State Department overhauls travel warning system for Americans overseas

State Department makes changes to travel warning system

"We often got questions from people saying, 'I read your travel warning, but what does that mean, what am I supposed to do?'" Bernier-Toth said during a State Department call early Wednesday.

Five states in Mexico now have the sternest "do not travel" advisories under a revamped U.S. State Department system unveiled Wednesday, putting them on the same level as war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

Level two exercise increased caution and be aware of heightened risks to safety and security.

Level one advises travelers to exercise normal precaution as there may be some risk during worldwide travel.

While the State Department may warn against all travel, they can not bar citizens from traveling overseas or going to a specific country.

Nothing about how the safety and security situation in each country is evaluated has changed -- that's still done by the State Department in consultation with intelligence agencies, host governments and local USA embassies.

North Korea is also level four, with the additional restriction that U.S. law prohibits American travelers from using their passports there, effectively banning visits.

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Several European countries that are popular with American tourists were put at the Tier 2 level due to risks related to terrorism.

"As we were putting all this together we did a very careful assessment", said Bernier-Toth, explaining the Tier 3 ranking, "we talked to all of our experts, and this is where we came out on Cuba".

Right now, Mexico ranks as a level two overall, but the state of Tamaulipas is a level four due to crime.

The changes come at a time of global upheaval that's hard for many travelers to keep tabs on, but also a time of increased travel -- 2017 was on track to be a record year for the number of Americans traveling overseas. The State Department noted that there "are no USA government restrictions" in tourist areas in both those states, including Ensenada, Rosarito, Tijuana, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and La Paz.

Meanwhile, alerts, such as hurricane warnings, demonstration alerts and other considerations, will continue to be released from the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Many countries in Western Europe, where there have been terrorist attacks in recent years, are listed as level 2. Under that system, the department would issue either a "travel alert" or a "travel warning" when it deemed prudent, which generally included a briefing as to the reason.

Cuba, for instance, is listed as a level 3 country.

Countries have been issuing travel advisories for its citizens time and again, considering the present global scenario.