World Travel Watch: Smog in Hong Kong, Heavy UK Snowfall and More
World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news
01.06.10 | 11:25 AM ET
World Travel Watch is a weekly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel. Conditions can change overnight, so always make your own inquiries before you leave home. The U.S. State Department and embassies or consulates are good places to start.
Canada: Going to the Olympics? Make Sure You Have No DUIs on Your Record
U.S. citizens and legal residents heading to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics could get a nasty surprise at the border if they have been convicted of drunk driving in the past decade. Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) convictions are criminal offenses that make travelers inadmissible to Canada. Even DUIs that were plea-bargained to a lesser charge will get the individual sent back home because Canadian immigration law always assesses the more serious charge. Criminal databases are widely shared these days, so if a DUI conviction occurred in the U.S. it is likely to appear on Canadian immigration computers and bar travelers from entry, even if they have a fistful of Olympics tickets.
China: Hong Kong Air Deteriorates, Beijing Sees Heaviest Snowfall in 60 Years
Hong Kong has been covered by a thick blanket of haze almost daily over the past few months and a new air quality study by the Environmental Protection Department showed that street-level pollution reached life-threatening levels on 44 days last year, up from 39 in 2008 and 13 in 2005. The worst area was Hong Kong’s Central district, a haven for business but also a key tourist area. The deteriorating air quality is blamed on emissions from the southern Chinese factory belt just to the north and local power plant and transport emissions. In other news, severe winter weather and haggling over the cost of coal between suppliers and power companies caused power rationing in central and eastern China. Authorities urged residents to limit the use of gas, while in Beijing, authorities reduced heating to public buildings to ensure supplies for residents. The capital saw the heaviest snowfall in almost 60 years Jan. 3 when 12 inches fell.
Spain: EU Presidency Raises Concerns about Possible ETA Incident
The EU presidency is Spain’s for the next six months, and with it came a reminder that the Basque separatist group ETA remains an active threat. Authorities are concerned that the group may try to stage a kidnapping or other incident during this period to draw attention to its cause. ETA’s violent campaign for an independent Basque homeland has spanned four decades, but the group has been considerably weakened in recent years through rigorous police work and cooperation between Spain and France.
United Kingdom: Winter Chill and Snow Disrupt Travel across the Country
The harshest winter weather since 1981 shut down airports and highways across the country Jan. 5 when some 16 inches of snow fell in various places as a cold front swept down from Scotland. Temporary closures hit Gatwick and Luton airports, and Heathrow saw many flight cancellations. Freezing temperatures were forecast for another two weeks along with more snow. Road travel may remain hazardous and all transit may be subject to delay.
USA-Bound Travelers from ‘Countries of Interest’ Face Tightened Security
Anyone flying to the U.S. from or through countries the U.S. government considers state sponsors of terrorism or “other countries of interest” will face enhanced screening under new security measures that took effect Jan. 4. Countries the U.S. considers state sponsors of terrorism are Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, and the “other countries of interest” are Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. Travelers who have visited or transited any of these countries can expect full-body scanning or pat-downs, carry-on bag searches and checks for explosive residue before boarding flights to the U.S.