While staying safe in Africa is usually a matter of common sense, there are some regions or countries that are legitimately unsafe for tourists. If you're in the process of planning a trip to Africa and aren't sure about the safety of your chosen destination, it's a good idea to check the travel warnings issued by the U.S. Department of State.
What Are Travel Warnings?
Travel warnings or advisories are issued by the government in an attempt to forewarn U.S. citizens about the dangers of traveling to a specific area or country. They are based on expert evaluations of the country's current political and social situation. Often, travel warnings are issued as a response to immediate crises such as civil war, terrorist attacks, or political coups. They can also be issued due to ongoing social unrest or aggravated crime rates; and sometimes reflect health concerns (such as the West Africa ebola epidemic of 2014).
Currently, travel advisories are ranked on a scale of 1 to 4. Level 1 is "exercise normal precautions", which essentially means that there are no special safety concerns at present. Level 2 is "exercise increased caution", which means that there is some risk in certain areas, but you should still be able to travel safely as long as you're aware of the risk and act accordingly. Level 3 is "reconsider travel", which means that all but essential travel is not recommended. Level 4 is "do not travel", which means that the current situation is too dangerous for tourists.
For more information about the circumstances that inspire individual travel warnings, consider checking the advisories issued by other governments as well, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Current US Travel Advisories for African Countries
Below, we have given an overview of the travel advisories for all African countries with a Level 2 ranking or higher.
Disclaimer: Please note that travel warnings change all the time and while this article is updated regularly, it's best to check the U.S. Department of State website directly before booking your trip.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to terrorism. Terrorist attacks may take place without warning, and are considered more likely in rural areas. The warning particularly advises against travel to rural areas within 50 kilometers of the Tunisian border, or within 250 kilometers of the borders with Libya, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania. Overland travel in the Sahara Desert is also not recommended.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime, kidnapping, and terrorism. Violent crime is widespread, particularly in urban areas, and often targets foreign nationals. Terrorist attacks have taken place and could occur again at any time. The advisory increases the ranking to a Level 4 for several parts of the country, including Arrondissement 11 in Ouagadougou; and 11 regions including the Sahel, Cascades, and Boucle du Mouhoun areas.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime and political violence. Violent crimes, including grenade attacks, are common. Sporadic violence occurs as a result of ongoing political tension, while police and military checkpoints can restrict freedom of movement. In particular, cross-border raids by armed groups from the DRC are common in the provinces of Cibitoke and Bubanza.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime. Violent crime is a problem throughout Cameroon, although some areas are worse than others. Particularly, the government advises against all travel to the North, Far North, Northwest, and Southwest regions and parts of the East and Adamawa regions. In some of these areas, the chance of terrorism and armed conflict is also heightened.
Level 4 travel advisory issued due to crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping. Armed robberies, murders, and aggravated assaults are common, while armed groups control large areas of the country and often target civilians for kidnappings and killings. Sudden closures of air and land borders in the event of civil unrest mean that tourists are likely to be stranded if trouble arises.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, and minefields. There has been an increase in reported violent crimes since 2018, while terrorist groups move easily in and out of the country and are especially active in the Lake Chad region. Borders may close without warning, leaving tourists stranded. Minefields exist along the borders with Libya and Sudan.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime and terrorism. Terrorist attacks may occur at any time and are likely to target tourist areas, especially in the northern border region. Violent crimes (including carjackings, home invasions, and armed robberies) are common, while U.S. government officials are prohibited from driving outside major cities after dark and can therefore provide limited assistance.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime and civil unrest. There is a high level of violent crime, while political demonstrations are volatile and often illicit an extreme response from law enforcement. The eastern Congo and the three Kasai provinces are given a Level 4 ranking due to ongoing armed conflict. North Kivu and Ituri provinces are also Level 4 due to crime, Ebola, and kidnappings.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to terrorism. Terrorist groups continue to target tourist locations, government facilities, and transportation hubs, while civil aviation is considered to be at risk. Many of the country's main tourist areas are relatively safe, however. Meanwhile, travel to the Western Desert, the Sinai Peninsula (except Sharm el-Sheikh), and the border areas is not recommended.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to travel restrictions, limited consular assistance, and landmines. If you are arrested in Eritrea, it is likely that access to U.S. Embassy assistance will be withheld by local law enforcement. Landmines are a risk in many remote and/or rural areas of the country, including (but not limited to) Nakfa, AdiKeih, and Arezza.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to the potential for civil unrest and communications disruptions. Travel to the Somalian border area is not advised due to the potential for kidnapping, terrorism, and landmines. Armed conflict and/or civil unrest are also considered likely in areas such as the East Hararge region of Oromia state, and the borders with Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to civil unrest. Political demonstrations occur frequently and are often unpredictable. In the past, some have resulted in serious injuries or fatalities, while protestors are likely to target drivers who attempt to pass through or around protest action. Opportunistic thieves may target those who become trapped in the congestion caused by demonstrations.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime and civil unrest. Violent crime is a problem throughout Guinea-Bissau but especially at the Bissau airport and at Bandim Market in the center of the capital. Political unrest and social dysfunction have been ongoing for decades, and conflict between factions can cause violence to erupt at any time. There is no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, and kidnapping. Violent crime is a problem throughout Kenya, and tourists are warned to avoid the Eastleigh and Kibera areas of Nairobi at all times, and to exercise caution whenever traveling after dark. The Kenya-Somalia border, some coastal areas, and parts of Turkana County are ranked Level 4 due to the risk of terrorism.
