The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory this week for Australia as fires there have worsened.
The advisory, issued on Wednesday, warns Americans they should “exercise increased caution” when traveling to the country due to the “natural disaster/bushfires.” The agency warns the wildfires could continue through March or April.
“The current bushfire season is one of the worst in Australia’s recorded history,” the advisory read. “Tourists should consider postponing their trip to affected areas until the danger of natural disaster has passed. Authorities may issue evacuation orders to certain areas as conditions warrant.”
The travel warning comes as two bushfires have merged to form one big “Megafire” measuring 1.5 million acres in both the states of New South Wales and Victoria, NPR reported Friday. That fire is more than three times bigger than any known fire in California, according to the station.
At 6pm there are 137 fires burning, 66 are not contained. In the field are more than 3,300 firefighters. Conditions continue to be difficult this evening. An forecast gusty southerly change could cause erratic fire behaviour over many firegrounds. #nswfires #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/ziDuzB0EKe— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 10, 2020
The increased advisory also comes as Australia’s tourism minister told The Australian Broadcasting Corp. that “Australia is still open for business and that most destinations around Australia remain safe and are unaffected by bushfires.”
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While New South Wales, the state where Sydney sits, has been hardest hit by the bushfires, the State Department has warned that “even in areas not directly affected by bushfires, smoke is causing poor air quality. Smoke can affect people’s health and it is important for everyone to reduce exposure.”
American and Canadian firefighters also arrived in Australia this week to contribute to relief efforts.
If Americans do decide to travel to Australia, the State Department suggests they check the air quality of where they are going, monitor local news outlets, and have an evacuation plan in place.
Australia, which was Travel + Leisure’s 2020 Destination of the Year, offers a myriad of exciting things to do for any travelers looking for adventure. And while it’s always smart to take precautions while traveling, we can’t ignore the pull of activities like a luxurious, scenic train ride into the outback, marveling at the pink lakes found at Lake Hillier and Lake Bumbunga, and hanging out with a bunch of tiny penguins near Melbourne.