Kenya Kidnapping Threat

September 29, 2007 on 9:28 pm | In Kenya, Uncategorized, personal travel, travel warnings | Comments Off

Although we do not currently cover Africa as a vacation destination at ThereArePlaces.com, there is a threat to Americans in Kenya that we want to bring to your attention.  The information was included in a Consular Affairs Bulletin issued by the U.S. Department of State.  The material of interest follows:

U.S. Embassy Nairobi issued the following Warden Message on September 28:

U.S. Embassy Nairobi has received information that Islamic extremists in southern Somalia may be planning kidnapping operations inside of Kenya. There are indications that Islamic extremists based in Somalia may be planning to target Westerners, especially American citizens, in the Kiwayu Island tourist area and other beach sites frequented by Western travelers on the northeast coast near Somalia. All U.S. citizens in these areas should exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant at all times.

Virgin Atlantic Sale

September 4, 2007 on 8:40 am | In Air Sale, London, Uncategorized, United Kingdom, country travel information, personal travel, travel news | Comments Off

Virgin Atlantic has a promotion running from now until September 12th.  If you are lucky enough to live in the Northeast of the US, you might be able to snag a ticket for $143 each way!   Prices are higher as you proceed across the US in a westerly direction ( = longer flights). Travel dates are extensive and, according to our sources, the fuel surcharge is included in the advertised price (although the September 11th security fee is not).

Click on the banners on our England or London Pages for more information.

Athens – Hot and Smokey

July 17, 2007 on 1:05 pm | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

The International Herald Tribunes has an interesting article on the forest fires that have been raging around Athens, Greece.  You can find it at

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/16/news/greece.php

The present fire seems to have been the result  the mid-June heat wave across Europe that was especially intense in Greece.  If you are planning on visiting Athens soon or the Greek Isles, you should read the article cited above.

Terrorism in UK

July 1, 2007 on 4:54 pm | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

London was hit with two aborted car bombings last week and the central airport at Glasgow, Scotland was damaged by what appears to have been a suicide-car bombing attempt gone awry (thankfully).

Obviously, these events have been covered in-depth by the major new services, although the most detailed coverage is available from the BBC (http://www.bbc.com/).  In what can only be called errors, due to the “fog of terrorism” or the ineptitude of the press, almost every piece of news coverage had major mistakes while reporting on this event.

First, most U.S. television networks got the location of the first London attempted car bombing correct.  Unfortunately, the second car was parked between the first car and Trafalgar Square.  Most networks reported the second car as being found in an impound lot along Park Lane next to Hyde Park.  Yes, the car was examined at the impound lot, but it had been towed from where it was found on Cockspur Street, just down from where the first car was found on Haymarket.

Next, the terrorism chief of Scotland Yard indicated that the first car was loaded with gasoline, propane cylinders and numerous boxes of nails, while the first was found with gasoline and propane, but no mention of nails, which was not what was reported by the news services.

Of course, the location of the first bomb was next to the Tiger Tiger nightclub.  If you would believe the press, because it was ”ladys’ night” the place was packed.  Why it had 2,000 – no make that 1,700 – no make that 2,400 – no make that less than 500 revelers by the time it was sifted through.  What is interesting here is that  1700 seems to be the best “guess” of the maximum size of crowd that the nightclub could contain.
 
Finally, if you were listening to the reports of the car bombing at Glasgow airport, you would have heard that the vehicle was a Land Rover.  This lasted for several hours, even though the profile of the vehicle showing through the flames was not that of any model of Land Rover.  Ah, it was a Jeep.
 
Not that any of these errors changed police procedure or really mattered to most listeners.  What is important is that if you are traveling away from home and there is an incident, it will be hard to get “useful” news about the event while it is unfolding. 

Our advice is to focus on local source for news (for example, the BBC had the most accurate and updated coverage of the attempted car bombings in London).  We advise you to consider curtailing local touring immediately after any incident that occurs in a town you are visiting (we assume the people who thought the second car bombing in London was near Hyde Park got quite a surprise when they tried to visit Trafalgar Square that day).  Or to put it another way, for those of you in London this week,  the fact that the British raised their terror rating system to the highest level, should be taken as a recommendation to be vigilant and careful.

Paris, the French – a Retrospective by a BBC Reporter

June 28, 2007 on 2:06 pm | In Uncategorized, country travel information, personal travel, travel | Comments Off

I just finished reading an article from BBC news written by Caroline Wyatt,  the BBC’s French Food and Wine who was departing her assignment in Paris.  Her view of Paris, France, the French and the challenges the country faces are insightful and a pleasure to read.  If you want to get to know the French or read the notes of someone with a keen eye and a social sense who lived in Paris for several years, read this article in the BBC  news. 

U.S. Department of State Issues Caution on Travel in Turkey

June 9, 2007 on 7:46 am | In Uncategorized, country travel information, personal travel, travel warnings | Comments Off

U.S. Embassy Ankara released the following Warden Message on June 8:

This Warden Message is being sent to alert U.S. citizens to the continuing potential for terrorist actions against civilians in Turkey and notes recent incidents in Ankara and Izmir, as well as the Southeast. U.S. citizens should continue to maintain a high level of vigilance as a matter of routine.

