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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)

Algeria Travel Warning

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Algeria.

This replaces the Travel Warning for Algeria dated February 6, 2014, to update information on the current security situation in Algeria, the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate information on security incidents and recommendations on security awareness.  

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to Algeria to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety.  There is a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings in Algeria.  This kidnapping threat was noted in the Department of State's latest Worldwide Caution.  Although the major cities are heavily policed, attacks could still potentially take place.  The majority of terrorist attacks, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes occur in areas of the country east and south of Algiers.

Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) are both active in and operate throughout Algeria.  In January 2013, an AQIM-linked organization “Those Who Sign in Blood”, led by Moktar Belmoktar, attacked a gas production facility near In Amenas, Algeria.  The group held dozens of western and Algerian hostages for four days; this attack resulted in the deaths of dozens of hostages, including three U.S. citizens.  Mokhtar Belmokhtar remains a threat and is at large in the region.

Algerian and Tunisian security forces are conducting ongoing security operations along the Algeria/Tunisia border in the Chaambi mountains area, south of Souk Ahras.  There is a threat in this area due to the presence of extremists.

The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid overland travel in Algeria.  U.S. citizens who reside in or travel to Algeria should take personal security measures to include stocking adequate reserves of medicine, food, and water for use during an emergency.  Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have been known to occur, such as the riots in Algiers and many other cities.  U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and demonstrations because even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable.  U.S. citizens should be alert and aware of their surroundings and maintain security awareness at all times.  U.S. citizens should regularly monitor the local news media for current news and information.

Visitors to Algeria are advised to stay only in hotels where adequate security is provided.  All visitors to Algeria should remain alert, avoid predictable travel patterns, and maintain a low profile.  U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies of all kinds.  Most political gatherings are peaceful but can turn violent without notice.  Dual U.S./Algerian citizens should be aware that while they are in Algeria, they will be treated as Algerian citizens by host country authorities.

The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. Embassy personnel assigned to Algiers sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under significant security restrictions.  These practices limit, and may occasionally prevent, the movement of U.S. Embassy officials and the provision of consular services in certain areas of the country.  The Government of Algeria requires U.S. Embassy personnel to seek permission to travel outside the city limits of Algiers and to have a security escort.  Travel to the military zone established around the Hassi Messaoud oil center requires Government of Algeria authorization.  Daily movement of Embassy personnel in parts of Algiers is limited, and prudent security practices are required at all times.  Travel by Embassy personnel within certain areas of the city requires coordination with the U.S. Embassy's Regional Security Office.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Algeria are 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 Algeria.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living abroad 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).

The U.S. Embassy is located at 5 Chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi in the El Biar district of Algiers, and can be reached by telephone at (213) 770 08 20 00.  The fax is {213} 21 98 22 99.  The consular section email is ACSAlgiers@state.gov

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

Algeria Travel Warning

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Algeria.

This replaces the Travel Warning for Algeria dated February 6, 2014, to update information on the current security situation in Algeria, the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate information on security incidents and recommendations on security awareness.  

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to Algeria to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety.  There is a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings in Algeria.  This kidnapping threat was noted in the Department of State's latest Worldwide Caution.  Although the major cities are heavily policed, attacks could still potentially take place.  The majority of terrorist attacks, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes occur in areas of the country east and south of Algiers.

Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) are both active in and operate throughout Algeria.  In January 2013, an AQIM-linked organization “Those Who Sign in Blood”, led by Moktar Belmoktar, attacked a gas production facility near In Amenas, Algeria.  The group held dozens of western and Algerian hostages for four days; this attack resulted in the deaths of dozens of hostages, including three U.S. citizens.  Mokhtar Belmokhtar remains a threat and is at large in the region.

Algerian and Tunisian security forces are conducting ongoing security operations along the Algeria/Tunisia border in the Chaambi mountains area, south of Souk Ahras.  There is a threat in this area due to the presence of extremists.

The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid overland travel in Algeria.  U.S. citizens who reside in or travel to Algeria should take personal security measures to include stocking adequate reserves of medicine, food, and water for use during an emergency.  Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have been known to occur, such as the riots in Algiers and many other cities.  U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and demonstrations because even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable.  U.S. citizens should be alert and aware of their surroundings and maintain security awareness at all times.  U.S. citizens should regularly monitor the local news media for current news and information.

