US State Department Travel Warnings – International Alerts and Warnings

Updated on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Travel Warnings are issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government’s ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.

Latest Warnings

  1. Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel Warning
  2. Ukraine Travel Warning
  3. Chad Travel Warning
  4. Colombia Travel Warning
  5. Sudan Travel Warning
  6. Kenya Travel Warning
  7. Burundi Travel Warning
  8. Niger Travel Warning
  9. Mali Travel Warning
  10. Mauritania Travel Warning
  11. Haiti Travel Warning
  12. Iraq Travel Warning
  13. Afghanistan Travel Warning
  14. Saudi Arabia Travel Warning
  15. Somalia Travel Warning
  16. Algeria Travel Warning
  17. Pakistan Travel Warning
  18. Israel, The West Bank and Gaza Travel Warning
  19. Lebanon Travel Warning
  20. Yemen Travel Warning
  21. Philippines Travel Warning
  22. Mexico Travel Warning
  23. Nigeria Travel Warning
  24. Republic of South Sudan Travel Warning
  25. Honduras Travel Warning
  26. Libya Travel Warning
  27. Venezuela Travel Warning
  28. Iran Travel Warning
  29. North Korea Travel Warning
  30. Eritrea Travel Warning
  31. Central African Republic Travel Warning
  32. Syria Travel Warning
  33. El Salvador Travel Warning

1. Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel Warning

Posted on 23 April 2014 | 6:31 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) (DRC).

The Department recommends U.S. citizens avoid all but essential travel to the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu and the Ituri region in the province of Orientale.  With ongoing instability and violence in North and South Kivu, northeastern Orientale, and northern and central Katanga province, the Department's ability to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in these regions of the DRC is extremely limited.  This replaces the Travel Warning dated October 24, 2013, to update information on security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Armed groups, bandits, and elements of the Congolese military remain security concerns in eastern DRC.  These armed groups, primarily located in the North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale provinces, as well as the northern and central parts of Katanga province, and the eastern part of Maniema province, are known to pillage, steal vehicles, kidnap, rape, kill, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians are indiscriminately targeted.  The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is present near the border with Uganda, Central African Republic, and the Republic of South Sudan.  The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) continues to assist the Congolese government with the protection of civilians and efforts to combat armed groups.

Violent clashes in North and South Kivu have resulted in significant displacements of civilians since September 2010.  In April 2012, members of a rebel group that previously had been integrated into the Congolese military mutinied and heavy fighting occurred in Masisi and Rutshuru territories as well as in Virunga National Park.  In November 2012, members of this group captured several towns north of Goma and Goma itself, the provincial capital of North Kivu province.  Although the rebels withdrew from Goma in December 2012, and were eventually defeated by DRC military forces supported by a MONUSCO intervention brigade in November 2013, instability in the eastern DRC persists due to ongoing military operations and the presence of numerous militias and armed groups.  Hundreds of people have been killed or injured as a result of the clashes, and tens of thousands more have been internally displaced.  Moreover, violence among foreign and Congolese rebel groups present in the northern part of North Kivu, and former Rwandan militants in the southern part of the province and throughout South Kivu, pose a serious and significant risk to travelers in the region.  This fighting underscores the persistent insecurity arising from activities of rebel and other armed groups operating in the Kivu region, which contribute to the overall high risks and dangers associated with travel to eastern Congo.  Travel to North and South Kivu and the Ituri region of Orientale province by Embassy personnel is currently restricted to essential business only.

Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly disciplined security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country.  Requests for bribes in such instances are extremely common, and security forces have occasionally injured or killed people who refused to pay.  In the past year, several U.S. citizens were illegally detained by government forces, or were robbed of their valuables while being searched.  Very poor infrastructure (road and air) makes the provision of consular services difficult outside of Kinshasa.

The Embassy has received many reports of robberies and banditry in Goma after dark.  In most such cases, the robbers have stopped cars and stolen money and other valuables.  The poor condition of the roads, along with widespread new road construction around the city, contribute to the banditry problem, as traffic is either bottlenecked on the main road, or forced to travel on secondary roads with even worse conditions.  The Department strongly urges travelers who must go to Goma not to travel after dark.

Kinshasa has a critical crime threat level, and U.S. citizens continue to be the victims of serious crimes, including armed robbery by groups posing as law enforcement officials in both urban and rural areas, especially after nightfall.  Avoid walking alone and displaying cash and other personal property of value. 

Avoid taking photos in public, especially of government buildings and the airport (which are viewed as places of national security), police stations, the presidential palace, border crossings, and along the river, since doing so may lead to arrest.

Lock vehicle doors and keep windows closed when driving.  You should not stop at the scene of an accident or at intersections where people have gathered, as mobs can develop quickly.  In areas where the roads are in poor condition and the speed limit is minimal, be wary of gangs of street children who may approach your car, open your door, and steal your belongings.  Roadblocks are often found throughout the country, especially near government buildings and installations in Kinshasa, and should be avoided when possible.  If stopped at a roadblock, keep doors locked and crack the window in order to communicate.

Official Congolese motorcades pose hazards to motorists and pedestrians.  Drivers should pull over to the far side of the road when sirens or security forces announce their presence.  You should not take photographs of motorcades.  Proceed only when security forces permit you to do so.

There is no reliable public transportation system in the DRC.  Overcrowded vans and taxis, which often do not meet western safety standards, serve as public transportation in Kinshasa.  Few independent taxis are available, operating largely out of the big hotels, and most do not meet safety standards.  You should avoid all travel by public transportation, and hire private transport from a reliable source.

The DRC has few viable roads or railways, but does have several major waterways.  Boat transport is widely used; however, the vessels are often overloaded and/or poorly maintained, and accidents are commonplace and often fatal.

Public health concerns pose a hazard to U.S. citizen travelers due to outbreaks of deadly viruses and other diseases, which can occur without warning and often without swift reporting by local health authorities.  Information on personal protection for international travelers, including children, can be found on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.  Travelers are required to carry evidence of yellow fever vaccination in order to enter the DRC.  Health officials at entry points, such as the airport in Kinshasa, will check for proof of vaccination.  If you do not have evidence of a yellow fever vaccination, you may be denied entry or required to pay a fine.  Malaria is common throughout the DRC and prophylaxis is recommended.  Please consult with your healthcare provider for more information and advice on prophylaxis.

Due to the recent outbreak of measles in the DRC, you should update your measles vaccination, if necessary, and refer to the CDC for additional guidance.  Due to the high levels of air borne irritants (i.e., dust, burning trash, debris, etc.) individuals with respiratory illnesses should carry all their necessary medications and equipment with adapters.

There is a high risk of traveler's diarrhea and cholera throughout the country.  You can reduce this risk by using good judgment when choosing what food to eat and water to drink.  When in restaurants, you should ask for bottled water and avoid ice.

Due to the immense size of the country, the density of the Congo River rainforest, the terrible state of the roads, and the poor security situation, the only way to get around the country quickly is by plane.  However, domestic air travel on Congolese or other local airlines in the DRC is not recommended.  There have been several recent incidents causing deaths and injuries, including one on August 25, 2010, that killed all but one passenger.  In April 2011, a United Nations operated flight crashed while landing in Kinshasa, killing 32 passengers and crew.  In July 2011, a Boeing 737 crashed in Kisangani, killing more than 70 passengers.  In March 2013, a domestic airline flight crashed in Goma, killing five crewmembers and passengers.  Crashes of private aircraft are even more common.  The U.S. Embassy has prohibited official travel by U.S. government employees and certain contractors on most airlines flying domestic routes in the DRC due to safety and maintenance concerns.  International flights on foreign-owned-and-operated carriers are not affected by this prohibition.  As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in the DRC, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of the DRC’s Civil Aviation Authority.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

You should avoid all public demonstrations and areas where crowds have gathered because even peaceful events can become violent, and even deadly.  You should exercise caution at all times, and closely monitor local and international news from reliable sources.  Radio Okapi broadcasts in French on 103.5 FM at 0700, 0800, 1200, and 1800 hours, and provides updates throughout the day.  English-language news can be found on BBC at 92.6 FM.  In emergencies, the Belgian Embassy operates a French-language radio broadcast system at FM 98.8.  Changes in security conditions may occasionally restrict the travel of U.S. Mission personnel.

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa strongly encourages U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the DRC despite this Travel Warning to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so you can receive the most up-to-date security information.  You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP current.  It is important to include your current phone number and email address where you can be reached in case of an emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs; the Consular Section entrance is located on Avenue Dumi, opposite Saint Anne's Church.  The Embassy's telephone number, including for after-hours emergencies, is +243-81-556-0151; callers within the DRC should dial 081-556-0151.  All telephone lines in the DRC, cellular as well as landlines, are unreliable.  Click here to visit the Embassy website.

For further information, consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Democratic Republic of the Congo and the current Worldwide Caution, available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, a regular toll line at-1-202-501-4444 for callers 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).  Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

2. Ukraine Travel Warning

Posted on 16 April 2014 | 4:29 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine.

In addition, the Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel to several regions of Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula and eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Lugansk due to the presence of Russian military forces in the Crimean Peninsula and on the eastern border of Ukraine. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Ukraine dated March 21 to provide updated information on the situation in the Crimean Peninsula and the eastern regions of Ukraine.  Russian forces have occupied the Crimean Peninsula in support of the Russian Federation’s claim of Crimean annexation and these forces are likely to continue to take further actions in the Crimean Peninsula consistent with its claim.  The United States and Ukraine do not recognize this claimed annexation.  The Russian Federation has positioned military forces along the border of eastern Ukraine while armed militants in several eastern Ukrainian cities have staged demonstrations, seized government buildings, and attacked police and pro-Ukrainian counter-demonstrators.  The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly.  U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine should avoid large crowds and be prepared to remain indoors for extended periods of time should clashes occur in their vicinity.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Ukraine to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety, particularly in the Crimean Peninsula and the eastern regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkiv.  While the transition to a new government has been largely peaceful in most parts of Ukraine, in several eastern Ukrainian cities armed militants, including personnel who appear to be members of the Russian military, have seized government buildings, and attacked police.  There have been staged demonstrations in eastern Ukraine, and attacks on pro-Ukrainian counter-demonstrators – some of these clashes have resulted in injuries and deaths. Additionally, groups advocating closer ties to Russia have taken on a more strident anti-American tone, especially in Crimea, where some U.S. citizens have reported being detained and questioned by armed men.  U.S. citizens who choose to remain in areas where there are pro-Russian demonstrations should maintain a low profile and avoid large crowds and gatherings. 

Peace Corps Volunteers departed Ukraine on February 25, and remain out of the country at this time.  U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s Consular Section is open for all public services; however, the Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies involving U.S. citizens outside of Kyiv, especially in southern and eastern Ukraine, is extremely limited.

Ground transportation may be disrupted throughout the country.  Drivers, especially in the Crimean Peninsula, may encounter roadblocks that restrict access on certain roads.  Commercial air travel out of the Crimean Peninsula is currently limited to travel to and from the Russian Federation.  Travelers should check with their airlines for possible flight delays or cancellations prior to travel to or from the Crimean Peninsula and eastern Ukraine as flights could be delayed or cancelled with little or no notice.

On February 22, following three months of large protests and violent clashes, former President Yanukovych departed Kyiv.  The Ukrainian Parliament established an interim government on February 27.  Russia has conducted an illegal military intervention in the Crimean Peninsula and has been taking steps to acquire territory from Ukraine through the illegal use of force.  On March 18, the Russian government recognized Crimea as independent and has since declared Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. On March 20, Russia’s lower Parliament House, known as the State Duma, voted in support of Russia’s illegal attempt to make Crimea a part of Russia.

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

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

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

3. Chad Travel Warning

Posted on 15 April 2014 | 2:23 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Chad and recommends citizens avoid travel to eastern Chad and border regions.

U.S. citizens should be particularly vigilant when visiting hotels, restaurants, markets, and easily accessible public areas that expatriates and foreign travelers frequent. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Chad dated October 10, 2013 to update U.S. citizens on the current security situation in Chad.

The U.S. Embassy in Chad reviews all proposed travel by official U.S. government personnel to areas outside of the capital, N'Djamena, and its immediate surroundings before approving such arrangements because of security concerns. U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts similarly should review security precautions and consider measures to mitigate exposure to violent crime and other threats. U.S. citizens residing in Chad should exercise caution throughout the country. The security situation in Chad has steadily improved since the conclusion of an effective peace agreement between Sudan and Chad in early 2010. Despite recent stability, the security environment is historically volatile and could deteriorate unexpectedly, particularly in border areas in light of recent conflict in neighboring Central African Republic.

While there are presently no known specific threats against U.S. citizens in Chad, there are violent extremist organizations in the region, such as Boko Haram and al-Qai’da in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who are intent on harming westerners and western interests and are able to cross borders easily. The U.S. Embassy, therefore, advises all U.S. citizens to exercise caution and be prepared to implement their personal evacuation or safe haven plans on short notice should the situation warrant. U.S. citizens in Chad should closely monitor news media and register with the U.S. Embassy in N'Djamena as well as monitor its website.

Incidents of robbery, carjacking at gunpoint, and murder have been reported throughout the country and recently in N’Djamena. While there are no reports of kidnapping for ransom in Chad since 2010, regional trends suggest this remains a potential threat. Violence is occasionally associated with car accidents and other events that have caused injury to Chadian nationals. Robbery victims have been beaten or killed, and law enforcement and military personnel have been implicated in violent crime. In addition, armed groups may reemerge with little warning. The Government of Chad has limited means to guarantee the safety of visitors in rural Chad.

U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in rural Chad are strongly urged to adhere closely to the policies and procedures of their host organizations to mitigate risks from violent crime. The Government of Chad requires all individuals traveling to or residing in areas hosting refugee populations in Chad to obtain movement permits issued by the Ministry of Interior and Public Security in N'Djamena.  U.S. citizens intending to enter Cameroon, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, or Sudan from Chad should consult the Department's Travel Warnings for those countries and obtain any requisite visas or travel permits prior to traveling.

The U.S. Embassy communicates with U.S. citizens residing in Chad through its warden system; however, in the case of an emergency, including an evacuation, the support that can be offered to those in remote and rural areas is limited. All U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Chad should have an evacuation plan developed with the United Nations agency coordinating their work. 

Medical services in Chad are limited. U.S. citizens entering Chad are strongly encouraged to verify their coverage extends to traveling within Chad – including medical evacuation – prior to arrival. International SOS and EuropAssistance are two clinics in Chad that offer an international standard of care and provide medical evacuation services. The preceding information is provided for informational purposes only and in no way constitutes an endorsement, expressed or implied, by the United States Department of State.

Embassy updates are available at the U.S. Embassy N'Djamena web site and Facebook page. The current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information, as well as global updates, are available at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs. Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or from other countries on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and on Facebook.

