Category Archives: Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)

North Korea Travel Warning

The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Due to the serious and mounting risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. citizens, effective September 1, 2017, U.S. passports were invalidated for travel into, in, or through North Korea.  Persons who wish to travel to North Korea on a U.S. passport must obtain a special validation passport.  Information on how to apply for a passport with a special validation is available on the Department of State’s website.  Such validations are issued by the Department of State and are granted only under very limited circumstances.  Further, obtaining a special validation does not diminish the bearer’s risk of harassment, arrest, or long term detention as a result of traveling to the DPRK. This notice replaces the Travel Warning dated August 10, 2017 to update the Geographical Travel Restriction and the sections on Sanctions, and the Federal Aviation Administrations’ flight prohibition.

North Korean authorities have imposed unduly harsh sentences for actions that would not be considered crimes in the United States and have threatened U.S. citizen detainees with being treated in accordance with “wartime law of the DPRK.”  Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea.  Sweden serves as the protecting power for the United States in North Korea, providing limited emergency consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea.  The DPRK still routinely delays or denies consular access to U.S. citizens, even when requested by the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, and despite North Korea and the United States both being signatories to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

At least 16 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past ten years.  North Korean authorities have detained individuals who traveled independently and those who were part of organized tours.  Being a member of a group tour or using a tour guide has not prevented detention or arrest.  Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions in the DPRK have not been successful.

If you obtain a special validation and decide to enter North Korea, you should have no expectation of privacy.  All electronic and multimedia devices including USB drives, CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, Internet browsing histories, and cookies are subject to search for banned content.

If DPRK authorities permit you to keep your mobile phone when you enter the country, it will not function unless you use the DPRK mobile service, which will enable DPRK authorities to monitor your calls.  GPS-trackers and satellite phones are not allowed. 

Possession of any media, either physical or electronic, that is critical of the DPRK government or its leaders is considered a criminal act punishable by long-term detention in hard labor camps and heavy fines. 

In North Korea, the following – whether done knowingly or unknowingly – have been treated as crimes:

  • Showing disrespect to the country’s former leaders, Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il, or the country’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, including but not limited to tampering with or mishandling materials bearing their names or images;
  • Entering North Korea without proper travel documentation;
  • Possessing material that is in any way critical of the DPRK government;
  • Proselytizing or carrying out religious activities, including activities that may be construed as such, like leaving behind religious materials;
  • Engaging in unsanctioned political activities;
  • Traveling without authorization, even for short distances;
  • Having unauthorized interaction with the local population;
  • Exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor;
  • Taking unauthorized photographs;
  • Bringing pornography into the country;
  • Shopping at stores not designated for foreigners; and
  • Removing or tampering with political slogans and signs or pictures of political leaders.

Numerous foreigners have been held in North Korea for extended periods of time without being formally charged with a crime.  Detained foreigners have been questioned daily for several weeks without the presence of counsel and have been compelled to make public statements and take part in public trials.

The DPRK funnels revenue from a variety of sources to its nuclear and weapons programs, which it prioritizes above everything else, often at the expense of the well-being of its own people.  It is entirely possible that money spent by tourists in the DPRK goes to fund these programs.  We would urge all travelers, before travelling to the DPRK, to consider what they might be supporting.   

The DPRK remains one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world.  U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea should familiarize themselves with all applicable sanctions relating to the country, particularly U.S. sanctions.  To learn more about U.S. sanctions on the DPRK, see the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) page.

The Department of State remains deeply concerned about the DPRK’s ongoing, systematic, and widespread human rights violations.  To learn more about North Korea’s deplorable human rights situation, see the DPRK Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2016.

The United States and the United Nations Security Council have expressed grave concern regarding North Korea’s recent nuclear tests, ballistic missile launches, and other activities prohibited by United Nations Security Council Resolutions.  In response to North Korea’s actions, on September 11, the international community succeeded in achieving unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2375, including by China and Russia, which imposes the strongest sanctions on the DPRK to date.  UN Security Council statements from September 2017 are posted on the UN website.

