Egypt Travel Warning

July 3, 2013 on 2:17 pm | In Egypt travel, Travel Safety, US Department of State, United Kingdom, travel alert, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

The current trouble in Egypt has caught the attention of the world. While this is clearly an interesting moment in Egyptian History, it is not the time to travel to Egypt. The governments of both the UK and US have issued travel warnings for Egypt, for good reason.

While we love Egypt and would travel there again if the situation was calm, we urge travelers to avoid the country now and until the current unrest is settled. We have some fear that the situation may remain unsettled for quite some time and suspect that travel in 2013 will show an incredible drop-off. What a shame for us and for the people of Egypt who depend on travel.

Here is an excerpt of the main text from the message issued by the U.S. Department of State. The full message can be found here.

July 3, 2013

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Egypt and U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on June 28, 2013.
On July 3, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.

Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt’s 25th January Revolution, is likely to worsen in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the President’s assumption of office. Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, and between protesters supporting different factions, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well. While violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, the security situation in most tourist centers, including Luxor, Aswan, and Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el Sheikh, continues to be calm. Of specific concern is a rise in gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the specific targets of sexual assault.

On June 28, a U.S. citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria. On May 9, a private U.S. citizen was attacked with a knife outside of the U.S. Embassy after being asked whether he was an American. Additionally, Westerners and U.S. citizens have occasionally been caught in the middle of clashes and demonstrations. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security by knowing the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and the U.S. Embassy.

If you wish to depart Egypt, you should make plans and depart as soon as possible. The airport is open and commercial flights are still operating, although cancellations may occur. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Egypt are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.

The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. Because of the proximity of the U.S. Embassy to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the U.S. Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. The Embassy will notify U.S. citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Should security forces block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, U.S. citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the U.S. Embassy during that time. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt.

Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The U.S. Embassy in Egypt is located at 5 Tawfik Diab Street (formerly known as Latin America Street), Garden City, Cairo. For emergencies after business hours and on weekends and holidays, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy Duty Officer via the Embassy switchboard on 2797-3300.

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Greece Adds Gasoline to the Fire

February 10, 2012 on 2:46 pm | In Europe travel, Greece Travel, ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert Greece, travels in Turkey | Comments Off

While the rest of Europe is freezing, the political heat in Greece seems to keep rising. It appears that the “debt deal” that was being considered has taken a back stage to the country’s apparent unwillingness to cut spending in order to qualify for the loans necessary to help it through this economic crisis. See this article from the Wall Street Journal for more detail.

From a traveler’s perspective, we think this means another “poor” year for travel in Greece. While you might be able to find some bargains, because travel will be down, you may also run into strikes, riots, demonstrations, intermittent transportation service and other headaches that do not appeal to most travelers. Our recommendation: look for an alternative to travel in Greece this summer. If you want to head in that direction, we recommend that you consider a vacation in Turkey.

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Continued Travel Woes for Europe

February 10, 2012 on 2:35 pm | In Belgium travel, Czech Republic travel, Denmark travel, Europe travel, France Travel, Germany travel, Italy travel, London travel, Netherlands travel, ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, england travel, hungary travel, russia travel, things travelers need to know, travel weather warning | Comments Off

Cold weather, ice, snow and blizzard force winds continue to wreak havoc with those attempting to travel on the “Continent”, particularly those traveling in Eastern Europe. Section of the Danube River in Romania have been closed to traffic and other sections have frozen over for the first time in twenty-five years. See this detailed review at CNN for more information. These articles from the UPI and France24 provide details on various aspects of the continued weather troubles plaguing Europe.

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Mexico Travel Warning

February 10, 2012 on 2:22 pm | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

On February 8, 20122 the United States Department of State issued an extremely detailed Travel Warning for those who might want to visit or live in Mexico. Travel to Mexico appears to be increasingly dangerous for the casual traveler intent on exploring areas outside of recognized tourist zones.

The new travel warning provides maps that show the locations of areas to avoid when traveling in Mexico. Note that the travel warning includes this consideration,
“Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.”

The new travel warning is a “must read” for anyone considering travel to Mexico. It is quite long, but the detail is very useful. Several of the maps are downloadable, so you can keep them for future reference. Read the full text here.

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Weather in Europe Worsens

February 5, 2012 on 3:21 pm | In Europe travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings, travel weather warning | 4 Comments

The cold weather in Europe is not only getting colder, but it is spreading. On Sunday, Heathrow Airport outside London cancelled thirty-percent of its outgoing flights due to weather problems in the UK and Europe. London has been hit with ice, Rome with snow and throughout Europe many roads are impossibly impassible. See this article from CNN for details. Reuters has additional details that might be of interest.