U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Chad are encouraged to inform the Department prior to traveling through enrollment in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By enrolling in STEP, the Department can keep travelers apprised of important safety and security announcements. Enrolling in STEP will also make for easier communication in the event of an emergency. Travelers should remember to keep all of their information in STEP up to date; it is particularly important to include a current phone number and e-mail address in order to receive the Embassy's emergency messages.

The U.S. Embassy is located on Avenue Felix Eboué in N’Djamena; the Embassy's mailing address is BP 413 N’Djamena Chad. Embassy telephone numbers are 235 2251-62-11, 2251-70-09, 2251-77-59, 2251-90-52, 2251-92-18, and 2251-92-33. The Embassy fax number is 235 2251-56-54. For after-hours emergencies, U.S. citizens in Chad should call 235 6662-2100 and ask to speak with the duty officer. 

4. Colombia Travel Warning

Posted on 14 April 2014 | 2:38 pm
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 and Cartagena, but violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural areas and parts of large cities. This Travel Warning replaces the one released on October 11, 2013, with no substantive changes.

There have been no reports of U.S. citizens being targeted specifically because of their nationality. While the U.S. Embassy possesses no information concerning specific and credible threats against U.S. citizens in Colombia, we strongly encourage you 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 some in Bogota itself. Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can still be extremely dangerous due to the presence of terrorists and narco-traffickers, including armed criminal 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.

Although the incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak in 2000, it remains a threat, and is of particular concern in rural areas. Terrorist groups and other criminal organizations continue to kidnap and hold civilians, including foreigners, for ransom or as political bargaining chips. 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 or strike deals with kidnappers.

U.S. government officials in Colombia regularly travel to the major cities of Colombia without incident. However, U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia normally are only permitted to travel to major cities 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 and their families in Colombia must file a request to travel to any area in Colombia outside of two general areas. The first area is outlined by the cities of Bogota, Anolaima, Cogua, and Sesquile. The second area is on the Highway 90 corridor that connects Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta. 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 (571) 275-2000; Embassy fax: (571) 275-4501; Consular Section phone: (571) 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 (575) 369-0419; fax (57-5) 353-5216. In case of an emergency in the Barranquilla/north coast area, please contact the Embassy in Bogota at (571) 275-2000 which will forward the call to our Consular Agent.

5. Sudan Travel Warning

Posted on 10 April 2014 | 2:58 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Sudan, urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Darfur region of Sudan, the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, and advises you to consider carefully the risks of travel in other areas of Sudan.

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Sudan dated October 11, 2013. 

On September 14, 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum was attacked during a protest demonstration, resulting in a six-month ordered departure of all non-essential staff and accompanying family members.

On March 13, 2013, after six months without security incidents or demonstrations targeted at U.S. citizens or the United States government in Sudan, the State Department lifted its ordered departure status.  All U.S. government personnel and all adult family members employed by the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum have returned to Khartoum.  

While the Government of Sudan has taken some steps to limit the activities of terrorist groups, elements of these groups remain in Sudan and have threatened to attack Western interests. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, or kidnappings.  You 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 government 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.

If you are traveling or residing anywhere in Sudan, you should exercise caution at all times and closely monitor local and international news from reliable sources.  Violent flare-ups break out between various armed militia groups and Sudanese military forces with little notice, particularly in the Darfur region, along the border between Chad and Sudan, and in areas on the border with South Sudan.  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 in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, including the disputed area of Abyei, present real and immediate dangers to travelers.  In addition, U.S. citizens found in these areas without permission from the Government of Sudan face the possibility of detention by government security forces.  You should avoid all public demonstrations and political rallies, as even demonstrations that seem peaceful can turn confrontational and become violent with little or no notice.  Demonstrations occur periodically, mostly in Khartoum.  In September 2013, Khartoum and other urban areas witnessed violent confrontations between authorities and demonstrators protesting economic austerity measures.  You should keep a low profile, vary your times and routes of travel, exercise care while driving, and ensure that your passport and Sudanese visa 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 limited capacity to deter crime in that region.  In addition, Janjaweed militia and heavily armed Darfuri rebel groups are known to have carried out criminal attacks against foreigners.  In May 2010, a U.S. citizen working for a humanitarian relief organization was kidnapped in Darfur and held for more than three months before being released.  More recently, a number of other foreign nationals have been abducted and held 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 deemed acceptable at the time of travel 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 safehaven 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 Messages for U.S. Citizens in Sudan can be found online here.

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 limited, and dependent on security conditions. The ability to provide assistance is particularly limited in southern Sudan and in Darfur.

You can stay in touch 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, where you can find the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings and Travel 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.  

If you are going to live in or travel to Sudan despite this Travel Warning, please take the time to tell us about your trip by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  By enrolling in STEP, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. Enrolling in STEP will also make it easier for us to contact you in the event of an emergency. You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date; it is particularly important when you enroll or update your information 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 in Khartoum 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.

6. Kenya Travel Warning

Posted on 4 April 2014 | 2:24 pm
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya.

U.S. citizens in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas. The levels of risk vary throughout the country. This replaces the Travel Warning of September 27, 2013, to update information about the current security situation.

The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including in the Nairobi area and in the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings – to include car bombings - kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports. Although the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities continues, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region. Travelers should consult the Worldwide Caution for further information and details.

Kenya initiated military action against al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab by crossing into Somalia on October 16, 2011, and on June 2, 2012, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) whereby it formally joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Kenyan troops within AMISOM are now actively pursuing al-Shabaab in southeastern Somalia. In response to the Kenyan intervention, al-Shabaab and its sympathizers have conducted retaliatory attacks against civilian and government targets in Kenya.

On September 21, 2013, suspected members of the al-Shabaab terrorist organization, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, attacked the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, killing scores of innocent people, both Kenyan and foreign, and wounding many others. The siege at the mall continued for several days and five U.S. citizens were confirmed injured in the attack. 

In the past year and a half, there have been numerous attacks involving shootings, grenades, or other explosive devices in Kenya in addition to the attacks described above. In total, over 100 people have been killed in these attacks, and hundreds have been injured. Approximately 53 of these attacks occurred in northeastern Kenya, mainly in Dadaab, Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera counties. Five attacks occurred in Mombasa. Most recently, on March 23, 2014, three unknown gunmen opened fire on a church service in Likoni, which is in the Mombasa area, killing six people and wounding 18 others. On January 2, 2014, 10 people were wounded in a grenade attack on a night club in Diani, a popular resort area on Kenya’s south coast near Mombasa. Fifteen grenade and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks have occurred in Nairobi, illustrating an increase in the number of attacks and an advance in the sophistication of attacks. In the most recent grenade attack, on March 31, six people were killed in Eastleigh. An attack also occurred on January 16, 2014, at a restaurant at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport; no injuries were reported. Other targets in the past have included police stations and police vehicles, nightclubs and bars, churches, a mosque, a religious gathering, a downtown building of small shops, and a bus station. On December 14, 2013, an IED exploded on a passenger bus near the Eastleigh neighborhood, killing six people and injuring 30.

Kenyan law enforcement has disrupted several terrorist plots throughout the country. On March 17, 2014, police discovered a large and sophisticated car bomb in the Mombasa area, as reported in the local media. It is unclear what the intended target was.

Ethnic clashes sometimes occur in areas of northern Kenya. In Marsabit, over 50 people have been killed and 50,000 displaced by ongoing ethnic clashes that began in July 2013. In October 2013, a local Muslim cleric with alleged ties to al-Shabaab was killed in a drive-by shooting in Mombasa, prompting a day of rioting in Mombasa, which resulted in the deaths of four persons and an arson attack that damaged a church. While this violence is not directed at foreigners, protests and ethnic clashes are unpredictable. U.S. citizens are advised to check conditions and monitor local media reports before traveling to these areas.

Multiple kidnappings of Westerners have occurred in Kenya. On June 29, 2012, four international aid workers (from Canada, Pakistan, Norway, and the Philippines) were kidnapped in the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. All were rescued on July 1, 2012. In October 2011, two Spanish nationals working for a non-governmental organization (NGO) were also kidnapped in Dadaab. They were released on July 18, 2013.

The Government of Kenya directive of December 2012 ordering all urban refugees to relocate to refugee camps was overturned by court order and is not being implemented; however, U.S. citizens of Somali descent should be aware that they may encounter interruptions in their travel due to increased police scrutiny based on this directive. It is very important to carry at all times proof of identity and legal status in Kenya (i.e., valid visa). If you are detained by police or immigration officials, you should request to speak to someone from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

As a result of these recent events and threats, U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from traveling to northeastern Kenya, including the cities of El Wak, Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, and Liboi. U.S. Embassy personnel are also restricted from traveling to the coastal area north of Pate Island, including Kiwavu and north to Kiunga on the Kenya-Somalia border.

Although these restrictions do not apply to travelers not associated with the U.S. government, U.S. citizens in Kenya should take these restrictions into account when planning travel. The Embassy regularly reviews the security of these areas for possible modification.

There are no restrictions on U.S. embassy employee travel to Kenya's most popular tourist destinations such as Masai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru, Tsavo, Lamu Island, Hell's Gate, Samburu, Mount Kenya, and Malindi. However, as with the prohibited travel destinations listed above, the Embassy regularly reviews the security of these unrestricted areas for possible modification. Travelers should keep informed of local developments by following local press, radio, and television reports prior to their visits. Visitors should also consult their hosts, including U.S. and Kenyan business contacts, hotels, tour guides, and travel organizers.

Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings, grenade attacks, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location, particularly in Nairobi. U.S. citizens, including U.S. Embassy employees, have been victims of such crimes within the past year.

U.S. citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in crowded public places such as clubs, hotels, resorts, shopping centers, restaurants, bus stations, and places of worship. U.S. citizens should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events. U.S. citizens should use commonsense precautions at all times, to include the following practices: avoid crowded transportation venues; visit only legitimate businesses and tourist areas only during daylight hours; use well-marked taxis and be sure to lock vehicle doors and keep windows up; lock all lodging doors and windows; carry minimal amounts of cash and credit cards; do not wear jewelry which attracts undue attention; know emergency phone numbers; do not resist or antagonize armed criminals; and always be aware of your surroundings. These measures can help ensure your travel to Kenya is safe and enjoyable.

U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Kenya are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is located on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone (+254) (20) 363-6000; fax (+254) (20) 363-6410. In the event of an after-hours emergency, the Embassy duty officer may be contacted at (+254) (20) 363-6000. Travelers may also consult the U.S. Embassy Nairobi website for more information.

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

7. Burundi Travel Warning

Posted on 2 April 2014 | 9:02 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Burundi.

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Burundi dated October 11, 2013, to reiterate existing security concerns and to note updated security restrictions on travel for Embassy personnel.

Because Burundi participates in peacekeeping operations in Somalia, the terrorist organization al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, has threatened to conduct terror attacks in Burundi.  It may also target U.S. interests in Burundi.

The Burundian civil war that lasted from 1993 to 2006 often involved non-governmental and non-combatant targets.  In 2009, the government and the last rebel group signed their final cease-fire agreement in which the rebel group agreed to demobilize and register as a political party.  Burundi held general elections in 2010 which were generally considered credible.  However, political tensions ran high and there were incidents of violence during the campaign period.  Low-level political violence persists throughout Burundi. 

There are confirmed reports of armed groups operating in Burundi.  Weapons are easy to obtain and some ex-combatants have turned to crime or political violence.  Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits or street children, poses the highest risk for foreign visitors to both Bujumbura and Burundi in general.  Exchanges of gunfire and grenade attacks are common even in densely populated urban areas.  Stay indoors, in a ground floor interior room, if gunfire or explosions occur nearby.  Common crimes include muggings, burglaries, and robberies.  Visitors should keep vehicle doors locked and windows up, and be careful when stopped in heavy traffic, due to the threat of robbery and theft.  The U.S. Embassy has received reports of armed criminals ambushing vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura.  The U.S. Embassy prohibits U.S. government personnel from walking on the streets after dark and from using local public transportation at any time.  Due to a lack of resources, local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance during an emergency.

U.S. citizens should be aware that even gatherings and demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn violent.  U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Burundi are reminded to maintain a high level of security awareness at all times and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind.  Even seemingly peaceful sporting events can become politicized and turn violent.  U.S. citizens should routinely monitor local media sources and the Internet for reports of demonstrations and unrest. 

The U.S. Embassy continues to caution U.S. citizens that travel outside the capital, Bujumbura, presents significant risks, especially after nightfall.  The U.S. Embassy restricts the travel of its personnel in Burundi.  The Embassy's Regional Security Officer (RSO) must pre-approve all Embassy personnel travel beyond a 30-km radius of Bujumbura.  Employees must check in with the Embassy throughout their travel, must have at least two people in the vehicle, and must be equipped with satellite phones, GPS, and emergency equipment.  All employee movement outside the city from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. is forbidden; the Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn. 

Corruption is endemic in Burundi and contributes to an environment where the rule of law is not respected.  Government officials may ask for bribes for providing routine services.  Travelers are frequently stopped, questioned, and asked for bribes by security forces at numerous official and unofficial road blocks throughout the country.  Likewise, criminals who have paid off local officials may operate without fear of prosecution.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Burundi despite this Travel Warning are urged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura for information on the latest Embassy security guidance, and to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so they can receive the most up-to-date security information.  Please keep all of your information in STEP current.  It is important when enrolling or updating information to include multiple phone numbers and email addresses to facilitate communication in the event of an emergency.

U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura at Avenue des Etats-Unis.  The hours for non-emergency American Citizens Services are 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, and 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Fridays.  The Embassy Consular section can be reached by telephone, including for after-hours emergencies, at +257-22-20-7000, or by fax at +257-22-22-2926.  Security information for U.S. citizens in Burundi is posted on Embassy Bujumbura's website.

For further information, consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Burundi and the current Worldwide Caution, available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, a regular toll line at-1-202-501-4444 for callers 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).

8. Niger Travel Warning

Posted on 27 March 2014 | 1:56 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Niger.

U.S. citizens in Niger, and those considering travel to Niger, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing threats to safety and security. On June 13, 2013, the Department of State approved authorized departure for family members of Embassy personnel because of extensive problems with the electrical power grid in Niger and associated difficulties guaranteeing a potable water supply for Embassy personnel and their family dependents. Since that time, circumstances have improved and, as of July 12, the U.S. Embassy in Niger is no longer on authorized departure status. This replaces the Travel Warning for Niger dated July 15, 2013, to update information about the current security situation.

The Government of Niger continues to maintain security checkpoints in Niamey to address security concerns. The Embassy recommends that citizens traveling in Niger remain especially careful around security checkpoints, as security forces continue to be on a heightened state of alert. Do not drive away from, or through, a checkpoint until you are given clear permission to do so. If you are unsure of what to do, please request verbal confirmation before proceeding.

On June 1, 2013 prisoners in Niamey's main prison staged a prison break. Of the 32 prisoners who successfully escaped, several are suspected to have ties to terrorist organizations. The majority of the escapees remain at large.