As a result of concerns arising from unannounced missile launch activities and GPS navigation systems interference and/or disruption, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Prohibition and Advisory notice to U.S. airmen and operators,  Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 79 which prohibits U.S. civil aviation from flying in the Pyongyang Flight Information Region (FIR) west of 132 degrees east longitude, and the FAA has advised those flying in and around the Pyongyang (FIR)  east of 132 degrees east longitude to be aware of possible GPS interruptions.  On November 3, 2017, the FAA expanded its flight prohibition to include all operations in the Pyongyang (ZKKP) FIR East of 132 degrees East Longitude which were previously allowed under special Federal Aviation Regulation No. 79.  For more information, consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

For further information:

  • See the Department of State’s  travel website, travel.state.gov, for current Worldwide Cautions, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for North Korea.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important safety and security messages via email (though you may not have access to email while in North Korea).  Enrollment also makes it easier to locate you in case of an emergency.
  • U.S. citizens who plan to travel to North Korea are strongly encouraged to inform the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China by enrolling in STEP.  U.S. citizens residing in China can contact the U.S. Embassy directly.  The Embassy is located next to the Ladies’ Street (Nuren Jie) and Laitai Flower Market, near the Kempinski Hotel and Lufthansa Shopping Center on Tianze Road near the Liangmaqiao subway stop:

U.S. Embassy in Beijing
American Citizens Services Unit
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone:  (86-10) 8531-4000
Email:  BeijingACS@state.gov
Emergency after-hours number for U.S. citizens:  (86-10) 8531-4000

  • U.S. citizens who obtain a special validation to travel to North Korea are also strongly encouraged to contact the Embassy of Sweden by email prior to travel.  Please provide the Embassy of Sweden with your name, date of birth, dates of your trip, and emergency contact information: 

The Embassy of Sweden Pyongyang (U.S. Protecting Power in North Korea)
Munsu-Dong District
Pyongyang, DPRK
Telephone:  (850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
(850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (Deputy)
Telephone:  (850-2) 3817 908 (Amb.)
Facsimile:  (850-2) 3817 663
Email:  ambassaden.pyongyang@gov.se

If you provide information to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing or the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, officials will be able to locate you more easily in an emergency.  Take note of the contact details for the Swedish embassy in case of an emergency.

  • U.S. citizens can obtain current information on safety and security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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

North Korea Travel Warning

The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Due to the serious and mounting risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. citizens, effective September 1, 2017, U.S. passports were invalidated for travel into, in, or through North Korea.  Persons who wish to travel to North Korea on a U.S. passport must obtain a special validation passport.  Information on how to apply for a passport with a special validation is available on the Department of State’s website.  Such validations are issued by the Department of State and are granted only under very limited circumstances.  Further, obtaining a special validation does not diminish the bearer’s risk of harassment, arrest, or long term detention as a result of traveling to the DPRK. This notice replaces the Travel Warning dated August 10, 2017 to update the Geographical Travel Restriction and the sections on Sanctions, and the Federal Aviation Administrations’ flight prohibition.

North Korean authorities have imposed unduly harsh sentences for actions that would not be considered crimes in the United States and have threatened U.S. citizen detainees with being treated in accordance with “wartime law of the DPRK.”  Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea.  Sweden serves as the protecting power for the United States in North Korea, providing limited emergency consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea.  The DPRK still routinely delays or denies consular access to U.S. citizens, even when requested by the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, and despite North Korea and the United States both being signatories to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

At least 16 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past ten years.  North Korean authorities have detained individuals who traveled independently and those who were part of organized tours.  Being a member of a group tour or using a tour guide has not prevented detention or arrest.  Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions in the DPRK have not been successful.

If you obtain a special validation and decide to enter North Korea, you should have no expectation of privacy.  All electronic and multimedia devices including USB drives, CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, Internet browsing histories, and cookies are subject to search for banned content.

If DPRK authorities permit you to keep your mobile phone when you enter the country, it will not function unless you use the DPRK mobile service, which will enable DPRK authorities to monitor your calls.  GPS-trackers and satellite phones are not allowed. 

Possession of any media, either physical or electronic, that is critical of the DPRK government or its leaders is considered a criminal act punishable by long-term detention in hard labor camps and heavy fines. 

In North Korea, the following – whether done knowingly or unknowingly – have been treated as crimes:

  • Showing disrespect to the country’s former leaders, Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il, or the country’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, including but not limited to tampering with or mishandling materials bearing their names or images;
  • Entering North Korea without proper travel documentation;
  • Possessing material that is in any way critical of the DPRK government;
  • Proselytizing or carrying out religious activities, including activities that may be construed as such, like leaving behind religious materials;
  • Engaging in unsanctioned political activities;
  • Traveling without authorization, even for short distances;
  • Having unauthorized interaction with the local population;
  • Exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor;
  • Taking unauthorized photographs;
  • Bringing pornography into the country;
  • Shopping at stores not designated for foreigners; and
  • Removing or tampering with political slogans and signs or pictures of political leaders.

