Here’s how to understand travel warnings for Mexico and beyond

Want to travel to Mexico or any other international destination? Here's what you need to understand the different levels of travel warnings.

In the wake of the recent kidnapping of four Americans in Mexico, which resulted in the murders of two, there are heightened concerns about travel to the Latin American country. Is it safe to go? Should we cancel our trip? Is there a war brewing? These may just be a few of the lingering questions causing unease when considering the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, traveling to the latter, and all things in between.

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While we stand in support of a healthy international voyage and its myriad benefits for the mind, body, and soul, travel does come with the weight of research and responsibility. While Mexico isn’t the only area of the world with areas of turmoil, if you’re considering traveling there, right now, it is best to up your knowledge of the Mexican state. So what advice would we give folks who are planning travel to Mexico or any other international destination and are confused about the different levels of safety precautions?

Understand and constantly check travel advisory levels

The U.S. The Department of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs is the government sector responsible for issuing passports, measuring safety, and protecting U.S. citizens while abroad. Their main goal is to serve their citizens as they travel the globe by providing global protection, information, aid, and contacts while in foreign countries. One of the continuous ways this sector produces information and keeps the public updated is by issuing travel advisory levels for not only each country but specific areas in foreign countries concerning travel safety precautions. 

The U.S. Department of State issues advisory levels in levels one through four, ranked in order. A level one travel advisory means that a particular area is safe for U.S. citizens to travel to while exercising normal precautions. This would mean that although there is a risk to safety in all international travel, just keep your wits about you, and you should be fine.

Level two advises that U.S. citizens should exercise increased precautions, which means being aware of heightened safety and security risks. In layman’s terms, this would be a yellow light, or even a yield sign saying, “hold on now, slow your roll, but still, you can move.” Be vigilant of your surroundings and proceed with caution.

When to reconsider your travel plans

A level three travel advisory asks citizens to seriously reconsider travel. On the site, it blatantly says to “avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security.” The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the travel advisory, and what we take from this is that if you are not keen on the area of said travel, you may not want to take that leap at this time. 

While a level four travel advisory is a complete “no-no” and strict “do not travel” warning. In level four areas, there may not only be complete life-threatening activities taking place, but these are areas that have limited access to U.S. government officials who can help protect you and aid you in case of any event. While there are U.S embassies in many countries and usually direct lines of access in particular areas, they are not in all. This may be due to terrorist activities, civil unrest, and agreements between certain states. 

Sign up for alerts and stay connected

In any event, it is best to understand that conditions in any country or distinct area of the country can and will change at any time, so it is best to keep your notifications on. Signing up for programs like the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows you to receive alerts that make it easier to locate you in an emergency. The STEP, in particular, does the duty of allowing U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate, so the government is already keeping tabs on your whereabouts, timing, and locations. This is great to use right now for international travel anywhere, and it is a free service.

To get more constant public updates, always follow the social media handles like @TravelGov and make sure you favorite these pages on your social media timelines while you are out of the country so you will not be affected by algorithms that hide certain content. Download the RSS Reader app, which has over 200 travel advisories, and see the constant updates in each country because they are subject to change. 

And while there are tons of travel apps, some are more acute than others in case of an emergency. We advise downloading the First Alert mobile app, which specializes in providing emergency needs from reliable ambulance dispatch in your area to family notifications, security services dispatch, first-aid at your fingertips, and more. 

Noel Cymone Walker

Noel Cymone Walker is an NYC-based writer specializing in beauty, fashion, music, travel, and cultural anthropology. She has written and produced visuals for several notable publications such as The Recording Academy/The Grammys, The Fader, Billboard, OkayPlayer, Marie Claire, Glamour, Allure, Essence, Ebony, and more.

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