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 U.S. Travel Advisories for African Countries
Below, we have listed all current African travel advisories ranked Level 2 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 2 travel advisory issued due to crime 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. In particular, the advisory warns against all travel to the Sahel region on the border with Mali and Niger, where terrorist attacks have included the kidnapping of Western tourists.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime and armed conflict. 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 travel to the North and Far North regions and parts of the East and Adamawa regions. In these areas, the chance of terrorist activity is also heightened and kidnappings are a cause for concern.
Level 4 travel advisory issued due to crime and civil unrest. 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. Violent crimes have been reported in Chad, 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. 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 2 travel advisory issued due to crime and civil unrest. There is a high level of violent crime, including armed robbery, sexual assault and assault. Political demonstrations are volatile and frequently illicit a heavy-handed response from law enforcement. Travel to the eastern Congo and the three Kasai provinces is not recommended due to ongoing armed conflict.
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. Some areas are more dangerous than others. Many of the country's main tourist areas are considered relatively safe; while travel to the Western Desert, the Sinai Peninsula and the border is not recommended.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to travel restrictions and limited consular assistance. If you are arrested in Eritrea, it is likely that access to U.S. Embassy assistance will be withheld by local law enforcement. Tourists are advised to reconsider travel to the Ethiopian border region as a result of political instability, ongoing unrest and unmarked minefields.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to the potential for civil unrest and communications disruptions. Travel to the Somali Regional State is not advised due to the potential for civil unrest, terrorism and landmines. Crime and civil unrest are also considered likely in the East Hararge region of Oromia state, the Danakil Depression area and the borders with Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea.
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 has 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. Violent crime is a problem throughout Kenya, and tourists are advised to avoid the Eastleigh area of Nairobi at all times, and the Old Town in Mombasa after dark. Travel to the Kenya - Somalia border and some other coastal areas is not recommended due to increased terrorist activity.
Level 4 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism, armed conflict 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 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 mugging) 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 3 travel advisory issued due to crime and terrorism. 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 Mali border, where extremist groups are known to operate.
Level 3 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism and piracy. Violent crimes are common in Nigeria, while terrorist attacks target crowded areas in and around the Federal Capital Territory and other urban areas. In particular, the northern states (especially Borno) are prone to terrorist activity. Piracy is a concern for travelers to the Gulf of Guinea, which should be avoided if possible.
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 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 Somali coast.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime. Violent crimes including armed robbery, rape and smash-and-grab attacks on vehicles are common in South Africa, especially in the central business districts of major cities after dark. However, most other areas of the country are considered relatively safe - especially the rural game parks and reserves.
Level 4 travel advisory issued due to crime 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 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 terrorism and civil unrest. Terrorist groups in Sudan have stated their intent to harm Westerners, and attacks are likely, especially in Khartoum. Due to civil unrest, curfews are imposed with little to no warning, while arbitrary arrests are possible. All travel to the Darfur region, Blue Nile state and Southern Kordofan state is considered unsafe due to armed conflict.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime, terrorism 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, and there have been reports of LGBTI travelers being harassed or arrested and charged with unrelated offenses.
Level 2 travel advisory issued due to crime and civil unrest. Spontaneous violent crimes (like carjackings) and organized crimes (including armed robberies) are common, while criminals themselves are often the target of vigilante justice. Civil unrest results in frequent public demonstrations, with both the protesters and the police prone to violent tactics.
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. 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.