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Terrorist attacks, wars, and civil unrest have become a regrettable feature of the global landscape. When business demands require travel to one of these hotspots, certain precautions can keep you reasonably safe.
Should your travel plans include dangerous geographic regions, the U.S. State Department (https://travel.state.gov) is a valuable resource. Since a country can morph overnight from perfectly safe to risky business, make sure to bookmark this site for easy reference. Then, check in before you leave for your trip, and frequently during the duration.
The U.S. State Department Travel Alerts and Warnings
The State Department issues travel alerts to prepare American citizens for various contingencies posing significant risks to their security. Besides potential violence, these alerts also address natural disasters, anniversaries of attacks, and even high-profile events such as sports competitions, and international conferences. Check out https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html for real-time updates on potential problems.
The State Department also provides travel warnings for regions it deems dangerous or volatile, advising citizens to avoid the risk of travel there. Conditions might include unstable government, civil war, frequent terrorist attacks, or a prevalence of violent crime. Because embassies have closed in many of these areas, the federal government can do very little to help Americans who get into trouble. Current travel warnings are available at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html.
In addition to offering an ongoing list of nations in “alert” or “warning” categories, the site also provides a search function allowing users to refine information about specific destinations. As an added precaution, register your travel plans with the State Department.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/step.html) is a free government service provided to U.S. citizens who are traveling to or living in a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency, as well as notify family members and friends of your situation.
What YOU Can Do to Stay Safe
While no one can be 100 percent sure they won’t encounter trouble when visiting high-risk areas, a number of measures can make a safe trip and return much more likely. Here are some tips:
Except for prescriptions or physician-approved medications, stay away from purchasing or possessing other drugs. Illegal substance charges can land you in prison before your case even comes to trial.
If, in spite of your best precautions, you are detained for any reason, contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. While U.S. consular personnel cannot compel local officials to release you from prison, they can provide a list of local attorneys; help you understand local judicial protocols; and contact your family and friends.