On May 23, 2013, terrorists using suicide car bombs, explosive vests and small arms attacked a Nigerien military compound in Agadez and a uranium mining facility operated by a French company in Arlit.

Terrorist groups in the past have called for and executed attacks against countries that supported the intervention against terrorist groups in northern Mali, including Niger. Because of terrorist and kidnapping threats, the Embassy Travel Policy requires armed Nigerien security escorts for travel north of the latitude of Niamey and east of Zinder for official U.S. government employees.  The areas bordering Mali and Libya, and northern Niger continue to be of serious concern. Additionally, Nigerian operations to counter Boko Haram in northern Nigeria have resulted in security degradation along the Niger-Nigeria border, primarily east of Zinder. The border is porous, and there are frequent reports of suspected terrorists and smugglers crossing into Niger. The Government of Niger increased its security forces at border crossings, but the situation remains tenuous, and travel to most border areas is not advised. The U.S. Embassy in Niamey will continue to monitor this situation closely and update U.S. citizens via "Security Messages for U.S. Citizens." These security messages are posted on U.S. Embassy Niamey's website.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group designated as a terrorist organization by the Department of State since 2002, continues its threats to kidnap Westerners in Niger, including U.S. citizens, and has kidnapped Europeans in the region. On January 7, 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped in the capital city of Niamey. They were found dead less than 24 hours later following a rescue attempt by French and Nigerien military forces. In September 2010, seven people, including five French citizens, a Togolese, and a Malagasy were kidnapped by AQIM from the northern mining town of Arlit. The last four were released in November 2013. Although there have been no kidnappings of Westerners in Niger since January 2011, the Department of State Worldwide Caution dated September 25, 2013 reminds U.S. citizens to maintain a high-level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling in the region.

Crime in Niger is also a concern. Residential crime in Niamey for unguarded houses is commonplace in certain areas. This is easily mitigated by having 24/7 residential guards. Most crime in Niamey is non-violent in the form of pick-pocketing or purse-snatching; however, car-jackings and armed robbery can occur. Outside Niamey, the potential for violent crimes increases significantly. Armed bandits target travelers on roads in the northern parts of the country. Armed escorts are required for all Embassy travel north of Niamey and east of Zinder. For U.S. government personnel, all travel outside Niamey must be during daylight hours. We recommend U.S. citizens follow a similar procedure, i.e., travel no earlier than after sunrise and no later than one hour prior to sunset.

As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations, temporarily suspended operations in Niger or withdrew some family members and/or staff.

Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. government policy not to make concessions to kidnappers.

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

U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information for Niger and the Worldwide Caution, both located on the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. If you don't have internet access, current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, 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).

The U.S. Embassy in Niamey is located on Rue des Ambassades. The Embassy's telephone number is (227) 20-72-26-61. You can contact the Embassy after-hours for emergencies at telephone: (227) 20-72-31-41. Click here to visit the Embassy website.

9. Mali Travel Warning

Posted on 21 March 2014 | 11:52 am
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel to Mali, given continuing aspirations of terrorists to conduct attacks.

We strongly warn against travel to the northern parts of the country and along the border with Mauritania, particularly in areas that are not patrolled and where there is little to no security presence.  There remains ongoing conflict in northern Mali and continuing threats of attacks on and kidnappings of westerners and others.  While the security situation in Bamako and southern Mali remains relatively stable, the potential for attacks throughout the country, including in Bamako, remains.  There are also ongoing security concerns and military operations taking place in the northern and western parts of the country.  Mali continues to face challenges including food shortages, internally displaced persons, and the presence in northern Mali of extremist and militant factions.  This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated July 18, 2013.  

Mali held peaceful presidential and legislative elections in the summer and fall of 2013, with high voter turnout and minimal reports of conflict, launching a substantial improvement in what had been a tenuously fluid political situation during the transition.  Despite these positive events, substantial concerns remain regarding the security situation throughout Mali. 

Extremist and militant elements, including al Qaeda in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar al-Dine, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad (MUJAO), and other groups continue to be present in northern Mali, although they have been mostly dislodged from major population centers, including Gao and Timbuktu.  In January 2014, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the militant leader responsible for the attack on the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, declared his continued intention to attack France and her allies for the ongoing military intervention in northern Mali.  The security situation in the north remains fluid as evidenced by multiple rocket attacks near Gao and the February 17, 2014 launching of three rockets near Timbuktu airport.  Terrorist groups have stepped up their rhetoric calling for additional attacks or kidnapping attempts on westerners and others, particularly those linked to support for international military intervention.  Affiliates of AQIM claimed responsibility for the November 2, 2013 abductions and murder of two French journalists in Kidal, and violent incidents involving suicide bombings, explosives, and land mines in various locations in the north continue to occur.  On December 14, 2013 a suicide car bomb killed two Senegalese U.N. peacekeepers and destroyed the only operating bank in Kidal.  A MUJAO leader recently claimed credit for the February 8, 2014 abduction of four International Red Cross Committee members and another NGO aid worker who were driving between Gao and Kidal.  On February 26, 2014, two aid workers were seriously injured when they struck a mine as they drove from Kidal to the airport.  Additionally, periodic public demonstrations continue to occur throughout Mali; these have largely been peaceful, if sometimes of a confrontational nature in northern locations and at university locations in the south.  

Most organizations that temporarily suspended operations in Mali, or withdrew some family members and/or staff following the spring 2012 coup and counter coup, have now recommenced operations and allowed family members and staff to return, but continue to exercise caution and impose varying levels of security restrictions.  The U.S. Embassy, which allowed dependents to return on July 18, 2013, continues to operate normally.  The Embassy will continue to monitor the security situation closely, and will update U.S. citizens via Security or Emergency Messages for U.S. Citizens posted on the Embassy's website.

The U.S. Embassy has instructed Embassy employees and their family members to be cautious when traveling within Bamako and to authorized locations outside of Bamako, generally in the southern parts of the country.  It encourages U.S. citizens to exercise caution, remain vigilant, maintain situational awareness at all times, and take appropriate security precautions to ensure personal safety.  U.S. citizens throughout Mali should develop personal contingency plans and travel on main roads.  Malian security forces are regularly updating security safeguards, including checkpoints and other controls on movement in Bamako and around the country.  A United Nations peacekeeping mission has also been deployed in Mali and is programmed to have more than 12,000 personnel in Mali when fully operational.

The Government of Mali may periodically impose or lift curfews or impose other restrictions, such as a ban on public demonstrations, as security needs dictate, although it has not done so since the 2013 presidential elections.  U.S. citizens should stay attuned to local news announcing such potential measures, and comply when they are in effect.  For internal safety and security reasons, the U.S. Embassy may also, without advance notice, periodically impose a temporary curfew or other restrictions on U.S. Embassy employees should the need arise.  Such advice and restrictions will be shared with the private U.S. citizen community and posted on the Embassy's website.  U.S. citizens should carefully consider adopting similar safety measures.

U.S. citizens should also note that the Embassy has restricted travel by U.S. government employees and their dependents in Mali.  Travel is generally permitted in Bamako; the northern Koulikoro Region along National Roads 1, 4, and 14 (RN1, RN4, and RN14) from Kolokani to Banamba through Mourdiah; all southern parts of the Koulikoro Region; all of the Sikasso region; parts of the Segou Region, from the cities of Souba, Segou, and San along National Road 6 (RN6); and areas in that region to the south.  Prior notification to the Embassy’s Security Officer is required only for overnight travel within these zones, though general road safety and security precautions for travel are still advised.  The travel policy reflects the Embassy’s assessment of the current security situation in this region of Mali.  Travel to all other areas for personal or official purposes remains restricted or prohibited, and is approved solely on a case-by-case basis after a careful security review.  The Embassy reviews its travel restrictions on a regular basis.  If you plan to travel to Mali, particularly to destinations outside of Bamako, you should consult the U.S. Embassy's website or your host organization(s) for the most recent security assessment of the areas where you plan to travel.

Senou International Airport in Bamako is open for business and scheduled flights are proceeding normally.  Some international flights have occasionally been canceled due to low travel volume, but travelers have typically been notified in advance.  Travelers wishing to depart the country should check with commercial airlines for the airport's operational status, and flight and seat availability, before going to the airport.

The U.S. Embassy reminds all U.S. citizens of the potential risk of terrorist activity throughout Mali.  U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution, to be particularly alert to their surroundings, and to avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering.  U.S. citizens are further encouraged to exercise prudence if choosing to visit locations frequented by westerners in and around Bamako. 

The U.S. Embassy may close temporarily from time to time, except for emergency business, to review its security posture in response to warnings or events.  U.S. citizens currently in Mali despite this Travel Warning should enroll in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  By enrolling, you’ll receive security updates, and the Embassy can contact you more easily in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information for Mali and the Worldwide Caution, both located on the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 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).

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

The U.S. Embassy in Bamako is located in ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297.  The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali.  The telephone number, including for after-hour emergencies, is 223 2070-2300.  The consular fax number is 223 2070-2340.

10. Mauritania Travel Warning

Posted on 12 March 2014 | 7:39 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Mauritania, and urges those who travel to Mauritania to exercise extreme caution because of activities by terrorist groups in the region, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

AQIM continues to demonstrate its intent and ability to conduct attacks against foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens.  This replaces the Travel Warning for Mauritania, issued May 21, 2013, to update information on security incidents and remind travelers of security concerns.

The U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott recommends against all non-essential travel to the border regions of Guidimagha, the Hodh El Charghi and Hodh El Gharbi regions of southeastern Mauritania, the eastern half of the Assaba region (east of Kiffa), Tidjikja, the eastern half of the Tagant region (east of Tidjika), the eastern half of the Adrar region (east of Chinguetti), and the Zemmour region of northern Mauritania because of the security risk and the threat of kidnapping posed by terrorist groups to foreign nationals.

The United States and the European Union have both declared AQIM a terrorist organization.  As a result of Western involvement in counterterrorism efforts, AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets.  AQIM attempts at retaliatory attacks against Western targets of opportunity cannot be discounted.  AQIM-affiliated support systems for logistics and recruitment remain present in Mauritania.  This, coupled with the influx of tens of thousands of Malian refugees into Mauritania, presents additional safety and security concerns. 

AQIM and terrorists believed to be affiliated with AQIM have been operating in Mauritania since at least 2005.  Actions include kidnapping and murder of Western tourists, aid workers, and Mauritanian soldiers, as well as attacks on foreign diplomatic missions in Mauritania.  In June 2009, AQIM attempted the kidnapping and murder of a private U.S. citizen in the capital city of Nouakchott. 

Since then, AQIM has continued to threaten Westerners.  A French citizen was kidnapped in southwest Mali, near the border with Mauritania, in November 2012.  AQIM has also focused its actions on Mauritanian military installations and personnel. The Mauritanian government continues to maintain a strong stance against AQIM.  In August 2010, a suicide bomber attacked a Mauritanian military barracks in Nema. In February 2011, Mauritanian security forces successfully prevented a car bombing in the capital city, Nouakchott, by intercepting and destroying a vehicle containing large quantities of explosives. In July 2011, AQIM attacked a military base in Bassiknou, near Nema, in southeastern Mauritania.  In December 2011, AQIM abducted a Mauritanian gendarme from his post near the eastern border with Mali.

As a result of safety and security concerns, some NGOs and private aid organizations withdrew staff and/or temporarily suspended operations in Mauritania.  The Peace Corps officially closed its program in July 2011.  Faith-based organizations operating in Mauritania, or individuals perceived to be proselytizing, may be particularly targeted. 

U.S. citizens should remain aware of their surroundings at all times and maintain good personal security practices, including always locking their homes and cars, varying routes and times of travel, and maintaining a low profile by not drawing attention to themselves.  When going out, they should avoid being part of large, highly visible groups of Westerners, and refrain from sitting in areas that are easily visible from the street when in restaurants or cafes.  U.S. citizens should be particularly alert when frequenting locales associated with Westerners, including grocery stores, hotels, cultural centers, social and recreation clubs, beach areas, and restaurants.  Additionally, U.S. citizens should avoid demonstrations and highly publicized events/venues with no visible security presence.

U.S. citizens driving in Mauritania are reminded to heed warnings to stop at security checkpoints, and should be particularly vigilant when traveling by road outside of populated areas, even when traveling along main routes and highways.  U.S. citizens should not venture outside urban areas unless in a convoy and accompanied by an experienced guide, and even then only if equipped with sturdy vehicles and ample provisions, including redundant communications, as well as vehicle and first aid/medical supplies.  Driving after dark outside of urban areas is strongly discouraged.  There have been reports of banditry and smuggling in the more remote parts of Mauritania.  Note also that landmines remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara.  Travelers should cross borders only at designated border posts.

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

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

The U.S. Embassy is located between the Presidency building and the Spanish Embassy on Rue Abdallaye. The postal address is B.P. 222, Nouakchott, telephone (222) 4-525-2660/2663, 4-525-1141/1145, or 4-525-3038, and fax (222) 4-525-1592. For after-hours emergencies, please call (222) 4-525-3288 or visit the U.S. Embassy Nouakchott web site. In the event of an emergency that interrupts mobile phone (SMS) or Internet communication in Mauritania, U.S. citizens may call the Embassy's dedicated Consular emergency recording at (222) 4-525-3701 to receive the most up-to-date instructions. 

11. Haiti Travel Warning

Posted on 12 March 2014 | 7:03 pm
The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Haiti about the security situation in Haiti.

This replaces the Travel Warning dated August 13, 2013 and provides updated information regarding levels of crime in Haiti.  While violent crime has declined, travelers to Haiti should still exercise caution. 

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when visiting Haiti given Haiti’s weak emergency response infrastructure.  Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Haiti each year, but the poor state of Haiti’s emergency response network should be carefully considered when planning travel.  Travelers to Haiti are encouraged to use organizations that have solid infrastructure, evacuation, and medical support options in place. (Please see the Country Specific Information page for Haiti.) 

Haiti's emergency management infrastructure remains in poor condition and inadequate.  Medical facilities, including ambulance services, are particularly weak.  Some U.S. citizens injured in accidents and others with serious health concerns have been unable to find necessary medical care in Haiti and have had to arrange and pay for medical evacuation to the United States.  We strongly encourage visitors to Haiti to obtain evacuation insurance.  

U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including homicide and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area, although the incidence of both homicide and kidnapping is down sharply in during the last year.  No U.S. citizens were kidnapped since the issuance of the previous Travel Warning and homicides are down from 2012 to 2013.  As with other countries that have high levels of poverty, U.S. citizens are urged to remain aware of the possibility of robbery.  In December 2013, the Embassy learned of six cases of U.S. citizens arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States who were robbed shortly after departing the airport, a spike associated with the busy travel period during the holidays.  It is recommended that U.S. citizens have their host/organization meet them at the airport upon arrival and/or have pre-arranged airport transfers and hotels.  U.S. citizens are also urged to exercise caution when visiting banks in Port-au-Prince.  Robbery crews have been known to surveil banks and rob customers shortly after departure.  While the Government of Haiti has made progress to arrest and disrupt perpetrators, kidnapping for ransom can affect anyone in Haiti, most particularly those maintaining long-term residence in the country.

