The purpose of FCO Travel Advice is to provide information and views to help British Nationals form their own judgements about travelling to or operating in a particular country. While every care is taken in preparing FCO Travel Advice, the FCO do not assume any responsibility, to those who read the Travel Advice and who may choose to take it into account when making any decisions relating to a particular country. Neither the United Kingdom Government nor any member of British consular or diplomatic staff abroad can accept liability for injury, loss or damage arising in any respect of any statement contained in FCO Travel Advice.
In June 2004, following an in-depth review of Travel Advice (PDF file) the Foreign Secretary confirmed in a Written Statement to Parliament that he had decided to adopt option (e) of the recommendations in the Review, that in future we would:
- Continue to proscribe travel based on non-terrorist threats (coups, civil unrest, natural disasters), but confining such prescriptions in the case of intelligence-based terrorist threats to situations of extreme and imminent danger – ie if the threat was sufficiently specific, large-scale or endemic to affect British nationals severely.
British nationals would be expected to make up their own minds in all other circumstances on the basis of information on the risks. We would still issue warnings of imminent attacks ('we believe terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks'), but without prescribing action except in the conditions outlined in the paragraph above.
The 2004 Review was completed following widespread consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including travel and insurance companies, media, foreign governments, members of the public and parliament. A survey of website users found that the majority of visitors to the site viewed Travel Advice positively.
The Review concluded that significant change was not needed in the process by which Travel Advice was produced, although some editorial changes could sharpen the impact, including clarifying the basis on which we advised against travel. Broadly speaking, FCO Travel Advice compared well with the advice issued by other governments, but there was no perfect balance between information, warnings and proscribing travel.
In July 2007, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State informed in a written statement to Parliament the introduction of four generic threat descriptors. The descriptors were introduced in consultation with the travel industry and other stakeholders to compliment FCO Travel Advice and to clarify the scale of the terrorist threat to the travelling public.
FCO Travel Advice is designed to try to safeguard the British traveller; the advice put out by other governments is for their nationals. The British Government shares certain intelligence with key allies and seeks to co-ordinate its travel advice with others where this is appropriate. But this does not mean that travel advice for British nationals will always be the same as that for other nationals. Circumstances may vary for different nationalities. Nationals of other countries should therefore consult their own government's web site.
Australian travel advice is determined after considering the risks and comparing these to the general security threats in a large Australian city. The capacity of the foreign government to deal with risks is also taken into account.
The Australians have recently reviewed and amended the way their Travel Advice is written and presented. There is now a five-level system to grade the Australian Government's assessment of the level of risk in individual countries ranging from advising travellers to be alert to their own security, exercising growing degrees of caution, reconsidering the need to travel, and finally, advising their nationals not to travel to a specific destination.
Like the UK, the Australian process of issuing a Travel Advice notice involves a thorough and careful process of review including consultation with the relevant post (eg Embassy) and geographical desk, and ensuring that the advisories address common or recurring consular problems that Australians experience overseas.
The USA informs its citizens of potential threats to their safety abroad through its Consular Information Program: Travel Warnings, Public Announcements, and Consular Information Sheets.
Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that American nationals avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous, unstable, or the US Government's ability to assist its citizens is constrained by Embassy drawdown or closure.
Public Announcements contain information about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term and/or trans-national conditions posing significant risks to the security of American travellers. Public Announcements are issued for a limited period of time – usually 90 days.
Consular Information Sheets provide basic information to enable a traveller to make informed preparations for travel to a particular country, such as health, entry requirements, crime, and security information.
The Canadians have four different risk levels. Included in these four different risk levels, two are formal Travel Warnings (non-essential travel and all travel) A Travel Warning may be issued recommending that Canadians avoid "all travel" or "non-essential travel" to a country or region,and in some cases recommending that Canadians depart that country or region.
There is no strict formula to determine a risk level. The level is based on an overall assessment of the current security situation in a country or region, but this assessment is not exhaustive.
For further information on FCO Travel Advice, you can access the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.