You may not know it, but the U.S. State Department has a really handy map that you can use when you’re planning (or you’re on) your next international trip. It combines a few helpful sets of data and links in one. The map, which is interactive (you can zoom in and out and click for more info), shows:
- The locations of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, Consular Agents, Consular Sections, and U.S. Protecting Powers (I just learned that a protecting power “is a country that represents another sovereign state in a country where it lacks its own diplomatic representation”; the U.S. has three in North Korea)
- Current travel advisory levels for every country
Of course, it’s helpful to know where the closest U.S. Embassy is anytime you’re traveling abroad just in case the (blank) hits the fan—say if you lose your passport or have it stolen or worse. And in addition to U.S. Embassy locations, the map also displays the locations of Consulate Generals, Consulates, Consular Agents, Consular Sections, and U.S. Protecting Powers. In short, it shows you the nearest place you can find help from the U.S. government.
In addition to Embassy locations the maps displays travel advisory levels, which are always good to check before you book a trip. Each country on the map is shaded to correspond with the advisory level it’s currently assigned. For example, China is now red (“Do Not Travel”) with other hotspots like Afghanistan, Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen. If you want to see more on a country’s designation (like the reasoning), you can click the “More Info” link that appears when you click the country. As a reminder the U.S. State Department uses four travel advisory levels:
- Exercise Increased Caution
- Exercise Normal Precautions
- Reconsider Travel
- Do Not Travel
While this map is no doubt a great resource for U.S. travelers, I also always recommend cross-referencing the State Department’s advisories with those of other countries. Those of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are great, for example.
Embassy vs. consulate
Not sure what the difference is? As written in this short post, “an embassy is a country’s base for its diplomatic mission in another nation” while consulates “are kind of like satellite offices for the embassy in other parts of the country.”
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