Facilities such as shopping centers, public markets, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, and outdoor recreation events and resorts are potential targets both for demonstrations and for attacks by terrorist groups. U.S. citizens should remain in a heightened state of personal security awareness when attendance at such locations is unavoidable. Furthermore, U.S. citizens should be vigilant when using public transportation in Turkey, as these networks have been targeted in the past.

The U.S. Embassy also advises U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey to be alert to the potential for violence, to avoid those areas where disturbances have occurred, and to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. 

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Turkey are encouraged to register with the Embassy or nearest consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov/, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Turkey. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, at the Consulate General in Istanbul, at the Consulate in Adana, or with the Consular Agent in Izmir to obtain updated information on travel and security in Turkey. Embassy communications with the resident American citizen community, or “Warden Messages,” can be found on the Embassy’s website at http://ankara.usembassy.gov./ 

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/, where the current Worldwide Cautions, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Travelers should also consult the Department of State’s latest Consular information Sheet for Turkey. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada , or, for callers outside the U.S. 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).

Contact information for the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Turkey:
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara is located at 110 Ataturk Boulevard, tel: (90)(312) 455-5555, fax (90)(312) 468-6131. The Internet address is http://ankara.usembassy.gov/ 

The U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul is located at Kaplicalar Mevkii Sokak No. 2, 34460, Istinye, Sariyer, tel: (90) (212) 335-9000, fax (90) (212) 335-9102. Istanbul-specific information can also be accessed via the Consulate’s web site at http://istanbul.usconsulate.gov/ 

The U.S. Consulate in Adana is located at Girne Bulvari No. 212, Guzelevler Mahallesi, Yuregir, Adana, Turkey. tel: (90)(322) 346-6262, fax (90)(322) 346-7916, web site: http://adana.usconsulate.gov/ 

The Consular Agent in Izmir can be contacted at (90)(232) 464-8755
 

Passport News from the Department of State.

May 23, 2007 on 3:49 pm | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

Passport Production at Record Levels to Meet Demand The Department of State set new records in March and April, issuing more than three million passports to Americans planning international travel.  With passport demand at record levels, passport production time averages 10-12 weeks. Americans should apply at least twelve weeks before they plan to travel.  The Department of State set new records in March and April, issuing more than three million passports to Americans planning international travel.  With passport demand at record levels, passport production time averages 10-12 weeks. Americans should apply at least twelve weeks before they plan to travel.  Passport Production:  For the first seven months (October through April) of Fiscal Year 2007, the Department issued 8.6 million passports.  This is a 33 percent increase from the same period last year and is more passports than were issued in any single full year before 2003.  

The Department of State set new records in March and April, issuing more than three million passports to Americans planning international travel.  With passport demand at record levels, passport production time averages 10-12 weeks. Americans should apply at least twelve weeks before they plan to travel.    For the first seven months (October through April) of Fiscal Year 2007, the Department issued 8.6 million passports.  This is a 33 percent increase from the same period last year and is more passports than were issued in any single full year before 2003.  Arkansas Passport Center:  The newest passport mega-processing center, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, began pilot operations on March 27 and ramped up production in April.  When the Center reaches full capacity by the end of 2007, the Center will be able to produce more than 10 million passports per year.  The Center has already printed more than 80,000 passports for American citizen travelers.   

This center represents a dynamic, new approach to the production of passports for Americans.  Other domestic passport agencies will electronically transmit approved applications to the Arkansas Passport Center, which is dedicated solely to printing and mailing out large quantities of passports.  By centralizing passport printing the Department will focus resources at other agencies on processing and adjudicating more passport applications.  

Increased Staffing:  Aggressive recruitment brought 170 new government and contract employees onboard during March and April, and retirees with passport adjudication experience are returning to help our efforts.  The Department continues to recruit qualified personnel to meet America’s demands for passports. 

Regional Agencies Working Overtime:  Employees at the 18 Passport Agencies nationwide continue to work overtime daily and on weekends to process applications to meet Americans’ travel plans. 

Expanded Call Center for Information and Appointments:  In addition to its regular business hours, 6 a.m. until midnight, Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, the National Passport Information Center (1-877-487-2778) is open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for customer inquiries and information.  The Center has more than doubled its staff in order to meet public demand and continues to recruit and train new customer service representatives.  

Increased Phone Staff:  On top of their regular duties, State Department employees are volunteering on special telephone task forces to answer questions and help Americans get their passports.  The Department has installed high-capacity telephone lines to increase the volume of telephone calls it can receive, with plans to further expand capacity as needed. 

