World Travel Watch: Deadly Heat Wave in Moscow, Underground Colosseum Tours and More

World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

08.11.10 | 11:38 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.

Russia: Moscow Wilts Under Heat, Smog

The hottest summer since record-keeping began 130 years ago combined with hundreds of wildfires burning to the west of Moscow has made the capital city a dismal place this summer. Moscow was blanketed in a noxious smog for a week before it began to lift, but the air remained heavily polluted Aug. 10. The U.S. State Department allowed non-essential personnel and families of diplomats to leave Russia at government expense, and many Muscovites fled. Deaths have doubled to 700 a day, the jump being directly blamed by Moscow’s health chief on weeks of heat and smog.

Bolivia: Protesters Isolate Potosi, Go on Hunger Strike

Protesting miners trapped some 100 foreign tourists for a week in Potosi, where they blocked all roads in and out of the city and piled boulders on the airport’s runways to prevent evacuation. On Aug. 9 they cut off the rail line to Chile and some began a hunger strike to press their grievances against the national government. Travel in the area may be disrupted for the foreseeable future.

Indonesia: Arrests Could Lead to Demonstrations

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta advised Americans to be aware of possible demonstrations following the arrest by Indonesian authorities of militant cleric Abubakar Ba’asyir—who was jailed for two years for his links to the deadly Bali bombing in 2002—and five others believed to be planning a major terrorist attack, possibly on Aug. 17, the country’s independence day. The Embassy notice stated that numerous demonstrations could occur at major sites, public facilities and traffic checkpoints, and could be volatile.

Italy: Colosseum Open for Saturday Night Tours, Underground Tunnels Also Accessible

As if the eternal city of Rome didn’t have enough attractions for tourists, authorities are now providing more access to the Colosseum. Beginning Aug. 21 and for seven straight Saturdays, visitors will be able to tour the ancient monument after dark with an archaeologist. Some nighttime tours last summer proved so popular that officials decided to do more this year. And this month, for the first time in decades, tourists will be able to explore the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the Colosseum. If you want to know what the gladiators and the wild beasts they fought experienced before going into the ring, this is your chance.

Spain: Highway Cops Let Off Violators to Protest Pay Cut

One unintended consequence of Spain’s austerity measures that cut government salaries five percent in June is a rise in traffic deaths and a precipitous drop in traffic ticket revenue. Traffic police have chosen to protest their pay cuts by letting violators off with a warning rather than writing a ticket. Tickets for traffic violations dropped by 50 percent for the same period last year, and over the Aug. 7-9 weekend traffic deaths rose to 29, the highest this year. So this may be a good time to be driving in Spain, with little worry about being cited for speeding, or it may be a bad time, because the highways may be more dangerous.

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