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El Salvador Travel Warning

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens that crime and violence levels in El Salvador remain high, and U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador should remain alert to their surroundings.

This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated November 21, 2014, and includes updated information on crime and security in El Salvador.

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit El Salvador each year for study, tourism, cruise ship visits, business, and volunteer work. There is no information to suggest that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted by criminals; however, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador including a nine-year-old child in December 2013. During the same time period, 419 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen, while others were victims of violent crimes.

Typical crimes in El Salvador include extortion, mugging, highway assault, home invasion, and car theft. There have also been cases reported in which criminals observe and follow customers making withdrawals at ATMs and banks, then rob them on the road or at a residence. Some victims unwittingly wander into gang-controlled territory and may be targeted, normally at night. Assaults against police officers have risen, and public shootouts are not uncommon. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers in El Salvador’s national parks are known to occur, and the Embassy strongly recommends engaging the services of a local guide certified by the national or local tourist authority when hiking in back country areas -- even within the national parks. The National Civilian Police (PNC) has a special tourist police force (POLITUR) to provide security and assistance to visitors. It has officers located in 19 tourist destinations.

A majority of serious crimes are never solved; only six of the 34 murders of U.S. citizens since January 2010 have resulted in convictions. The Government of El Salvador lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases and to deter violent crime. While several of the PNC’s investigative units have shown great promise, routine street-level patrol techniques, anti-gang, and crime suppression efforts are limited. Equipment shortages (particularly radios, vehicles, and fuel) further limit their ability to deter or respond to crimes effectively.

El Salvador, a country of roughly six million people, has, according to Government of El Salvador statistics, thousands of known gang members from several gangs including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Eighteenth Street (M18). Gang members are quick to engage in violence or use deadly force if resisted. These “maras” concentrate on narcotics and arms trafficking, murder for hire, carjacking, extortion, and violent street crime. Authorities believe a significant number of disappearances are related to gang activity, since many of the missing were in gangs or were friends or family members of gang members. Police sources claim that the families of gang members often face the same risks of being killed or disappearing as the gang members themselves.

Extortion is a very common crime in El Salvador. Some extortion attempts are no more than random cold calls that originate from imprisoned gang members using cellular telephones, and the subsequent threats against the victim are made through social engineering and/or through information obtained about the victim’s family. U.S. citizens who are visiting El Salvador for extended periods are at higher risk for extortion demands. Many extortions and other crimes are not reported by victims for fear of reprisal and lack of faith in the ability of the government to protect the victims.

U.S. citizens should remain alert to their surroundings, especially when entering or exiting their homes or hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces. Whenever possible, travel in groups. U.S. Embassy security officials advise all U.S. government personnel not to walk, run, or cycle in unguarded streets and parks, even in groups, and recommend exercising only in gyms and fitness centers. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, and do not carry large sums of money or display cash, ATM/credit cards, or other valuables. Avoid walking at night in most areas of El Salvador. Incidents of crime along roads, including carjacking, are common in El Salvador. Motorists should avoid traveling at night and always drive with their doors locked to deter potential robberies at traffic lights and on congested downtown streets. Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital, is risky and not recommended. The Embassy advises official visitors and personnel to avoid using mini-buses and regular buses and to use only radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.

For more detailed information regarding personal security, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information for El Salvador. U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in El Salvador are strongly encouraged to sign up for the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to obtain updated information on travel and security within El Salvador. Travelers may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States or on a regular toll line at 202-501-4444.

The U.S. Embassy is located on Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Urbanización Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad, and can be reached at:

Telephone: 503-2501-2999
Fax: 503-2278-5522 / 503-2278-6020
Email: ACSSanSal@state.gov
Website: sansalvador.usembassy.gov

For after-hours emergencies, please call 503-2501-2999.

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 ability of the Embassy to assist U.S. citizens facing difficulty, including arrest, is extremely limited. Private U.S. citizens are strongly discouraged from traveling to Iraq to join in armed conflict. The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulates General in Basrah and Erbil are open and operating. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated April 29, 2015. 

