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World Watch Wire

  • Argentina: Carnivorous Fish Attck Tourists - Tourists enjoying a sunny Christmas holiday on the Parana River near Rosario experienced a horrible surprise when a swarm of carnivorous fish attacked 70 swimmers, including a young child who had part of her finger amputated. The palometas fish, a relative of the piranha, sometimes bites swimmers but an event of this magnitude is extremely [...]
  • Honduras: State Department Issues Travel Warning - The U.S. State Department reissued a travel warning for Honduras Dec. 24, citing high levels of crime and violence as grounds for added precautions. The country has had the highest murder rate in the world since 2010, with roughly 81 murders per 100,000 people for January through November 2013. Though U.S. citizens are not specifically [...]
  • Indonesia: Series of Volcanic Eruptions at Mt. Sinabung - Nearly 20,000 people fled their homes in Sumatra as the island’s Mt. Sinabung volcano erupted at least nine times Dec. 30. The volcano shot lava and gas 23,000 feet into the air and a three-mile danger zone has been enforced around the crater. The volcano was dormant for 400 years before erupting in 2010, [...]
  • Russia:More Violence in Volgograd - A fresh surge in violence rocked the nation just a month shy of the winter Olympic games. Two bombings claimed the lives of more than 30 people at a train station and on a trolley bus in the southern city of Volgograd. The December 29 and 30 blasts injured another 60, and 5,000 police were [...]
  • UK: New Law For Medical Visits - In an attempt to discourage abuse of the medical system, the British government has announced plans to require migrants and international tourists to pay for any medical attention received in the country. The new law includes emergency medical services and minor surgeries performed in physicians’ offices. The plan, which will be formally announced in March, [...]
  • China: Xiamen-Shenzhen High Speed Railway launches Dec. 28 - The Xiamen-Shenzhen High Speed Railway launches Dec. 28, giving travelers easier access to lesser-known tourist spots along China’s southern coast, including Shantou and Haifeng. The railway covers just over 300 miles and travels at a speed of nearly 125 miles per hour. The coastal city of Xiamen is expected to see a spike in visitors [...]
  • Egypt: The U.S. Department of State Reissues Travel Alert - The U.S. Department of State issued an updated travel alert for Egypt Dec. 18, just days before a car bomb killed 14 people at a police compound in Mansoura, 80 miles north of Cairo. The Dec. 24 bombing appears to have targeted police, but reports indicated that several civilians were also killed or injured in [...]
  • Russia: CDC Recommends Precautions for Winter Games - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reminding those who plan to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi to be current with vaccines and is recommending the Hepatitis A vaccine for most travelers. Visitors should also be aware that proof of medical insurance that covers treatment in Russia is required to obtain a [...]
  • Thailand: Protestors Continue to Fill Streets in Bangkok - Protests continue in Bangkok, most recently with thousands of demonstrators attempting to block political candidates from registering at a sports stadium. Tens of thousands also marched in the streets Dec. 22 and protests are expected to continue while political candidates register over the next two weeks, moving toward the country’s February 2014 election date. The [...]
  • Turkey: Fresh Protests in Istanbul’s Kadikoy Square - Police fired water cannons, smoke grenades and teargas to break-up crowds of protestors at Istanbul’s Kadikoy Square Dec. 22. What was meant to be an action against the government’s construction and development plans in the city’s threatened green spaces quickly turned into protests over recent corruption and bribery scandals involving government officials and at least [...]

  • US Dept of State Wire
  • Russian Federation Travel Alert - The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens in Russia to the on-going tensions along the border with Ukraine and the potential for clashes between pro-Russian groups and Ukrainian forces.

    This supersedes the Travel Alert dated July 22 to provide updated information on the security situation along Russia’s border with Ukraine and will expire on December 31, 2014.

