Updated State Department Travel Alert for Japan

May 16, 2011 on 5:40 pm | In Japan travel, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news | 1 Comment

On May 16, the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs replaced the Travel Alert for Japan that it issued after the recent devastating earthquake with updated recommendations. The text of the Alert can be found herel.

The main changes in the Alert deal with updated recommendations for the safe use of the “…Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway through the 50-mile evacuation area. Using the same analysis we would use in a similar situation in the United States, the U.S. Government believes it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the railway and expressway for transit through the area. Other portions of this Travel Alert remain unchanged from the Alert published on April 14. This Travel Alert expires on July 15, 2011.”

In respect to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the Alert notes “The assessment of technical and subject matter experts across United States Government agencies is that while the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to areas beyond the 50-mile evacuation zone, and particularly to Tokyo, Nagoya (Aichi Prefecture), Yokohama (Kanagawa Prefecture), nearby U.S. military facilities, and the prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Gunma, Iwate, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, and Yamanashi, and those portions of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures 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.” See the complete text of the report for additional details.”

In regards to aftershocks from the March 11 earthquake, the Alert contained this information “Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. Tokyo and areas to the northeast continue to experience strong aftershocks related to the March 11 earthquake. 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.”

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

U.S. State Department Issues New Worldwide Travel Caution

May 3, 2011 on 6:55 pm | In Europe travel, Terrorism and travel, Transportation Security Administration, Travel Safety, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel, travel alert, travel warnings | 1 Comment

The U. S. State Department has issued a Worldwide Travel Alert based on the potential for terrorists to react to the death of Osama Bin Laden, as the result of what is described in the document as “…recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.”

Partial text of the report includes this extended quote:

“The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan. Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. This Travel Alert expires August 1, 2011.

U.S. Embassy operations in affected areas will continue to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation. U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.”

You can find the full text of the document here at the website of the U.S. State Department.

In addition, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration issued this statement on its website regarding airport security following the death of Osama bin Laden:

May 2, 2011

“TSA continually evaluates the latest threats and screening measures which are implemented based on the latest intelligence. As always, passengers may notice a variety of security measures at U.S. airports to include the use of physical bag checks, random gate screening, explosives detection technology, canine teams and behavior detection officers. We ask the traveling public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.”

Note that the State Department Travel warning will be in effect until the end of August. The TSA announcement, as is usual, did not mention a specific term, but was used to inform the traveling public that they may experience additional security during the future months.

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

New Travel Warning for Mexico

April 23, 2011 on 11:11 am | In Mexico travel, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | 1 Comment

The United States Department of State has issued an extremely detailed Travel Warning for those who might want to visit or live in Mexico. It contains the usual note that millions safely visit Mexico each year, as well as the obligatory statement that the Mexican government takes considerable effort to ensure the safety of visitors to Mexico. However, travel to Mexico appears to be increasingly dangerous for the casual traveler, especially those intent on exploring areas outside of tourist zones.

The introduction to the Travel Warning includes this quote: “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. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well.

It is imperative that you understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico and how best to avoid dangerous situations. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where criminal activity might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

The remainder of the Travel Warning contains much more dire information and highlights the areas and problems that tourist visiting sections of Mexico may encounter. As expected, the most dangerous areas for tourists visiting Mexico are along the U.S. Border, specifically in Northern Baja California, Nogales and Northern Sonora, Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila and Zacatecas, Monterrey and Nuevo Leon, as well as Tamaulipas. The Travel Warning also includes a detailed examination of violence in other parts of Mexico.

If you are planning travel to Mexico, be sure and read the Mexico Travel Warning. The full text is available here from the State Department of the United States.

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

Northern Ireland Police Officer Killed

April 2, 2011 on 2:01 pm | In Ireland travel, Northern Ireland travel, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel alert | Comments Off

A young officer in the Police Service of Northern Ireland was killed by a bomb attached underneath his car as he drove to work in Omagh, County Tyrone. Details are provided in an article by the Guardian. Unfortunately, dissident Republican terrorists appear to be determined to disrupt the power sharing agreement between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. While there were several years of relative peace in Northern Ireland, it appears, potentially, to be drawing near a close as the terrorists have attempted several bombings and shootings in the last year.

We recommend that tourists considering travel to Northern Ireland to exercise caution during their journey, as the danger from Republican terrorists appears to be increasing in frequency and intensity.

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

Protests in Budapest on April 9

March 30, 2011 on 10:03 am | In ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, hungary travel, things travelers need to know, travel news | 2 Comments

EUbusiness.com is reporting that trade unions will protest in Budapest, Hungary on April 9, 2011 (see the article for more details). The Saturday protest, which is aimed at the growing wave of austerity measures being enacted by the governments of various member countries of the European Union, will coincide with the meeting of European Union finance ministers in Budapest.