Numerous foreigners have been held in North Korea for extended periods of time without being formally charged with a crime.  Detained foreigners have been questioned daily for several weeks without the presence of counsel and have been compelled to make public statements and take part in public trials.

The DPRK funnels revenue from a variety of sources to its nuclear and weapons programs, which it prioritizes above everything else, often at the expense of the well-being of its own people.  It is entirely possible that money spent by tourists in the DPRK goes to fund these programs.  We would urge all travelers, before travelling to the DPRK, to consider what they might be supporting.   

The DPRK remains one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world.  U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea should familiarize themselves with all applicable sanctions relating to the country, particularly U.S. sanctions.  To learn more about U.S. sanctions on the DPRK, see the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) page.

The Department of State remains deeply concerned about the DPRK’s ongoing, systematic, and widespread human rights violations.  To learn more about North Korea’s deplorable human rights situation, see the DPRK Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2016.

The United States and the United Nations Security Council have expressed grave concern regarding North Korea’s recent nuclear tests, ballistic missile launches, and other activities prohibited by United Nations Security Council Resolutions.  In response to North Korea’s actions, on September 11, the international community succeeded in achieving unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2375, including by China and Russia, which imposes the strongest sanctions on the DPRK to date.  UN Security Council statements from September 2017 are posted on the UN website.

As a result of concerns arising from unannounced missile launch activities and GPS navigation systems interference and/or disruption, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Prohibition and Advisory notice to U.S. airmen and operators,  Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 79 which prohibits U.S. civil aviation from flying in the Pyongyang Flight Information Region (FIR) west of 132 degrees east longitude, and the FAA has advised those flying in and around the Pyongyang (FIR)  east of 132 degrees east longitude to be aware of possible GPS interruptions.  On November 3, 2017, the FAA expanded its flight prohibition to include all operations in the Pyongyang (ZKKP) FIR East of 132 degrees East Longitude which were previously allowed under special Federal Aviation Regulation No. 79.  For more information, consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

For further information:

  • See the Department of State’s  travel website, travel.state.gov, for current Worldwide Cautions, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for North Korea.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important safety and security messages via email (though you may not have access to email while in North Korea).  Enrollment also makes it easier to locate you in case of an emergency.
  • U.S. citizens who plan to travel to North Korea are strongly encouraged to inform the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China by enrolling in STEP.  U.S. citizens residing in China can contact the U.S. Embassy directly.  The Embassy is located next to the Ladies’ Street (Nuren Jie) and Laitai Flower Market, near the Kempinski Hotel and Lufthansa Shopping Center on Tianze Road near the Liangmaqiao subway stop:

U.S. Embassy in Beijing
American Citizens Services Unit
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone:  (86-10) 8531-4000
Email:  BeijingACS@state.gov
Emergency after-hours number for U.S. citizens:  (86-10) 8531-4000

  • U.S. citizens who obtain a special validation to travel to North Korea are also strongly encouraged to contact the Embassy of Sweden by email prior to travel.  Please provide the Embassy of Sweden with your name, date of birth, dates of your trip, and emergency contact information: 

The Embassy of Sweden Pyongyang (U.S. Protecting Power in North Korea)
Munsu-Dong District
Pyongyang, DPRK
Telephone:  (850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
(850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (Deputy)
Telephone:  (850-2) 3817 908 (Amb.)
Facsimile:  (850-2) 3817 663
Email:  ambassaden.pyongyang@gov.se

If you provide information to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing or the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, officials will be able to locate you more easily in an emergency.  Take note of the contact details for the Swedish embassy in case of an emergency.

  • U.S. citizens can obtain current information on safety and security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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Niger Travel Warning

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Niger due to terrorist activity, kidnappings, and high crime.

The Department recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel to Niger’s border regions, particularly the Malian border area, the Libyan border area, the Diffa region, and Lake Chad Basin area because of activity by various extremist groups including al-Qa’eda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham–Islamic State West Africa (ISIS-WA),  ISIS-Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), ISIS-Libya (ISIS-L), and Boko Haram. Due to security concerns and travel restrictions, the U.S. Embassy’s abilty to assist U.S. citizens in remote and rural areas is very limited. This replaces the Travel Warning dated April 11, 2017.