Regions of Haiti outside the capital have fewer reported incidents of crime.  However, the Haitian authorities' ability to respond to emergencies is limited and in some areas nonexistent.  Embassy employees are required to adhere to certain required security and safety measures when traveling outside of Port-au-Prince, and they have restrictions on travel in certain areas or times.  Additionally, U.S. Embassy personnel are under an Embassy-imposed curfew of 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. and must remain at home or another safe facility during curfew hours.  This may constrain the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Port-au-Prince.  For additional details on restrictions on staff travel within Haiti, please see our Country Specific Information for Haiti.

The United Nations’ Stabilization Force for Haiti (MINUSTAH) remains in Haiti to support the activities of the Haitian National Police.  The Haitian National Police (HNP), with assistance from MINUSTAH, are responsible for maintaining order and rendering assistance.  However, given the possibility and unpredictability of spontaneous protests, their ability to assist U.S. citizens during disturbances is very limited. U.S. government-facilitated evacuations, such as the evacuation that took place from Haiti in 2010, occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist.  Please see our website for additional information on how the Department of State assists U.S. citizens during a crisis.

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Haiti are urged to review our Country Specific Information page.  U.S. private sector organizations with operations in Haiti can obtain additional information on the security situation in the country through the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).  OSAC’s mission is to promote security cooperation between U.S. private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State.  OSAC also maintains an active Country Council in Haiti to promote the exchange of security-related information.  The Council is comprised of security professionals and is co-chaired by the Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince and a private sector representative.  U.S. private sector entities can obtain additional information on OSAC by visiting the OSAC website.

U.S. citizens are strongly urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information.  While the Embassy's ability to provide emergency consular services is extremely limited, travel enrollment will enable receipt of security messages via email.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States; callers outside the United States and Canada can receive the information by calling 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.  The Embassy of the United States of America is located in Port-au-Prince at Boulevard du 15 Octobre, Tabarre 41, Tabarre, Haiti, telephone: (509) 2229-8000, facsimile: (509) 2229-8027, email: acspap@state.gov American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit office hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  The Consular Section is closed on U.S. and local holidays.  After hours, on weekends and on holidays, please call (509) 2229-8000 and an automated attendant will connect you with the Embassy duty officer.  U.S. citizens can also stay informed about conditions in Haiti by following the Embassy and ACS on Twitter and Facebook.

12. Iraq Travel Warning

Posted on 6 March 2014 | 2:46 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq. Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation.

This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated September 5, 2013, to update information on security incidents and to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Iraq, including kidnapping and terrorist violence.  The ability of the Embassy to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.

U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence.  Methods of attack have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including explosively formed penetrators (EFPs); magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles; human and vehicle-borne IEDs; mines placed on or concealed near roads; mortars and rockets; and shootings using various direct fire weapons.  These and other attacks frequently occur in public gathering places, such as cafes, markets and other public venues.  Numerous insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, remain active and terrorist activity and violence persist in many areas of the country at levels unseen since 2007.  Iraqi forces are conducting military operations in Anbar Province and elsewhere against insurgent and terrorist organizations.  Baghdad International Airport has been struck by mortar rounds and rockets.  Due to the potential of political protests and demonstrations to become violent, U.S. citizens in Iraq are strongly urged to avoid protests and large gatherings.

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

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

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

Some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, in particular the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR).  The security situation in the IKR, which includes the provinces of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Dohuk, has been more stable relative to the rest of Iraq in recent years, but threats remain.  U.S. government personnel in northern Iraq are required to be accompanied by a protective security escort when traveling outside secure facilities.

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

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

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

For information on “What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis,” please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Emergencies and Crisis link.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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

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

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

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

13. Afghanistan Travel Warning

Posted on 20 February 2014 | 6:55 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan.

The security threat to all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan remains critical.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued on August 23, 2013.

No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and banditry, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time.  Remnants of the former Taliban regime and members of other terrorist organizations hostile to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and foreign nationals remain active in every province of the country.  Furthermore, travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to ongoing military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices.  The threat situation in Afghanistan is still considered critical and is expected to remain so through the presidential and provincial elections and the political and military transition in 2014.

There is an ongoing and serious risk throughout the country of injury and death to U.S. citizens, including those with protective security details or with Afghan and coalition security forces nearby.  In April 2013, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Zabul province, killing a U.S. diplomat, another U.S. civilian, and three U.S. soldiers.  In June 2013, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives-laden vehicles in front of Afghanistan's Supreme Court building in a heavily fortified area of Kabul, killing 17 people. Two weeks later, a group of Taliban fighters wearing U.S. military uniforms evaded two security check points to enter a heavily-restricted area in Kabul to assault a U.S. government facility, killing several guards.  In September 2013, suicide bombers conducted a sophisticated, multiple-explosives and small-arms assault against the U.S. Consulate in Herat, killing a number of guards. Insurgents also are increasingly targeting U.S. and foreign security convoys traveling in Kabul. In early February 2014, a lone VBIED detonated in close proximity to a U.S. security convoy, killing three civilian contractors. 

Despite numerous security operations and checkpoints by Afghan and coalition forces in and around the city, Kabul remains at high risk for militant attacks, including VBIEDs, direct and indirect fire, and suicide bombings.  Buildings or compounds that lack robust security measures in comparison to neighboring facilities may be viewed as targets of opportunity by insurgents.  In May 2013, insurgents conducted a complex attack against the International Organization of Migration headquarters.  During this attack, insurgents occupied an adjacent building and, from an elevated position, fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades on nearby buildings, killing five people and wounding a number of security personnel, IOM staff and Afghan civilians.

Proximity to or presence in areas and facilities under coalition force or U.S. government control is no guarantee of safety and should not lull U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Kabul into a false sense of security.  In January 2014, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a restaurant frequented by foreign nationals in what was considered a safer neighborhood of Kabul.  The attack resulted in 21 deaths, which included three U.S. citizens.  The restaurant was situated near many foreign missions, the U.S. Embassy, and the International Security Assistance Force’s headquarters. 

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

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

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

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

U.S. government-facilitated evacuations occur only when no safe, commercial alternatives exist. Evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the 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.

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. 

14. Saudi Arabia Travel Warning

Posted on 11 February 2014 | 7:58 pm
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia.

The security climate in Saudi Arabia continues to improve, despite an attack of unknown motivation on two German Embassy officials in Awamiyah in the Eastern Province in January 2014.  The last major terrorist attack against foreign nationals occurred in 2007, but security threats are ongoing and terrorist groups, some affiliated with al-Qaida, may target both Saudi and Western interests.  Possible targets include housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas and other facilities where Westerners congregate, as well as Saudi government facilities and economic/commercial targets within the Kingdom.  This replaces the Travel Warning issued July 25, 2013, to update information on the current security situation in Saudi Arabia and the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate recommendations on security awareness. 

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

The rugged border area dividing Yemen and Saudi Arabia remains porous and is not clearly defined.  U.S. government personnel are restricted from traveling within 50 miles of the border, which includes the cities of Jizan and Najran, without permission from Embassy security officials.  Visitors who choose to travel to these areas despite U.S. government concern should be aware that terrorist and criminal elements may be operating there, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  U.S. citizens are strongly urged to read the Department of State Travel Warning for Yemen before traveling to southern Saudi Arabia. 

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

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

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

U.S. Embassy Riyadh

Telephone: (966) (11) 488-3800
Fax: (966) (11) 483-0773
Emergency after-hours telephone: (966) (11) 488-3800

U.S. Consulate General Dhahran

Telephone: (966) (13) 330-3200
Fax: (966) (13) 330-0464
Emergency after-hours telephone: (966) (13) 330-3200, x3004

U.S. Consulate General Jeddah

Telephone: (966) (12) 667-0080
Fax: (966) (12) 669-3098
Emergency after-hours telephone: (966) (12) 667-0080

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

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

15. Somalia Travel Warning

Posted on 7 February 2014 | 7:16 pm
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Somalia.

This replaces the Travel Warning dated June 21, 2013, to update information on security concerns.

There is at this time no U.S. Embassy or other formal U.S. diplomatic presence in Somalia.  Consequently, the U.S. government is not in a position to assist or effectively provide services to U.S. citizens in Somalia.  In light of this and continuous security threats, the U.S. government recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.

The security situation inside Somalia remains unstable and dangerous.  Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent to attack Somali authorities, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and other non-military targets.  Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia.  In addition, there is a particular threat to foreigners in places where large crowds gather and westerners frequent, including airports, government buildings, and shopping areas. Inter-clan and inter-factional fighting can flare up with little or no warning. This type of violence has resulted in the deaths of Somali nationals and the displacement of more than one million people.

While some parts of south/central Somalia are now under Somali government control with the military support of African Union forces, al-Shabaab has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, and the Somali diaspora.  In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaida.  Al-Shabaab-planned assassinations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate armed attacks in civilian populated areas are frequent in Somalia.  On January 1, 2014, al-Shabaab carried out a bombing against a popular hotel in Mogadishu.  On September 7 and November 8, 2013, al-Shabaab executed attacks on a popular restaurant and hotel in Mogadishu, killing nearly 30 people and injuring many more, including several government officials and foreign nationals.  On July 27, al-Shabaab executed a deadly attack against the Turkish housing compound in Mogadishu.  On June 19, Islamist militants carried out a deadly assault on the main UN compound in Mogadishu killing at least 17 people. African Union (AU) soldiers restored order after a 90 minute gun battle.  On May 5, an attack on a government convoy carrying foreign diplomats killed eight bystanders.  On April 14, a combined suicide bombing/armed assault by al-Shabaab gunmen killed 29 and wounded 58.  In addition to larger attacks, assassinations, grenade throwing, and kidnappings remain a daily threat in Mogadishu and elsewhere.  In addition to the high profile attacks above, al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for other terrorist attacks in the region.

Pirates and other criminals have specifically targeted and kidnapped foreigners working in Somalia.  In January 2012, a U.S. citizen was kidnapped while on work related travel in Somalia, and in October 2011, a U.S. citizen aid worker living in Somalia was also kidnapped.  In both cases, as well as in recent kidnappings of other westerners, the victims took precautionary measures by hiring local security personnel, but those hired to protect them may have played a role in the abductions.  A strong familiarity with Somalia and/or extensive prior travel to the region does not reduce travel risk.  U.S. citizens contemplating travel to Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, are advised to obtain kidnap and recovery insurance, as well as medical evacuation insurance, prior to travel. 

Additionally, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid sailing close to the coast of Somalia as attacks have occurred as far as 1,000 nautical miles off the coast in international waters.  Merchant vessels, fishing boats, and recreational craft all risk seizure by pirates and having their crews held for ransom in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia.  Somali pirates captured and killed four U.S. citizens aboard their boat on February 22, 2011.  If transit around the Horn of Africa is necessary, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys, maintain good communications contact at all times, and follow the guidance provided by the Maritime Security Center – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA).  You should consult the Maritime Administration’s Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in the region.

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Somalia despite this Travel Warning are strongly urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information and be included in our emergency communication system.  Travelers to Somalia should enroll with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.  U.S. citizens traveling by sea to the area of high threat are urged to inform MSC-HOA by emailing POSTMASTER@MSCHOA.ORG, with the subject line 'Yacht Vessel Movement.'  The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is located on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone (254)(20) 363-6000; after-hours emergencies (254)(20) 363-6170.  The mailing address is P.O. Box 606 Village Market 00621, Nairobi, Kenya.

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

16. Algeria Travel Warning

Posted on 6 February 2014 | 8:25 pm
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Algeria.

This replaces the Travel Warning for Algeria dated August 23, 2013, to update information on the current security situation in Algeria, the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate information on security incidents and recommendations on security awareness.  

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

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

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

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

Visitors to Algeria are advised to stay only in hotels where adequate security is provided. All visitors to Algeria should remain alert, avoid predictable travel patterns, and maintain a low profile. U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies of all kinds. Most political gatherings are peaceful but can turn violent without notice.

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

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

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, Travel Warnings, and Country Specific Information can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on facebook as well. 

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

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

17. Pakistan Travel Warning

Posted on 5 February 2014 | 2:44 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan.

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated September 6, 2013, to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.

On February 4, the Department of State lifted ordered departure status of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore, Pakistan. Consular services at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore remain unavailable but the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi will continue to provide routine consular services for U.S. citizens in Pakistan. 

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

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

RECENT ATTACKS

There have been many terrorist attacks in recent years targeting civilians and security personnel. On July 6, a bomb exploded in a restaurant in a business district of Lahore, killing at least five people and injuring nearly 50. On June 23, ten foreign nationals, including one U.S. citizen, were killed in an attack on a Nanga Parbat mountain base camp in the northern area of Gilgit-Baltistan. On June 15, a suicide bomber detonated at a women’s university in Quetta, killing 14 students; attackers later struck the hospital where victims were taken, killing at least 11 more people. On March 3, a bomb attack in a predominately Shiite area of Karachi destroyed several buildings and killed over 50 people. On September 3, 2012, unidentified terrorists attacked a U.S. government vehicle convoy in Peshawar, injuring U.S. and Pakistani personnel.

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

Members of minority communities have been victims of targeted killings and accusations of blasphemy, a crime that carries the death penalty in Pakistan. Foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, on valid missionary visas have encountered increased scrutiny from local authorities since early 2011.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS FOR GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL

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

U.S. officials in Islamabad are instructed to limit the frequency of travel and minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, and for limited stays. Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Mission sometimes places areas such as hotels, markets, and restaurants off limits to official personnel. Official U.S. citizens are not authorized to use public transportation and are sometimes asked to restrict the use of their personal vehicles in response to security concerns. 

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

GENERAL SAFETY AND SECURITY

Since the announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011, U.S. citizens should be aware of the possible increase in the threat level throughout the country.  

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

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

U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan have also been kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons such as family disputes over property. In August 2012, a U.S. citizen in Karachi was kidnapped from a car outside of a friend’s residence. In August 2011, a U.S. citizen in Lahore was kidnapped from his residence. Al-Qaida later claimed responsibility and issued a list of demands in exchange for his release. In June 2011, a U.S. citizen in Lahore was kidnapped while en route to his business. Both U.S. citizens were released after their families paid a ransom.    The kidnapping of Pakistani citizens and other foreign nationals, usually for ransom, continues to increase nationwide. U.S. citizens who feel they are in danger or whose security is at risk are strongly urged to depart Pakistan as soon as possible.

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

ENTRY/EXIT DIFFICULTIES

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

U.S. citizens are advised to make electronic and paper copies of their U.S. passport, Pakistani visa, and entry stamp into Pakistan in order to facilitate their departure from Pakistan if their U.S. passport is lost or stolen, and keep the copies in a readily accessible location.

