Do blanket warnings help or hinder?
Not everyone finds official government warnings helpful.
Like bad Yelp or TripAdvisor reviews, government travel warnings have the potential to have a negative affect tourism revenue in a given country or area.
"The worst part is the blanket advisories," says traveler and photographer Jorge de Casanova. "Just because one area of a country is having problems does not mean the whole country is unsafe."
Travel book author Lisa Egle travels primarily to developing countries.
"I check several travel advisories before any trip, not just the State Department, but the British and Australian equivalents for another perspective," says Egle.
"I take what they all say with a grain of salt. They tend to blow things out of proportion."
Before a trip to Indonesia last year, Egle recalls reading warnings about "terrorist cells."
"While these unfortunate incidents have occurred, they're not part of a widespread problem," she says. "The country has 17,500 islands, so the number of these occurrences is disproportionate to the size of the country."
Sometimes there really is a wolf
Yet there are genuine risks associated with areas covered by alerts or warnings and ignoring them can occasionally result in problems.
American student Andrew Pochter was killed in Alexandria during protests.
Pochter was in Egypt teaching English for the summer.
More: Should solo female travelers avoid India?
The United States has had a travel warning in place for Mexico since April 2011. It states that "crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO (Transnational Criminal Organizations) activity, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery."
The warnings haven't stopped Americans from pouring into Mexico.
In 2011, 20.1 million Americans visited Mexico.
Less severe results of ignoring travel warnings
Ignoring travel advisories can affect a traveler's insurance.
Depending on the circumstances, airlines may waive cancellation or rebooking fees in areas where official warnings are in place.
US Airways acknowledges it doesn't distinguish between travel alerts and warnings and usually doesn't offer refunds on tickets when government travel advisories are issued. However it "may" waive the fees associated with rebooking.
The U.S. government encourages travelers to visit its official travel website, register trip and contact information with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (S.T.E.P.) and download an iPhone app.
"One thing I always try to do is register with S.T.E.P., so the government can track my whereabouts," says travel writer Lola Akinmade Ackerstrom. "Having a laissez-faire attitude about travel advisories really isn't appropriate. The government has a lot more intelligence (than the general public), so take them seriously."
Some governments refute travel warnings, especially when they're subject to warnings from other governments.