Where to look for advice on travel safety
Seattle Times travel writer
The U.S. State Department (www.travel.state.gov) publishes three kinds of reports: travel warnings, travel advisories (public announcements) and consular-information sheets that include basic travel information on every country.
Warnings are issued when the government decides Americans should avoid travel in a certain country. There are currently 28 countries on the list, including Israel, Kenya, Colombia, Indonesia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The reports are periodically updated, and the advice sometimes stops short of telling citizens not to go.
With Israel, for instance, the government urges Americans to "carefully weigh the necessity of their travel." In Kenya, it urges visitors to "consider carefully the risks," in light of continuing terrorist threats.
Public announcements are advisories that alert travelers to short-term risks in a particular country. These advisories have an expiration date, but they can be renewed, depending on the situation.
The State Department last week renewed a public announcement issued in April warning Americans of violence in Mexico, especially along the border. U.S. ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza defended the advisory, the third he has requested this year. He said more than 100 violent deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border since June and the killings of 18 policemen convinced him the warning was still necessary.
Consular-information sheets are reports that include basic information about visas, crime, security, drug penalties, etc. The advice, especially when it comes to crime, is usually specific and detailed, but generally the reports steer clear of offering advice on whether or not to defer travel to a particular destination.
For advice about what other governments are telling their citizens, consult the Web sites for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (www.smartraveller.gov.au); the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (www.voyage.gc.ca); and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (www.mft.govt.nz/travel).
Links to reports from these countries and others is at www.nationsonline.org. Advice from private sources is also worth considering.
iJet Intelligent Risk Systems, a Maryland-based travel-risk-management company, publishes reports on 282 cities and 183 countries with information on security, transportation, health risks and tourist scams.
For $25 per trip, iJET (www.ijet.com) provides customized intelligence reports and monitors a traveler's itinerary around-the-clock, sending e-mail or cellphone alerts with recommendations to help circumvent potential difficulties. Call 877-606-4538 for information.
It also sells destination reports, updated weekly, for $14.95 downloadable on www.amazon.com.
Also helpful are travelers' postings on Internet bulletin boards (see http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com, www.ricksteves.com, www.bootsnall.com) and reports in foreign newspapers. English-language versions are available online. See www.newsdirectory.com for a list.
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