We have an upcoming vacation planned to Istanbul and Malta. The flights and hotels have been booked for months and, needless to say, the recent issues in Istanbul gave me reason to question whether or not we should change our plans. I decided to check the State Department’s website for any Travel Alert or Travel Warnings for Turkey. The difference between the two is that a Travel Alert is issued in the case of political unrest or demonstrations within a country or region. A Travel Warning is issued if Americans are advised not to visit a country at all because of a country’s ongoing political unrest or instability. In countries where a Travel Warning has been issued “… the U.S. Government’s ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.”
While checking the site about the situation in Turkey, I discovered that The State Department has created a free Smart Traveler App. Initially launched in 2011, the app is designed for US travelers heading abroad and offers access to official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, etc. The app is current and is updated frequently. The information on the app is the same information which is posted on The US Department of State’s site Travel.State.Gov. More detailed information can be found on this State Department page which also has a mobile version.
The app is quite easy to use with a ‘Know Before You Go’ section where travel alerts and travel warnings involving a specific country or region may be found. Travelers will find maps, security and safety information, embassy locations, and more on the app. Before you travel, it will be possible to set up personalized itineraries in order to keep up with arrival and departure dates. The app also provides a link to the State Department’s new Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which allows travelers to create an account and enter their itinerary and contact information. This free and voluntary extension allows the State Department to better assist if there is an emergency back home or in the case of a personal crisis (lost/stolen passport).
I discovered that a Travel Warning for Turkey was issued on June 4, 2013. According to the website:
- U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Turkey should be alert to the potential for violence. We strongly urge U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. There have been no direct attacks on U.S. citizens.
- Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news media for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security, and follow instructions of local authorities.
While we have not changed our plans yet, there is a strong possibility that we may do so. I have been checking the news every day and will continue to monitor the State Department’s website. I will also be downloading the Smart Traveler App to have updated and current information.
Smart Traveler is presently compatible with iPhones, iPods, iPads with operating systems iOS 4.0 or later as well as Android devices.
Smart Traveler can be found at:
• Smart Traveler for iOS
• Smart Traveler for Android
Have you ever traveled in a country with a recently issued Traveler Alert? Do you see a benefit in having the app on your mobile device?