If you can delay or defer your travel to Europe, do so as the weather is deadly and transportation difficulties will make it too difficult for quality touring. If you cannot defer your travel, take warm clothes and plan on bundling-up for the duration. The bad weather is intensifying and snow is expected in Belgium, Germany and possibly Greece. It is expected that weather conditions across Europe will worsen over the next few days.

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Weather and Air Travel Woes in Europe this Week

February 3, 2012 on 11:14 am | In Spain Travel, ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, hungary travel, russia travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel weather warning | 3 Comments

It has been a tough week for travelers in Spain, Hungary and Eastern Europe.

Earlier this week Spanair, the fourth largest air passenger carrier in Spain, suddenly ceased operation, stranding thousands of travelers. See this article at the Avionics Intelligence web site for more information. Yesterday, Malev, Hungary’s leading airline, “collapsed” due to funding difficulties. Malev was Hungary’s official airline and carried substantial passenger traffic mainly within the country.

On top of the airline problems, dramatically cold temperatures and winter weather in Eastern Europe have contributed to a number of deaths and additional transportation delays.

It appears that this was a good week not to be in Europe.

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TripAdvisor VS. Expedia

January 27, 2012 on 3:07 pm | In Expedia, ThereArePlaces.com, TripAdvisor, air travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel industry, travel tips | 2 Comments

As many of you know, TripAdvisor, which was part of Expedia, was spun-out in an IPO on December 21, 2011. We found ourselves wondering what that might mean for those of you who use TripAdvisor for advice on hotels, and the like. We are not sure the news is good.

You probably know that TripAdvisor, which bills itself as the world’s largest travel site, has over 50 million unique monthly visitors and claims 20 million registered members. Due to its massive audience, it is able to publish 25 new contributions every minute and features over eight million travel photos taken by their visitors. TripAdvisor and its 18 subsidiary travel sites, operated by TripAdvisor Inc., attract more than 65 million unique monthly visitors. TripAdvisor’s subsidiaries include: www.airfarewatchdog.com, www.bookingbuddy.com, www.cruisecritic.com, www.everytrail.com, www.familyvacationcritic.com, www.flipkey.com, www.holidaylettings.co.uk, www.holidaywatchdog.com, www.independenttraveler.com, www.onetime.com, www.seatguru.com, www.sniqueaway.com, www.smartertravel.com, www.travel-library.com, www.travelpod.com, www.virtualtourist.com, www.whereivebeen.com, and www.kuxun.cn.

Of course, now that it is a stand-alone business, TripAdvisor needs a way to create revenue and does so by running ads and providing other services for its business partners. Indeed, this week TripAdvisor introduced a comprehensive Analytics Service for businesses that allow them to us a “management dashboard” to summarize the performance of their business on TripAdvisor at a glance. Hmm, we guess this specific business model means that travelers contribute independent evaluations to TripAdvisor and TripAdvisor finds a way to monetize the efforts of their visitors for the benefit of TripAdvisor. We realize that TripAdvisor need to make money, but when the companies that are TripAdvisor business customers are provided information on the ratings of their hotels or restaurants contributed by members of TripAdvisor or visitors to their websites, it feels like the contributors are being disadvantaged.

One has to presume that the reason for TripAdvisor to provide this feedback to business partners is to allow these businesses to take action and remedy ratings that do not benefit the business. Oh. Well, how will that happen? Well, honorable companies could use this information to reevaluate and improve the services they provide. Conversely, for companies looking for the quick fix might, solving the problem might be to find a way to improve the ratings without having to spend money doing so. If this case were to happen, it would appear possible that some companies could try to game the system.

Yes, we know that TripAdvisor claims to have a large number of analytical programs that root out deceptive evaluations. But the real truth here is that crowdsourced systems are just that. They reflect the crowd that is attracted to that website and the “crowd” brings all of their biases and everyday perspectives when providing an evaluation of a property or an attraction. Given the wide variety of people involved in providing evaluations at TripAdvisor, it can only be expected that reviews will evidence a wide variety of world views. Bad reviews of high-rated property or rave reviews of a previously low-rated property are not necessarily spam. They may be honest opinions. In other words, TripAdvisor may be able to catch flagrant violations of its policies, but it is likely that this in a very small minority of the cases of actual spam reviews. This is not a criticism of TripAdvisor, since it is a fundamental concern of all crowdsourced systems. What is the problem however, is that TripAdvisor has taken a crowdsourced system where people are willing to contribute their efforts without compensation to help other travelers and the company is now going to attempt to make money off their efforts.

Perhaps Expedia thinks the same thing. Recently (just after it spun-off TripAdvisor) it began providing “Expedia Verified Hotel Reviews.” In effect, when using Expedia you can read reviews for hotels in which Expedia has verified that the person contributing the evaluation both booked and stayed at the hotel in question. While this won’t solve all of the problems with people trying to tilt the evaluation system, it will make it more difficult for competitors to trash other properties and for owners of properties to tout their hotels. Good for Expedia.