Increased Desk Staff:  Qualified State Department employees are working on daytime, evening and weekend task forces at the Washington Passport Agency and the National Passport Center in New Hampshire.  These staffers, who supplement the Department’s expanding corps of passport specialists, have approved more than 55,000 applications since mid-March.   
Important Points for Travelers

Applicants should be sure to check their applications against the checklist at http://travel.state.gov/passport; 13 percent of applications are delayed by simple errors such as not signing the application, forgetting to include a check for the applications fee, writing a check for the wrong amount, or submitting a photograph that does not meet Department specifications.  Applications that use the secure online form (first time applicants: https://pptform2.state.gov/DS11/MainDS11.aspx; renewal applicants: https://pptform2.state.gov/DS82/Eligibility.aspx) will be processed more quickly.  

Travelers can check the status of their passport applications online at http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/status/status_2567.html.  Information on routine applications is normally available online approximately four weeks after the application is submitted.  Information on expedited applications is normally available online approximately one week after the application is submitted.

Those who have applied and are leaving within two weeks can visit http://travel.state.gov/passport/about/npic/npic_896.html to send an email inquiry to check the status or call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.  Other travelers may leave the phone lines open for those with immediate travel needs.

Travelers who have not applied for passports to date should allow at least 10-12 weeks for standard passport processing and 2-3 weeks for expedited processing. Information on how to apply for a passport, including how to expedite processing, is available at http://travel.state.gov.  Applicants requesting expedited service must write “EXPEDITE” on the outside of the envelope containing their application.

 

  2007/415
 

Traveling With Batteries

March 29, 2007 on 8:55 pm | In Uncategorized, personal travel, travel, travel news | Comments Off

There has been quite a bit of news in the past half-year related to laptop batteries catching fire. Recently the FAA offered several guidelines which we reprint here.

According to the FAA

“If you’re planning a trip, bring your laptop computer, cell phone, camera, personal digital assistant, or other battery-powered device along. These items are safe to fly with!

Batteries pose little risk contained in the devices they power. Taking the battery out of the device does not enhance safety. To be safest, carry the device with you, not in your checked baggage. Do not remove the battery!

Carry your battery-powered devices or spare batteries in your carry-on baggage. In the passenger compartment, flight crews can better monitor safety conditions to prevent an incident, and can access fire extinguishers, if an incident does happen.

Finally, if you must carry a battery-powered device in your checked baggage, package it to prevent inadvertent activation. Cordless power tools, for instance, should be packed in a protective case, with a trigger lock engaged.

Many travelers like the convenience of readily available spare batteries. It’s safe to travel with spare batteries, as long as you follow these simple spare battery tips”

Pack spare batteries in carry-on baggage. In the passenger compartment, flight crews can better monitor safety conditions to prevent an incident, and can access fire extinguishers, if an incident does happen.

Keep spare batteries in the original retail packaging, to prevent unintentional activation or short-circuiting.

For loose batteries, place tape across the battery’s contacts to isolate terminals. Isolating terminals prevents short-circuiting.

If original packaging is not available, effectively insulate battery terminals by isolating spare batteries from contact with other batteries and metal. Place each battery in its own protective case, plastic bag, or package. Do not permit a loose battery to come in contact with metal objects, such as coins, keys, or jewelry.

Use only chargers designed for your type of batteries. If unsure about compatibility, contact the product manufacturer.

Take steps to prevent crushing, puncturing, or putting a high degree of pressure on the battery, as this can cause an internal short-circuit, resulting in overheating. “

 

Update on Passport Office and Its Recent Woes

March 14, 2007 on 2:03 pm | In Uncategorized, personal travel, travel, travel news | Comments Off

 We are sure that most of you have heard that passport applications are up this year (due in part to the influence of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – See this link for more details on passports http://www.thereareplaces.com/infgdes/docs/infgdocs.htm).  Attachedis a press release from the Department of State addressing the issues in their own words.

Americans are seeking passports in record numbers and the State Department is taking extraordinary action to ensure that this demand is met. Should they so desire, Americans who need passports within two weeks, to travel or to get a visa, may check the status of their application online at http://travel.state.gov or call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778. We have assigned additional staff to our call center to answer urgent inquiries. The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 12 midnight, Eastern Time, Monday-Friday, except federal holidays.

Because of the unprecedented demand for passports, travelers should allow ten (10) weeks for routine processing and four (4) weeks for expedited processing.

January through April is our normal peak season, as travelers prepare for spring and summer holidays. This year, a new law requiring Americans to have passports when traveling to or from the United States by air has increased passport demand and production to record levels. The passport requirement for land and sea travel has not yet taken effect. In Fiscal Year 2006, we issued 12 million passports, and we are on track to adjudicate up to 17 million passport applications in Fiscal Year 2007. Over 74 million Americans now have passports, and over one million more get passports every month.

The State Department is committed to meeting the challenge of increased demand for passports. In the past three years, we have hired and trained new staff – 250 new adjudicators in the past two years, with plans to hire 150 more in 2007-08. Our production centers are working extended hours, including around-the-clock operations at the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, NH, and we have increased our overtime staffing at the other 16 passport agencies. In April, we will open a mega-processing center in Arkansas that will produce as many as 10 million passports a year. We recognize that Americans have unprecedented travel document needs, and we are dedicated to producing passports in time for their travel.

 

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