Visitors to Algeria are advised to stay only in hotels where adequate security is provided.  All visitors to Algeria should remain alert, avoid predictable travel patterns, and maintain a low profile.  U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies of all kinds.  Most political gatherings are peaceful but can turn violent without notice.  Dual U.S./Algerian citizens should be aware that while they are in Algeria, they will be treated as Algerian citizens by host country authorities.

The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. Embassy personnel assigned to Algiers sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under significant security restrictions.  These practices limit, and may occasionally prevent, the movement of U.S. Embassy officials and the provision of consular services in certain areas of the country.  The Government of Algeria requires U.S. Embassy personnel to seek permission to travel outside the city limits of Algiers and to have a security escort.  Travel to the military zone established around the Hassi Messaoud oil center requires Government of Algeria authorization.  Daily movement of Embassy personnel in parts of Algiers is limited, and prudent security practices are required at all times.  Travel by Embassy personnel within certain areas of the city requires coordination with the U.S. Embassy's Regional Security Office.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Algeria are 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 Algeria.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living abroad 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).

The U.S. Embassy is located at 5 Chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi in the El Biar district of Algiers, and can be reached by telephone at (213) 770 08 20 00.  The fax is {213} 21 98 22 99.  The consular section email is ACSAlgiers@state.gov

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

Iraq Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq.

Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation. The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil remain open and operating, but the Department of State has relocated a limited number of staff members from the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil to the Consulate General in Basrah and the Iraq Support Unit in Amman. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated August 8, 2014, to note the departure of some staff from the Consulate General in Erbil. The ability of the Embassy to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.

U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence.  Methods of attack have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including explosively formed penetrators (EFPs); magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles; human and vehicle-borne IEDs; mines placed on or concealed near roads; mortars and rockets; and shootings using various direct fire weapons.  These and other attacks frequently occur in public gathering places, such as cafes, markets and other public venues.

Numerous insurgent groups, including ISIL, previously known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq, remain active and terrorist activity and violence persist in many areas of the country.  ISIL and its allies control Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and have captured significant territory across central Iraq and continue to engage with Iraqi security forces in that region.  In early August, the threat to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) increased considerably with the advance of ISIL towards Kurdish areas. 

Due to the potential of political protests and demonstrations to become violent, U.S. citizens in Iraq are strongly urged to avoid protests and large gatherings. 

The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines.  All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Chief of Mission must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside the Embassy.  State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details.  Detailed security information is available at the U.S. Embassy website.

The U.S. Embassy is located in the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad.  The IZ is a restricted access area.  Iraqi authorities are responsible for control of the IZ.  Travelers to the IZ should be aware that Iraqi authorities may require special identification to enter the IZ or may issue IZ-specific access badges.  Individuals residing and traveling within the IZ should continue to exercise good personal safety precautions.

Increasingly, many U.S. and third-country business people travel throughout much of Iraq; however, they do so under restricted movement conditions and often with security advisors and protective security teams.

The Government of Iraq strictly enforces requirements regarding visas and stamps for entry and exit, vehicle registration, authorizations for weapons, and movements through checkpoints.  The Embassy highly recommends that all U.S. citizens in Iraq carefully review the status of their travel documents and any necessary licenses and government authorizations to ensure that they are current and valid.  U.S. citizens are urged to immediately correct any deficiencies in their travel documents.  U.S. citizens are strongly advised against traveling throughout the country with deficient or invalid documents.  For more information about entry/exit requirements for U.S. citizens, please see our Country Specific Information page for Iraq.

U.S. citizens should avoid areas near the Syrian, Turkish, or Iranian borders, which are especially dangerous and not always clearly defined.  The Governments of Turkey and Iran continue to carry out military operations against insurgent groups in the mountain regions bordering Iraq.  These operations have included troop movements and both aerial and artillery bombardments.  Extensive unmarked minefields also remain along these borders.  Border skirmishes with smugglers have become commonplace.  Unrest in Syria has resulted in large numbers of people seeking refuge in the area. Iranian authorities previously detained, for an extended period, U.S. citizens who were hiking in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) in the vicinity of the Iranian border.  The resources available to the U.S. Embassy to assist U.S. citizens who venture close to or cross the border with Iran are extremely limited. The Department of State discourages travel in close proximity to the Iranian border.

