Planning your vacation for 2023? Many travelers are eagerly planning out their getaways for next year as they plan out how to use their refreshed vacation time. As we head into the end of the year, there are currently over 15 destinations you shouldn’t travel to, at least according to the U.S. State Department.
When planning your 2023 vacations, it may be worth considering the risks if any of your planned destinations are on the U.S. State Department’s Level 4: Do Not Travel list.
One thing we should point out before digging into the countries on the Level 4 list is that this is simply the State Department’s recommendation. Just because a country is on the Level 4 list doesn’t mean that you can’t travel there; it just means that the State Department recommends that you don’t travel there.
The decision whether or not to travel to an area listed should be considered extensively, and each traveler should decide what is best for themselves.
Below, we have listed all the current destinations that are considered Level 4, their reasons for being included on the list, and a few reasons why some travelers still choose to visit.**
**To be clear, we are not saying travelers should ignore the State Department’s advice; we are simply highlighting some of the reasons travelers choose to do so.**
Mexico… Sort Of
It’s no secret that destinations like Cancun, Tulum, and Los Cabos top the lists of American travelers’ favorite destinations. As such, it may alarm travelers to find Mexico on this list. However, the State Department treats Mexico a bit differently than the rest of the countries on its list.
Namely, Mexico is assessed on a state-by-state basis rather than looking at the country as a whole. This makes sense, as Mexico is quite extensive, and safety varies broadly based on location within the country.
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Below are the Mexican states that are on the U.S. State Department’s Level 4 Do Not Travel List. Included with each state is their reasoning for being on the list, as well as exceptions within the state:
- Colima State
- Exception: Tourist areas and port areas in Manzanillo
- Guerrero State
- Exception: Downtown tourist areas of Taxco
- Michoacan state
- Exceptions: Lazaro Cardenas city center and port, Morelia
- Sinaloa state
- Exceptions: Mazatlan’s Zona Dorada and historic town center
- Tamaulipas state
- Zacatecas state
- Exception: Zacatecas City proper
When looking at the rest of the list of Mexican states, travelers will notice that nearly every state in Mexico is listed at a Level 2: Exercise Increase Caution When Traveling or higher.
However, this should be taken with a grain of salt for travelers heading to Mexico for vacation. Those visiting Mexico to stay at a resort and enjoy a week or two in the sun are extremely unlikely to fall victim to a crime, especially if they plan on sticking to their resort and reputable tourist outings.
Israel… Sort Of
Similar to Mexico, Israel gets a special classification on the State Department’s site. In Israel’s case, there are certain areas that are classified as Level 4: Do Not Travel, while the rest of the country is classified as Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. The State Department says travelers should not travel to Gaza due to terrorism, civil unrest, and armed conflict and classifies it as a Level 4 area.
Why Some Still Visit: Many travelers choose to visit Israel for a trip to the Old City of Jerusalem, steeped in history. A visit to Israel is filled with ancient history not found anywhere else in the world.
The State Department says you should not travel to Afghanistan due to armed conflict, crime, civil unrest, kidnapping, and terrorism. The U.S. embassy closed in August 2021, and the U.S. government is unable to provide help to citizens in the country should they be unjustly detained or worse.
Why Some Still Visit: Historical sites in Bamiyan Valley or Band-e-Amir National Park are popular choices for locals and visitors alike.
Sharing half of an island with one of The Dominican Republic, a popular tourist destination, Haiti is considered unsafe for travel by the U.S. State Department. The reasons cited are crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping. Recently, on October 7th, 2022, the State Department authorized the departure of non-emergency government employees from the area, as well as family members of U.S. government employees, showing that they consider the country a legitimate risk to employees’ safety.
Why Some Still Visit: Haiti is often visited for many of the same reasons other Caribbean destinations are, including beautiful beaches like Cadras beach, nature escapes like Bassin Bleu falls, and exclusive small islands of the mainland like Amiga Island.
Yemen is considered an unsafe destination, and there is an active civil war going on in the country. The U.S. embassy ceased operations in 2015. As such, the U.S. is unable to provide emergency services to citizens in the country. Landmines, kidnapping, armed conflict, health risks, terrorism, and civil unrest are all cited as reasons the State Department recommends travelers avoid going to Yemen.
Why Some Still Visit: Though the country is not recommended for travel, it is still home to an UNESCO world heritage site, The Old City of Sanaa, one of the oldest cities in the world.
Venezuela rarely gets any good press. Additionally, the State Department’s reasoning for putting it on its Level 4 list doesn’t give it a good look either. Terrorism, wrongful detentions, poor health infrastructure, civil unrest, crime, and kidnapping are all cited reasons why travelers are recommended to avoid going to Venezuela.
Why Some Still Visit: Locals to the area and travelers who don’t heed the State Department’s advice enjoy visiting the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, Angel Falls, and El Ávila National Park, accessible from Caracas by cable car.