Terrorist organizations, armed groups, and smugglers operate in the areas bordering Mali, Libya, and throughout northern Niger. Mali-based extremist groups have crossed the border and carried out multiple lethal attacks on Nigerien security forces (FDS) and on U.S. forces assisting the FDS.

The government of Niger has maintained a state of emergency in the Diffa region since February 10, 2015, and a curfew has been in place in the Diffa region since December 2014. The Nigerien government declared a state of emergency on March 3, 2017, for seven departments of the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions bordering Mali after a spate of deadly attacks.

There is significant potential for violent crime outside Niamey, and armed criminals target travelers throughout the country. Outside the city of Niamey, all U.S. Embassy personnel are required to travel only during daylight hours in a minimum two-vehicle convoy and armed Nigerien government security escorts.

There is a high threat of kidnapping by various terrorist groups, who have kidnapped Westerners, including a U.S. citizen, and threatened U.S. citizens in Niger. As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations have suspended operations in Niger or withdrawn family members and/or staff.

For further information:

 


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

Niger Travel Warning

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Niger due to terrorist activity, kidnappings, and high crime.

The Department recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel to Niger’s border regions, particularly the Malian border area, the Libyan border area, the Diffa region, and Lake Chad Basin area because of activity by various extremist groups including al-Qa’eda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham–Islamic State West Africa (ISIS-WA),  ISIS-Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), ISIS-Libya (ISIS-L), and Boko Haram. Due to security concerns and travel restrictions, the U.S. Embassy’s abilty to assist U.S. citizens in remote and rural areas is very limited. This replaces the Travel Warning dated April 11, 2017.

Terrorist organizations, armed groups, and smugglers operate in the areas bordering Mali, Libya, and throughout northern Niger. Mali-based extremist groups have crossed the border and carried out multiple lethal attacks on Nigerien security forces (FDS) and on U.S. forces assisting the FDS.

The government of Niger has maintained a state of emergency in the Diffa region since February 10, 2015, and a curfew has been in place in the Diffa region since December 2014. The Nigerien government declared a state of emergency on March 3, 2017, for seven departments of the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions bordering Mali after a spate of deadly attacks.

There is significant potential for violent crime outside Niamey, and armed criminals target travelers throughout the country. Outside the city of Niamey, all U.S. Embassy personnel are required to travel only during daylight hours in a minimum two-vehicle convoy and armed Nigerien government security escorts.

There is a high threat of kidnapping by various terrorist groups, who have kidnapped Westerners, including a U.S. citizen, and threatened U.S. citizens in Niger. As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations have suspended operations in Niger or withdrawn family members and/or staff.

For further information:

 


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Venezuela Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Venezuela due to concerns regarding violent crime, pervasive food and medicine shortages, and social unrest.

Effective October 23, 2017, ordered departure of eligible family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and authorized departure of U.S. direct-hire government personnel was lifted, allowing U.S. government personnel and family members to return to Venezuela. This replaces the Travel Warning dated July 27, 2017.

All U.S. direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy movement policy that limits their travel within Caracas and many parts of the country. They are prohibited from traveling within 50 miles of the Venezuela/Colombia border without prior approval. Inter-city travel by car during hours of darkness (6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.) is strongly discouraged and in some cases may be prohibited. Travel outside the Embassy’s residential area by Embassy personnel after 9:00 p.m. is limited and must follow strict security requirements. U.S. government personnel must also request approval for travel more than 50 miles away from Caracas and/or overnight stays outside of Caracas. These security measures may limit the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide services.

The political and security situation in Venezuela is unpredictable and can change quickly. Protests and demonstrations occur with minimal public notice and, from April through August 2017, occurred daily and often turned violent. Security forces typically deployed a range of strong, and often excessive measures, including tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon, rubber bullets, birdshot, buckshot, and other live ammunition. Protests sometimes led to looting and vandalism. Armed, pro-government motorcycle gangs sometimes attacked and intimidated protesters. These clashes resulted in numerous serious injuries and deaths, including an estimated 160 killed between April and August. U.S. citizens have reported being arrested, detained, and robbed while in close proximity to protests.