    The U.S. government currently has no information concerning active armed clashes inside Russia or that there are any threats specific to U.S. citizens.  However, all U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to the border region of the Russian Federation, specifically the districts immediately bordering Ukraine in parts of Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh, and Rostov Oblasts and Krasnodar Krai, should be aware that the tensions described in the State Department’s Travel Warning for Ukraine have the potential to jeopardize the safety and security of U.S. citizens traveling or living in those regions

    A state of emergency, declared by the Russian government, continues to be in effect in the Rostov Oblast bordering Ukraine.  The situation along the border is unpredictable and could change quickly. Armed, pro-Russian groups are reportedly traveling illegally across the border into Ukraine and could increase the potential for clashes in Russia near the border, and pose a heightened risk for kidnapping and hostage taking.  Negotiations and discussions between Ukraine and Russia are on-going regarding the integrity and control of the international border between the two countries.  A formal, permanent mechanism to guarantee security on the border has not yet been established.  Given the on-going volatility of the situation, U.S. citizens are strongly advised against traveling by land from Russia to Ukraine through this region.

    U.S. citizens considering travel to the border region in Russia should evaluate their personal security situation in light of these political tensions, and the possibility of violence or anti-U.S. actions directed against U.S. citizens or U.S. interests.  U.S. citizens who choose to remain in areas where Russia has declared a state of emergency or other border regions should maintain a low profile and avoid large crowds and gatherings.

    The Department of State advises U.S. citizens in Russia to avoid all public demonstrations, whether properly authorized by local officials or not, and avoid any large crowds and public gatherings that lack enhanced security measures.  U.S. diplomatic facilities in Russia have been the target of frequent demonstrations.  Demonstrations related to the conflict may appear anywhere throughout Russia, at any time.  These demonstrations may increase the possibility of confrontation and violence.  Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates.  Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.

    We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Russia enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment allows you to receive the Department’s safety and security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you do not have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate

    Regularly monitor the State Department’s website where you can find current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution, and read the Country Specific Information for the Russian Federation.  For additional information, refer to the "Traveler's Checklist" on the State Department's website.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

    The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow assists U.S. citizens in Russia.  The Unit can help you with passport issuance and renewal, voter assistance, notarials, and registering a child born abroad. It also provides emergency services for U.S. citizens in case of a disaster or in case of illness, arrest, death or destitution while in Russia. 

    Appointments are required for all non-emergency services; you can make an appointment by calling the ACS unit at (+7) (495) 728-5577, or you may click here to schedule an appointment online.  To contact us with questions, please write to moscowwarden@state.gov or visit the Embassy's website.

    Emergency Contact Information in Russia:

    U.S. Embassy Moscow:
    U.S. citizens with an emergency during regular office hours (M-F 9am-6pm, excluding Russian and U.S. holidays) are welcome to visit the ACS unit at the U.S. Embassy, 21 Novinsky Blvd., Moscow.  Tel: (+7) (495) 728-5577 - 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., weekdays.
    For after-hours emergencies, call (+7) (495) 728-5000 after 6:00 pm, and on weekends and holidays.

    U.S. Consulate General St. Petersburg:
    The U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg is located at 15 Furshatskaya Street, Tel: (+7) (812) 331-2600.  You may contact the Consulate’s ACS unit by e-mail at StPetersburgACS@State.gov, or by fax at (+7) (812) 331-2646, or visit the Consulate website.
    For after-hours emergencies, call (+7) (812) 331-2600 and listen to the recorded message for the Duty Officer’s cell phone number.

    U.S. Consulate General Vladivostok
    The U.S. Consulate General is located at 32 Puskinskaya Street, Vladivostok, Russia 690001
    Tel.: +7 (423) 230-0070, fax: +7 (423) 230-0091
    Emergency telephone:  +7 914-791-0067 (24 hours)
    E-mail:  vladcons@state.gov

    U.S. Consular Agency Yuzho-Sakhalinsk:
    The Consular Agency in Yuzho-Sakhalinsk is located at Lada Hotel Suite 210, 154 Komsomolskaya Street, Tel:  (+7) (424) 242-4917.  You may contact the Consular Agency by e-mail at conagentsakhalin@yahoo.com
    For after-hours emergencies, call (+7) 914-704-0867.

