Major Demonstration in Madrid On Sunday

July 23, 2011 on 9:06 am | In Spain Travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, parades, things travelers need to know, travel news | 2 Comments

The Spanish political movement called 15M has organized what appears to be a massive demonstration to take place in Madrid this weekend. No violence is expected, but the crowd is forecast to be very large. The 15M demonstrators believe they are not represented by the current political structure in Spain and are asking that attention be paid to their strategies for improving society and the political system in Spain.

Tonight (Saturday) demonstrators will meet in several locations and then start a mass walk to Puero del Sol in preparation for the Sunday demonstration. The demonstrators are expect to gather in the Sol at 9 PM. On Sunday there will be meetings in Retiro Park and other locations followed by a march (at 6PM) from Atocha to Puerto del Sol.

Plans related to this demonstration may change, so be sure to check the local news in Madrid for more details. Vacation travelers should plan on avoiding Puerto del Sol this weekend. In addition, tourists should consider avoiding central Madrid on Saturday night and all day Sunday.

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Oslo Bombing and Youth Camp Attack

July 22, 2011 on 10:43 am | In Oslo travel, Terrorism and travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, norway travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news, travel warnings | 1 Comment

Terrorism has struck Oslo, Norway. It has been reported by several sources that a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was exploded outside of a main government office in the heart of Oslo. A second bomb was confirmed, but the location has not been revealed. In addition, a youth camp on Utoya Island, approximately 25 miles outside of Oslo, was attacked by a gun carrying individual disguised as a police officer. At last report nearly 90 fatalities and hundreds of injuries have resulted from the combined actions.

Central Oslo has been evacuated and is closed to the public until further notice. The authorities are examining the possibility that there may be additional explosive devices in the area or, possibly in the surrounding areas. It appears that this attack was staged by a Norwegian citizen with right-wing beliefs.

Travelers are advised to avoid Oslo over the next few weeks, as the clean-up and ongoing investigation of this incident will likely make tourism around the Capital difficult, if not untenable.

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Strikes in Greece Next Week

June 24, 2011 on 2:06 pm | In Greece Travel, Travel Safety, air travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news | 2 Comments

CNN has reported that major unions in Greece are planning a forty-eight hour strike next Tuesday and Wednesday. The strike is in response to the government’s planned adoption of new austerity measures required to attain loans that will keep the country from defaulting on its financial obligations.

It is expected that the strikes will be especially large in Athens and we recommend that all travelers avoid Athens on Tuesday and Wednesday.

At this time it is unclear, but expected that other unions will join the strike action next week. We expect the strike will cause disruptions for travelers throughout Greece. In addition, we suspect that a large number of strikes will ensue during the next few weeks, causing a decline in the number of tourists willing to vacation in Greece this summer.

For those willing to risk it, you may find travel bargains in Greece over the remainder of 2011.

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TSA and Pat-Downs for Children

June 23, 2011 on 9:01 am | In Transportation Security Administration, Travel Safety, air travel, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel alert | 1 Comment

During testimony given by TSA official John Pistole to a Committee of the U.S. Senate, the TSA intends to make repeated attempts to screen young children instead of resorting to intrusive pat-down searches. See this article from ABC News for more details.

Pat-downs of children who present “screening anomalies” is a delicate subject for many, but the TSA contends that terrorists have used children as suicide bombers in the past and may do so again. The new policy will allow parents to request a re-screening and other alternatives before a pat-down is initiated.

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Princess Cruises Cancels Puerto Vallarta

June 23, 2011 on 8:38 am | In Mexico travel, Travel Safety, cruise travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news | 2 Comments

USA Today and other sources are reporting that Princess Cruises has decided to cancel port calls at Puerto Vallarta for the rest of the year. The reason for the change in schedule is “safety” and Puerto Vallarta now joins Mazatlan on the list of dropped ports in Mexico.

Although the Princess line has de-emphasized cruises of the Mexican Rivera over the past few years, the current action is yet another bad omen for tourism in Mexico. The Mexico Tourism Board is, understandably, unhappy about the situation and its response is outlined in this article from PVNN.

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New Travel Alert Issued for Japan by U.S. State Department

June 11, 2011 on 3:36 pm | In Japan travel, Travel Safety, US Department of State, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel and health, travel news, travel warnings | 2 Comments

The U.S. Department of State issued the following Travel Alert on June 9, 2011:

This Travel Alert updates the Travel Alert for Japan dated May 16, 2011. This Travel Alert expires on August 15, 2011.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

While the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to land areas which are outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens.