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

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

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

You may make an American Citizens Services appointment with the Consular Section in Islamabad.

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

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

You may make an American Citizens Services appointment with the Consular Section in Karachi.

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

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

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

18. Israel, The West Bank and Gaza Travel Warning

Posted on 3 February 2014 | 2:27 pm
The security environment remains complex in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and U.S. citizens need to be aware of the continuing risks of travel to these areas, particularly to areas described in this Travel Warning where there are heightened tensions and security risks.

The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Gaza Strip; U.S. government employees are not allowed to conduct official or personal travel there. Furthermore, we caution that, with the exception of Jericho and Bethlehem, U.S. government employees are prohibited from personal travel to the West Bank.  This replaces the Travel Warning issued June 19, 2013, to update information on the general security environment.

Over three million foreign citizens, including hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens, safely visit Israel and the West Bank each year for study, tourism, and business.  The Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority make considerable efforts to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations. Nonetheless, U.S. citizens should also take into consideration the rules governing travel by U.S. government employees:

  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to conduct official or personal travel to the Gaza strip;
  • U.S. government personnel are restricted from conducting personal travel to most parts of the West Bank; travel for official business is done with special security arrangements coordinated by the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem;
  • U.S. government personnel must notify Embassy Tel Aviv’s Regional Security Officer before traveling in the areas of Israel surrounding Gaza and south of Beersheva, as well as to the Golan Heights;
  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use public buses anywhere in Israel or the West Bank due to past attacks on public transportation;

Major Metropolitan Areas in Israel 

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

U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and Consulate General in Jerusalem and their families are prohibited from using public buses and their associated terminals and bus stops throughout the country.  In November, 2012, a bomb exploded on a public bus in downtown Tel Aviv, causing several injuries.  In December 2013, a bomb exploded on a public bus in Bat Yam after all of the passengers had been evacuated.  Additionally, in November 2012, long-range rockets launched from Gaza reached as far north as Tel Aviv and southern Jerusalem.  In light of the threat of rocket or missile attacks, visitors and U.S. citizens living in Israel should also familiarize themselves with the location of the nearest bomb shelter (often referred to as a secure or protected room).  Since the early 1990s, the Government of Israel has required that all new homes and buildings include a designated shelter.  Visitors should seek information on shelters from hotel staff or building managers. 

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

Gaza Vicinity

Travelers to areas of Israel in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip should be aware of the risks presented by small arms fire, anti-tank weapons, rockets, and mortars launched from inside Gaza toward Israeli cities and towns.  These attacks can come with little warning.  Some rockets have reached areas in central Tel Aviv, the Bethlehem area south of Jerusalem, and Beersheva.  Gunfire, rocket, and mortar attacks in the regions immediately bordering Gaza are a regular occurrence.  Visitors to these areas should remain aware of their surroundings and of the location of bomb shelters and should take note of announcements and guidance provided by the Home Front Command.  

Travelers should also be aware of the heightened state of alert maintained by Israeli authorities along Israel's border with Egypt since an August 2011 terrorist attack that killed eight and injured nearly 40 people along Route 12, north of Eilat.  There have been subsequent cross-border incidents from Egypt, including rocket attacks and ground incursions, such as an attack that took place in August 2013 and one on January 20, 2014.  

Due to the threats in these areas, U.S. government personnel must notify the Embassy's Regional Security Office in advance if they plan to visit areas of Israel in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip or south of Beersheva.  Added security measures, such as the use of armored vehicles, are commonly used for U.S. government travel to these areas when on official business.  U.S. citizens considering travel overland into Egypt from Israel should review the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Egypt.

Northern Israel

Rocket attacks into Israel from Lebanon have occurred without warning along the Israeli-Lebanese border.  Tensions have increased along portions of the Disengagement Zone with Syria in the Golan Heights as a result of the internal conflict occurring in Syria.  Sporadic gunfire has occurred along the border region. There have been several incidents of mortar shells and light arms fire impacting on the Israeli-controlled side of the zone as a result of spillover from the fighting in Syria.  Travelers should be aware that cross-border gunfire could occur without warning.  Furthermore, there are active land mines in areas of the Golan Heights, so visitors should walk only on established roads or trails.  The Syrian conflict is sporadic and unpredictable.  U.S. government personnel must notify the Embassy's Regional Security Office in advance if they plan to visit the Golan Heights. 

Jerusalem

U.S. citizens should be aware of the possibility of isolated street protests, particularly within the Old City and areas around Salah Ed-Din Street, Damascus Gate, Silwan, and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.  Travelers should exercise caution at religious sites on Fridays and on holy days, including during Ramadan.  U.S. government employees are prohibited from entering the Old City on Fridays during the month of Ramadan due to congestion and security-related access restrictions.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from transiting Independence Park in central Jerusalem during the hours of darkness due to reports of criminal activity.

In October 2012, a tour bus in Jerusalem was the target of a stone-throwing attack that resulted in injury to a U.S. citizen tourist.  Such attacks, however, are not common in Jerusalem.

The West Bank

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

Personal travel in the West Bank by U.S. government personnel and their families is permitted to the towns of Bethlehem and Jericho and on Routes 1, 443, and 90.  Personal travel is also permitted to Qumran off Route 90 by the Dead Sea, as are stops at roadside facilities along Routes 1 and 90.  All other personal travel by U.S. government personnel in the West Bank is prohibited.   U.S. government personnel routinely travel to the West Bank for official business, but do so with special security arrangements.

The Gaza Strip

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

Entry/Exit Difficulties

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

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

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

For More Information

Occasionally, the Embassy and the Consulate General send public messages by email to registered U.S. citizens and post them on State Department websites to highlight time-sensitive security concerns.  To receive such messages, travelers should register with the Embassy or the Consulate General via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and visit the Consular Affairs website

Current information on travel and security in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada, or, from overseas, 1-202-501-4444.  For additional and more in-depth information about specific aspects of travel to these areas, travelers should consult the Country Specific Information for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and the Worldwide Caution.  Travelers transiting or visiting Jordan and Egypt during their trip to Israel should also consult their respective Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts and Country Specific Information, all of which are available on the Department of State's Consular Affairs website.

The U.S. Embassy also encourages U.S. citizens to review the Traveler's Checklist which includes valuable security information for those living and traveling abroad. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes or Google Play to have travel information at your fingertips.

19. Lebanon Travel Warning

Posted on 31 January 2014 | 8:13 pm
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns.

U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks.  This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on October 9, 2013. 

The potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists in particular due to the increasing frequency of terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country.  Many of the attacks have targeted specific individuals or venues, but in all cases have resulted in death and harm to passersby in the vicinity.  Although there is no evidence these attacks were directed specifically at U.S. citizens at this time, there is a real possibility of “wrong place, wrong time” harm to U.S. citizens.  On October 19, 2012, Wisam al-Hassan, a high-ranking police official, was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut’s Ashrafieh neighborhood.  Two others died, and many were injured in the blast.  On August 15, 2013, a car bomb in the Rouweis neighborhood in south Beirut, killed at least 27 and injured over 200.  On August 23, 2013, car bombs detonated outside of two mosques in Tripoli, killing over 40 and injuring more than 500.  On November 19, 2013, two suicide bombers targeted the Iranian Embassy in south Beirut, which left at least 25 dead, and 150 injured.  On December 27, 2013, a car bomb in downtown Beirut killed former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah, and seven others, while injuring more than 70.  On January 2, 2014, a suicide car bomb exploded in Beirut, killing five and wounding at least 60.  On January 16, 2014 a suicide car bomb exploded in Hermel, in the Bekaa Valley, killing five and wounding at least 40 people.  On January 21, 2014 a suicide car bomb exploded in south Beirut, which left five dead and dozens wounded.  Some of the most recent attacks have involved suicide bombers.  Similar incidents can occur without warning.  In addition to these bombings, there have been numerous reports in the media of Lebanese security forces disrupting other planned explosive attacks.

Sudden outbreaks of violence can occur at any time in the country, and major cities in Lebanon have seen armed clashes.  On June 23, 2013, a confrontation between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Sunni extremists in the southern city of Sidon escalated into a pitched battle that left more than 36 dead on both sides.  On December 15, 2013 gunmen attacked LAF checkpoints in Sidon resulting in five dead.  There are frequent armed clashes in the city of Tripoli, particularly between the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, which have resulted in deaths and injuries.  The LAF is routinely brought in to quell the violence in these situations.  Lebanese government authorities cannot guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country in the event violence should occur suddenly.  Access to borders, airports, roads, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning.  Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and can become violent.  Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning.  The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services is severely limited. 

The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. Government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions.  The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.  These practices limit, and may prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of the country, especially to parts of metropolitan Beirut, the city of Tripoli, 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. 

The Fulbright and the English Language Fellow programs that provided grants to U.S. scholars to live and work in Lebanon during the academic year remain suspended because of the security situation.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is a body that the United Nations and Lebanon created to investigate past political assassinations.  In 2011, the STL delivered to Lebanon’s Prosecutor General an indictment containing arrest warrants for four Hizballah members who are still at large, and a fifth suspect was indicted in 2013.  The trial began on January 16, 2014 and is expected to last for a significant period.  The trial’s progress may heighten existing tensions in Lebanon.

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

Hizballah maintains a strong presence in parts of south Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and areas in southern Lebanon.  The potential for violence involving or between Hizballah, other extremist groups, and criminal organizations remains a possibility throughout the country.  Hizballah and other para-military groups have at times detained U.S. citizens or other foreigners for political motivations as well as for extended interrogation. 

U.S. citizens in Lebanon should monitor ongoing political and security developments in Syria, as these often impact the situation in Lebanon.  The conflict in Syria has resulted in numerous security incidents in the border regions with Lebanon, as well as in other parts of the country.  Over the course of 2013, there were incidents of reported cross-border shelling and air strikes of Lebanese villages from Syria, which resulted in deaths and injuries, as well as reports of armed groups from Syria who kidnapped or attacked Lebanese citizens living in the border area.  Clashes between Lebanese authorities and criminal elements occurred in areas of the Bekaa Valley and border regions.  Similar incidents could occur again without warning.  With the potential for violence and abductions, the U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Lebanese-Syrian border region altogether.

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

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

Rocket attacks from southern Lebanon into Israel have occurred in the last year and remain a persistent threat.  These attacks frequently provoke a military response from Israel.  The rocket attacks and responses occur with no warning.  Skirmishes and tense exchanges between the LAF and the Israel Defense Forces, as well as between protesters and civilians, along Lebanon's southern border with Israel also may occur with no warning.  Landmines and unexploded ordnance pose significant dangers throughout southern Lebanon, particularly south of the Litani River, as well as in areas of the country where fighting was intense during the civil war.  More than 40 civilians have been killed and more than 300 injured by unexploded ordnance remaining from the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war.  Travelers should watch for posted landmine warnings and strictly avoid all areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance may be present.

Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the United States operate largely autonomously inside refugee and military camps in different areas of the country.  Intra-communal violence within the camps has resulted in shootings and explosions.  U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Palestinian camps.  Asbat al-Ansar, a terrorist group with alleged links to Al-Qaida, has targeted Lebanese, U.S., and other foreign government interests.  Although the group has been outlawed by the Lebanese government, it continues to maintain a presence in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp. 

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

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

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Lebanon should enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), at the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, 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, however, 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 to schedule an appointment for ACS services.  For all other inquiries regarding a U.S. citizen who is in Lebanon, please send an email to LebanonUSCitizens@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 further information, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Lebanon.  You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which also contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.  Follow us on Twitter, and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook,  and download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes, or Google Play, to have travel information at your fingertips.

20. Yemen Travel Warning

Posted on 29 January 2014 | 2:24 pm
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.

The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart.    

The Department of State lifted the ordered departure status for non-emergency U.S. Embassy personnel on January 28, 2014. The U.S. Embassy in Sana'a remains a restricted staffing post, however, and as staff levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services remains limited. Embassy staff are restricted in their movements and cannot travel outside of Sana’a. In addition, movements within Sana’a are severely constrained by and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on August 6, 2013.

The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high. In September 2012, a mob attacked the U.S. Embassy compound. Demonstrations continue to take place in various parts of the country and may quickly escalate and turn violent. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration.

Terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be active throughout Yemen. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Yemen), and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. A U.S. citizen was attacked and killed in Taiz on March 18, 2012 and the press reported that AQAP claimed responsibility. An ongoing risk of kidnapping exists throughout Yemen. In the last year, international and local media have reported several kidnappings of Westerners. Violent crime is also a growing problem; local media reported the murder of two U.S. citizens in Taiz and Aden in 2013. In addition, piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Indian Ocean is a security threat to maritime activities in the region. See our International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet .

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 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 Yemen should ensure that they have proper and current documentation at all times. For more information, see "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis" on the Department's Internet website. Evacuation options from Yemen 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. Travelers should not expect to be evacuated to the United States.

U.S. citizens remaining in Yemen despite this Travel Warning should limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, enroll their presence in Yemen through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), and provide their current contact information and next-of-kin or emergency contact information. If you wish to depart Yemen, you should make plans and depart as soon as possible. The airport is open and commercial flights are operating. There are no current plans for U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Yemen are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.

The U.S. Embassy in Sana'a is located at Dhahr Himyar Zone, Sheraton Hotel District, P.O. Box 22347. The telephone number of the Consular Section is (967)(1)755-2000, extension 2153 or 2266. For after-hours emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please call (967)(1)755-2000 (press zero for extension) or (967) 733-213-509. From time to time the Embassy may temporarily close or suspend public services for security reasons. Emergency assistance to U.S. citizens during non-business hours (or when public access is restricted) is available through Embassy duty personnel.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs website where the current Worldwide CautionTravel Alerts and Travel Warnings, and Country Specific Information for Yemen 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 and traveling abroad. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes or Google Play to have travel information at your fingertips.

21. Philippines Travel Warning

Posted on 10 January 2014 | 3:02 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago and the island of Mindanao.

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated July 5, 2013, 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. 

U.S. citizens should continue to exercise extreme caution if traveling to the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. In 2013, separatist and terrorist groups increased the tempo and scale of their activities and confrontations with Philippine security forces, with increased bombings, attacks on civilians and political leaders, and battles with security forces. In September 2013, elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) occupied portions of the city of Zamboanga and engaged in a lengthy battle with security forces which reduced large parts of the city to rubble. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Front (BIFF) has been particularly 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.

The Embassy has imposed a strict restriction on all but the most essential travel to Mindanao, and Embassy employees must receive special authorization from Embassy security officials to travel to any location in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, including urban centers.

U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines should review the Department of State's Country Specific Information for the Philippines, which contains additional information about conditions throughout the country.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. The Department's current message recommending Worldwide Caution reminds U.S. citizens that terrorism can occur anywhere.

