Christmas Travel Alert 19/12/11
Christmas and New Year is a time of celebration in many parts of the world, but sadly it is also a time perceived as a target for those with murderous intent.
The larger the public gathering the larger the target, and the Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations don’t get any bigger.
These holiday periods are also a target for those with an industrial/economic axe to grind. There’s industrial unrest throughout Europe and some sectors will be making their pay demands clear with strike action over this period.
Without trying to sound like the grinch who stole Christmas, here’s our list of travel safety issues (and travel hassles) you should bear in mind.
We’re not saying stay home, of course you should go out and have a great time, visit friends overseas or explore a new destination, just be prepared. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year - and keep travelling safely.
The Thai capital has been put on high-alert for New Year’s Eve after authorities discovered an incomplete bomb in the city last week.
Areas which will be put under high security include the popular Khao San Road backpacker district, and the Central World Shopping mall where a “countdown” event is being held.
Central World mall was targeted in a 2006 nail bomb campaign which killed 3 people and injured 30 others and forced the cancellation of New Year’s Eve celebrations in that year.
Visitors to Kenya are being warned of “credible intelligence” which indicates that terrorist attacks are currently being planned and may be carried out in this holiday season. Possible targets are said to include churches and other places of worship (think Christmas Mass), beach resorts, ferries, hotels and nightclubs.
The Kenyan government is having a lot of trouble with Somali-based Islamic insurgents who are operating across the border. Several westerners have been kidnapped or killed by the insurgents this year.
Violence erupts once more in the Egyptian capital with protesters concerned at the slow pace of reform and the concentration of power in the hands of the military. Despite the interim Prime Minister (and senior military leader) denying the use of any force, independent video show police and soldiers shooting at and beating protesters in Tahrir Square. One female protester had her clothes torn from her by soldiers, a Reuters photograph of the incident has caused outrage.
Although the trouble is not affecting tourist destinations in Cairo, or Egypt as a whole, visitors to the capital should avoid all demonstrations and public gatherings. It may be wise to avoid Tahrir Square completely.
The so-called Arab Spring continues throughout several other North African nations.
continues to see clashes between police and pro-democracy demonstrators, although the latest incident has taken place well away from areas popular with tourists (on a highway leading to shia villages west of the capital). Bahrain is a transit point for may travellers, and while the airport remains trouble free, you should think carefully about adding a stopover to do some sightseeing!
SYRIA & YEMEN
Several western governments (including Australia, UK and USA) are advising their citizens Do Not Travel to Syria or Yemen because of the high level of violence associated with government attempts to quell protests.
If you ignore this advice for Syria and go anyway, do not take an iphone.
“…it will be confiscated. iphones now banned. Owning as well as importing iPhones is banned and the penalty is confiscation and prosecution. Authorities will think you are a spy. Syrian jail cell not so good.”
LIBYA & IRAQ
Despite the fall of the Gadaffi regime, Libya remains on the No Go list.
US combat troops may have departed Iraq, but it too remains on the list.
STRIKES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION
London’s Tube drivers will stage a 24 hour strike on Boxing Day…. And possibly again on January 16th, February 3rd and February 13th.
(By the way; if you need any further evidence that it can be dangerous to flash your valuable possessions on some London streets, read about how Prince Harry’s mate was mugged and robbed of his Blackberry on a Battersea street at 8:30 at night:
A strike by airport employees has been extended into Monday December 19th (its 4th day). The strike affects airports in Paris, including international flights out of Charles De Gaulle, and Lyon. Expect long delays and cancellations.
Italian unions have a “Christmas truce” with their government.
Another general strike could happen in late December, although unions may delay it until January.
Potugese unions meet on January 4th to set the dates for general strikes later in that month.
Iberia airline’s pilots will be on strike on December 18th and again on December 29th.
Truck drivers will strike December 21 to 23 (inc). www.easytravelreport.com says shops are stocked but petrol and fresh veggies will be scarce on Christmas Eve. There’s also a possibility the truckers will block highways.