despite this Travel Warning to provide their current contact information through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution.  Read the Country Specific Information for Sierra Leone.  For additional information, refer to the Traveler's Checklist on the State Department’s website.

Check U.S. Embassy Freetown’s website for up-to-date messages to U.S. citizens.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips. 

U.S. Embassy Freetown is located at Southridge, Hill Station, in Freetown.  Telephone: +232 (0)76-515-000.  Emergency after- hours telephone: +232 (0)76-912-708.

Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)