Syria is not recommended for travel due to kidnapping, risk of unjust detention, armed conflict, terrorism, and civil unrest. The U.S. embassy hasn’t operated in the country since 2012. As a result, the U.S. is unable to provide emergency services to citizens in the country.
Why Some Still Visit: Home to ancient ruins, castles, and mosques, Syria is full of history. Like Yemen, it is home to one of the oldest cities in the world, the Old City of Damascus.
Sudan is not recommended for travel due to kidnapping, terrorism, armed conflict, crime, and civil unrest.
Why Some Still Visit: Ancient ruins like the Meroe Pyramids or the Gebel Barkal are a popular choice for travelers who choose to go to Sudan, and the country is home to two Marine National Parks, which have extremely diverse habitats.
South Sudan is listed as a Level 4 country due to armed conflict, crime, and kidnapping.
Why Some Still Visit: Nature lovers flock to Boma National park. The popular park is home to one of the largest mammal migrations on the planet.
Somalia is a level 4 country due to kidnapping, health issues, crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and piracy.
Why Some Still Visit: Laas Geel, outside Hargeisa, is home to some of the oldest cave paintings in the region. Depictions of cattle with their shepherds adorn the ancient walls.
The State Department recommends travelers avoid North Korea due to the critical threat of wrongful detention in the country. The U.S. cannot provide emergency services to its citizens in North Korea because it does not have any diplomatic relations with the country. Tourism in North Korea is extremely strict, and travelers can only see the country on a guided tour. They will only be alone when in their hotel room and when entering the country.
Why Some Still Visit: Most people who travel to North Korea do so out of curiosity more than anything else, hoping to glimpse what life is like in the country.
Libya is a Level 4 country due to kidnapping, civil unrest, crime, terrorism, and armed conflict.
Why Some Still Visit: The country is home to many ancient sites from both the Greek and Roman eras, such as Cyrene, an ancient Greek city, and Leptis Magna, an ancient Roman city. There are also many opportunities for tours in the Sahara Desert.
Iraq is on the list for no travel due to terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to help U.S. citizens.
Why Some Still Visit: Iraq is home to many ancient ruins and buildings and is full of historical sites like the Erbil Citadel and the Ziggurat of UR.
Iran is a Level 4 country due to kidnapping and the wrongful detention of U.S. citizens.
Why Some Still Visit: This country is home to some truly stunning architecture, like Golestan Palace or Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, both displaying captivating colors and mosaics.
Burma is on the list for no travel due to armed conflict, civil unrest, areas with landmines, wrongful detentions, and inadequate healthcare resources.
Why Some Still Visit: The country is home to countless temples, pagodas, and monasteries, and one of the most unique ways to see them is by taking a hot air balloon ride over the city of Bagan.
The State Department says travelers should avoid travel to Russia due to its “unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces.” They also cite harassment against U.S. citizens, arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights in and out of Russia, terrorism, and the Embassy’s limited ability to assist citizens in the country.
Why Some Still Visit: Many travelers head to Russia for its unique architecture. Russia is home to many interesting buildings, but one of the most famous is certainly Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
Mali is a Level 4 country due to kidnapping, crime, and terrorism.
Why Some Still Visit: The Great Mosque of Djenne, Boucle du Baoule National Park, and Djinguereber Mosquea are all reasons people visit Mali despite its place on the State Department’s list.
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic is a Level 4 country due to kidnapping, civil unrest, crime, and the Embassy’s limited ability to help citizens in the country.
Why Some Still Visit: Visitors head to the Central African Republic to get a unique glimpse at nature. Visiting the Dzanga-Sangha Reserve, Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park, and Les Chutes de Boali provides unique views of natural landscapes and the animals that call them home.
The State Department lists Burkina Faso as a Level 4 country due to kidnapping, terrorism, and crime.
Why Some Still Visit: Like the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso is a place for nature lovers. The Reserve de Nazinga, Les Cascades de Banfora, and Mare aux Hippopotamus are all popular areas for viewing wildlife and natural scenery.
Belarus is a Level 4 country due to the risk of detention, arbitrary enforcement of laws, and the buildup of Russian military along its border with Ukraine.
Why Some Still Visit: Belarus hasn’t really marketed itself as a tourist destination for most of its existence, and travelers heading here can look at soviet-era buildings, tour Belarussian castles, and visit one of the country’s many lakes.
Ukraine is a Level 4 country due to the ongoing invasion of Russia. However, for those brave enough to visit, the country did launch war tourism opportunities recently.
Why Some Still Visit: Ukraine has a lot of natural beauty to explore, like the largest canyon in Europe, and it is also home to many UNESCO world heritage sites like the wooden churches of the Carpathian region
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com