CoronaVirus: U.S. State Department Warns Of Travel Restrictions; Being Stranded In A Foreign Country

 

January 27, 2020  The deadly novel (new) coronavirus, originating in China, has spread  to countries across the globe.  Travelers need to be aware of travel advisories and, the very real possibility of not being allowed to leave their host countries if suspected of infection or, the overall restriction of travel in and out of the impacted areas.

As of the date of this article, the following countries have reported confirmed cases of this new virus:

Australia, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, China, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, U.S. and Vietnam

And, countries with suspected cases:

Canada, Czech Republic, FiJi, India, Austria, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Switzerland.

The U.S. State Department has issued a Level Four travel advisory for China: DO NOT TRAVEL.  France has been issued a Level Two designation: EXERCISE INCREASED PRECAUTIONS.  Check the Travel Advisories for your intended destination. If you are traveling abroad, in that conditions can change very rapidly in a country at any time,  opt to receive updated Travel Advisories and Alerts from the State Department.

Of particular concern is the ability of travelers to leave China if the situation there worsens.  From the State Department:

Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese citizens:

The Chinese government has asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using “exit bans,” sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years. The Chinese government uses exit bans coercively:

  • to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations,
  • to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and
  • to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.

In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China, and there is no method to find out how long the ban may continue. U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened.

U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to “state security.” Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.

Extra security measures, such as security checks and increased levels of police presence, are common in the Xinjiang Uighur and Tibet Autonomous Regions. Authorities may impose curfews and travel restrictions on short notice.

The Chinese government does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and the Chinese government may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services. Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to China:

The Guardian reports that 100,000 people worldwide may already be infected with the coronavirus.  Avoid paranoia but do stay informed.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As aways, be safe.

 

International Driver’s Permit – Do Not Leave Home Without It

Continuing our July travel tips series, this week we take a look at the sensibility and particulars of obtaining an international driver’s permit (IDP). Note: It’s a permit, not an international driver’s license.  You must have a valid driver’s license from your state to qualify for the IDP.

When accompanied by your valid US driver’s license (and always have your passport with you when driving overseas), your IDP will allow you to drive legally in many countries that recognize its validity. It may also be required or recommended by many rental car agencies.

Basic IDP information:

Basics of an International Driving Permit (IDP)
  • You must be a permanent US resident at least 18 years of age and have a US driver’s license that will remain valid for the next six months.
  • Your IDP lets you drive legally in foreign countries when accompanied by your valid US driver’s license.
  • It is recognized in 174 countries.
  • Only two organizations in the US issue IDPs: Automobile Association of America (AAA) and American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
  • The fee for an IDP is $20. (as of July 2019)
  • An IDP can be issued immediately at an AAA branch or may take 10-15 business days by mail from AAA or AATA.
  • An IDP is valid for one year.
Requirements for Getting an International Driving Permit
From AAA

  • Can apply in person or by mail
  • Completed AAA IDP application
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Driver’s license (either in person or photocopies by mail)
  • $20 IDP fee
  • Accepts check, money order, or (in person only) major credit cards
From AATA

  • Can apply only by mail
  • Completed AATA IDP application
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Signed photocopies of front and back of driver’s license
  • $20 IDP fee
  • Shipping and handling fee: domestic ($10 or $35) or international ($85)
  • Accepts check or money order

If you are a foreign driver coming to the U.S. and wish to drive, can you obtain an IDP here? No.  You must have a valid foreign driver’s license and you must obtain an IDP from the same country in which your license was issued.

The U.S. Government does not require you to have an IDP to drive in the US but some individual states may require you to have an IDP to drive on their public roads,. However, many other states do not. California, Massachusetts, and Arizona are among the states that require only a valid foreign driver’s license, not an IDP. Still, it is recommended that you get an IDP because it will be written in English and facilitate communication if you need assistance while driving or are involved in an auto accident.

Countries that recognize IDPshttp://www.drivers.com/article/937/

And again, we recommend that you check with the U.S. State Department to obtain the latest travel advisory for your foreign destination immediately before departure.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.  Head on a swivel when traveling.

Dying To Get Away? You Just Might If You Travel To Certain Countries.

The Dominican Republic has been all over the news these past several months as an unusually high number of American tourists have died there under mysterious circumstances.  (From our perspective, the culprit appears to be tainted alcohol that was consumed from the hotel mini-bars.)  This anomaly aside, the first step in planning any trip abroad should be to check our State Department’s Travel Advisory map.   This color-coded guide to our world is  fluid and continually updated as conditions around the globe change rapidly in any country at any time.

From the U.S. Department of State:

Travel Advisory Levels 1-4

The Travel Advisory appears at the top of each country page, with a color corresponding to each level:  Most Travel Advisories are at Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions – or Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution. Travel Advisories at Levels 2 – 4 provide clear reasons for the advice, use common risk indicators, and state specific actions U.S. citizens should take if they decide to travel to or reside in that country. The new format highlights areas within a country that are of particular concern and provides specific advice for U.S. citizens who decide to travel to those areas.

We consider many factors to determine the Travel Advisory level for each country, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. The information used to formulate Travel Advisories is collected from a range of sources, such as crime statistics and other information that is publicly available, information gathered from U.S. government sources, as well as assessments by our embassies and consulates. Travel Advisories also take into account decisions made to protect the security of U.S. government personnel overseas and ensure that U.S. citizens receive appropriate security information. This analysis is undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations. Travel Advisories represent our commitment to protect U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad by providing them important safety and security information.
We work directly with experts to consider many factors to determine Travel Advisories, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. We consult closely with personnel in embassies and consulates throughout the world, security and intelligence experts, and with other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control.
After a careful review of the security situation, we advise U.S. citizens not to travel to a country as U.S. citizens face a greater likelihood of life-threatening risks in that country. In some countries with a Level 4 Travel Advisory, we have no U.S. embassy or have a very limited diplomatic presence, so our ability to help U.S. citizens is limited. We advise U.S. citizens who decide to travel to a country with a Level 4 Travel Advisory to write a will, have custody arrangements for children, prepare security contingency plans, and have plans if taken hostage or detained.

Travel Advisory Sample (currently in effect)

Advisory

Level

Date Updated

North Macedonia Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions December 26, 2018
Nauru Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions April 2, 2019
Palau Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions December 17, 2018
Burma (Myanmar) Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution June 18, 2019
Worldwide Caution Caution January 15, 2019
Afghanistan Travel Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel April 9, 2019
Albania Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions July 10, 2019
Algeria Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution April 9, 2019
Andorra Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions August 28, 2018
Angola Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions April 9, 2019

Also, if you would like to receive alerts, choose the method that works best for you here:  travel.state.gov/stayingconnected

So, enjoy your travels abroad but stay informed.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.