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. When such attacks occur, they frequently take place in public gathering places such as cafes, markets, and other public venues.

Numerous insurgent groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), remain active and terrorist activity and violence persist in many areas of the country. ISIL controls Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, as well as significant territory in northern, western, and central Iraq, particularly along the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, and the group continues to attack Iraqi security forces in those areas. Terrorist attacks within the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) occur less frequently than in other parts of Iraq, although the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), U.S. Government facilities, and western interests remain possible targets, as evidenced by the April 17 bombing in the public area outside U.S. Consulate General Erbil. In addition, several anti-U.S. sectarian militia groups, such as the Shia Kataib Hezbollah (KH) and Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) are operating throughout Iraq and may present a threat to U.S. citizens.

Due to the potential for 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 and Consulates. State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details. Detailed security information is available on 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.

Some U.S. and third-country business people travel throughout much of Iraq; however, their movement is restricted, and they travel 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 entering or traveling within Iraq with invalid documents. For more information about entry/exit requirements for U.S. citizens, please see our Country Specific Information page for Iraq.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that U.S. civil aviation flying in Iraqi airspace is at risk from ongoing combat operations involving military forces (military aerial combat operations and other militarily-related activity) and militant groups. As a result, the FAA currently prohibits U.S. civil aviation from operating in or overflying Iraqi airspace with very limited exceptions. Foreign airlines operating in Iraq may cancel their operations without warning due to the security environment or other factors. Travelers should remain vigilant and reconfirm all flight schedules with their airline prior to commencing any travel. For further background information regarding FAA prohibitions on U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices website.

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 mountainous 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 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 Iraq’s 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. Consulate General in Basrah cannot provide routine services such as passport applications, notary services, or 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 General in Erbil.

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 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 International Zone in Baghdad, where photography is forbidden.

For more information:

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

Sudan Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Sudan. We urge U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Darfur region of Sudan, and to Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, and advise U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel in other areas of Sudan.

This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on October 30, 2014.

While the Government of Sudan has taken steps to limit the activities of terrorist groups, elements of these groups remain in Sudan and have in the past threatened to attack Western interests. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, or kidnappings. U.S. citizens should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites and locations where westerners are known to congregate, as well as commercial operations associated with U.S. or Western interests. The terrorist threat level throughout Sudan, and particularly in the Darfur region, remains critical, and the U.S. Embassy has implemented enhanced security measures to protect U.S. government personnel assigned to Sudan. These measures include requiring U.S. government personnel to travel in armored vehicles at all times, and to obtain advance permission for travel outside of Khartoum. In addition, family members of U.S. personnel under age 21 are not allowed to reside in Sudan.

U.S. citizens traveling or residing anywhere in Sudan should exercise caution at all times and closely monitor local and international news from reliable sources. Violent flare-ups break out with little notice between and among various armed groups, Sudanese security forces and militias, particularly in the Darfur region, along the border between Chad and Sudan, and in areas that border South Sudan. Inter- and intra- tribal violence and armed acts of banditry are prevalent in these areas. Near the border with Ethiopia and Eritrea, landmines and unmarked minefields are a critical threat. There are occasional clashes with local tribes, particularly those known for weapons and human trafficking, along with the threats of Ethiopian gangs crossing the border to rob people along the highway. Hostilities between Sudanese forces and armed opposition groups present real and immediate dangers to travelers in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, including the disputed area of Abyei. Government security forces may detain U.S. citizens who are in these areas without Sudanese government permission.

Demonstrations occur periodically, mostly in Khartoum and Omdurman. In September 2012, the U.S. Embassy was attacked during a violent protest demonstration and, in September 2013, Khartoum and other urban areas witnessed violent confrontations between authorities and demonstrators protesting economic austerity measures. Smaller demonstrations occur periodically in Khartoum city. Avoid all public demonstrations and political rallies, as even peaceful demonstrations can become violent with little or no warning. Keep a low profile, vary times and routes of travel, exercise care while driving, and ensure that passports and Sudanese visas are always valid and up to date.