We encourage all U.S. citizens in the Philippines to enroll with the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. By enrolling, you can receive the Embassy's most recent security and safety updates during your trip. Enrolling also ensures that we can reach you, or your designated emergency points of contact, during an emergency. 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.

U.S. citizens traveling in the region are encouraged to stay up to date on conditions across the globe by bookmarking the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and become a fan of the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips. If you don't have internet access, 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).

 

22. Mexico Travel Warning

Posted on 9 January 2014 | 7:37 am
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) in the country.

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

This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued July 12, 2013, to update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel. 

General Conditions: 

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

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

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

The number of kidnappings throughout Mexico is of particular concern and appears to be on the rise. According to statistics published by the Mexican Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), during the first 11 months of 2013 kidnappings nationwide increased 32 percent over the same period in 2012. While kidnappings can occur anywhere, according to SEGOB during this timeframe, the states with the highest numbers of kidnappings were Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos. Additionally, according to a widely publicized study by the agency responsible for national statistics (INEGI, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography), Mexico suffered an estimated 105,682 kidnappings in 2012; only 1,317 were reported to the police. Police have been implicated in some of these incidents. Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized. Almost 90 kidnappings of U.S. citizens were reported to the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico between April and November of 2013.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to lower their personal profiles and to avoid wearing conspicuous jewelry or clothing bearing logos of U.S. sports teams or military themed apparel which that may identify them as U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain awareness of their surroundings and avoid situations in which they may be isolated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

State-by-State Assessment:
 

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

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

Baja California: Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali are major cities/travel destinations in the state of Baja Cali
fornia - Exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. There were 458 homicides in Tijuana from October 2012 through September 2013, compared with 324 for the same period a year earlier. Murders in Mexicali declined in the same period from 166 to 132. In the majority of these cases, the killings appeared to be targeted TCO assassinations. Turf battles between criminal groups resulted in assassinations in areas of Tijuana and Mexicali frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours.  

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

Campeche:
 No advisory is in effect. 

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

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

Coahuila:
 Defer non-essential travel to the state of Coahuila. The State of Coahuila continues to experience high rates of violent crimes and narcotics-related murders. TCOs continue to compete for territory and coveted border crossings to the United States. Violent crime, including murder, kidnapping, and armed carjacking, continues to be a major concern in the cities of Torreón, Saltillo, Piedras Negras, Ciudad Acuña, and Monclova. Of particular safety concern are casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments, which USG personnel are not permitted to patronize. 

Colima:
 Manzanillo is a major city/travel destination in Colima -Defer non-essential travel to the areas of the state of Colima that border the state of Michoacán, including the city of Tecoman. Exercise caution when travelling to other parts of the state, including Colima City and Manzanillo. The security situation along the Michoacán border continues to be the most unstable in the state with gun battles occurring between rival criminal groups and with Mexican authorities. Homicides throughout the state totaled 179 in 2012 and 147 for the first ten months of 2013, according to figures from the Colima state government.

Durango:
 Defer non-essential travel to the state of Durango, except the city of Durango where you should exercise caution. TCO violence and criminal activity along the highway are continuing security concerns. Several areas in the state continue to experience high rates of violence and remain volatile and unpredictable. The Mexican government deployed troops in March 2013 to quell TCO violence in the La Laguna area, which is comprised of the cities of Gomez Palacio and Lerdo in the state of Durango and the city of Torreon in the state of Coahuila. Of particular safety concern are casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments, which USG personnel are not permitted to patronize. USG personnel may not travel outside the city of Durango and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue. 

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

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

Guerrero: Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco and Zihuatanejo are major cities/travel destinations in Guerrero
 - Defer non-essential travel to the northwestern and southern portions of the state (the area west and south of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and west and south of the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca), except for the cities of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa. In those cities, you should exercise caution and stay within tourist areas. You should also exercise caution and travel only during daylight hours on toll highway ("cuota") 95D between Mexico City and Acapulco. Use the toll road towards the Playa Diamante area and avoid the highway running through the city of Acapulco for travel to and from Acapulco. In Acapulco, defer non-essential travel to areas further than 2 blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas. Lodging for USG personnel is limited to the "Hotel Zone" of Acapulco, beginning from the Hotel Avalon Excalibur Acapulco in the north and going south through Puerto Marquez including the Playa Diamante area. Any activity outside the Hotel Zone for USG personnel is limited to the coastal area from La Quebrada to the beginning of the Hotel Zone and only during daylight hours. In general, the popular tourist area of Diamante, just south of the city, has been less affected by violence. Flying into the coastal cities in southern Guerrero remains the preferred method of travel. You should defer non-essential travel by land between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, travel to Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa only by air, and exercise caution while in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. If traveling by land, use toll highway 200 between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. You should also exercise caution in the northern region of Guerrero (the area north of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and north and east of the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca). The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico through the first 10 months of 2013, with 1,718 homicides and 205 reported cases of kidnapping, according to the Mexican Secretariado Ejecutivo Nacional de Seguridad Publica. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks, and although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable. 

Hidalgo:
 No advisory is in effect. 

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

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

Michoacán: Morelia is a major city/travel destination in Michoacán
 - Defer non-essential travel to the state of Michoacán except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas where you should exercise caution. Flying into Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas is the recommended method of travel. Attacks on Mexican government officials, law enforcement and military personnel, and other incidents of TCO-related violence, have occurred throughout Michoacán. Due to criminal activity in Lazaro Cardenas, in late 2013 the Mexican military assumed direct control of the port. In many areas of the state, self-defense groups operate independently of the government. Armed members of the groups frequently maintain roadblocks, and although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable. Groups in Michoacán are reputed to be linked to TCOs. 

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

Nayarit:
 Defer non-essential travel to areas of the state of Nayarit that border the states of Sinaloa or Durango, as well as all rural areas and secondary highways. Exercise caution when traveling to the cities of Tepic, Xalisco, or San Blas. There is no recommendation against travel to the Vallarta-Nayarit area in the southern portion of the state also known as the Riviera Nayarit or to principal highways in the southern portion of the state used to travel from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta. 

Nuevo Leon: Monterrey is a major city/travel destination in Nuevo Leon -
Defer non-essential travel to the state of Nuevo Leon, except the metropolitan area of Monterrey where you should exercise caution. Although the level of TCO violence and general insecurity in Monterrey has decreased within the last 12 months, sporadic gun battles continue to occur in the greater Monterrey area. Adult entertainment establishments and casinos continue to be targets of TCO activity. TCOs have kidnapped, and in some cases murdered U.S. citizens, even when ransom demands are met. TCOs have been known to attack prisons and police stations, and have engaged in public shootouts with the military and between themselves. Pedestrians and innocent bystanders have been killed in these incidents. As a result of a Department of State assessment of the overall security situation, the Consulate General in Monterrey is a partially unaccompanied post with no minor dependents of USG personnel permitted. USG personnel serving at the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey and their dependents may not frequent casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments. USG personnel and their dependents may not travel outside the San Pedro Garza Garcia municipal boundaries between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., except for travel to the airport after 5 a.m.  

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

Puebla:
 No advisory is in effect. 

Queretaro:
 No advisory is in effect. 

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

San Luis Potosi:
 Defer non-essential travel to the state of San Luis Potosi, except the city of San Luis Potosi where you should exercise caution. Travel throughout the state remains a concern. TCO violence and criminal activity along highways are continuing security concerns. USG personnel may not frequent casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments. USG personnel may not travel outside the City of San Luis Potosi and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue. 

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

Sonora: Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos are major cities/travel destinations in Sonora - 
Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades, and can be extremely dangerous for travelers. Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours. The region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north, including the towns of Saric, Tubutama and Altar, and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, are known centers of illegal activity and non-essential travel between these cities should be avoided. Travelers should also defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the State of Sonora which borders the State of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa. You should exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to a roadblock instituted by local indigenous and environmental groups. In December 2013, a gun battle involving Mexican authorities and TCOs occurred in Puerto Penasco. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should remain vigilant, exercise caution and use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, in order to limit driving through Mexico. 

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

Tamaulipas: Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico are major cities/travel destinations in Tamaulipas - 
Defer non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas. All USG employees are prohibited from personal travel on Tamaulipas highways outside of Matamoros, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo due to the tenuous security situation. In Matamoros, USG employees are subject to further movement restrictions between midnight and 6 a.m. USG employees may not frequent casinos and adult entertainment establishments. Matamoros, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, and Ciudad Victoria have experienced grenade attacks in the past year, as well as numerous reported gun battles. Violent gun battles between rival TCO elements and/or the Mexican military can occur in all parts of the region, and at all times of the day. The kidnapping rate for Tamaulipas, the highest for all states in Mexico, more than doubled in 2012 over 2011, and the number of U.S. citizens reported to the consulate as kidnapped in 2013 increased by 75% over 2012. In February 2013, four masked and armed individuals attempted to kidnap a USG employee in Matamoros during daylight hours. All travelers should be aware of the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking on state highways throughout Tamaulipas, particularly on highways and roads outside of urban areas along the northern border. Traveling outside of cities after dark is particularly dangerous. While no highway routes through Tamaulipas are considered safe, the highways between Matamoros-Tampico, Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo, and Matamoros-Ciudad Victoria are particularly prone to criminal activity. In the past year there have been several instances of U.S. citizens being kidnapped from hotels while attending family or social events (e.g. weddings and funerals). In at least one incident, a member of the traveling party was summoned to the front desk by hotel staff whereupon he was kidnapped. Travelers should consider selecting hotels with adequate security and reputability as well as exercising caution when responding to phone calls or knocks at the door while resident in a hotel. Travelers should stay low-key and refrain from flashing around cash or wearing expensive jewelry. 

Tlaxcala:
 No advisory is in effect. 

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

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

Zacatecas:
 Defer non-essential travel to areas of Zacatecas near the border with other Mexican states. Exercise caution in the interior of the state including the city of Zacatecas. The regions bordering Durango and Coahuila as well as the cities of Fresnillo and Fresnillo-Sombrete and surrounding area are particularly dangerous. Robberies, carjackings, and TCO activity remain a concern. Gun battles between criminal groups and authorities have occurred in the area of the state bordering the state of Jalisco. The city of Fresnillo, the area extending northwest from Fresnillo through Durango and into Chihuahua is considered dangerous. Extreme caution should be taken when traveling in the remainder of the state. Of particular safety concern are casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments, which USG personnel may not frequent. USG personnel may not travel outside the City of Zacatecas after dark and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue. 

Further Information
 

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

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

Consulates (with consular districts):

  • Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua): Paseo de la Victoria 3650, tel. (011)(52)(656) 227-3000.
  • Guadalajara (Nayarit, Jalisco, Aguas Calientes, and Colima): Progreso 175, telephone (011)(52)(333) 268-2100.
  • Hermosillo (Sinaloa and the southern part of the state of Sonora): Avenida Monterrey 141, telephone (011)(52)(662) 289-3500.
  • Matamoros (the southern part of Tamaulipas with the exception of the city of Tampico): Avenida Primera 2002, telephone (011)(52)(868) 812-4402.
  • Merida (Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo): Calle 60 no. 338-K x 29 y 31, Col. Alcala Martin, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 97050, telephone (011)(52)(999) 942-5700 or 202-250-3711 (U.S. number).
  • Monterrey (Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and the southern part of Coahuila): Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente, telephone (011)(52)(818) 047-3100.
  • Nogales (the northern part of Sonora): Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone (011)(52)(631) 311-8150.
  • Nuevo Laredo (the northern part of Coahuila and the northwestern part of Tamaulipas): Calle Allende 3330, col. Jardin, telephone (011)(52)(867) 714-0512.
  • Tijuana (Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur): Paseo de Las Culturas s/n Mesa de Otay, telephone (011) (52) (664) 977-2000.

All other Mexican states, the Federal District of Mexico City, and the city of Tampico, Tamaulipas, are part of the Embassy's consular district. 

Consular Agencies:

  • Acapulco: Hotel Emporio, Costera Miguel Aleman 121 – Suite 14, telephone (011)(52)(744) 481-0100 or (011)(52)(744) 484-0300.
  • Cancún: Blvd. Kukulcan Km 13 ZH Torre La Europea, Despacho 301 Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico C.P. 77500; telephone (011)(52)(998) 883-0272.
  • Cozumel: Plaza Villa Mar en el Centro, Plaza Principal, (Parque Juárez between Melgar and 5th Ave.) 2nd floor, locales #8 and 9, telephone (011)(52)(987) 872-4574 or, 202-459-4661 (a U.S. number).
  • Los Cabos: Las Tiendas de Palmilla Local B221, Carretera Transpeninsular Km. 27.5, San José del Cabo, BCS, Mexico 23406 Telephone: (624) 143-3566 Fax: (624) 143-6750.
  • Mazatlán: Playa Gaviotas #202, Zona Dorada, telephone (011)(52)(669) 916-5889.
  • Oaxaca: Macedonio Alcalá no. 407, interior 20, telephone (011)(52)(951) 514-3054, (011) (52)(951) 516-2853.
  • Piedras Negras: Abasolo #211, Zona Centro, Piedras Negras, Coah., Tel. (011)(52)(878) 782-5586.
  • Playa del Carmen: "The Palapa," Calle 1 Sur, between Avenida 15 and Avenida 20, telephone (011)(52)(984) 873-0303 or 202-370-6708(a U.S. number).
  • Puerto Vallarta: Paradise Plaza, Paseo de los Cocoteros #1, Local #4, Interior #17, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, telephone (011)(52)(322) 222-0069.
  • San Miguel de Allende: Centro Comercial La Luciernaga, Libramiento Manuel Zavala (Pepe KBZON), telephone (011)(52)(415) 152-2357.

23. Nigeria Travel Warning

Posted on 8 January 2014 | 2:35 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because of the May 14, 2013 state of emergency proclamation for those three states by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The security situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable. The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens in Nigeria to consider their own personal security and to keep personal safety in the forefront of their planning. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated June 3, 2013.

The declaration of a state of emergency gives the government sweeping powers to search and arrest without warrants. On November 20, 2013, the national assembly approved the President of Nigeria’s request for a six-month extension of the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states. The ability of the Mission to provide assistance to U.S. citizens in those states remains severely limited. The Department continues to recommend against all but essential travel to the following states due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks:  Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Borno, Delta, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara. The Department also warns against travel in the Gulf of Guinea because of the threat of piracy. Based on safety and security risk assessments, the Embassy maintains restrictions for travel by U.S. officials to those states listed above; officials must receive advance clearance by the U.S. Mission for any travel deemed as mission-essential. U.S. citizens should be aware that extremists could expand their operations beyond northern Nigeria to other areas of the country.

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

Boko Haram, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Department of State, has claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria. Its members have killed or wounded thousands of people during the past four years. Boko Haram has targeted churches, schools, mosques, government installations, educational institutions, and entertainment venues in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Taraba, the Federal Capital Territory, and Yobe states. Tens of thousands of Nigerians have been displaced as a result of violence in the north.