Security forces have arrested individuals, including U.S. citizens, and detained them for long periods with little or no evidence of a crime. The U.S. Embassy may not be notified of the detention of a U.S. citizen and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed. The detained citizen may be denied access to proper medical care, clean water, and food.

Violence and criminal activity – including homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking – pose significant and continuing security concerns. Indiscriminate violent crime is endemic throughout the country and can occur anywhere at any time. There are reports of authorities (e.g., police, airport, immigration) and criminals posing as authorities participating in robbery and extortion. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active in the Colombian border states of Zulia, Tachira, and Apure.

The Simón Bolívar International Airport, in Maiquetía, is located in an extremely high-risk area for armed robbery and kidnappings. Do not take unregulated taxis from this airport and avoid ATMs in this area. Travel between the Simón Bolívar International Airport and Caracas only during daylight hours, as armed bandits frequently target night-time motorists along this route.

Due to shortages of medicine and medical supplies, U.S. citizens should be prepared to cover their own needs for over-the-counter and prescription medicines while in country. You should have medical evacuation plans in place that do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance. Comprehensive medical evacuation insurance is strongly advised for all travelers.

U.S. citizens may also be detained and/or deported by Venezuelan immigration officials for not complying with visa or immigration regulations. U.S. citizens traveling to Venezuela must have a valid visa that is appropriate for their specific type of travel (journalism, employment, study, etc.) or risk being detained or deported.  Journalists must possess the appropriate accreditation and work visa from the Venezuelan authorities before arriving. International journalists are closely scrutinized and have been expelled and/or detained for lacking appropriate permissions to work in Venezuela or for participation in what could be seen as anti-government activity, including observing and reporting on public health facilities.

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

Venezuela Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Venezuela due to concerns regarding violent crime, pervasive food and medicine shortages, and social unrest.

Effective October 23, 2017, ordered departure of eligible family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and authorized departure of U.S. direct-hire government personnel was lifted, allowing U.S. government personnel and family members to return to Venezuela. This replaces the Travel Warning dated July 27, 2017.

All U.S. direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy movement policy that limits their travel within Caracas and many parts of the country. They are prohibited from traveling within 50 miles of the Venezuela/Colombia border without prior approval. Inter-city travel by car during hours of darkness (6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.) is strongly discouraged and in some cases may be prohibited. Travel outside the Embassy’s residential area by Embassy personnel after 9:00 p.m. is limited and must follow strict security requirements. U.S. government personnel must also request approval for travel more than 50 miles away from Caracas and/or overnight stays outside of Caracas. These security measures may limit the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide services.

The political and security situation in Venezuela is unpredictable and can change quickly. Protests and demonstrations occur with minimal public notice and, from April through August 2017, occurred daily and often turned violent. Security forces typically deployed a range of strong, and often excessive measures, including tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon, rubber bullets, birdshot, buckshot, and other live ammunition. Protests sometimes led to looting and vandalism. Armed, pro-government motorcycle gangs sometimes attacked and intimidated protesters. These clashes resulted in numerous serious injuries and deaths, including an estimated 160 killed between April and August. U.S. citizens have reported being arrested, detained, and robbed while in close proximity to protests.

Security forces have arrested individuals, including U.S. citizens, and detained them for long periods with little or no evidence of a crime. The U.S. Embassy may not be notified of the detention of a U.S. citizen and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed. The detained citizen may be denied access to proper medical care, clean water, and food.

Violence and criminal activity – including homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking – pose significant and continuing security concerns. Indiscriminate violent crime is endemic throughout the country and can occur anywhere at any time. There are reports of authorities (e.g., police, airport, immigration) and criminals posing as authorities participating in robbery and extortion. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active in the Colombian border states of Zulia, Tachira, and Apure.

The Simón Bolívar International Airport, in Maiquetía, is located in an extremely high-risk area for armed robbery and kidnappings. Do not take unregulated taxis from this airport and avoid ATMs in this area. Travel between the Simón Bolívar International Airport and Caracas only during daylight hours, as armed bandits frequently target night-time motorists along this route.

Due to shortages of medicine and medical supplies, U.S. citizens should be prepared to cover their own needs for over-the-counter and prescription medicines while in country. You should have medical evacuation plans in place that do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance. Comprehensive medical evacuation insurance is strongly advised for all travelers.