The threat of violent crime, including kidnappings, armed robberies, home invasions, and carjackings, is particularly high in the Darfur region of Sudan, as the Government of Sudan has taken limited action to deter crime in that region. In addition, tribal militias and armed Darfuri rebel groups are known to have carried out criminal attacks against foreigners. A number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped for ransom by criminal groups in Darfur. Due to the fluid security situation, U.S. government personnel are not authorized to travel to Darfur except to certain areas and with appropriate security precautions.

The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) has advised that regional tensions entail the risk of maritime attacks being conducted against vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el Mandeb regions.

MARAD recommends vessels at anchor, operating in restricted maneuvering environments, or at slow speeds should be especially vigilant, and report suspicious activity. U.S. flag vessels that observe suspicious activity in the area are advised to report such suspicious activity or any hostile or potentially hostile action to COMUSNAVCENT battlewatch captain at phone number 973-1785-3879. Report all suspicious activities and events to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at the following toll free telephone: 1-800-424-8802, direct telephone 202-267-2675, or TDD 202-267-4477. The complete advisory is available on the MARAD website at www.MARAD.DOT.gov.

We recommend that all U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Sudan maintain safe haven plans, as well as plans to evacuate the country on short notice should the situation warrant. If the security situation worsens or if specific threats affecting the safety of U.S. citizens are discovered, we will make this information available through the U.S. Embassy website and by messages communicated through our warden system. Emergency and Security Messages for U.S. Citizens in Sudan can be found on our website.

The ability of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum to provide services to U.S. citizens in emergency situations outside of the Khartoum area is very limited, and dependent on security conditions. The ability to provide assistance is particularly limited in southern regions of Sudan and in Darfur.

Stay informed and get updates by checking the U.S. Embassy website. U.S. citizens can also obtain global updates from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which includes the current Worldwide CautionTravel WarningsTravel Alerts, and Country Specific Information. Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States, or for callers from other countries, 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). Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Sudan should enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), on 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 Sudan. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. Keep all information in STEP up to date; it is particularly important to include a current phone number and e-mail address. U.S. citizens in Sudan without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy by completing and submitting a registration form.

The U.S. Embassy is located at U.S. Embassy Road, Kilo 10, Soba, Khartoum. U.S. citizens may obtain the latest security information by contacting the Embassy consular section at ACSKhartoum@state.gov, or by visiting the U.S. Embassy website. In the event of an emergency involving a U.S. citizen, contact the Embassy by calling 0187-022-000 (from inside Sudan) or 249 187-022-000 (from outside Sudan) and ask to be connected to the Embassy duty officer.

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

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

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

This Travel Alert will expire on December 12, 2015.

Due to an outbreak of EVD in the West African nations of Guinea and Sierra Leone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Level 3 Travel Warnings against non-essential travel and urged travelers to practice enhanced precautions for avoidance of contact with ill individuals. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Liberia to be free from EVD transmission on May 9. The Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website prominently features an Ebola Fact Sheet and links to the CDC Health Travel Warnings, Travel Alert, and general guidance about Ebola.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC have also published and provided interim guidance to public health authorities, airlines, and other partners in West Africa for evaluating risk of exposure of persons coming from countries affected by EVD. Travelers should consult the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website for the most up-to-date information regarding enhanced screening procedures at five U.S. airports (Newark, New York JFK, O’Hare, Atlanta, and Dulles) for all people entering the United States from or who have traveled through the Ebola-affected countries. Travelers who exhibit symptoms indicative of possible Ebola infection may be prevented from boarding and restricted from traveling for the 21-day period. Moreover, CDC’s guidelines outline the minimum recommended procedures, and state and local governments have the power to implement more stringent procedures. Please note neither the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs nor the U.S. Embassy have authority over quarantine issues and cannot prevent a U.S. citizen from being quarantined should local health authorities overseas, or in the United States, require it. For questions about quarantine, please visit the CDC website that addresses quarantine and isolation issues.