Out of an abundance of caution, we continue to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel to destinations within the 50-mile evacuation zone of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. U.S. citizens who are still within this zone should evacuate or shelter in place.

On May 16, the U.S. Government updated its recommendation for the principal transport routes between Tokyo and Sendai that run through the 50-mile evacuation zone. These transport routes are currently open to public use. The U.S. Government believes the health and safety risks associated with using these transport routes are low, and that it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the Tohoku Shinkansen railway and Tohoku Expressway to transit through the area. This guidance is based on measurements taken by U.S. Government scientists; more information may be found at the Department of Energy website, http://blog.energy.gov/content/situation-japan/. This updated guidance on the main railway and expressway routes corresponds to that issued by Japanese authorities.

The U.S. Government also advises that ships operating near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant should follow the U.S. Coast Guard’s recommendations. Information may be found at the U.S. Coast Guard’s website: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/

Risk of Aftershocks

Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. Aftershocks following an earthquake of this magnitude can be expected to continue for more than a year. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake. See the Embassy Website for detailed information on earthquake safety:

http://japan.usembassy.gov.

American Citizen Services

U.S. citizens in Japan are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulates. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy/Consulates to contact them in case of emergency.

For the latest U.S. Government information on the situation in Japan, please visit the Embassy website at http://japan.usembassy.gov. Updated information on travel and security in Japan may also be obtained from the Department of State 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. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Japan, as well as the Worldwide Caution.

For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of either the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or one of the U.S. Consulates in Japan listed below:

U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
American Citizen Services
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420
Tel: 03-3224-5000
After Hours: 03-3224-5000
Fax: 03-3224-5856

http://japan.usembassy.gov/

The U.S. Embassy serves U.S. citizens in Tokyo, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Yamagata and Yamanashi.

Consulates:

Osaka-Kobe: 11-5, Nishitenma 2-chome, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543; Tel: 06- 6315-5912, Fax: 06-6315-5914; serving Americans in Osaka, Tel: 06-6315-5912, Fax: 06- 6315-5914; serving U.S. citizens in Osaka, Aichi, Ehime, Fukui, Gifu, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Ishikawa, Kagawa, Kochi, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Okayama, Shimane, Shiga, Tokushima, Tottori, Toyama, and Wakayama prefectures.

http://osaka.usconsulate.gov

Nagoya: Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor, 1-47-1 Nagano, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-0001; Tel (052) 581-4501, Fax: (052) 581-3190; providing emergency consular services only (including death and arrest cases) for Americans living in Aichi, Gifu, and Mie prefectures.

http://nagoya.usconsulate.gov

Fukuoka: 5-26, Ohori 2-chome, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052; Tel: 092-751-9331, Fax: 092-713-9222; serving U.S. citizens in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga and Yamaguchi prefectures.

http://fukuoka.usconsulate.gov

Sapporo: Kita 1-jo, Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821; Tel: 011- 641-1115, Fax: 011-643-1283; serving U.S. citizens in Akita, Aomori, Hokkaido, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.

http://sapporo.usconsulate.gov

Naha: 2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe City, Okinawa 901-2104; Phone: 098.876.4211, Fax: 098.876.4243, DSN: 645-7323; serving U.S. citizens in Okinawa and the Amami Oshima Island group

http://naha.usconsulate.gov

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Now It’s The Sprouts – Not Lettuce, Tomatoes or Cucumbers

June 5, 2011 on 11:22 am | In Germany, Germany travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel and health, travel news, travel warnings | 6 Comments

According to CNN sprouts grown and packaged in Germany are likely to be the source of the deadly E.coli outbreak in that country. Fatalities have reached 22 and the number of infected has exceeded 2,300 spread across 9 countries in Europe and several other countries outside of Europe.

Our recommendation is to add sprouts to the “avoid” list of tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce when traveling in Germany – at least until the authorities issue a final determination on the source of the infections.

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E. Coli Outbreak in Germany

June 3, 2011 on 10:24 am | In Germany, Germany travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel alert, travel and health, travel immunizations, travel warnings | 1 Comment

An E.coli outbreak in Germany continues to wreak havoc, as the number of infected has reached thousands and the fatalities have reached at least 18. See this article from Bloomberg Businessweek for more details.