    U.S. Consulate General Yekaterinburg:
    The U.S. Consulate General in Yekaterinburg is located at 15 Gogolya Street, Tel: (+7) (343) 793-001.  You may contact the Consulate’s ACS Unit by e-mail at COnsulYekat@state.gov or by fax at (+7) (343) 379-4515, or visit the Consulate’s website at http://yekaterinburg.usconsulate.gov.
    For after-hours emergencies, you may call the Duty Officer at (+7) (917) 569-3549.

  • South Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season - 2014 - 2015 - The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to the South Pacific region about the ongoing threat of tropical cyclones affecting the area.

    While tropical cyclones in the South Pacific may occur throughout the year, the current South Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season begins on November 1, 2014, and ends April 30, 2015.  U.S. citizens living in or traveling to the region should monitor local weather reports and take other appropriate action as needed.  This Travel Alert expires on April 30, 2015.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends that people living or traveling in regions prone to tropical storms and tropical cyclones be prepared.  For further information about tropical cyclone preparedness, please visit NOAA's Tropical Cyclones Preparedness Guide.  For further information on tropical cyclone warnings in the South Pacific region, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center, Fiji's regional meteorological center responsible for tropical cyclone warnings in the South Pacific region, or the Government of Australia's Bureau of Meteorology.

    During and after some previous storms, U.S. citizens traveling abroad encountered dangerous and often uncomfortable conditions that lasted for several days while they awaited transportation to the United States.  In the past, many U.S. citizens were forced to delay travel (including return travel to the United States) due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability.  Roads were also washed out or obstructed by debris, adversely affecting access to airports and land routes out of affected areas.  Reports of looting and sporadic violence in the aftermath of natural disasters have occurred.  Security personnel may not always be readily available to assist.  In the event of a cyclone, you should be aware that you may not be able to depart the area for 24-48 hours or longer, particularly if you are residing in or visiting a South Pacific Island country where air service is limited.

    You also may encounter uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous conditions after storms pass.  In many places, tropical cyclones are often accompanied by damaging high tides and flooding.  If you are living near or staying close to the ocean or other bodies of water, you may be at higher risk.  Landslides and mudslides are also a serious concern during heavy rains.  Be sure to check with local authorities for safety and security updates.  Weather conditions or damage to infrastructure may delay or prevent needed assistance from U.S. embassy and host country security personnel.

    If you are living in or traveling to storm-prone regions overseas during the cyclone season, we recommend you consider obtaining travel insurance to cover unexpected expenses during an emergency, as well as medical insurance with provision for emergency medical evacuations to the United States.  In some instances, commercial medical evacuations can cost 100,000 USD or more and may not be covered by your regular medical insurance. 

    If the damage in the aftermath of a storm requires evacuation, the Department of State will work with commercial airlines to ensure that U.S. citizens may depart as safely and efficiently as possible.  Commercial airlines are the Department’s primary source of transportation in an evacuation; other means of transport are utilized only as a last resort, are often more expensive, and will provide you with fewer destination options.  U.S. law requires that any evacuation costs are your responsibility.  For those in financial need, the U.S. Department of State has the authority to provide crisis evacuation and repatriation loans.  For more information, please visit the Emergencies Abroad page on our website.

    If you live in or are traveling to storm-prone regions, prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms by organizing a kit in a waterproof container that includes a supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, any medications taken regularly, and vital documents (especially your passport and other identification).  Emergency shelters often provide only very basic resources and may have limited medical and food supplies.  NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have additional tips on their websites.

    Monitor local radio, local media, and the National Weather Service to be aware of weather developments.  Minor tropical cyclones can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation.  Inform family and friends of your whereabouts and remain in close contact with your tour operator, hotel staff, transportation providers (airlines, cruise lines, etc.), and local officials for evacuation instructions during a weather emergency.

    We strongly encourage that U.S. citizens traveling abroad enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

    Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution.  For additional information, refer to the Traveler's Checklist on the State Department’s website.

    You will find additional information on cyclones and storm preparedness on the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Hurricane Season – Know Before You Go website.  Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.

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