Medical evacuation from Ebola-affected countries is very difficult, even for non-Ebola illnesses. The cost for a medical evacuation flight can exceed $150,000. We encourage U.S. citizens travelling to Ebola-affected countries to purchase travel insurance and ensure this insurance includes medical evacuation for EVD. Policy holders should confirm the availability of medical care and evacuation services at their travel destinations prior to travel.

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

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

  • See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. If you do not have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook

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

Colombia Travel Warning

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens about the security situation in Colombia.

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Colombia each year for tourism, business, university studies, and volunteer work. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Bogota, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medellin, and Cali.  However, violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural and urban areas. This Travel Warning replaces the previous travel warning released on April 14, 2014, with minor changes to the travel restrictions for U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia.  It was reviewed on June 5, 2015 with no changes.

There have been no reports of U.S. citizens targeted specifically for their nationality. While the U.S. Embassy has no information regarding specific and credible threats against U.S. citizens in Colombia, both the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) terrorist groups continue to condemn any U.S. influence in Colombia.  The Department of State strongly encourages U.S. citizens to exercise caution and remain vigilant as terrorist and criminal activities remain a threat throughout the country. Explosions occur throughout Colombia on a regular basis, including in Bogota. Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can be extremely dangerous due to the presence of terrorists and  criminal elements, including armed gangs (referred to as "BACRIM" in Spanish), that are active throughout much of the country. Violence associated with the BACRIM has spilled over into many of Colombia's major cities. These groups are heavily involved in the drug trade, extortion, kidnapping, and robbery.

The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak in 2000.  However, kidnapping remains a threat. Terrorist groups and other criminal organizations continue to kidnap and hold civilians, including foreigners, for ransom.  No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors.  The U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, but it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to kidnappers.

U.S. government officials in Colombia regularly travel to the major cities of Colombia such as Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, and Cartagena without incident. U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia normally are permitted to travel to major cities only by air. They may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night. U.S. government officials in Colombia and their families are restricted to traveling within certain areas. This includes using the main highways to travel between Bogota and Bucaramanga, and between Bogota and Ibague. Personnel are also allowed to drive between Manizales, Pereira, and Armenia and within the “coffee country” departments of Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío. On the Caribbean coast, personnel are restricted to driving along Highway 90 from Cartagena, through Barranquilla to Santa Marta.  Travel to all other areas of Colombia is off limits unless specific authorization is granted.  All U.S. citizens in Colombia are urged to follow these precautions and exercise extra caution outside of the aforementioned areas.

For more detailed information on staying safe in Colombia, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information for Colombia. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs' internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel 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 living or traveling in Colombia are encouraged to enroll with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to obtain updated information on travel and security within Colombia. For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Colombia, please contact the U.S. Embassy or the closest U.S. Consulate as listed below.

The U.S. Embassy is located at Calle 24 Bis No. 48-50 Bogota, D.C., Colombia. Mailing address: Carrera 45 No. 24B-27 Bogota, D.C., Colombia. In case of a serious emergency that jeopardizes the health or safety of a U.S. citizen in Colombia, please call the Embassy at (+57-1) 275-2000; Embassy fax: (+57-1) 275-4501; Consular Section phone: (+57-1) 275-4900. The Embassy's American Citizens Services office provides routine information at http://bogota.usembassy.gov. For questions not answered there, inquiries may be sent by email to ACSBogota@state.gov.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which accepts passport applications and performs notarial services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (+57-5) 353-2001/353-2182/369-0149. In case of an emergency in the Barranquilla/North Coast area, please contact the Embassy in Bogota at (+57-1) 275-2000 which will forward the call to our Consular Agent.

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

2015 Hurricane and Typhoon Season

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the Hurricane and Typhoon Seasons in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane and Typhoon Season will last through November 2015, though most tropical cyclones typically develop between May and October.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends that those in hurricane- and typhoon-prone regions begin preparations for the upcoming seasons now.  This Travel Alert expires on December 1, 2015.

