a large asian building with a large gate

If you go by the numbers, or rather, by the United States Government’s numbers, China is now a more dangerous travel destination than Pakistan, or the Sudan. After initially raising the four step warning for the country from a two to a three, China now holds the highest warning possible, a four. To lend some perspective to this incredible warning, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria are some of the only other countries to also warrant a “4”.

Coronavirus fears have swept the world over, and many are not without merit. Containing the spread of the virus and preventing further outbreaks in the far reaches of the world is crucial and incredibly challenging work in the era of air travel, but some are calling this warning extreme.

Yellow crane tower and Wuhan Yangtze Great Bridge scenic view in Wuhan Hubei ChinaChina’s Level 4 “Do Not Travel” Warning

When Coronavirus fears began to spread, China was raised to a “Level 3” warning, which effectively means to reconsider non essential travel until further notice. A “Level 4” warning specifically states not to travel, and anyone visiting a region on the “Level 4” list is typically due for immense scrutiny upon return to the United States.

Of course, it’s not easy to reach China at the moment anyway. Most US airlines have cancelled flights for the next few months in and out, and other connecting carriers have greatly reduced service. It’s hard to imagine one of the world’s largest economies, without any visitors whatsoever.

Can you think of anyone who would’ve realistically placed a bet a year ago that visiting Pakistan would be seen as less dangerous for the average US citizen than visiting China?

What’s perhaps most fascinating about this travel alert from the United States is that there really is no immediate end in sight. Unlike many other countries on the Level 4 list, a cure of vaccine for the virus could see China return to typical Level 2 – a status shared by the UK, Italy, Spain and many more – in just a matter of days.

Yet without any of these things in sight, it could be months, or even years before the “all clear” is given. Airlines will be a preliminary indicator, with many airlines cancelling flights as far as March.

Should You Cancel Plans To China?

If your travel plans are further down the line than March, there’s no reason as of yet to cancel. If however your travel plans are imminent, the position of the US Government could not be more clear. “Do not travel” is the advice and anyone bucking those instructions may find further unpleasantries – aka quarantine – upon arrival into the USA.

It’s important to note that all of China is included, and that Beijing, Shanghai and all major gateways are offering extremely limited transport and have strict curfews and restrictions in place.

The key here is that airlines and hotels are offering free cancellation or date change waivers for China travel, so be sure to talk to your travel provider to get a better picture of what your options are, as you assess for yourself. Other countries haven’t generally gone as far as the USA, but that’s not to say things won’t change.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. This is a nonsensical argument. Of course it’s not more dangerous for you personally to travel to China than to Pakistan, but it is more dangerous for society for you to travel to China. But I think you knew that.

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