The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services to U.S. citizens throughout Iraq, including Baghdad, is particularly limited given the security environment.  The U.S. Consulates in Basrah and Kirkuk cannot provide routine services such as passport applications, extra visa pages, and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad.  U.S. citizens in need of these services in Erbil must make an appointment with the Consulate on-line, either through the Embassy’s website or the website for the Consulate in Erbil.  The Embassy'swebsite includes consular information and the most recent messages to U.S. citizens in Iraq.  U.S. citizens in Iraq who need emergency assistance should call 0770-443-1286 or0770-030-4888.

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.  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 Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

U.S. citizens who choose to visit or reside in Iraq despite this Travel Warning are urged to take responsibility for their own personal security and belongings (including their U.S. passports) and to avoid crowds, especially rallies or demonstrations.  U.S. citizens who choose to travel in Iraq should be aware that Iraqi authorities have arrested or detained U.S. citizens whose purpose of travel is not readily apparent.  Persons also have been detained for taking photographs of buildings, monuments, or other sites, especially in the IZ in Baghdad.

All U.S. citizens in Iraq, including those working on contract for the U.S. government, are urged to inform the U.S. Embassy of their presence in Iraq by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to obtain updated travel information.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to provide updated security information or to contact them in emergencies.  The Embassy also offers SMS text alerts delivered to your mobile phone when new security and emergency messages are released.

U.S. citizens may obtain the latest security information or other information about Iraq by contacting the U.S. Embassy, located in the International Zone, via email, or by accessing U.S. Embassy Baghdad's website.  The after-hours emergency numbers are 011-964-770-443-1286 or 011-964-770-030-4888 (from the United States) or 0770-443-1286 or 0770-030-4888 (within Iraq).  As cell phone service is unreliable in Iraq, emergency calls may also be placed through the Department of State at 1-888-407-4747

Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

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

Saudi Arabia Travel Warning

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia.

Recent developments include an attack by members of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on a border checkpoint along the Saudi-Yemeni border on July 4, 2014, and increased media reports of threats to Saudi infrastructure and U.S. installations in the Kingdom. This replaces the Travel Warning issued February 11, 2014, to update information on the current security situation in Saudi Arabia and the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate recommendations on security awareness. 

The last major terrorist attack against foreign nationals occurred in 2007, but security threats are ongoing and terrorist groups, some affiliated with al-Qaida, may target both Saudi and Western interests. Possible targets include housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas and other facilities where Westerners congregate, as well as Saudi government facilities and economic/commercial targets within the Kingdom.

On July 5, 2014, media reported that members of Al-Qaida attacked a border checkpoint between Yemen and Saudi Arabia on July 4, leading to the deaths of several of the attackers, as well as four members of the Saudi security forces.  The rugged border area dividing Yemen and Saudi Arabia remains porous in some areas and portions are not clearly defined.  U.S. government personnel are restricted from traveling within 50 miles of the border, which includes the cities of Jizan and Najran, without permission from Embassy security officials.  Visitors, who choose to travel to these areas despite U.S. government concern, should be aware that terrorist and criminal elements may be operating there, including AQAP.  U.S. citizens are strongly urged to read the Department of State Travel Warning for Yemen before traveling to areas near the Yemeni frontier.

On the night of January 13, 2014, unknown gunmen attacked the vehicle of two German Embassy officials who were traveling through the Awamiyah section of the al-Qatif Governate in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.  The motivation for the attack is unknown.  U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling to Awamiyah, and we recommend private U.S. citizens avoid the area as well.

U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia are strongly encouraged to select hotels or housing compounds with careful attention to security measures and location.  U.S. citizens should be aware of their surroundings at all times and are advised to keep a low profile; vary times and routes of travel; exercise caution while driving, and entering or exiting vehicles; and ensure that travel documents and visas are current and valid.

If the security threat changes or specific threats affecting U.S. citizens are discovered, this information will be made available through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and U.S. Mission websites. Emergency Messages, Security Messages, and Messages for U.S. Citizens can be found on the U.S. Embassy Riyadh website.

The Department of State encourages U.S. citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the Consulates General in Dhahran or Jeddah.  

