The taxi driver strike in Greece that we reported on Monday has been extended and is causing chaos for travelers, especially those on cruise ships.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that taxi drivers have blockaded the port at Corfu and will not allow tour buses through to take the cruisers on their tour of the island. The same appears to have happened at Iraklio on Crete. Those travelers who have paid thousands of dollars for the “cruise of a lifetime” must not be too happy with the striking drivers. Finally, another set of taxi drivers have blocked major roads out of the city of Thessaloniki and similar actions are happening around the country.
Revenues from tourism have been one of the relative strengths in the economy of Greece, but the civil unrest this summer is causing a precipitous decline in these monies. Greece can be a wonderful vacation spot, but it appears that summer of 2011 may not be quite the right time for a visit.
The taxi strike must appear as a crushing blow to the many hotel chains, restaurants and tour companies that had been hoping that 2011 would be a comeback year for tourism in Greece. Unfortunately, it appears that goal will not be realized. We can only hope that 2012 is better for the country, its travel industry and for the millions of our fellow tourists interested in visiting this sometimes enchanting country.
The Belfast Telegraph, among others, has reported on the ongoing strike by taxi drivers in Greece. The Taxi operators in Athens have blocked the highway to the airport as well as the road connected to the cruise ship terminals in Piraeus. Unfortunately, the strike will continue at least into tomorrow.
The Telegraph reports that authorities in Athens are advising travelers to take the shuttle trains from the airport to the city. Of course, they may be on strike next, but let’s hope not.
The Guardian has reported that the United Kingdom Border Agency has informed airlines to expect delays this Thursday due to a strike by UK-based airport immigration officials. It is expected that the work action may cause havoc at airports across the UK. Travelers are advised to avoid flying into or out of the UK this Thursday, if possible.
The strike is one of the continuing actions in the UK and elsewhere in Europe that are responses to national governments reducing the benefits associated with retirement, health and other systems and public services. It appears that the 2011 vacation season in the UK and Europe will be one of the most strike-prone ever.
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.
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.
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 Guardâ€™s recommendations. Information may be found at the U.S. Coast Guardâ€™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:
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
After Hours: 03-3224-5000
The U.S. Embassy serves U.S. citizens in Tokyo, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Yamagata and Yamanashi.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Tube drivers plan to strike the London Underground System on June 19, 27, 29 and July 1. The work stoppages will occur at various times on each of these days, although not for a complete day on any of the dates. The disruptions in Tube service are certain to bring chaos to transportation in London. See this article in the Guardian for details on the times of the strikes and the reason behind the action.
On the strike dates, travelers who rely on the Underground for travel connecting to Heathrow terminals or to trains that connect to Heathrow terminals may need to make other arrangements and should plan accordingly.
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.
On Friday, protestors took over the headquarters building of the Greek Finance Ministry in Athens in response to the austerity cuts in the budget of the government of Greece (more privatization, higher taxes, lower benefits, etc.). See this article from the Belfast Telegraph for details on the takeover of the Finance Building. In a related story appearing on Euronews it was revealed that the government of Greece had agreed to make even deeper austerity cuts in order to bring its deficit into line with the requirements of the loan bailout that will be required to keep the country’s financial house from collapsing. Unfortunately, the Greek people are unwilling to accept these mandatory cuts and we expect a summer filled with strikes and demonstrations in Athens and across Greece.
Travelers planning to visit Greece should avoid demonstrations, as these may become more violent as the summer progresses. Strikes are, also, a difficult issue because they may effect the country’s transportation network. Our recommendation is to keep you eye on the local news and be prepared to alter you schedule if a strike does happen to occur.
USA Today has reported that United/Continental and Delta Airlines are increasing the cost of checking a second bag on some international flights. Greed, apparently, has no limits!