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.
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.
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.
Early today a gunman in Liege, Belgium attacked a bus stop with hand grenades and then began shooting with an automated rifle. The attacker took his own life, ending the terror on the streets of this popular town. Three were killed and 123 wounded or injured during the attack. The attack occurred at the Place St. Lambert, a hub for the city’s public transportation and the gateway for shopping within the city (including its seasonal Christmas Market). More details can be found at Reuters.
There is as of yet, no indication that this was anything other than the action of a deranged man with a history of violence and drug problems. Nevertheless, travelers should remain alert whenever traveling and be especially aware of their surroundings when visiting crowded shopping areas during holiday seasons.
A nationwide strike on Wednesday November 30, 2011 over pension rights will be joined by Immigration officers causing massive snarls for those entering the UK, especially inbound air travelers. The BBC and others are indicating that delays in processing inbound travelers could require as much as 12 hours before a person could enter the country. Airlines are recommending that passengers reschedule their flights to the next week.
Our advice – don’t fly to the UK until the week after the strike. Heathrow and other airports will be in chaos, although smaller airports might fare a little better.
Reuters reported today that a street crime wave has hit Brussels, Belgium, also known as Capital of Europe. There has been a marked increase of window bashing on parked cars to steal interior contents, as well as an uptick of street robberies, with some thieves showing guns during the crime. Note that the crime rate in Brussels is not all that high compared to other locations in Europe and around the world. However, the local police chief may have inflamed the situation when he pointed his finger at immigrants and drug addicts as the main source of the “crime wave.” See Reuters for the complete details.
If you will be traveling in downtown Brussels, exercise caution about where you travel and ask at your hotel about local crime and whether you should walk or have a taxi arranged to take you to your proposed destination.
On Sunday October 23rd Turkey suffered a devastating earthquake of 7.2 magnitude. The quake was centered in the east of the country near Turkey’s border with Iran with the destruction focused on the towns of Ercis and Van. The death toll from the earthquake is nearing 500 with thousands injured. It is feared that more dead will be discovered as a large number of multi-story dwellings collapsed. Our hearts go out to the people of Turkey who have suffered from this catastrophe.
For more details see this information article from the Voice of America, which includes a map showing the major earthquake faults in the area.
Van and its surrounding areas are off the paths normally taken by tourists, but anyone thinking of traveling in this area should postpone or cancel their trip. The earthquake was particularly devastating and it will take months, if not longer, to restore the infrastructure and allow Turkey to focus on anything other than caring for its citizens.
Where to start?
Two of the largest labor unions in Greece have announced a 48 hour nationwide strike for October 19 and 20. Currently, lawyers are on strike, as are customs officers who are on a ten-day strike. See the Belfast Telegraph for details.
The “Occupy Wall Street has gone international with demonstrations in London, Toronto, Mexico City, Madrid, Rome and other locations. Unfortunately, the demonstrations turned violent in Rome. See this article from CNN for a top level overview of the demonstrations.
In Egypt, reform leaders are criticizing Egypt’s Military leadership, while the friction between the Copts (Christians) and some sects of believers in Islam, continues.
All in all, not a good week for travelers, at least those in the centers of major cities around the world. We are unsure what lies ahead for the demonstrations in Europe and the United States, but urge you to search local news sources to see if the activity might interfere with any travel you have planned. Other hotspots such as Greece and Egypt look to be long term problems that might just wind up with you taking these potential travel destinations off your bucket list, at least for a while.
A car bomb exploded in central Ankara , the Turkey capital, on Tuesday September 19th. See this article from the Wall Street Journal Online for details. Although the government of Turkey has indicated that there is, as of yet, no evidence of terrorism, the car bomb is thought by many to be the work of Kurdish militants. Areas supporting the militants near the southeast border of the country and in the Kurdish areas of Iraq have been the focus of bombing and military campaigns by the Turkish Armed Forces. There is concern that the current action by the Turkish military against the PKK (The Kurdish Workers Party) may result in the spread of PKK-related terrorism to other cities in Turkey as well as to tourist areas in the country.
If you are planning to visit Turkey exercise caution, avoid political rallies, or celebratory crowds, as these could become targets for the PKK. Also, be sure to monitor local news for any information that could be of use to use in evaluating the PKK threat wherever you will visit in Turkey.
The rioting that beset London over the weekend has expanded far beyond the capital. New problem areas have been reported in London, as well as in Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and other cities. For a map showing the location of the riots across England see this article in The Telegraph online. For the Guardian Live News Blog on the riots, see this link.
16,000 police will be on the streets of London tonight. It has been reported that the city’s jails are already full and that those arrested are being taken to jails in outlying locations.
It is our recommendation that tourists avoid London or consider postponing their trip if they have not yet departed for England. If you are already in the country and you cannot avoid the areas of rioting, pay attention to local media for up-to-date information on local circumstances and avoid the streets at night. While some think the riots in London and the rest of the country may be on the wane, we do not see any credible indications that this is so. If you are determined to be in England this week, it will likely be risky and we recommend that you change your itinerary for safety’s sake.