The Atlantic Basin, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea:  Hurricane Season in the Atlantic began June 1.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center expects to see a near-normal or below-normal hurricane season this year with a 70 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 20 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.  NOAA predicts a likely development of El Nino during the summer or early fall and a 70 percent chance of 6 to 11 named storms, which includes TS Ana that formed in May.  Of those, three to six storms are predicted to strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher) and one to two are expected to become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).  NOAA recommends that those in hurricane-prone regions begin preparations for the upcoming season now.

The Eastern Pacific:  Hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific began on May 15.  NOAA expects a near- or above-normal season, with a 70 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 5 percent chance of a below normal season.  NOAA predicts a 70 percent chance of 15 to 22 named storms, of which seven to twelve are expected to become hurricane strength.  Of those, five to eight are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).   

Western and Central Pacific:  Typhoon season in the Western and Central Pacific began on June 1. NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) predicts a 70 percent change of an above normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 5 percent chance of a below-normal season.  CPHC expects five to eight tropical cyclones to affect the central Pacific this season.  For information on typhoon warnings, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu, the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center, and the Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (RSMC) Tokyo - Typhoon Center.

During and after some previous storms, U.S. citizens traveling abroad encountered dangerous and often uncomfortable conditions that lasted for several days while awaiting transportation back to the United States.  In the past, many U.S. citizens were forced to delay travel (including return travel to the United States) due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability.  Roads were also washed out or obstructed by debris, adversely affecting access to airports and land routes out of affected areas.  Reports of looting and sporadic violence in the aftermath of natural disasters have occurred.  Security personnel may not always be readily available to assist.  In the event of a hurricane, travelers should be aware that they may not be able to depart the area for 24-48 hours or longer.

If you live in or travel to these areas during the hurricane or typhoon season, we recommend you obtain travel insurance to cover unexpected expenses during an emergency.  If a situation requires an evacuation from an overseas location, the U.S. Department of State may work with commercial airlines to ensure that U.S. citizens can depart as safely and efficiently as possible.  Commercial airlines are the Department's primary source of transportation in an evacuation; other means of transport are utilized only as a last resort, are often more expensive, and will provide you with fewer destination options.  U.S. law requires that any evacuation costs are your responsibility.  For those in financial need, the U.S. Department of State has the authority to provide crisis evacuation and repatriation loans.  For more information, please visit the Emergencies Abroad page on our website.   

If you live in or are traveling to storm-prone regions, prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms by organizing a kit in a waterproof container that includes a supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, any medications taken regularly, and vital documents (especially your passport and other identification).  Emergency shelters often provide only very basic resources and may have limited medical and food supplies.  NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have additional tips on their websites.

Monitor local radio, local media, and the National Weather Service to be aware of weather developments.  Minor tropical storms can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation.  Inform family and friends of your whereabouts and remain in close contact with your tour operator, hotel staff, transportation providers (airlines, cruise lines, etc.), and local officials for evacuation instructions during a weather emergency.

We strongly encourage U.S. citizens to enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  By enrolling, you will receive the most recent security and safety updates during your trip.  Enrollment also ensures that you can be reached during an emergency.  While we will do our utmost to assist you in a crisis, be aware that local authorities bear primary responsibility for the welfare of people living or traveling in their jurisdictions.

Additional information on hurricanes and storm preparedness can be found on the Department’s "Hurricane Season - Know Before You Go" webpage. You can get updated information on travel to your destination from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada or, from outside the United States and Canada, 1-202-501-4444. We also encourage you to check the Country Specific Information and the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate with consular responsibilities for the territory you will be visiting. Follow us on Twitter and become a fan of the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ page on Facebook as well.

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

Lebanon Travel Warning

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

U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept the risks of remaining in the country and should carefully consider those risks.  In the past two years, two U.S. citizens have died in bombings, and two have been kidnapped, according to information available to the U.S. government.  This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on November 26, 2014.