As violence has become something of a hallmark of recent demonstrations of this type in other European countries, we advise any tourist planning to visit Hungary to avoid the demonstration in Budapest on April 9.

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

UCLA Advises Against Spring Break Travel To Mexico

March 22, 2011 on 11:28 am | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

We were surprised to see that UCLA has warned its students against travel in Mexico during spring break . Citing the State Department Travel Warning of last fall (described and linked to in our Blog), increasing drug-related violence and more than one thousand homicides during the first two months of 2011, UCLA recommended that its students avoid visiting Mexico during spring break and, “…anytime soon.”

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

Protest in Central London This Weekend

March 22, 2011 on 9:33 am | In London, London travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, United Kingdom, things travelers need to know, travel news | 1 Comment

Central London will not be the place to be for tourists hoping to explore London this weekend and we advise you to avoid the area. On Saturday, October 26th, hundreds of thousands of protestors will descend on Central London to protest the cuts related to their governments austerity measures.

Trafalgar Square will be one of the main gathering points, as described by this article in the Guardian.

If you had planned on touring London this weekend, we suggest that you consider changing your plans, unless you are determined to join the protests. Alternatives include taking a day trip, such as one of those described at ThereArePlaces, or simply heading out for a weekend in the country, or maybe touring some of the UK’s fine castles, such those described here.

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

Travel Warning For The United States?

March 15, 2011 on 2:30 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, Transportation Security Administration, Travel Safety, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

Those of you who read this blog know that we follow the Transportation Security Administration weekly post called TSA Week At A Glance. We last reported on these reports in October 2010.

During the last three weeks we have noticed several unusual trends. First, for the week ending 2/20/2011 the number of firearms found on passengers or in their luggage at TSA checkpoints increased to 19 from the 7 reported the previous week. Since that time, the results from the weeks ending 2/27, 3/6 and 3/13 have been 25, 23 and 22 firearms intercepted, up from the weekly average of approximately 13 (based on the date we started tracking these number starting in May, 2010).

In addition, items that the TSA describe as “Artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints”, jumped to 9 the week ending 3/06/2011, up from 1 the previous week and well above the weekly average of approximately 3 items confiscated. However, the number declined to 2 the week ending 3/13/2011.

Next, for the week ending 3/13/2011 the action defined by the TSA as “Passengers arrested after investigation of suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents” rose to 15 from the 7 recorded for the week before, above the weekly average of approximately 6 passengers arrested .

While taken alone, these numbers are suggestive, it should be noted that around 15 million passengers pass through security every week in the United States. In essence, the numbers in the TSA reports and the variances we noted are not statistically significant, but , at least from our point of view, are troubling. Just who is it that doesn’t know that you not allowed to take firearms aboard an airplane? Since you can buy whatever you need almost anywhere you go, what could you possibly want to smuggle onto an airplane in the United States, except something you wanted to be able to use on the flight that regarded as dangerous to carry in the cabin of an airliner? Finally, is it news to people that they need to have to have bullet-proof credentials to pass through TSA security? Hard to figure, isn’t it?

Since the TSA does not reveal details on their website related to the “TSA Week At A Glance” reporting categories, it may be that the modest fluctuations reported by ThereArePlaces in this blog are related to wild and crazy college students departing for “Spring Break”. Or, it could be an early start to summer travel. It could be a lot of things, but it could also be terrorists probing our security systems.

We are not excited about the security surrounding today’s air travel, but we would rather have than not . Yes, the TSA might be able to improve the security process, but as the numbers show, some folks just don’t seem to get the message, while others might have ulterior motives. Such is the price of vigilance.

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

Japan Earthquake Halts Tourism

March 11, 2011 on 10:01 am | In Japan travel, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

On March 11, at 2:46 local time in Japan, a massive magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck off of the eastern shores of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, resulting in a significant number of deaths and incredible destruction of property/infrastructure. The earthquake, which was centered 234 miles (376 km.) to the northeast of Tokyo, generated a 23-foot high tsunami that devastated the city and port of Sendai and surrounding areas (Sendai is approximately 86 miles from the epicenter). Tokyo sustained damage during the main earthquake and its port was struck by the tsunami waters. Miyagi Prefecture, which is part of the Tohoku region encompassing northern Honshu, received the brunt of the damage from this large earthquake.

The State Department of the United States has issued a travel alert asking citizens to avoid travel to Japan. The alert expires on April 1, 2011.

Seismic aftershocks continue to rock the area (over 50 earthquakes have occurred since the initial shock with numerous temblors above 6.0 on the seismic intensity scale). At present major airports in northern Honshu are closed, including Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

Travelers with tickets for air travel to any airport in this area over the next two weeks should check with their airlines about re-booking at some future date. We can assure you that vacation or “natural disaster travel” would not be appreciate by the authorities or people of Japan at this time.

