In our travel information, there are certain countries and areas where we warn people not to go. In these high-risk areas, we are limited in our ability to provide consular services.
We want you to know the danger of traveling to high-risk places and to strongly consider not going to them at all. Traveling to high-risk locations puts your life, and possibly the lives of others, in jeopardy. Traveling to high-risk areas puts you at risk for kidnapping and hostage-taking – this should be a consideration before travel.
What the State Department Can and Cannot Do in High-Risk Areas
- You are subject to the laws and the justice system of the country you are visiting.
- In many high-risk areas, we cannot help you. This may be because of a lack of a functioning government, the ineffectiveness or policies of local authorities, conflict, or bad governance.
- In many countries where the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations, the U.S. government has no means to provide consular services to U.S. citizens. In the limited number of countries where the United States has an official Protecting Power arrangement with another country, very limited assistance may be available. In high-risk areas, we may be extremely limited in what we can do to help you. Please refer to our Victims of Crime page.
- In a crisis, we rely on local infrastructure. We may or may not be able to assist you. See what we can and cannot do here: Crisis Support page.
Please take a moment to review travel recommendations from:
- The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs
- The Overseas Security Advisory Council, a public/private partnership with the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation
Before You Go to a High-Risk Area
For those who, after careful consideration, decide to travel to high risk areas, we strongly encourage you to:
- Enroll your trip in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (Step).
- Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney.
- Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc.
- Share important documents, login information, and points of contact with loved ones so that they can manage your affairs, if you are unable to return as planned to the United States. Find a suggested list of such documents here.
- Establish your own personal security plan in coordination with your employer or host organization, or consider consulting with a professional security organization.
- Develop a communication plan with family and/or your employer or host organization so that they can monitor your safety and location as you travel through high-risk areas. This plan should specify who you would contact first, and how they should share the information.
- Identify key sources of possible assistance for you and your family in case of emergency, such as the local U.S. embassy or consulate, FBI, the State Department, your employer (if traveling on business), and local friends/family in the high-risk area.
- Be sure to appoint one family member to serve as the point of contact with hostage-takers, media, U.S. and host country government agencies, and Members of Congress if you are taken hostage or detained.
- Establish a proof of life protocol with your loved ones, so that if you are taken hostage, your loved ones can know specific questions (and answers) to ask the hostage-takers to be sure that you are alive (and to rule out a hoax)
- Leave DNA samples with your medical provider in case it is necessary for your family to access them.
- Erase any sensitive photos, comments, or other materials from your social media pages, cameras, laptops, and other electronic devices that could be considered controversial or provocative by local groups.
- Leave your expensive/sentimental belongings behind
- The State Department’s Country Information, which includes:
- Contact information for U.S. embassies or consulates in those countries (if applicable)
- Information about local laws and customs, travel conditions, entry and exit requirements, etc.
- Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Journalist page
- Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Faith-Based Travel Information page
- Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad page
- State Department’s Human Rights Report
- White House Fact Sheet on Hostage Recovery Activities
- Safety Tips for Business Travel (ACE USA)
- Managing Travel Risks: Tips for International Business Travel (the Ackerman Group LLC)
- The Business Traveler: Safety, Health, and Security Tips (Travelers Indemnity Company)
- Hostage US