In August 2014, extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusrah Front (ANF) attacked the Lebanese military in the Bekaa valley town of Arsal, along the border with Syria.  There have been episodic clashes between the Lebanese army and Syrian-based extremists along the border with Syria since August 2014.  U.S. citizens in Lebanon should monitor ongoing political and security developments in both Lebanon and Syria.  There have also been incidents of cross-border shelling and air strikes of Lebanese villages from Syria, which resulted in deaths and injuries.  There have been 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 strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Lebanese-Syrian border region.

There are border tensions to the south with Israel as well.  In January 2015, hostilities between Israel and Hizballah flared in the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms area, and the potential for wider conflict remains.  South of the Litani River, Hizballah has stockpiled large amounts of munitions in anticipation of a future conflict with Israel.  In addition, during the summer of 2014 there were sporadic rocket attacks from southern Lebanon into Israel 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 Israeli military response in the form of artillery fire.  The rocket attacks and responses can occur without 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 since 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.

Sudden outbreaks of violence can occur at any time in Lebanon, and armed clashes have occurred in major cities.  After the implementation of the security plan in Tripoli, the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen remain tense.  Two suicide bombers struck a café in Jabal Mohsen in January 2015, causing dozens of casualties.  Armed clashes have resulted in numerous deaths and injuries in the past, and there are potentially large numbers of weapons in the hands of non-governmental elements.  The Lebanese Armed Forces are routinely brought in to quell the violence in these situations.  The Lebanese government cannot guarantee protection for U.S. citizens or visitors to the country in the event violence occurs suddenly.  Public demonstrations occur 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.  U.S. citizens have died in such incidents.  The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services is severely limited.  Protesters have blocked major roads to gain publicity for their causes, including the primary road between downtown Beirut and Rafiq Hariri International Airport temporarily without warning.  Access to the airport may be cut off if the security situation deteriorates.

Extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including Hizballah, ISIL, ANF, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB).  The U.S. government has designated all of these groups as terrorist organizations. ISIL and ANF have claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Lebanon, and these groups are active in northern 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.  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.

There is potential for death or injury in Lebanon because of terrorist bombings.  Many of the attacks have targeted specific individuals or venues, but nearly all cases have resulted in death and injuries to innocent bystanders.  Although there is no evidence that these attacks were directed specifically at U.S. citizens, there is a real possibility of “wrong place, wrong time” harm.  The last wave of bombings in Beirut began in June 2013 and ended in mid-2014 with hundreds of dead and injured, including at least two U.S. citizens killed.  The security services have made great progress in improving their capacity to detect and intercept terrorist attacks, resulting in a marked decline in suicide and car bombs, but many extremist groups remain actively engaged in planning attacks.  These regularly involve suicide bombers, many of whom have detonated their vests or vehicles short of their targets.

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.

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

Kidnapping, whether for ransom or political motives, remains a problem in Lebanon, and U.S. citizens have been victims of such acts in recent years.  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.  The U.S. government’s ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is very limited.  Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy to not make concessions to hostage takers.  U.S. law also makes it illegal to provide material support to terrorist organizations.

The U.S. Department of State wishes to warn U.S. citizens of the risk of traveling on airlines that fly over Syria.  As we have seen in the recent past, commercial aircraft are at risk when flying over regions in conflict.  We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens considering air travel overseas evaluate the route that their proposed commercial flight may take and avoid any that pass through Syrian airspace.  U.S. government personnel in Lebanon have been prohibited from taking flights that pass through Syrian airspace.  Flight paths are subject to change, so travelers should check with their airline to verify their flight’s route before traveling.

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, Tripoli, 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.

In the event that the security climate in Lebanon 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 State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), on 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 at BeirutACS@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 for Lebanon.  Travelers 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)

Afghanistan Travel Warning

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

The security situation in Afghanistan is extremely unstable, and the threat to all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan remains critical.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued on September 5, 2014.

The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Afghanistan), U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and foreign interests. Attacks may target official government convoys and compounds, including Afghan and U.S. government facilities, foreign embassies and military installations, as well as restaurants, hotels, airports, non-governmental organization (NGO) offices, international organizations, religious institutions, educational centers, foreign guest houses, and other commercial entities.

