The current trouble in Egypt has caught the attention of the world. While this is clearly an interesting moment in Egyptian History, it is not the time to travel to Egypt. The governments of both the UK and US have issued travel warnings for Egypt, for good reason.
While we love Egypt and would travel there again if the situation was calm, we urge travelers to avoid the country now and until the current unrest is settled. We have some fear that the situation may remain unsettled for quite some time and suspect that travel in 2013 will show an incredible drop-off. What a shame for us and for the people of Egypt who depend on travel.
Here is an excerpt of the main text from the message issued by the U.S. Department of State. The full message can be found here.
July 3, 2013
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Egypt and U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on June 28, 2013.
On July 3, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.
Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt’s 25th January Revolution, is likely to worsen in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the Presidentâ€™s assumption of office. Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, and between protesters supporting different factions, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well. While violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, the security situation in most tourist centers, including Luxor, Aswan, and Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el Sheikh, continues to be calm. Of specific concern is a rise in gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the specific targets of sexual assault.
On June 28, a U.S. citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria. On May 9, a private U.S. citizen was attacked with a knife outside of the U.S. Embassy after being asked whether he was an American. Additionally, Westerners and U.S. citizens have occasionally been caught in the middle of clashes and demonstrations. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security by knowing the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and the U.S. Embassy.
If you wish to depart Egypt, you should make plans and depart as soon as possible. The airport is open and commercial flights are still operating, although cancellations may occur. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Egypt are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.
The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. Because of the proximity of the U.S. Embassy to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the U.S. Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. The Embassy will notify U.S. citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Should security forces block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, U.S. citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the U.S. Embassy during that time. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained 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. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The U.S. Embassy in Egypt is located at 5 Tawfik Diab Street (formerly known as Latin America Street), Garden City, Cairo. For emergencies after business hours and on weekends and holidays, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy Duty Officer via the Embassy switchboard on 2797-3300.
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.