We extend our sympathies to the people of Japan.

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

Oh Those Travel Plans For Egypt

March 3, 2011 on 12:38 pm | In Egypt travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, river cruises, things travelers need to know, travel industry | Comments Off

As noted in our last blog, we were headed out on a great adventure in Egypt and Jordan, when the current political and social turmoil hit.

We were interested in adding coverage of Egypt and Jordan to ThereArePlaces, as well as to research tour packages and their providers. Although our team’s travel is usually independent (so that we can wander the places we want to research and spend the time we judge necessary to explore them), we realize that many travelers are more comfortable on tours. Honestly, none of us had never taken a formal tour and thought that this might be a great opportunity to do so and report on the results to our audience at ThereArePlaces. In addition, river cruises have been growing in popularity and we thought that combining Nile River and Lake Nasser Cruises would give us the opportunity to both see a great deal of Egypt and investigate and report about the river cruise scene.

Once we began to review companies providing tours that included Egypt + Nile River Cruises + Jordan, we noticed Viking River Cruises. Although well known for their numerous Europe cruises, they are less well-known for their cruises in Egypt. However, their itinerary in Egypt covered many of the attractions on our list and their add-on for Jordan, though much shorter, provided what we thought was a good overview of the country. So, we booked a reservation for tour starting February 17 in Cairo.

As long as we were traveling out of our usual comfort zone as independent travelers, we decided to see if we could use some of the gazillion miles we had built-up on American Airlines during our other travels for ThereArePlaces. We asked and they came up with some choice seats on short notice. However, we would be arriving in Cairo before the tour started, so we booked an advanced reservation at the Sofitel El Gezirah, close to the city Center in Cairo, which was also the hotel selected by Viking River Cruise and at which we would be staying when the tour started.

As you know, things in Egypt turned dangerous and we were uncertain that traveling in Egypt would be safe. Although we had purchased trip insurance (it was an expensive trip, at least to us), we did not want to exercise it, presuming that Viking would cancel the cruise if the tour would possibly endanger its subscribers. In fact, Viking did cancel the tour and offered to refund our total fee (including insurance) or rebook us on the same tour at a future date without penalties of any sort. Although it is our understanding that most travelers asked for the refund, we decided to try again and booked a reservation for same trip early next year. Our opinion is that Viking River Cruises reacted in an exemplary manner, putting the safety of its guests ahead of other corporate goals. In addition, the agent at Viking was great fun to work with through this situation.

American Airlines was very helpful. They cancelled the ticket on learning of the problem, deposited the miles back in our mileage bank and promptly reversed the credit card fee for the taxes on the tickets. American Airlines reacted in an exemplary manner to the situation in Egypt.

Our advanced reservation with the Sofitel El Gezirah was the least expensive and most contentious of the problems. As you can imagine, the management of the Sofitel in Cairo likely had more to worry about than our reservation during this period of turmoil. At least that is what we thought, so we contacted Sofitel’s corporate offices through their website. The first email we received from them was full of typos and misspellings and not impressive (from a high-end hotel chain), while indicating that we had purchased an Internet “special” and a refund would not be forthcoming. We wrote a second time, asking for our note to be redirected to their marketing division, indicating that we would agree that the no refund penalty should be exacted if we willingly decided not to stay at the hotel, but that in this case, there was a revolution going on in Cairo and our tour had been cancelled. The email from the corporate offices was not much better, indicating that this was a problem our own making (purchasing a non-refundable reservation), but that we should contact the management of the hotel in Cairo to see if they would be willing to provide a refund.

We have to admit that we were ashamed for the Sofitel management. They wanted us to call the management of the hotel in Cairo in the middle of a democratic revolution in order to hassle these people about a room fee! Well, we chose not do so, but did write an email to the Sofitel El Gezirah in Cairo, explaining the situation and requesting a refund. Honestly, we did not expect to hear from them and would not have been disappointed if we had not. However, one of the staff at the hotel responded to our request and promptly had the funds for the ticket returned to us. In our book, the Sofitel Hotel chain failed the test, but the Sofitel El Gezirah management in Cairo, passed it with flying colors.

We are still out of sorts about missing out on our Egypt and Jordan tour, but traveling during February would have been dicey. While we thought about going sooner rather than later, we decided that by the time the situation in Egypt might calm down, that it would be too warm to enjoy some of the attractions in southern Egypt. We thought about next fall, but decided avoid the period around the election and other travel scheduled for ThereArePlaces blew the rest of the year. Here’s to next year in Egypt and Jordan, although we really wish it could have been this one.

Ouch, just remembered that we paid for visas to Egypt and Jordan, which will expire soon. Oh well!

Click for the ThereArePlaces Website

Previous PageNext Page

Powered by WordPress with Pool theme design by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds.Feed Shark Valid XHTML and CSS. ^Top^