What Exactly is
Country Specific Information?

Informational files known as Country Specific Information are available to U.S. citizens for every country in the world.

These data files [formerly known as Consular Sheets] are profiles of individual countries developed and maintained by the U.S. Department of State, which contain travel related facts and information for any country you choose to visit.

Do you need a passport to visit a particular country? Or a travel visa?

Are immunizations required for any of your destinations?

The data found in Country Specific Information sheets will tell you.

Maybe you’re curious about the level of street crime that could affect you as a tourist. Or how easy or difficult it is to access medical care, and what you should know about accessing it, if you need it.

Maybe – since you may be renting a car – you’d like to know about local road conditions.

Information in the specific country report you're interested in will tell you.

In fact, almost anything a traveler might need to know to make sure it’s safe to travel in a particular country is available in these consular sheets.

You can access Country Specific Information reports for free by fax, phone, or online at the DOS website [see link below*] where you can also find flight safety data for individual countries, along with location information on in-country American Embassies and Consulates.

The View From St James Park

Why Bother With Country Specific Information?

What if you’re traveling to Spain, and you want to know more about the country – in particular the question of travel safety?

Since you’ll be visiting big cities, like Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville – as well as driving through the countryside - you want to make sure both your itinerary and your travel experience go off without a hitch.

Here are the types of information you’ll find included in Spain's Country Specific Information sheet:

  • An overview map and brief description of the country.
  • Requirements for entry, exit, and traveling throughout the country.
  • Locations [street address, phone, fax, hours, and email] of US Embassies and Consulates located in-country.
  • Contact information for the Embassy of Spain in the U.S. [And in this case, information for the tiny land-locked nation of Andorra, accessible only through Spain or France.]
  • Potential threats to safety due to acts of terror, current incidents of un-rest, or radical in-country groups from around the world. This informa-tion should not to be taken lightly, as terrorists have previously struck Spain and continue to threaten Americans and American interests [along with Europeans] around the world.
  • Street crimes, assaults, and known scams, against tourists – and how to get help.
  • Areas of the country [if any] that might be considered unstable for travelers to visit.
  • What to expect if you’re a U.S. traveler with disabilities traveling in Spain.
  • Availability and accessibility of medical care, as well as medical precau-tions necessary for traveling in Spain. You'll find links to both the CDC and WHO within Country Specific Information on infectious diseases and/or required travel immunizations for entering Spain.
  • Whether or not it's necessary to have overseas insurance for travel in Spain.
  • Local traffic and road conditions, especially in big cities, including the use of cell phones while driving, International Driving Permits, and mandatory traffic stops by Spanish police.
  • Spanish oversight of aviation in their country.
  • Issues surrounding the safety and protection of children traveling in Spain.

All this and more - with links to additional pages of explanation - can be found in Country Specific Information consular reports.

Bonns Favorite Son

For instance, having traveled in Spain I can confirm there is [and has been for years] a very real pickpocket problem [as well as other petty scams] perpetuated in areas of high tourist concentration, especially in major cities.

I also know the travel safety information provided in these consular sheets out-lines measures you can take to make sure you stay aware of your surroundings and  protect yourself. By following these guidelines, you can travel safely and without incident throughout the country.

By reading these specific reports on the country or countries you'll be visiting when traveling abroad, you'll have the most up-to-date information to keep you safe on your trip.

A Different Kind of 'Library'

Along with the travel safety data included in Country Specific Information, there's an unlikely source in the U.S. government that publishes additional information helpful to Americans traveling abroad.

Located in the Library - a section of the Central Intelligence Agency website [cia.gov] - is an area called the World Fact Book, which provides general information for countries around the world.

The World Fact Book covers a collection of data, facts, and information about each country's land and people, the government and economic environment, the geography of the country, as well as a synopsis of the country's history.

It's like a mini 7th grade Civics class, but you don’t have to take a test!

Again, let’s take Spain as the example of what you’ll find:

  • An overview map, an interactive map, an image of the Spanish flag, and photo images of significant locations throughout the country.
  • The topography of the land, a range of weather and climates, the size of the country, and the population.
  • Facts related to the ethnicity, education, and religious leanings of the people, along with spoken languages.
  • The type of government, predominate industries in the country, stats on foreign trade, and the country's GDP
  • A brief overview of the history of Spain and the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Current geo-political conditions, including how the country deals with and responds to both homegrown and global terrorism.
  • Current government officials, domestic and foreign relations, and embassy and consular offices located in the U.S.
  • Information on current diplomatic delegations for U.S. Embassies and American Consular Services in Spain.

Lisbon Wall Tiles

While the information in Country specific Information can keep you safe when you travel, the material in the CIA's Library will educate you and make you a better traveler.

Check out both before your next international trip, and be both safe and informed about your destination. 

This will make you a more respectful and respected American traveler.

For more tips and information on staying safe overseas when traveling, see the following pages:

How Does A Travel Advisory Affect Your Trip? Learn the difference between a Travel Advisory, a Travel Alert, and a Travel Warning.

Dealing With A Travel Emergency Overseas. How do you find the help you need, when you can't help yourself?

U S Embassies and Consulates are just a phone call away when you're overseas. They're your lifeline to home if you're hurt, sick, or in trouble.

Return to Is It Safe to Travel?

Travel Tip

Country Specific Information for Americans traveling abroad is provided for free by the U.S. Department of State.  It's reliable, accurate, and a timely guage on current safety conditions overseas.

Take time when planning your travel to know the safety concerns for your destination.  Find out if there are Travel Advisories in place, and whether or not it's safe to travel there. 

Choose your country destination* to find specific information.  And always follow the DOS slogan for Americans traveling abroad: Know Before You Go.

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