Extremists associated with various Taliban networks and members of other armed opposition groups are active in every province of the country.  Despite numerous security operations and checkpoints by Afghan and coalition forces in and around the capital, Kabul is at high risk for militant attacks, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED), direct and indirect fire, and suicide bombings. The same risks also exist in other major cities in Afghanistan, including Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Kandahar. A strong possibility for hostile acts exists throughout the country at all times, either targeted or random, against both U.S. and other foreign nationals. An ongoing risk of kidnapping exists throughout Afghanistan.  Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to ongoing military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IED). 

Militant attacks throughout the country continue, with many of these attacks specifically targeting U.S. and other foreign citizens and entities. On May 17, 2015, a suicide bomber used a VBIED in Kabul to attack a European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL) convoy, killing three including one British citizen. On May 13, 2015, an attack on the Park Palace Hotel killed 14 people including ten foreigners, one of whom was a U.S. citizen. In that incident, several other foreigners, including U.S. citizens, were held hostage at the hotel until the situation was resolved. On April 10, 2015, a suicide bomber used a VBIED to target a NATO military convoy in Jalalabad, killing four Afghan civilians nearby. On April 8, 2015, an Afghan soldier opened fire at the provincial governor’s compound in Jalalabad, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding eight others.  On February 26, 2015, an attack in Kabul on a Turkish diplomatic vehicle killed one Turkish national. Militants later claimed that their intended target was actually an American military convoy. On January 29, 2015, an Afghan soldier attacked four U.S.-citizen contractors at a military base connected to Kabul’s International Airport, killing three and seriously wounding one.

On December 11, 2014, a suicide-bombing at a French-funded school and cultural center in Kabul targeted foreigners and students attending a performance, killing one German national and wounding several others.  A lengthy assault on the Kabul headquarters of a U.S.-based NGO and guesthouse on November 29, 2014, resulted in the deaths of the South African head of the organization and his two children, as well as a local Afghan employee.  On November 27, 2014, a suicide attack against a British government convoy in Kabul killed five people, including a British national, and wounded more than 30.  Later that day, militants conducted a separate attack in Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, a normally secure area comprising other foreign embassies, foreign guesthouses, and international agencies that is adjacent to the more secure zone housing the U.S. Embassy.  A November 24, 2014, bombing targeted a NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) convoy in Kabul, killing two U.S. soldiers.  A foreign security guard was killed in an October 26, 2014, attack against an international organization and guesthouse in Kabul’s diplomatic zone.  On October 13, 2014, a suicide bomber struck an ISAF convoy in Kabul, wounding three foreigners and killing one civilian.  Two U.S.-citizen military personnel, one additional foreign military official, and 13 civilians were killed in a September 16, 2014, attack carried out against an ISAF convoy.

On August 20, 2014, an assailant fatally stabbed a U.S. soldier near Kabul International Airport.  A lone gunman opened fire on a group of high-level military officers inspecting Marshal Fahim National Defense University on August 5, 2014, killing a U.S. two-star General and wounding twelve others, which included U.S. citizens. On July 22, 2014, a suicide bomber attacked a U.S. base near the Kabul International Airport, killing six guards and wounding ten.  On July 17, 2014, a group of insurgents detonated a VBIED and occupied a building north of Kabul International Airport, targeting the airport with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.  On April 24, 2014, an Afghan guard at Kabul’s Cure Hospital killed three U.S. doctors and wounded another U.S. doctor and nurse.  On March 28, 2014, four insurgents armed with small arms infiltrated and attacked the Serena Hotel, killing ten civilians including four foreigners, one of whom was a U.S. citizen. Also, on March 20, 2014, a suicide bomber and three insurgents attacked the compound of an international NGO, killing two Afghan citizens and wounding ten.

Riots and incidents of civil disturbance can occur in Afghanistan, often without warning.  U.S. citizens should avoid all rallies and demonstrations.  Protests intended as peaceful can become confrontational and escalate into violence at any point.  The size of these demonstrations has ranged from as small as 20 to as large as 3,000 people.  The issues that typically prompt demonstrations include grievances against the government and coalition forces, as well as spontaneous, public expressions of social, political, and ethnic tensions. 