Level 4 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, armed conflict, kidnapping, and civil unrest. The chances of getting caught up in violent extremist activity are high, while terrorist groups are likely to target foreign nationals (and U.S. citizens in particular). Civil aviation is at risk from terrorist attack, and flights in and out of Libyan airports are regularly canceled, leaving tourists stranded.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to civil unrest. In recent months, scheduled political demonstrations have occurred in urban areas across the country. Vandalism and looting often accompany these protests, and police officers have been known to respond with violent methods including the deployment of tear gas.
Level 4 travel advisory issued due to crime and terrorism. Violent crime is common throughout the country but especially in Bamako and the southern regions of Mali. Roadblocks and random police checks allow corrupt police officers to take advantage of tourists traveling on the roads, especially at night. Terrorist attacks continue to target places frequented by foreigners.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime and terrorism. Terrorist attacks may occur without warning and are likely to target areas frequented by Western tourists. Violent crimes (including robberies, rapes, assaults, and muggings) are common, while U.S. government officials must obtain special permission to travel outside of Nouakchott and can therefore provide limited assistance in case of emergency.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to terrorism. Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks in Morocco and may target tourist destinations and attractions as well as public transport hubs. These attacks are unpredictable and may occur with little or no warning. Travelers are advised to avoid demonstrations and crowds where possible.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, and kidnapping. Violent crimes are common, while terrorist attacks and kidnappings target foreign and local government facilities and areas frequented by tourists. In particular, avoid travel to the border regions; especially the Diffa region, the Lake Chad region, and the Malian border, where extremist groups are known to operate.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and piracy. Violent crimes are common in Nigeria, while terrorist attacks are particularly prevalent in the northeast. The states of Borno, Yobe, and northern Adamwa are ranked Level 4 due to the threat of terrorism. Piracy is a concern for travelers to the Gulf of Guinea, which should be avoided.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime and civil unrest. Violent crime is a concern throughout the Republic of the Congo, while political demonstrations occur frequently and often turn violent. Tourists are advised to reconsider travel to the southern and western districts of the Pool Region, where ongoing military operations result in a higher risk of civil unrest and armed conflict.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime. Violent crimes including assault and robbery are common, while local police are rarely able to respond to incidents effectively. U.S. government employees are banned from traveling outside Freetown after dark, and can therefore only offer limited assistance to any tourists that find themselves in trouble.
Level 4 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, kidnapping, and piracy. Violent crimes are common throughout, with frequent illegal roadblocks and a high incidence of kidnappings and murders. Terrorist attacks target Western tourists, and are likely to occur without warning. Piracy is rife in the international waters off the Horn of Africa, especially near the Somalian coast.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime, civil unrest, and drought. Violent crimes including armed robbery, rape, and smash-and-grab attacks on vehicles are common in South Africa, especially in the CBDs of major cities after dark. Political protests occur frequently and can turn violent. The Western, Eastern, and Northern Cape provinces are experiencing a severe drought and water restrictions may apply.
Level 4 travel advisory issued due to crime, kidnapping, and armed conflict. Armed conflict is ongoing between various political and ethnic groups, while violent crime is common. The crime rates in Juba especially are critical, with U.S. government officials usually only permitted to travel in armored vehicles. Restrictions on official travel outside Juba mean that tourists cannot rely on assistance in an emergency.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict. Members of known terrorist groups reside in Sudan and are likely to target Westerners. Violence is common along the borders with Chad and South Sudan, while armed opposition groups are active in the Central Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan states.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, health issues, and the targeting of LGBTI travelers. Violent crime is common in Tanzania, and includes sexual assault, kidnapping, mugging, and carjacking. Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks on areas frequented by Western tourists. In September 2019, unofficial reports were made regarding a case of Ebola in Dar es Salaam.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to terrorism. Certain areas are considered more at risk of attack than others. The government advises against travel to Sidi Bou Zid, the desert south of Remada, areas of the Algerian border and the mountainous areas in the northwest (including Chaambi Mountain National Park). Travel within 30 kilometers of the Libyan border is also not recommended.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime and kidnapping. Although many areas of Uganda are considered relatively safe, there is a high incidence of violent crimes (including armed robberies, home invasions, and sexual assaults) in the country's larger cities. Tourists are advised to take particular care in Kampala and Entebbe. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively in an emergency.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime and civil unrest. Political instability, economic hardship, and the effects of recent drought have led to civil unrest, which may present itself through violent demonstrations. Violent crime is common and prevalent in areas frequented by Western tourists. Visitors are advised not to display evident signs of wealth.
Level 1 Countries With Higher Risk Areas
The following countries have been given an overall Level 1 ranking, but include areas with a higher risk of danger: Angola, Benin, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, and Togo. Please check the Department of State website for specific details.