U.S. citizens may also be detained and/or deported by Venezuelan immigration officials for not complying with visa or immigration regulations. U.S. citizens traveling to Venezuela must have a valid visa that is appropriate for their specific type of travel (journalism, employment, study, etc.) or risk being detained or deported.  Journalists must possess the appropriate accreditation and work visa from the Venezuelan authorities before arriving. International journalists are closely scrutinized and have been expelled and/or detained for lacking appropriate permissions to work in Venezuela or for participation in what could be seen as anti-government activity, including observing and reporting on public health facilities.

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

Sudan Travel Warning

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Sudan.

U.S. citizens should avoid all travel to the Darfur states, Blue Nile state, and Southern Kordofan state and consider carefully before planning travel to other areas of Sudan due to the risks of terrorism, armed conflict, and violent crime. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide services outside of Khartoum is extremely limited. This replaces the Travel Warning issued on March 30, 2017.

Terrorist groups are present in Sudan and have stated their intent to harm Westerners and Western interests through suicide operations, bombings, shootings, and kidnappings. Violent crimes targeting Westerners, including kidnappings, armed robberies, home invasions, and carjacking can occur anywhere in Sudan, but are particularly prevalent in the Darfur states. Several aid workers and private citizens have been kidnapped and held hostage for ransom in the Darfur states over the last year.

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Sudan should be vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times, especially when at public gatherings and locations frequented by foreigners. Exercise extreme caution, monitor reliable news sources for information on the local security situation, and follow the instructions of local authorities. All U.S. citizens in Sudan should periodically assess their personal security and have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.

Despite a significant reduction in the past year in military conflict between the Government of Sudan and opposition forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, tensions in the Darfur states, along the border between Chad and Sudan, and in areas that border South Sudan, including the disputed area of Abyei‎ remain high and violence continues. In addition to risking injury or death, U.S. citizens who go to these areas without the permission of the Sudanese government may be detained by security forces.

The U.S. Embassy requires U.S. government personnel in Sudan to use armored vehicles for official travel, and prohibits most travel outside of Khartoum without advance permission and extra security precautions. Family members of U.S. government employees assigned to Sudan must be at least 21 years old in order to live there.

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Syria Travel Warning

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable.

Violent conflict between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country. There is a serious risk for kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism. This replaces the Travel Warning dated March 22, 2017. 

No part of Syria is safe from violence. Small arms fire, improvised explosives, artillery shelling, airstrikes, kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, and the use of chemical weapons transpire with little or no warning, significantly raising the risk of death or serious injury. While there have been internationally supported efforts to de-escalate the conflict, violence still persists in many parts of the country. The Syrian government has demonstrated reluctance to comply with ceasefire agreements in East Ghouta, Homs, and Idlib. In addition, Russian and/or Syrian forces continue to conduct airstrikes in Idlib province, which have recently resulted in dozens of civilian casualties and the death of medical personnel. Moreover, the Syrian government and its partners continue to prohibit the free flow of humanitarian aid into besieged areas, resulting in severe food shortages.

Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and al-Qa’ida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (dominated by al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization), operate in Syria. In July 2017, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham consolidated power in Idlib province after it clashed with other armed actors. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham control over Idlib threatens the ability of NGOs and states to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrians residing in Idlib. Moreover, Russia and/or the Syrian government initiated airstrikes in Idlib in September, which resulted in significant damage to medical facilities and dozens of civilian casualties. Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons. They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr provinces. These groups have murdered and kidnapped U.S. citizens, both for ransom and political purposes; in some instances U.S. citizens have disappeared within Syria. Because of the security situation in Syria, the U.S. government’s ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is very limited.

The U.S. government particularly warns private U.S. citizens against traveling to Syria to engage in armed conflict. U.S. citizens who undertake such activity face extreme personal risks, including kidnapping, injury, or death. The U.S. government does not support this activity, and our ability to provide consular assistance to individuals who are injured or kidnapped, or to the families of individuals who die in the conflict, is extremely limited. Individuals who demonstrate an interest in groups opposing ISIS, including on social media, could open themselves to being targeted by ISIS itself, especially if those individuals travel to Syria.

Fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of support to designated terrorist organizations, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusrah (also known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), can constitute the provision of material support for terrorism, which is a crime under U.S. law that can result in penalties including prison time and large fines.

