The Department of State Revisits Travel Advisories under COVID

Updated: Aug 11

US passport holders rejoice, the Department of State has removed the blanket global level 4 travel advisory for US citizens & residents, and returned to a destination by destination set of advisories.

It is a complicated situation, with obvious personal awareness and care necessary until the threat of COVID is resolved. However, as we look at the positive changes taking place around the world right now, it is clear that many nations have found some success in mitigating risk and in better preparing the local population for controlling the threat of the virus.

What that means for you may not be apparent, with some nuance to the direct and indirect implications of the various advisory levels.



Why advisory levels?

The purpose of advisory levels and their various distinctions is to give you the opportunity to make more informed travel decisions.

They are not always the be-all end-all deciding factors for your vacation success, but they can be a very useful baseline indicator and will help you navigate some of the tough decisions surrounding changes of an environmental or political nature.


They can also carry unseen implications elsewhere in your travel planning & execution.

What does the advisory level have to do with my travel insurance?

In addition to helping you make better informed decisions in your personal travel, advanced advisory levels can directly affect the claims coverage allotted by your travel insurance policy administrator, with medical claims unrelated to COVID being affected.

What is the highest level advisory?

A level 4 advisory is a “Do Not Travel” advisory. The wording here is pretty clear, I think. Going well beyond any sort of “avoid all non-essential travel”, I mean, what is or isn't essential?


Level 4 is currently the highest level advisory used by the US Department of State.

The level 4 advisory indicates there are real concerns for your personal well being. As mentioned above, you’ll also likely have extreme difficulty navigating claims coverage and support for your medical needs through your travel insurance policy administrator, whether your claim is COVID related or not.

There are some individual destinations which remain at an increased advisory level, many of which we'd expect such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. There were a few surprises there this morning, however, including vast swathes of South America and a few spots in Central American & the Caribbean.


At the time of publishing the original article, these are some of the current destinations which remain at a level 4 advisory:

Belize

Brazil

China

Costa Rica

Dominican Republic

Honduras

Mexico

Panama

Peru

The Bahamas

Note that this is not an exhaustive list and that the list is constantly being updated. For the most up to date information, you should visit the travel.state.gov website.

What about the good news?

A level 2 advisory is obviously not as welcome as a level 1 advisory, but you might relax more in your future travel plans knowing that the advisory is a clear-ish with notice of “Exercise Increased Caution”. Just bear in mind that advisories may be changed at any time owing to a very complex landscape of concerns and considerations, not least of all COVID related.

At the time of publishing the original article, these are some of the current destinations which are now featuring a reduced level 2 advisory:

Antarctica

Brunei

Fiji

Hong Kong

New Zealand

Mauritius

Thailand

With a reduction to a level 2 advisory for a growing number of destinations, you can rest a little easier and expect fewer headaches navigating your travel medical insurance. In terms of today’s COVID landscape, you might still want to review your travel plans with your companions and with any business involved in your booking.

You should also still consult with your policy administrator for the latest guidance on coverage surrounding medical and COVID specific claims needs – multiple times if necessary from today and up to the time of your departure.

If you are an Odyssean Travel client, your dedicated specialist advisor will be doing a lot of these checks on your behalf. Just remember that we’re unable to interfere or advise specifically with regard to your travel insurance in some instances and that your decision to travel is ultimately a personal one.

Why is the reduced advisory a good thing?

It's a positive step in the right direction for the wonderful world of travel to get back on its feet and to help support you in chasing those travel dreams safely. But it’s also an important milestone in the global economy.

Travel is one of the world's largest employers, supporting more than 300 million jobs around the planet and representing more than 10% of global GDP. It's one of the single largest sectors contributing to the growth of our human race. Up to the end of 2019, almost $11 out of every $100 earned on planet earth was earned through cruise & travel!

I encountered this lady selling refreshments to tourists on the Mekong just west of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam in 2012. Despite some of the lowest COVID numbers throughout the pandemic, Vietnam's job losses increased by 2.4 million. Tourism figures show 50-98% loss or more across annual visitor numbers.

Without travel, we risk a reduction in the standards of living across whole regions of the globe, in particular in the developing world and among remote or island communities. Those beautiful and interesting destinations we’ve come to love as perennial must-see destinations, they tend to really suffer as travel represents an outside proportion of their economy.

What about the continued risks?

I’d never advocate any sort of irresponsible travel or irresponsible behavior of any sort, for that matter. There should still be some discussion as to the real threat of COVID and its mitigation as it relates to your trip plans and your specific circumstances; you might expect more of the unexpected, including rapidly changing rules and requirements for travelers.


No matter how diligent we think we are in our adherence to government guidelines, we still risk unknowingly exposing at-risk members of our communities and those we visit.

Some indisputable actions to help us all through this time include appropriate distancing, more frequent and thorough hand washing, wearing a face covering, and generally being more aware and considerate during this challenging period. Here is a link to the guidance for domestic and international travelers from the CDC.

What about my trip?

These are supremely personal questions and, as with the travel advisory levels, I’m only able to point out some pieces of the puzzle.

In addition to visiting the above links, you might start by opening a dialogue with the people and businesses involved in your trip. If you didn't already have a trusted resource in your own cruise & travel, now is the perfect time to find one!


Each of us has a personal responsibility to protect ourselves and each other. It is somewhat ironic that the enforced restrictions we've experienced during COVID have helped us better understand how important it is to take some time off, which should include a healthy approach to taking a vacation!


It also very directly provides many people with a way to put food on the table and some of the best opportunities to improve their own lives and those of their families.

We might have to make new considerations and refer to trusted resources to see how we can be a positive force for good, together we can still travel responsibly during this disruptive period.


Better yet, we might take something away for the medium to long term, helping make us all better global citizens when the current disruption dissipates and our biggest threats to the world's stability return to those of climate change and the loss of biodiversity, or among economic and political concerns.

Above all else during this time, let’s remember to be kind to one another.



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