Late 2013 saw an increase in Boko Haram attacks and clashes with Nigerian government security forces in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has also targeted women and children for kidnapping, reportedly kidnapping women in northern states for marriage as “slave brides.” Boko Haram is known to descend on whole towns, robbing banks and businesses, attacking police and military installations, and setting fire to private homes.

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

Cell phone service has, at times, been disrupted in Nigeria, particularly in areas where a State of Emergency has been declared, and when extremists have attacked cellular telephone towers. U.S. citizens should attempt to arrange for multiple means of communication in case of need during emergencies.

The Ansaru group, an offshoot of Boko Haram, has carried out several kidnappings targeting foreigners in Nigeria. The Ansaru Group has also claimed responsibility for other violent acts in the past year.

Kidnappings remain a security concern throughout the country. Since the beginning of 2013, several high-profile kidnappings have occurred involving U.S. citizens. Kidnappings of foreign nationals and attacks against Nigerian police forces in Lagos State and the Niger Delta region continued to affect personal security for those traveling in these areas. Criminals or militants have abducted foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, from off-shore and land-based oil facilities, residential compounds, and public roadways. Nine foreign nationals have died in connection with these abductions, including three killed by their captors during military-led rescue raids. Local authorities and international corporations operating in Nigeria assert that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria remains under-reported. Attacks by pirates off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea have increased substantially in recent years. Armed gangs have boarded both commercial and private vessels to rob travelers. The Nigerian Navy has limited capacity to respond to criminal acts at sea.

In 2013, extremists targeted both Nigerians and foreign nationals involved in polio eradication efforts in northern Nigeria. Several U.S. government partner agencies working on public health development activities in northern Nigeria have curtailed their activities in response to these threats. Furthermore, U.S. citizen missionaries in northern Nigeria have received specific written threats to their safety and well-being, typically in the form of anonymously-distributed “night letters” (covertly-distributed anonymous threat letters intended to frighten intended victims).

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

The Department advises against traveling outside of major cities after dark because of crime and road safety concerns. While Nigeria is undertaking a comprehensive power sector reform, the nation’s erratic electricity grid does not meet the country's power needs, with frequent power outages that sometimes occur even in highly-sensitive locations. In March 2013, the international airport in Lagos suffered multiple nighttime power outages that lasted several minutes each, leaving the runways in total darkness and forcing at least one inbound flight to abort a landing attempt while on final approach.

The Department strongly advises U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nigeria to enroll in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The U.S. Embassy in Abuja is located at: Plot 1075 Diplomatic Drive, Central District Area. The Embassy is open Monday - Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos is located at: 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island. The Consulate is open Monday-Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Friday 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos for up-to-date information on any restrictions. The U.S. Embassy in Abuja can be reached by telephone, including after-hours emergencies, at 234(9) 461-4000. The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos can be reached by telephone, including after-hours emergencies, at 234(1) 460-3600 or 234 (1) 460-3400.

Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 for callers from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

24. Republic of South Sudan Travel Warning

Posted on 3 January 2014 | 2:02 pm
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Republic of South Sudan and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in South Sudan depart immediately.

As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the Department of State ordered the departure of most remaining U.S. government personnel from South Sudan on January 3, 2014. The U.S. Embassy is therefore only able to offer very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in the Republic of South Sudan. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on December 17, 2013, to reflect the deteriorating security situation.

The U.S. Embassy has further drawn down its personnel on January 3, 2014, and therefore can offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in South Sudan. Due to the draw down in personnel in Juba, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi [Tel.: 254 (20) 363 6451 or 254 (20) 363 6170, e-mail: Kenya_acs@state.gov] is available to assist U.S. citizens in South Sudan who need assistance; in an emergency, contact the U.S. Embassy in Juba (Tel.: 211-955-456-050). 

If you seek information about U.S. citizens services in South Sudan from the Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, please email: SouthSudanEmergencyUSC@state.gov.

The Department of State urges those U.S. citizens who decide to remain in South Sudan despite this Travel Warning to provide their current contact information and next-of-kin information through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

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

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

25. Honduras Travel Warning

Posted on 24 December 2013 | 7:03 pm
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.

This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated June 17, 2013, and includes additional information on crime and security in Honduras, as well as updated contact information.

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens visit Honduras each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work without incident.  However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues.  Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world.  Various institutions and government agencies are still analyzing statistics for 2013.  The National Violence Observatory, an academic research institution based out of Honduras’ National Public University, reports that the murder rate was slightly above 81 murders per 100,000 people for January through November.    

Crime and Security Threats

U.S. citizens do not appear to be targeted based on their nationality, and expatriates are victims of crime at levels similar to those of the local population.  Most resort areas and tourist destinations have lower levels of crime and violence than other areas of the country, though still high by international standards.  In 2012, the Government of Honduras increased police presence and established special police forces in areas frequented by tourists, such as the Copan Mayan ruins and Roatan.  Tourists traveling with group tours also report fewer criminal incidents.

The Honduran Government is evaluating similar options for other locations, and major hotels, and other tourist installations have increased private and police security.  Some businesses report that extra security costs account for up to 15 percent of their total expenses.

The vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved; of the 50 murders committed against U.S. citizens since 2008, police have only solved two.  Members of the Honduran National Police are known to engage in criminal activity, including murder and car theft.  The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance.  In practice, this means police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime, or may not respond at all.  As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras. The Honduran government is in the early stages of substantial reforms to its criminal justice institutions.

Transnational criminal organizations also conduct narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout the country, using violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out criminal activity.  Other criminals, acting both individually and in gangs in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and other large cities, commit crimes such as murder, kidnapping, extortion, carjacking, armed robbery, rape, and other aggravated assaults.

Kidnappings and disappearances are an ongoing concern throughout the country as well.  Kidnapping affects both the local and expatriate communities, with victims sometimes paying large ransoms for the prospect of release.  Kidnapping is believed to be underreported.  Since January 1, 2012, four cases of kidnapped U.S. citizens were reported to the U.S. Embassy.  The kidnapping victims were all subsequently released.

Precautions While in Honduras

U.S. citizens should be vigilant of their surroundings at all times and in all locations, especially when entering or exiting their homes, hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces.  Whenever possible, U.S. citizens should travel in groups of two or more.  It is also advisable to avoid wearing jewelry and carrying large sums of money or displaying cash, ATM/credit cards, or other valuables.  U.S. citizens should avoid walking at night in most areas of Honduras or walking alone on beaches, historic ruins, and trails.  Incidents of crime along roads, including carjacking and kidnapping, are also common in Honduras.  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.

The location and timing of criminal activity is unpredictable in Honduras.  The U.S. Embassy recommends that all travelers exercise caution when traveling anywhere in the country; however, certain areas of the country demonstrate higher levels of criminal activity than others.  Most of Honduras’ major cities (Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and others), as well as several Honduran “departments” (a geographic designation similar to U.S. states) have homicide rates higher than the national average for 2013 thus far, including:

DEPARTMENT                           CAPITAL
Atlántida                                  La Ceiba
Colón                                      Trujillo
Cortés                                     San Pedro Sula
Yoro                                       Yoro

There are no reliable statistics for the department of Gracias a Dios; however, travelers to the area should note that it is a remote location where narcotics trafficking is frequent, and where infrastructure is weak, government services are limited, and police or military presence is scarce.

Getting Informed before Traveling

For more detailed information regarding personal security, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information for Honduras. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Web site, where the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found.

The Embassy strongly encourages U.S. citizens living or traveling in Honduras to sign up for the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to obtain updated information on travel and security within Honduras.  Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States or outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  Stay up to date by bookmarking the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site, which contains Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.

Contact Information

If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime in Honduras, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.  If you are in the two major cities of Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula, you can reach the local police by dialing 911; other smaller cities or rural areas have their own local police assistance numbers.

The U.S. Embassy is located on Avenida La Paz in Tegucigalpa, and can be reached at:

Telephone:       (504) 2236-9320/2238-5114
Fax:                 (504) 2236-9037
After Hours:      (504) 2236-8497
Website:          honduras.usembassy.gov

The Embassy's American Citizen Services Unit is open to walk-in services Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 11:30 am, and can be reached directly at:

Telephone:      (504) 2238-5114 ext. 4400
After Hours:     (504) 2238-5114
Fax:                (504) 2238-4357
Email:              usahonduras@state.gov
Facebook:       www.facebook.com/acstegucigalpa

The U.S. Consular Agency in San Pedro Sula is located on the eleventh floor of the Banco Atlantida building (across from Central Park).   The agency is open to walk-in services on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12:00 to 4:00 pm, and can be reached at Telephone: (504) 2558-1580.

26. Libya Travel Warning

Posted on 12 December 2013 | 4:54 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Libya and strongly advises against all but essential travel to Tripoli and against all travel to areas outsideof Tripoli.

Because of ongoing instability and violence, the Department’s ability to provide consular services to U.S. citizens within Tripoliis extremely limited, and the Department cannot provide consular services outside Tripoli except by telephone. The U.S. Embassy in Libya remains an unaccompanied post due to security concerns. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated June 7, 2013.  

The Libyan government is still working to rebuild its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. The security situation remains unpredictable and unstable. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country. In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya. For instance, in October and December 2013, extremist groups in Libya made specific threats against U.S. government officials and U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Libya. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted by extremist groups seeking to injure or kill U.S. citizens, and should act accordingly with extreme caution. In addition, on December 5, 2013, a U.S. citizen teacher resident in Benghazi was killed in a drive-by shooting near his home. 

Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed militants can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire. On November 15, 2013, fighting between militias and protesters in Tripoli resulted in the deaths of approximately 50 people with hundreds more injured. Since that time, some militias have withdrawn from Tripoli. However, checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli and other urban areas have witnessed fighting between armed groups and government forces. Closures or threats of closures of the international airports occur regularly, for maintenance-, labor-, or security-related reasons.

U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens traveling to or remaining in Libya should use caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, and maintain security awareness at all times.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Libya 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 U.S. embassy to contact you in an emergency. If you don't have internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

The Embassy’s website includes consular information and the most recent messages for U.S. citizens in Libya. U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance should call 091-379-4560 within Libya or 218-91-379-4560 if dialing from outside of Libya.

For information on “What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis,” please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Emergencies and Crisis link. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

For further information, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information. Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and Google play, to have travel information at your fingertips.

27. Venezuela Travel Warning

Posted on 22 November 2013 | 6:55 pm
The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens about the security situation in Venezuela.

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Venezuela each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work. However, violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior. According to the non-governmental organization Venezuelan Violence Observatory (VVO), there were 21,692 homicides in Venezuela in 2012, amounting to a rate of 73 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, among the highest in the world. In Caracas, the homicide rate is even higher at 122 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.  

Kidnappings are also a serious concern throughout the country. In 2012, 583 kidnappings were reported to the authorities. It is estimated that roughly 80% of kidnappings go unreported, meaning the actual number of kidnappings in 2012 is likely much higher. Common criminals are increasingly involved in kidnappings, either dealing with victims’ families directly or selling the victims to terrorist groups. In addition, there is cross-border violence, kidnappings, drug trafficking, and smuggling along Venezuela’s western border. 

The Department of State considers the criminal threat to U.S. government personnel in Venezuela sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions. All U.S. direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to U.S. Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy movement policy for their safety and well-being. The policy divides Caracas into three zones: Yellow, Orange and Red. 

Movements into the Orange Zone between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. are not recommended, and if U.S. personnel choose to visit the Orange Zone during those hours, they must notify the Embassy when entering and upon departing the zone. In addition, U.S. personnel must request armored vehicles to transit the Orange Zone between midnight and 6:00 a.m. 

Unofficial (i.e., personal) visits to the Red Zone are prohibited, and U.S. personnel are only authorized to transit the Red Zone on personal travel during daylight hours provided they remain on one of the city’s highways. If a trip includes movement through the Red Zone, U.S. personnel must notify the Embassy. Furthermore, U.S. personnel are required to leave public establishments, regardless of zone, by 2:00 a.m. The details of which areas of Caracas comprise each zone are found in our Country Specific Information on Venezuela. These practices limit, and may occasionally prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of Caracas and the interior of the country. 

In addition, all U.S. direct-hire personnel and their family members who are assigned to U.S. Embassy Caracas are required to take an armored vehicle when traveling to/from Maiquetía Airport. 

U.S. citizens should be vigilant of their surroundings at all times and in all locations, especially when entering or exiting their homes, hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces. Whenever possible, U.S. citizens should travel in groups of two or more persons; avoid wearing jewelry and carrying large sums of money or displaying cash, ATM/credit cards, mobile phones, or other valuables; and avoid walking at night in most areas of Venezuela or walking alone on beaches, historic ruins, and trails. Incidents of crime along inter-city roads, including carjacking and kidnapping, are common in Venezuela. Motorists should avoid traveling at night and always drive with their doors locked to deter potential robberies at traffic lights and on congested city streets.

For more detailed information on staying safe in Venezuela, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information . 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. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through the iTunes store and the Google Play store, to have travel information at your fingertips.

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 Venezuela are encouraged to enroll with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to obtain updated information on travel and security within Venezuela. For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Venezuela, please contact the U.S. Embassy.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas is located on Calle F con Calle Suapure, Lomas de Valle Arriba. The telephone number during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) is (011) 58-212-975-6411. For after-hours emergencies use (011) 58-212-907-8400. The fax is (011) 58-212-907-8199. Please check the Embassy website for additional information. 

28. Iran Travel Warning

Posted on 21 November 2013 | 8:42 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran.

Dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and carefully consider nonessential travel. This Travel Warning updates without change the Travel Warning for Iran issued May 24, 2013. 

Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States. As a result, U.S. citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling or residing in Iran. Since 2009, Iranian authorities have prevented the departure, in some cases for several months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens, including journalists and academics, who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons. Iranian authorities also have unjustly detained or imprisoned U.S. citizens on various charges, including espionage and posing a threat to national security. U.S. citizens of Iranian origin should consider the risk of being targeted by authorities before planning travel to Iran. Iranian authorities deny the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran access to imprisoned dual national Iranian-American citizens because Iranian authorities consider them to be solely Iranian citizens; access to U.S. citizens without dual nationality is often denied as well.

The Iranian government continues to repress some minority religious and ethnic groups, including Christians, Baha'i, Arabs, Kurds, Azeris, and others. Consequently, some areas within the country where these minorities reside, including the Baluchistan border area near Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Kurdish northwest of the country, and areas near the Iraqi border, remain unsafe. Iranian authorities have detained and harassed U.S. citizens of Iranian origin. Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, religious activists, and persons who encourage Muslims to convert are subject to arrest and prosecution.

The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Iran. The Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran. The range of consular services provided by the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy is limited and may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. Embassies or Consulates. The Iranian government does not recognize dual citizenship and will not allow the Swiss to provide protective services for U.S. citizens who are also Iranian nationals. 