U.S. Embassy Riyadh
Telephone: (966) (11) 488-3800
Fax: (966) (11) 483-0773
Emergency after-hours telephone: (966) (11) 488-3800

U.S. Consulate General Dhahran
Telephone: (966) (13) 330-3200
Fax: (966) (13) 330-0464
Emergency after-hours telephone: (966) (13) 330-3200, x3004

U.S. Consulate General Jeddah
Telephone: (966) (12) 667-0080
Fax: (966) (12) 669-3098
Emergency after-hours telephone: (966) (12) 667-0080

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 from other countries, 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 Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

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

Pakistan Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan.

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated February 5, 2014, to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi continue to provide consular services for all U.S. citizens in Pakistan. The U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar no longer offers consular services and the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore is still temporarily closed for public services. 

The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. Across the country, terrorist attacks frequently occur against civilian, government, and foreign targets. Attacks have included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites, including Pakistani military installations and airports. The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit. Terrorists and criminal groups regularly resort to kidnapping for ransom.

Protests against the United States are not uncommon and have the potential to turn violent. U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly advised to avoid all protests and large gatherings.

RECENT ATTACKS

There have been many terrorist attacks in recent years targeting civilians and security personnel. On June 24, gunmen fired on an international flight during landing at Peshawar’s International Airport, killing one passenger and injuring two flight attendants. On June 8, a terrorist attack over the course of nearly two days on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport killed 19 people. On April 9, a bomb detonated at a fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad, killing 24 people and injuring 116. On March 3, a bomb and firearm attack on a courthouse in Islamabad killed 11 people. In 2013, there were 355 distinct terror incidents throughout Pakistan. On September 22, 2013, a suicide bomb attack outside of a Peshawar church killed 119 people. On July 6, 2013, a bomb exploded in a restaurant in a business district of Lahore, killing at least five people and injuring nearly 50. On June 23, 2013, 11 foreign nationals, including one U.S. citizen, were murdered in an attack on a Nanga Parbat mountain base camp in the northern area of Gilgit-Baltistan. On June 15, 2013, a suicide bomber detonated at a women’s university in Quetta, killing 14 students; attackers later struck the hospital where victims were taken, killing at least 11 more people. On March 3, 2013, a bomb attack in a predominately Shiite area of Karachi destroyed several buildings and killed over 50 people. 

 
The Governor of the Punjab province and the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs were assassinated in Islamabad in January and March 2011, respectively.  Targeted killings continue unabated in Karachi as a result of ethno-political rivalries. Targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and non-governmental organization (NGO) employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel continue throughout the country, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan Provinces. Suicide bomb attacks have occurred at Islamabad universities, schools, rallies, places of worship, and major marketplaces in Lahore and Peshawar.

Members of minority communities have been victims of targeted killings and accusations of blasphemy, a crime that carries the death penalty in Pakistan. Places of worship have frequently been targeted for attack by terrorists. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from attending services at places of worship in Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar, and outside of the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad without prior approval. Foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, on valid missionary visas have encountered increased scrutiny from local authorities since early 2011.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS FOR GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL

U.S. government personnel travel within Pakistan is often restricted based on security or other reasons. Movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General are severely restricted, and consulate staff cannot drive personally-owned vehicles.  Embassy staff is permitted at times to drive personally-owned vehicles in the greater Islamabad area.

U.S. officials in Islamabad are instructed to limit the frequency of travel and minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Official visitors are not authorized to stay overnight in local hotels. Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Mission sometimes places areas such as hotels, markets, and restaurants off-limits to official personnel. U.S. officials are not authorized to use public transportation.  

Access to many areas of Pakistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border, the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, and the area adjacent to the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed territory of Kashmir, is restricted by local government authorities for non-Pakistanis. Travel to any restricted region requires official permission from the Government of Pakistan. Failure to obtain such permission in advance can result in arrest and detention by Pakistani authorities. Due to security concerns, the U.S. government currently allows only essential travel within the FATA by U.S. officials. Travel to much of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Balochistan is also restricted.

