A travel warning is an official statement from a government advising its citizens to consider avoiding travel to a particular nation. Travel warnings are not bans; citizens can still choose to travel to nations named in a travel warning, but they do so with increased risk and may want to evaluate this risk carefully before proceeding with travel plans. A lesser notification called a travel alert is used when a temporary condition makes travel potentially unsafe, and a government wants to advise citizens to delay travel plans.
Travel warnings are issued when it is clear that long term problems are present in a country and are unlikely to be addressed in the near future. This can include severe political instability, concerns about the risk of terrorism, and other issues. It may not be possible to staff embassies in that nation, and in some cases, embassy personnel are expelled or advised to evacuate. Citizens traveling in that country do so with the understanding that they may not be able to receive embassy assistance if they get into trouble.
By contrast, a travel alert warns of temporary conditions like political unrest or an outbreak of disease. The travel alert suggests that people may want to delay until the issue is resolved, but is indicative of a belief that the country will be safe to travel to in the near future.
If a travel warning or alert is issued after people have made travel plans, it may be possible to obtain a refund or credit with airlines, hotels, travel agents, and so forth. This is provided as a courtesy and is designed to prevent people from feeling obligated to travel in an unsafe location because they have already paid for it. People who choose to travel anyway may want to read the travel warning carefully to get information about specific safety concerns so they can take reasonable precautions.
People reentering their home nations with immigration stamps from a country the government has issued a travel warning about should not be detained or otherwise interfered with, as they have not broken the law. The exception to this rule is people who have been flagged by the government as causes for concern, or people who are dual citizens or resident aliens. These individuals may be viewed with suspicion if they have traveled to a country where terrorist activity is present, as there may be concerns about the reasons behind their travel decisions.