Our ability to assist U.S. citizens in Iran in the event of an emergency is extremely limited. U.S. citizens in Iran should ensure that they have updated documentation at all times and make their own plans in the event of an emergency. For more information, see "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis" at the Department's website. U.S. citizens who travel or reside in Iran are strongly encouraged to enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens may also enroll in person at the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy, located at No. 39, Shahid Mousavi (Golestan 5th), Pasdaran, Tehran. The telephone numbers for the U.S. Interests Section are (98) (21) 2279-3912, (98) (21) 2279-3697, (98) (21) 2254-2178, and (98) (21) 2256-5273, fax (98) (21) 2258-0432, email: tie.vertretung@eda.admin.ch, website: http://www.eda.admin.ch/tehran.
 
U.S. citizens should also review the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Iran and stay up to date by bookmarking the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. You may follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well; however, both Twitter and Facebook are filtered in Iran and will not be accessible without a virtual private network (VPN). If you don't have internet access, current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, 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).

29. North Korea Travel Warning

Posted on 19 November 2013 | 4:40 pm
The Department of State recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK).

This replaces the Travel Warning for North Korea of October 1, to update information on the risk of arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens in North Korea. 

Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention. Since January 2009, four U.S. citizens have been arrested for entering North Korea illegally, and two U.S. citizens who entered on valid DPRK visas were arrested inside North Korea on other charges. The Department of State has also received reports of DPRK authorities arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens and not allowing them to depart the country. 

The Government of North Korea has not only imposed heavy fines on, but has also detained, arrested, and imprisoned persons who violated DPRK laws, such as entering the country illegally or attempting to contact private DPRK citizens without government authorization. Travelers to North Korea must enter the DPRK with a valid passport and valid DPRK visa. Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and/or political activities (whether those activities took place inside or outside North Korea), unauthorized travel, or unauthorized interaction with the local population.

North Korean security personnel may regard as espionage unauthorized or unescorted travel inside North Korea and unauthorized attempts to speak directly to North Korean citizens. North Korean authorities may fine or arrest travelers for exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor, for taking unauthorized photographs, or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners. It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country's former leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, or to the current leader, Kim Jong Un.

If DPRK authorities permit you to keep your cell phone upon entry into the country, please keep in mind that you have no right to privacy in North Korea and should assume your communications are monitored. It is a criminal act to bring printed or electronic media criticizing the DPRK government into the country. If you bring electronic media, including USB drives, CD-ROMs, DVDs, or laptops, into the country, you must assume that North Korean authorities will review the information on those devices. Please be sure that the information contained on those devices does not violate the laws or regulations of the DPRK, as penalties for knowingly or unknowingly violating North Korea's laws are much harsher than U.S. penalties for similar offenses. Sentences for crimes can include years of detention in hard labor camps or death.

Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea. The Embassy of Sweden, the U.S. Protecting Power in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang, provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested, or who have died while there. The U.S.-DPRK Interim Consular Agreement provides that North Korea will notify the Embassy of Sweden within four days of an arrest or detention of a U.S. citizen and will allow consular visits by the Swedish Embassy within two days after a request is made. However, the DPRK government routinely delays or denies consular access.

U.S. citizens who plan to travel to North Korea are strongly encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, about their trip by enrolling in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. If you enroll in this program, the State Department can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements via email messages (though you may not have access to email while in the DPRK). Enrollment also makes it easier for friends and family to get in touch with you in an emergency via the U.S. Embassy...

U. S. Embassy Beijing: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 Beijing
American Citizens Services Unit
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone: (86-10) 8531-4000
Facsimile: (86-10) 8531-3300
Email:  beijingacs@state.gov
Emergencyafter-hours telephone: (86-10) 8531-4000

U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea are also strongly encouraged to contact the Embassy of Sweden by telephone or email prior to travel. Please provide the Embassy of Sweden with your name, date of birth, dates of your trip, and emergency contact information:

Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protecting Power in North Korea)
Munsu-Dong District
Pyongyang, DPRK
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (Deputy)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)
Facsimile: (850-2) 3817 663
Email: ambassaden.pyongyang@gov.se

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for North Korea and the current Worldwide Caution, which are located on the Department's travel website at travel.state.gov. 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, from outside the United States and Canada, 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).

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

30. Eritrea Travel Warning

Posted on 17 November 2013 | 9:12 pm
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Eritrea and strongly recommends U.S. citizens defer all travel to the country.

This replaces the Travel Warning for Eritrea of May 10, 2013 to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Eritrea.

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid travel near the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and the Southern Red Sea region.  U.S. citizens should be aware of the presence of large numbers of Eritrean and Ethiopian troops along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and of political and military tensions between the two countries.  On October 6, 2013, riots broke out in Eritrean refugee camps close to the Eritrean-Ethiopian border during a memorial service dedicated to the victims of the October 3 Lampedusa boat sinking.  On March 15, 2012, Ethiopian troops attacked three locations approximately 10 miles inside Eritrean territory.  On January 16, 2012, a group of tourists was attacked in Ethiopia not far from the Eritrean-Ethiopian border.  Five tourists were killed and four others kidnapped.  In May 2010, 13 people were injured when a bomb exploded on a bus just over the border in Ethiopia.  In April 2010, a bomb near the border in Ethiopia killed five people and injured 20.  In January and February 2010, skirmishes between Eritrean and Ethiopian troops resulted in military fatalities.  Although Eritrean forces have withdrawn from disputed territory at the border with Djibouti, tensions in this area remain high. 

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

Piracy on the Red Sea continues to occur.  Recreational vessels are strongly encouraged to avoid the region entirely, and commercial vessels without explicit agreements with Eritrean authorities are urged to avoid Eritrean territorial waters.  There have been incidents involving the seizure of ships attempting to refuel at the Port of Massawa by the Eritrean government as late as the spring of 2012.  These seizures have resulted in lengthy detentions of international crew members, including U.S. nationals.  Though the incidents were ultimately resolved and both ships and crew released the concern that future seizures may occur has not abated.  U.S. citizens are cautioned that commercial/tourist ships are not allowed to dock at some Eritrean ports, even to refuel.

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

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

U.S. citizens choosing to travel to Eritrea despite this Travel Warning must obtain an Eritrean visa before their arrival.  Persons arriving in Eritrea without a visa are generally refused admission and returned on the next flight back to their point of origin.  However, the Embassy is aware of persons being jailed for several months after arriving without visas.  The Embassy urges all U.S.-Eritrean dual citizens to obtain Eritrean visas in their U.S. passports before traveling to Eritrea and to enter the country as U.S. citizens.  The Embassy is aware of numerous cases where U.S. citizens entering Eritrea on passports of their other nationality have been detained and not permitted to leave the country.  U.S.-Eritrean dual citizens who enter Eritrea with an Eritrean ID card may find it difficult to obtain the required visa to exit the country legally.  Traveling to Eritrea even with a valid entry visa in a U.S. passport does not guarantee entry.  In November 2013, a U.S. citizen possessing a valid visa was barred from entering Eritrea, forced to purchase a return flight at great personal cost, and not allowed to make phone calls or contact the U.S. Embassy.  The Embassy cautions travelers not to stay beyond the period of time granted at the time of admission by Eritrean Immigration.

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

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

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

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

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Eritrea, the Worldwide Caution, and the International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet, which are located on the Department of State's website. Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunesand the Google Play store, to have travel information at your fingertips. 

31. Central African Republic Travel Warning

Posted on 14 November 2013 | 3:05 pm
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) and recommends that those who remain in CAR depart immediately by taking advantage of existing commercial flights. U.S. citizens who have decided to stay in CAR despite this warning should review their personal security situation and seriously consider departing.

This replaces the Travel Warning of May 10, 2013, to reflect the continued lack of security, and risk of remaining in CAR. 

U.S. Embassy Bangui suspended operations in December 2012, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in CAR. The Government of the Republic of France, acting through its Embassy in Bangui, serves as Protecting Power for U.S. interests in CAR. The range of consular services the French Republic provides to U.S. citizens is extremely limited, and those services may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. embassies or consulates outside of CAR. U.S. citizens in CAR who seek consular services should contact the Embassy of the Republic of France in Bangui by calling 236 21 61 30 00.

U.S. citizens in CAR who are in need of emergency assistance and are unable to reach the Embassy of the Republic of France, or must make contact outside business hours, should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon; Telephone: 237 2220-1500 ext. 4341/4023 (Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. local time) Emergencies: 237 2220-1500, ext. 4531 or 237 2222-25-89; E-mail: YaoundeACS@state.gov

If you seek information about U.S. citizen services in CAR from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, please e-mail: CARemergencyUSC@state.gov.

If you are going to live in or travel to the Central African Republic despite this Travel Warning, please take the time to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By enrolling in STEP, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. Enrolling in STEP will also make it easier for us to contact you in the event of an emergency. You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date; it is particularly important when you enroll or update your information to include a current phone number and e-mail address in order to receive emergency messages.

For information on general crime and security issues, you should also consult the Department of State Country Specific Information for the Central African Republic; as well as the Worldwide Caution; located on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook. You can download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes and the Google play store, to have travel information at your fingertips. Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or from other countries on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. 

32. Syria Travel Warning

Posted on 7 October 2013 | 2:32 pm
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.

This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated March 1, 2013, to remind U.S. citizens that the security situation remains volatile and unpredictable as an armed conflict between government and anti-government armed groups continues throughout the country, along with an increased risk of kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism.

No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, including kidnappings and the use of chemical warfare against civilian populations. Indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, including of densely populated urban areas across the country, have significantly increased the risk of death or serious injury. The destruction of infrastructure, housing, medical facilities, schools, power and water utilities has also exacerbated hardships inside the country.

There is also a threat from terrorism, including groups like the al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) affiliated al-Nusrah Front as well as other extremist groups. Tactics for these groups include the use of suicide bombers,  kidnapping, use of small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices in major city centers, including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. Public places, such as government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, have been targeted.

Communications in Syria are difficult as phone and internet connections have become increasingly unreliable. The Department of State has received reports that U.S. citizens are experiencing difficulty and 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 as fierce clashes between pro-government and opposition forces continue in the vicinity of the Damascus and Aleppo airports. Land border checkpoints held by opposition forces should not be considered safe, as they are targeted by regime attacks and some armed groups have sought to fund themselves through kidnap for ransom. Border areas are frequent targets of shelling and other armed conflict and clogged by internally-displaced refugees. Errant attacks will occasionally hit border towns just outside the borders as well.

The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in February 2012 and therefore 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 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 for U.S. passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. embassies or consulates outside of Syria. U.S. citizens in Syria who seek consular services should 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 in Syria, 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

If you seek information about U.S. citizens' services in Syria from the Office of Overseas Citizens' Services in Washington, please e-mail: SyriaEmergencyUSC@state.gov.

The Department of State urges those U.S. citizens who decide to remain in Syria despite this Travel
Warning to provide their current contact information and next-of-kin information through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

For information on "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis," please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Emergencies and Crisis link at www.travel.state.gov. 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 further information, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Syria. Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and Google Play, to have travel information at your fingertips.  

33. El Salvador Travel Warning

Posted on 9 August 2013 | 8:42 pm
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens that crime and violence levels in El Salvador remain critically high.

This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated January 24, 2013 to include additional information about crime rates, gangs, and the ability of the Salvadoran police force and criminal justice system to respond effectively.

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit El Salvador each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work. However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. In 2012, El Salvador had one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world: 69 per 100,000 people (by comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000).

Since January 2010, 24 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador, two of whom were killed in the first half of 2013, although U.S. citizens do not appear to be targeted based on their nationality. During the same time period, 274 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers in El Salvador’s national parks are common, 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. In 2000, the National Civilian Police (PNC) established a special tourist police force (POLITUR) to provide security and assistance to tourists, as well as protection for the cultural heritage of El Salvador. It has officers located in 19 tourist destinations.

A majority of serious crimes are never solved; only six of the 24 murders committed against 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. El Salvador’s current criminal conviction rate is five percent. 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.

Transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics, arms trafficking, and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out other criminal activity. Other criminals, acting both individually and in gangs, commit crimes such as murder-for-hire, carjacking, extortion, armed robbery, rapes, and other aggravated assaults. El Salvador, a country of roughly six million people, has, according to Government of El Salvador statistics, some 40,000 known gang members from several gangs including the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Eighteenth Street (M18) gangs, and gang members are quick to engage in violence if resisted.

Extortion is a particularly serious and 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 may be at higher risk for extortion demands. Hitting its peak a few years ago, extortion has dropped in the last two years; however, recent reports show that there is an increase in the level of violence associated with extortion cases, including media reports of extortion victims and witnesses being killed. Many extortions are not reported for fear of reprisal and lack of faith in the ability of the government to protect the victims. Extortion attempts can be transnational in nature and can include kidnapping of victims. For example, in 2011, a two year-old U.S. citizen was kidnapped from the home of his grandparents in El Salvador by eight to 10 armed men. Ransom demands made to family members in both El Salvador and the United States were traced back to a local prison used exclusively to incarcerate gang members.

U.S. citizens should be vigilant of their surroundings at all times, especially when entering or exiting their homes or hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces. Whenever possible, travel in groups of two or more persons. Avoid wearing 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, and do not walk alone near beaches, historic ruins, or trails. 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.

The location and timing of criminal activity is unpredictable. We recommend that all travelers exercise caution when traveling anywhere in El Salvador. However, certain areas of the country demonstrate higher levels of criminal activity than others. Salvadoran "departments" (a geographic designation similar to U.S. states) with homicide rates higher than the national average include:

La Paz
La Union
Santa Ana
San Miguel
San Salvador
San Vicente
Sonsonate
Usulutan

In addition, of the 262 municipalities in El Salvador, the following municipalities are experiencing chronic, high levels of reported criminal activity:

Acajutla/Metalio
Apopa
Atiquizaya
Ciudad Arce
Conchagua
Ilobasco
Ilopango
La Libertad
La Union/Tamarindo Beaches
Lourdes-Colon
Mejicanos
San Francisco Gotera
San Luis Talpa (surrounds the International Airport in Comalapa)
San MartinSan Miguel
San Pedro Masahuat
San Pedro Perulapan Santa Rosa de Lima
Santiago de Maria
Soyopango
Tacuba

For more detailed information regarding personal security, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information for El Salvador. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Web site, where the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found. 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.

The Embassy is located on Final Boulevard Santa Elena Sur, Urbanización Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad, and can be reached by telephone at 011-503-2501-2999 or by fax at 011-503-2278-5522. For after-hours emergencies, please call 011-503-2501-2253. The Embassy's American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit can be reached directly by fax at 011-503-2501-6020 or by e-mail at ACSSanSal@state.gov. Travelers may register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. For information on general crime and security issues, U.S. citizens should also consult the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site, which contains Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and the Android market, to have travel information at your fingertips. 

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