GENERAL SAFETY AND SECURITY

Rallies, demonstrations, and processions occur regularly throughout Pakistan on very short notice. Demonstrations might take on an anti-U.S. or anti-Western character, and U.S. citizens are urged to avoid large gatherings. Anti-U.S. protests in September 2012 attracted large crowds outside U.S. diplomatic facilities in all major cities and caused casualties and significant property damage. The Mission reminds U.S. citizens that even peaceful demonstrations might become violent and advises U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations. Given multiple demands for resources, local authorities may have limited capacity to respond to requests for assistance.

The U.S. Consulate in Karachi frequently receives reports from U.S. citizens who have been the victims of robberies at gunpoint.  Many calls involve robberies during transit between Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport and the city.

The Mission reiterates its advice to all U.S. citizens to maintain good situational awareness, avoid large crowds, and keep a low profile, particularly when visiting locations frequented by Westerners. U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to avoid hotels that do not apply stringent security measures, and to vary times and routes for all travel.

U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan have also been kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons such as family disputes over property. In May, a U.S. citizen was kidnapped for ransom in Bannu.  In December 2013, a U.S. citizen was released after being kidnapped for two months from his neighborhood outside of Peshawar.  In May 2013, a U.S. citizen was rescued by local police after being kidnapped for ransom. The kidnapping of Pakistani citizens and other foreign nationals, usually for ransom, continues to increase nationwide.  U.S. citizens who feel they are in danger, or whose security is at risk, are strongly urged to depart Pakistan as soon as possible.

U.S. citizens seeking services from the U.S. Consulates General in Karachi and Peshawar might also encounter harassment from host government officials. Citing security concerns, host-government intelligence officials frequently stop U.S. citizens outside the Consulates and obtain their personal information before allowing them to proceed. U.S. citizens might later be visited at their homes or offices and questioned about the nature of their business in Pakistan and the purpose of their visit to the Consulate.

ENTRY/EXIT DIFFICULTIES

U.S. citizens should ensure that their travel documents and visas are valid at all times. U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan have been arrested, deported, harassed, and detained for overstaying their Pakistani visas or for traveling to Pakistan without the appropriate visa classification. U.S. citizens who attempt to renew or extend their visas while in Pakistan have been left without legal status for an extended period of time and subjected to harassment or interrogation by local authorities. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General can provide very limited assistance to U.S. citizens who have overstayed their Pakistani visas. Since 2011, the number of U.S. citizens arrested, detained, and prosecuted for visa overstays has increased across the country.

Security threats might, on short notice, temporarily restrict the ability of the U.S. Missions, particularly in Peshawar, to provide routine consular services. All U.S. citizens are encouraged to apply for renewal of travel documents at least three months prior to expiration.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Pakistan despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to enroll with the Embassy in Islamabad or the Consulates General in Karachi, Lahore, or Peshawar. This enrollment can be completed online through the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) available on the Department of State website. U.S. citizens without internet access should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate General for information on registering in person. Enrollment enables citizens to obtain updated information on travel and security within Pakistan via the emergency alert system.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is located at Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5, and can be reached by telephone at (92-51) 208-0000; Consular Section telephone (92-51) 208-2700; and fax (92-51) 282-2632.

You may make an American Citizens Services appointment with the Consular Section in Islamabad through the following link: http://islambad.usembassy.gov/service/appointmemts.html.

U.S. citizens requiring emergency services should contact the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad at telephone (92-51) 208-0000. Note that our ability to provide emergency services outside Islamabad could be limited by travel restrictions and security conditions.

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi is located at Plot 3-5 New TPX Area, Mai Kolachi Road. U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance should call the Consular Section in Karachi at (92-21) 3527-5000. The fax number is (92-21) 3561-2420.

You may make an American Citizens Services appointment with the Consular Section in Karachi through the following link: http://karachi.usconsulate.gov/service.html.

The U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, and can be reached by telephone at (92-91) 526-8800 and fax: (92-91) 528-4171.

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 Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

For further information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Pakistan. Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

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

Nigeria Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because of the May 14, 2013 state of emergency proclamation for those three states by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The security situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable. The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens in Nigeria to keep personal safety and health in the forefront of their planning. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated January 8, 2014.

The ability of the Mission to provide assistance to U.S. citizens remains severely limited. The Department continues to recommend against all but essential travel to the following states due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, and Yobe States.  The Department also advises travelers to exercise additional caution while traveling in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara States.  Based on safety and security risk assessments, the Embassy maintains restrictions for travel by U.S. officials to those states listed above; officials must receive advance clearance by the U.S. Mission for any travel deemed as mission-essential. U.S. citizens should be aware that extremist groups could expand their operations beyond northern Nigeria to other areas of the country.