U.S. citizens representing various foreign interests in property or contract disputes – a common problem for foreign companies doing business in Afghanistan – have reported that local parties to the disputes have threatened their lives or held them or their employees captive under extrajudicial conditions while awaiting payouts or intervention by local authorities.  U.S. citizens who find themselves in such situations should not assume that local law enforcement or the U.S. Embassy will assist them in resolving such disputes or intervene on their behalf with Afghan officials.

The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Afghanistan sufficiently critical to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions.  All locations outside the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. government facilities are considered off limits to Embassy personnel unless there is a compelling government interest in permitting such travel that outweighs the risk.  In addition, the internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be changed or adjusted at any time and without advance notice.  The Embassy will regularly restrict or prohibit movements by its personnel, often on short notice and for reasons such as terrorist attacks, security threats, or demonstrations.  Because of security concerns, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. Government employees and their family members is also restricted, and requires prior approval from the Department of State.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philippines Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago, certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao, and the southern Sulu Sea area.

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated November 20, 2014, and reflects continuing threats in those areas due to terrorist and insurgent activities.

U.S. citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there.

Based on a history of kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago, U.S. citizens should continue to exercise extreme caution if considering travel in the southern Sulu Sea region from the southern tip of Palawan, along the coast of Sabah, Malaysia and the islands of the Sulu Archipelago, up to Zamboanga City, Mindanao.

U.S. citizens should also continue to exercise extreme caution if traveling to certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao.  Separatist and terrorist groups continue to conduct bombings, kidnappings and attacks against civilians, political leaders, and Philippine security forces.  In particular, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces, where the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence.  There have been no recent reported terrorist threats or incidents within the Davao City or Surigao city limits.  There have been no reports of U.S. citizens in Mindanao targeted specifically for their nationality; however, general threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners throughout Mindanao remain a concern.

Although U.S. government officials in the Philippines travel to Mindanao for official business without incident, the Embassy has imposed a strict restriction on all but the most essential travel to the area, and Embassy employees must receive special authorization from Embassy security officials to travel to any location in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines enroll in the Department of State’s 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 the Philippines.  For additional information, refer to the Traveler's Checklist on the State Department’s website.

Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  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.

The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000.  The American Citizens Services (ACS) section's fax number is 63-2-301-2017, and you may reach the ACS Section by email at ACSinfoManila@state.gov.  The ACS Section's website includes consular information and the most recent messages to the U.S. citizen community in the Philippines.

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

Ethiopia Travel Alert

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Ethiopia of the upcoming elections scheduled for May 24, 2015.

U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution and remain abreast of the security situation throughout the electoral period. This Travel Alert expires on June 30, 2015.

The State Department recommends U.S. citizens maintain a high level of security awareness during the electoral period and avoid political rallies, polling centers, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind as instances of unrest can occur. Review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates. Although there have been no specific incidents of violence targeting U.S. citizens, U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution and stay current with media coverage of local events. Election results are scheduled to be announced June 22, 2015.

During previous elections, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) required all diplomats and international organization staff living in Addis Ababa to receive an official pass from the MFA if they planned to travel outside of Addis Ababa during the election season. While not in effect this election, the U.S. Embassy continues to urge U.S. citizens to be aware of election sensitivities. We especially recommend avoiding public polling stations on the day of the election, including schools and other public buildings. In Addis Ababa alone there will be nearly 1,600 polling stations – roughly one polling station for every kilometer.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Ethiopia enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at travel.state.gov. STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you do not have Internet access, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to enroll directly.

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

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa is located at Entoto Street, P.O. Box 1014. The Consular Section of the Embassy may be reached by telephone: +251-111-306000 or e-mail at consacs@state.gov, and is open Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. For after-hours emergencies, U.S. citizens should call +251-111-306911 or 011-130-6000 and ask to speak with the duty officer.

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