It appears that this is a new strain (or variation) of E.coli that has not been seen before and may be the precursor to other outbreaks of this sort. See this article from the Belfast Telegraph for more details. The mutation appears to cause kidney failure and death in some and kidney damage in others infected with the bacteria

Public health authorities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe are currently suggesting that people in these areas avoid eating uncooked salad greens, tomatoes and cucumbers. Vegetable washing is highly recommended before consuming any other vegetables and hand washing is a must before food preparation.

The geographical origin of the the problem remains unclear, but to this point it appears that the infection is centered in northern Germany, especially around Hamburg. Although cucumbers from Spain were initially singled out as a potential source of the bacteria, it is now clear that cucumbers from Spain were not the source of the health problem.

We recommend that travelers to Germany should avoid consuming salad, cucumbers and tomatoes. At present nine other countries in Europe are on alert and have recommended avoiding these vegetables. At this time, all of those infected with the bacteria appear to have been infected as the result of consuming salad, cucumber or fresh tomatoes in meals prepared in northern Germany.

Note, there is a possibility that the bacteria was introduced to the produce during packing, shipping or preparation. The types of vegetables in question have been shipped from Germany to other countries, so you might want to consider avoiding salad, tomatoes and cucumbers anywhere in Europe during this crisis. Check with local authorities on the recommendations for the areas in which you will be traveling, as conditions related to infections like E.coli can change with alarming speed.

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Travel Troubles in Turkey, Spain, and Greece

May 27, 2011 on 10:15 am | In Greece Travel, Istanbul travel, Spain Travel, Travel Safety, Turkey, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news, travels in Turkey | 1 Comment

Turkey will hold parliamentary elections on June 12 and the Kurdistan Workers party’s (PPK) separatist insurgency is thought to be trying to influence the outcome of the electoral process. On Thursday a small bomb was exploded in an Istanbul location near a police barracks and a shopping mall, injuring eight. No fatalities resulted. See this article in TodaysZaman for more details .

Today, a percussion bomb was exploded near a military barracks in the city of Diyabakir in southeastern Turkey, with no casualties resulting. See this story from Reuters for the details.

Spain continues to experience unrest due to joblessness with demonstrations occurring in most large cities. See this article in Yahoo News for more details. We note that the demonstrations in Spain have not been violent.

Meanwhile in Greece, police pepper-sprayed demonstration doctors (see this article from the AP in the Miami Herald ) who are rallying against the deep cuts to the medical and social systems in Turkey that have resulted from the country’s current economic problem (see this article in Yahoo News for a review of the recent austerity discussions being held by the government.

It seems as if the countries of Europe have experienced more demonstrations in 2011, including more violent demonstrations than have occurred in the last few years. Those planning to vacation in Europe this summer should read the local news for their travel destination and ask hotel staff in the towns and villages where they plan to stay about pending demonstrations. Avoid the areas where demonstrations are planned, perhaps taking a trip out of the city on that day.

The periods surrounding elections in countries experiencing financial or political crises are often marked with demonstration or, in in more extreme cases, by internal terrorism. If a city is a known hotbox for demonstrations, we recommend avoiding it while the crises lasts or the contested election is being held. If you cannot do that, then be sure that you are aware of local conditions, avoid crowds and avoid participating in political discussions about the problems in your destination.

Travel is inherently dangerous. You could be injured or killed driving to your the local grocery store near your home. International travel is no exception in terms of exposure to possible dangers. All travelers need to evaluate the safety of travel for themselves, based on their values and beliefs. Searching the international news on your destination is a good way to begin that evaluation.

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Aftermath of Earthquake in Spain

May 16, 2011 on 6:02 pm | In Spain Travel, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

On May 11, 2011 a deadly earthquake rocked Lorca in Murcia Province, Spain. Read this earthquake report from the BBC for more details. At least 10 people lost their lives in the earthquake. In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid reported that buildings and other infrastructure were severely damaged in both Lorca and Totana in southeastern Spain.

Although the earthquake was not particularly strong, its origin was shallow and the quake occurred close to the surface, which increased its potential for damage. In addition, many of the historic buildings in Murcia, and Spain in general, were constructed before the development of the types of safety features required by modern building codes for construction in earthquake prone regions. It is often the case that these types of buildings are particularly dangerous to be in or near during earthquakes.

Travelers intending to visit this area of Spain should check with local news sources before initiating travel.

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