The destruction of infrastructure, housing, medical facilities, schools, and power and water utilities has also increased hardships inside the country. Communications in Syria are difficult as phone and internet connections are unreliable. U.S. citizens have reported facing dangers traveling within the country and when trying to leave Syria via land borders, given the diminishing availability of commercial air travel out of Syria. Opposition-held land border checkpoints should not be considered safe, as they are targeted by regime attacks and some armed groups have sought funding through kidnappings for ransom. Border areas are frequent targets of shelling and other attacks and are crowded because of internally-displaced refugees. Errant attacks will occasionally hit border towns just outside the borders as well. Road checkpoints controlled by armed terrorist and violent extremist groups have been utilized to conduct kidnappings, including of U.S. citizens.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits U.S. civil aviation from flying in the Damascus Flight Information Region (FIR) because of the ongoing armed conflict and volatile security environment. This FIR includes all the airspace over Syria and extends into adjacent international airspace. In addition, U.S. government personnel in Lebanon are prohibited from taking flights that pass through the Damascus FIR. A number of armed extremist groups are known to be equipped with a variety of antiaircraft weapons that have the capability to threaten civil aircraft. For additional background information regarding FAA flight prohibitions and advisories for U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in February 2012 and cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Syria. The Government of the Czech Republic, acting through its Embassy in Damascus, serves as the Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria. The range of consular services the Czech Republic provides to U.S. citizens is extremely limited, and those services, including U.S. passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. embassies or consulates outside Syria. U.S. citizens in Syria who seek consular services should try to quickly and safely leave the country and contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in a neighboring country, if at all possible.  U.S. citizens who are unable to safely leave Syria and require consular services may contact the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Damascus at USIS_damascus@embassy.mzv.cz.

U.S. citizens in Syria who are in need of emergency assistance and are unable to reach the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic, or must make contact outside business hours, should contact the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan:

Telephone: +962 (6) 590-6950 (Daily 2-3:30 local time)
Emergencies: +962 (6) 590-6500
E-mail: Amman-ACS@state.gov

For additional information about U.S. citizens’ services in Syria from the Office of Overseas Citizens’ Services in Washington, e-mail: SyriaEmergencyUSC@state.gov.

For information on “What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis,” please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Emergencies and Crisis link at Travel.State.Gov. 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).

For additional information:


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Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because of ongoing instability and sporadic violence in many parts of the country. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout… Continue reading

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Mauritania Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to far eastern Mauritania due to the activities of terrorist groups active in the neighboring regions of Mali, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and those which pose a threat in the greater Sub-Saharan region, such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS).

The U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott is able to provide only very limited consular services in remote and rural areas of Mauritania.  This replaces the Travel Warning of March 22, 2017.

The government of Mauritania has designated the following areas as a restricted Security Zone, and you must have permission from Mauritanian authorities to travel there: 

  • The eastern half of the Tagant region (east of Tidjikja)
  • The eastern half of the Adrar region (east of Ouadane)
  • The Zemmour region (other than F’Derick and Zouerat)

Additionally, there is a risk of kidnapping and other violent crime in the Hodh El Charghi region near the southern and eastern border with Mali.  Aside from the security risks, these areas are dangerous due to their remoteness and harsh environments.  

ISIS, AQIM, and al-Murabitun terrorist organizations and affiliates have declared their intention to attack foreign targets in North and West Africa, particularly the Sahel region south of the Sahara.  AQIM and related groups launched a series of attacks in Mauritania between 2005 and 2011, murdering foreign tourists and aid workers, attacking diplomatic and government facilities, and ambushing Mauritanian soldiers and gendarmes.  Christian faith-based organizations operating in Mauritania, or individuals perceived to be proselytizing, may be targeted. 

U.S. Embassy personnel are not allowed to travel outside Nouakchott unless specifically authorized, and, if authorized, they must travel only during daylight hours.  Due to an increase in criminal activity, the Embassy has directed its official staff not to walk to, or from, work; to avoid walking whenever possible; and not to walk alone.  Consider these restrictions carefully and review your personal security plans periodically if you are in Mauritania or planning to go there. 

For further information:                                                    

  • See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Mauritania 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. 
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Mauritania  located between the Presidency and the Spanish Embassy, at + 222 4525-2660, 4525-1145, or 4525-3038, 8:00a.m – 5:00p.m. Monday – Thursday, and 8:00am – 12:00pm on Friday. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is (222) 4525-3288.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
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Posted in Travel Warnings (U.S. Dept of State)