Understanding travel advisories

As you know there was a very serious incident in Nice yesterday involving a truck that drove into a crowd watching celebrations for a national holiday (Bastille Day).  Once again our hearts go out to those affected by this tragedy and to the whole of France.  In fact this sort of terrorism touches all of us around the world

je suis

(I am exhausted)

As at this morning (15th July 2016) the position with regard to travel to France would seem to be as follows –

  • The Canadian Government has updated its online travel advice page with information on the incident in Nice but has not issued a travel advisory recommending that Canadians do not travel to France. They continue to recommend that travellers to France “exercise a high degree of caution due to the current elevated threat of terrorism.” when travelling in France;
  • There is still elevated security in France under the “state of emergency” that was declared by the French government last year and that state of emergency will continue for another 3 months. As a result, travellers will probably notice more police and other security at airports, seaports and train stations.
  • Flights and trains appear to be operating as usual in France;
  • Of course, the Canadian government travel advice on France may change as more information becomes available to them and customers can monitor this themselves at https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/france


So let’s look more deeply into this.

What does it mean when the Canadian Government website advises travelers to exercise a high degree of caution as advised on their website regarding France. This is what their website says –


France – Exercise a high degree of caution

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for France. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the current elevated threat of terrorism.

“Exercise a high degree of caution” means

“There are identifiable safety and security concerns or the safety and security situation could change with little notice. You should exercise a high degree of caution at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.”

The following are the four risk levels of travel advice that could be issued by the Canadian Government. I am intentionally using the word “advice” as opposed to “advisory” as otherwise things can get confusing, as you will see below.

Risk levels

As you will see from the above, only the last two “Risk Levels” are “Official Government of Canada Travel Advisories”. Important? Yes, if you have travel insurance with cancellation cover, because the first two levels may not be sufficient for you to make a claim if you decide you don’t want to go to the affected destination. For example the Manulife Travel Insurance policy states that you only have cover if –

“20. ‡ The Government of Canada issues an “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” or an “Avoid All Travel” travel advisory after your departure date, advising or recommending that Canadian residents should not visit a destination included in your trip.”

AND, just to really complicate matters, every Insurer will have different wording and coverage; so you should check your policy carefully and, if necessary, take advice and/or call your insurance company BEFORE you decide to cancel!

ALSO, some existing “travel advisories” can be confusing.  For example, the Level 3 travel advisory on the Canadian Government website with regard to Egypt advises as follows


Global Affairs Canada advises against non-essential travel to Egypt due to the unpredictable security situation. This advisory does not apply to the Red Sea coastal resorts of Hurghada (and its surroundings) and Sharm el-Sheikh, nor to the area from Luxor to Aswan along the upper Nile, where you should exercise a high degree of caution.

So, if you are planning a trip to Egypt you may find that you can’t get travel insurance at all because many Nile river cruises and packages start in Cairo which is subject to the Travel Advisory. So your choice of land arrangements and flights may be limited to areas in Egypt that are excluded from the Travel Advisory. All this is not easy but a travel professional may be able to assist with flights from Europe and other arrangements that keep you in the excluded areas.

And then there is the “sort-of” Level 3 Travel Advisory for MEXICO – a popular destination for Canadians – that only applies to the Northern and Western States


MEXICO – Exercise a high degree of caution

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Mexico. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to violence in those parts of the country experiencing a deteriorating security situation (see Advisories below). High levels of criminal activity, as well as demonstrations, protests and occasional illegal roadblocks, remain a concern throughout the country.

Northern states – Avoid non-essential travel

Global Affairs Canada advises against non-essential travel to the northern states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León (except the city of Monterrey), Sinaloa (with the exception of Mazatlán), Sonora (except the cities of Hermosillo and Guaymas/San Carlos), and Tamaulipas due to high levels of violence linked to organized crime. Consult Security for more information.

Western states – Avoid non-essential travel

Global Affairs Canada advises against non-essential travel to the western states of Guerrero (including Acapulco but excluding the cities of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Taxco) and Michoacán (excluding the city of Morelia) due to the high levels of violence and organized crime. For the same reason, avoid non-essential travel to the areas of Jalisco state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas, as well as the areas of Colima state that border Michoacán. Exercise a high degree of caution in the excluded areas. Consult Security for more information.

Or the lower level risk advice that applies to many places in and around the Caribbean – for example

Costa Rica – Exercise a high degree of caution

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Costa Rica. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to crime.

Or Belize?

Belize – Exercise a high degree of caution

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Belize. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to a high rate of violent crime throughout the country.

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THIS INFORMATION – The bottom line for Canadian travellers is that there are scores of countries listed on the Canadian Government site that are affected by various warnings or Travel Advisories. Actually every destination that I can think of is affected by some degree of risk, not least of all our immediate neighbour the United States (think guns and mass shootings, attacks and threats in Orlando and California and snipers in Dallas).

Will you stop travelling? Your choice. Everyone has their comfort level and a few may choose to stay home in Canada rather than run the risk of what happened in Nice yesterday or Orlando last month. There are also many travellers who hold the view that the very nature of a terrorist attack means that it can happen anywhere, even back home, and travel regardless.

If you have booked a trip and the Canadian Government advice is Exercise a High Degree of Caution (as it now does for France) you really have to go with what you personally are comfortable with. There is no point going away somewhere if you are constantly worried and in fear.  That definitely is not a vacation.  Despite Nice, many travellers will of course continue with their travel plans to Europe, as will I at the end of August when I will be visiting one of my favourite cities, Paris.  I can do no better than quote the following advice from the Canadian Government relating to a high risk level “Travel Advisory” situation (currently not the risk level for France). Check the Government advice and the risk level against your own personal threshold – it’s your decision!

Should I cancel my trip if a Travel Advisory has been issued?

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the individual. You are strongly advised to follow the Government of Canada’s official travel advice to ensure your personal safety and security. It is up to the individual to decide what constitutes “non-essential travel,” based on family or business requirements, knowledge of a country or region, and other factors.

Cancelling a scheduled trip could cost you money, so check with your travel agent, travel insurer, or airline/tour operator first. Travel insurers generally take into account the government’s Travel Advisories when determining their refund policy, but they have no legal or contractual obligation to do so.
Not afraid



By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s