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Costa Cruise Liner Runs Aground Off Italy’s West Coast

January 13, 2012 on 11:14 pm | In Italy, Italy travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, cruise travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel alert, travel news | 4 Comments

The Costa Concordia Cruise liner ran aground on a sand bar near the Island “Isola del Giglio: off the west coast of Italy, killing six and endangering 3,000 passengers and a crew of 1,000. Several hundred remain on the aground, but severely listing boat. Several were injured during the rescue. For more information see this article by CNN

While looking for news about the boat, we ran across this promo for the Concordia in Costa’s US website. Next, you may find this description of the rescue posted on the Costa UK website to be of interest.

From Costa Cruises
Saturday, January 14th

Time 5.00 am
It is a tragedy that deeply affects our company. Our first thoughts go to the victims and we would like to express our condolences and our closeness to their families and friends. In this moment all our efforts are focused on the completion of the last emergency operations, besides providing assistance to the guests and the crew who were onboard in order to have them going back home as soon as possible. The emergency procedures started promptly to evacuate the ship. The slope, gradually taken over by the ship, made the evacuation extremely difficult. We would like to express our profound gratitude to the Coast Guard and all the forces co-ordinated by the Coast Guard, including the authorities and citizens of the island “Isola del Giglio”, who have been involved in the rescue and assistance to guests and crew members. The company will fully co-operate with the relevant Authorities in order to determine the causes of what happened.”

Time 1.00 am
Costa Cruises confirms the evacuation of about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on board of the Costa Concordia. An incident occured near the island ‘Isola del Giglio’ of the coast of Italy. The evacuation started promptly, but the position of the ship has worsened, making it more complicated to complete the last part of the evacuation. At this moment, the cause of the incident cannot yet be confirmed. The Company is currently working with the highest commitment to provide all the needed assistance. The Costa Concordia was sailing across the Mediterranean Sea, starting from Civitavecchia with scheduled calls to Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo. About 1.000 passengers of Italian nationality were onboard, as well as more of 500 Germans, about 160 French and about 1.000 crew members. ”

“The Guests had to embark today in Savona and in subsequent ports will be contacted directly by Costa Cruises.”

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Heavy Snow Hits Austria

January 8, 2012 on 7:15 pm | In Europe travel, air travel, austria travel, train travel in europe, travel warnings, travel weather warning | 3 Comments

High winds, heavy snowfalls and icy conditions are playing havoc with travel in Austria. The BBC, in a bevy of articles, describes the problems being caused by heavy snowfall in the west of Austria where villages and some towns have been cut-off due to road and railroad closure.

If you are planning on travel in Austria this week, you might want to avoid the most heavily hit areas.

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In Israel, Is It the Gospel Trail or the Jesus Trail?

December 28, 2011 on 3:09 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, israel travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel tips | 2 Comments

Sometimes the world of travel is filled with controversies that are somewhat ironic. The two that follow are not your prime examples of Christmas stories, but are interesting nonetheless.

First, late last month the Israeli Ministry of Tourism announced the opening of the Gospel Trail, a forty mile hiking trail that connects Nazareth with many important sites in the Galilee area of Israel that were central in the life of Jesus Christ. We were pleased to see this acknowledgement by the Ministry of the importance of Christian tourism in the Holy Lands, as about two-thirds of the country’s visitors see the sites associated with Jesus of Nazareth. However, there already is a trail that connects the important sites in the Galilee that were important locations in the life of Christ. Before the announcement, the Ministry of Tourism had backed the Jesus Trail, a commercial endeavor that created the Jesus Trail connecting sites in the Galilee important to Christians. The founders of the Jesus Trail provide tours, accommodations and have published an excellent book to hiking the Jesus Trail.

The people representing the Jesus Trail were obviously miffed at the change in direction by the the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and, in response, established an interesting website to present their point of view. The two routes are similar, as is reasonable since they connect towns and places of significance in the life of Jesus, but the trails are not identical. Why the Ministry of Tourism felt there was a need for a second trail has not yet been made clear, but two different approaches to the same objective seems somewhat counter productive and will lead to confusion for many visitors. Perhaps time will reveal the factors that led to the development of the Gospel Trail.

A second item about activities in Israel caught our attention in the news this week. We understand that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is administered by the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. Those who have visited this important church will have noticed that it is in need of repair, but the administrators cannot decide which party is responsible for which repairs. Last week the frictions between the religious orders that represent the three parties boiled over and they began having a spat while cleaning the church for a Christmas Mass. The clergy began beating each other with brooms to show their discontent. Apparently the action rose to the scale of a riot and the Palestinian Authority had to be called to restore order, which took over an hour. The spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority indicated that it “…was a trivial problem that…occurs every year.” Every year? The things you learn while reading travel blogs!

Click to see our recommendations on the best places to visit in Israel.

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