The U.S. Mission advises all U.S. citizens to be particularly vigilant around government security facilities; churches, mosques, and other places of worship; locations where large crowds may gather, such as hotels, clubs, beer parlors, restaurants, markets, shopping malls; and other areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. Security measures in Nigeria remain heightened due to threats posed by extremist groups, and U.S. citizens may encounter police and military checkpoints, additional security, and possible road blocks throughout the country.

Boko Haram, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria and designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Department of State, has claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria. This includes two recent vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices detonated in Nyanya, a suburb of the capital of Abuja, that resulted in approximately 100 combined deaths in April and May of 2014.  The first months of 2014 have seen a continued increase in Boko Haram attacks and clashes with Nigerian government security forces in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has also targeted women and children for kidnapping, reportedly kidnapping women in northern states for marriage as “slave brides,” and kidnapping more than 200 school girls from a private school in Borno state.  Boko Haram is known to descend on whole towns, robbing banks and businesses, attacking police and military installations, and setting fire to private homes.  In 2013, extremists also targeted both Nigerians and foreign nationals involved in polio eradication efforts in northern Nigeria, leaving several U.S. government partner agencies working on public health development activities in northern Nigeria to curtail their vaccination efforts.  Furthermore, U.S. citizen missionaries in northern Nigeria have received specific written threats to their safety and well-being.

Various curfews are intermittently in effect in several states in the North. All U.S. citizens should remain aware of current situations including curfews, travel restrictions, and states of emergency in the areas you are in or plan to visit. This information is commonly announced via the news media, but at times it can change with very little notice. Please take the time to find out this information for your area.

Kidnappings remain a security concern throughout the country. Since the beginning of 2013, there have been multiple reports of kidnappings involving U.S. citizens.   Kidnappings of foreign nationals and attacks against Nigerian police forces in Lagos State and the Niger Delta region continue to affect personal security for those traveling in these areas. Criminals or militants have abducted foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, from off-shore and land-based oil facilities and maritime vessels, residential compounds, and public roadways. Ansaru, an offshoot of Boko Haram, has specifically targeted foreigners in the north for kidnap in the past few years with lethal outcomes.

Violent crimes occur throughout the country. U.S. citizen visitors and residents have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglaries, armed robberies, car-jackings, rapes, kidnappings, and extortion. Home invasions also remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls, accessing waterfront compounds by boat, following residents or visitors, or subduing guards to gain entry to homes or apartments. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals, and Nigerians have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian law enforcement officials. The Department advises against traveling outside of major cities after dark because of crime and road safety concerns.

Cell phone service has, at times, been disrupted in Nigeria, particularly in areas where a State of Emergency has been declared. Extremists have also been known to attack cellular telephone towers, leading to further disruptions. U.S. citizens should attempt to arrange for multiple means of communication in case of need during emergencies.

The Embassy is not able to offer medical treatment to travelers; however, it can provide a list of medical facilities that may be able to treat U.S. citizens with medical emergencies. In July 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Abuja reported confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Nigeria. Since that time, new reports of deaths and confirmed and suspected cases of persons with EVD or Ebola-like symptoms have been reported.  For further information on the Ebola virus, U.S. citizens should consult the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website and also visit the U.S. Embassy website to review Security Messages addressing the Ebola virus in Nigeria. On August 5, the CDC issued a Travel Notice advising enhanced health and hygiene precautions for travelers to Nigeria due to the Ebola virus. On July 31, the CDC issued Travel Notices warning against nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone due to the Ebola virus.

The Department strongly advises U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nigeria to enroll in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

The U.S. Embassy in Abuja is located at:
Plot 1075 Diplomatic Drive, Central District Area, and can be reached by telephone, including after-hours for emergencies, at 234(9)461-4000. The Embassy is open Monday - Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos is located at: 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island, and can be reached by telephone, including after-hours for emergencies, at 234(1)460-3600 or 234 (1) 460-3400. The Consulate is open Monday - Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Friday 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos for up-to-date information on any restrictions.

Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 if calling 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). You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

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