World Travel Watch: Fees and Visas in India and Argentina, Maoists in Nepal and More
World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news
12.16.09 | 10:56 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.
Argentina: ‘Reciprocal’ $131 Entry Fee Goes into Effect Dec. 20
On Dec. 20 the government will begin collecting a $131 entry fee from U.S. business travelers and tourists, but only those entering the country at Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza International Airport. The fee buys a multiple entry visa good for the life of the passport, but is primarily being implemented to bring Argentina into a reciprocal relationship with the U.S. That is, charging U.S. citizens what the U.S. government charges Argentines for a visa to enter the U.S.
Australia: Rollovers on Fraser Island Prompt Demands for Tighter Controls on Drivers
The recent death of a Japanese tourist in a car accident on Fraser Island led to a call for tougher regulations on who can drive on the world’s largest sand island. Fraser is a popular destination for Australians and foreign visitors who camp on its extensive beaches and explore the sandy expanses via four-wheel drive vehicle. But driving a 4X4 in sand requires skill, especially in reading the beaches, dunes and gullies, and many tourists who rent the vehicles have little or no experience driving them in such circumstances. The Japanese tourist died when the vehicle he was riding in flipped; seven others were injured. This accident followed a similar rollover that killed two tourists in April. Since 2003 there have been some 120 serious accidents on the island, and in almost half of them, foreign tourists were at the wheel.
India: Visa Requirements Revised, Independence Demanded in Telangana, Gorkhaland
In response to the arrest of a U.S. citizen in Chicago on charges of helping plot the Mumbai terrorist attacks of Nov. 2008, India has revised its visa regulations. U.S. citizens with five- or 10-year visas will not be allowed to reenter India within two months of their previous departure if their last visit was longer than 90 days or if they have been in the country more than 180 days during the past year. In other news, an agreement by the Indian government to initiate the legislative process to create a new state, Telangana state, from a region in Andhra Pradesh, created a backlash that led to significant civil unrest in Hyderabad. Tensions are likely to remain high. Similarly, a four-day strike in Darjeeling by advocates of a separate state called Gorkhaland in West Bengal was called off at the last minute, but not before hundreds of tourists fled the region. Protesters were persuaded not to strike in advance of Dec. 21 talks among key political parties on the Gorkhaland question.
Nepal: Maoists Declare Autonomous Regions, Plan Strike in Kathmandu
Maoists still angry over the president’s refusal to accept the prime minister’s sacking of the army chief in May are intensifying their pressure on the government. They planned a general strike for Dec. 20-22 and declared four autonomous states in regions they controlled when they were fighting a guerrilla war. Business leaders in Kathmandu vowed to ignore the strike, while government officials urged the Maoists to rescind their declarations because they were impeding the country’s peace process. Protests are possible and disruptions are likely during the strike.
United Kingdom: Train Drivers in Southern England to Strike Dec. 28
Train drivers voted to stage a 24-hour strike Dec. 28 to protest the Southern Railway’s refusal to pay holiday wages for drivers working the Monday after Christmas. The strike will affect Southern’s routes, which run from London to England’s south coast and throughout southeastern England. The walkout will likely cause extensive disruption in service. Thinking far ahead, the union said drivers would also strike on Dec. 27, 2010 and Jan. 3, 2011 if the dispute is not resolved. Southern currently pays holiday wages for two days during the Christmas week, but the union wants three.