World Travel Watch: Hundreds Killed in Phnom Penh Stampede, Dutch ‘Coffee Shops’ Closing to Tourists
World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news
11.24.10 | 12:03 PM 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.
Cambodia: Phnom Penh Stampede Kills Hundreds
A three-day water festival that marks the end of the rainy season, the Bon Om Touk, ended in catastrophe in Phnom Penh Nov. 22 when a stampede killed at least 378 people and injured hundreds more on an island at the junction of the Bassac and Mekong rivers. An estimated 2 million people crowded into the capital city for the celebration and panic occurred on Koh Pich—Diamond Island—which was packed with people attending a concert and exhibition. The stampede began when about 10 people fainted in the press of the crowd and others tried to flee, rushing across a bridge. The tragic incident is a reminder to assess conditions before you join the throng at crowded festivals to make sure you have an escape route if problems arise.
Dominican Republic: Cholera Arrives from Haiti
Cholera has spread from neighboring Haiti to the Dominican Republic, but the likelihood that the disease will affect tourists is minimal. Cholera spreads via poor sanitation and the popular tourist areas in the country have adequate health systems in place. The disease is also easily treatable, but for impoverished Haiti it is not so simple. The current outbreak has killed more than 1,100 and hospitalized another 18,000 there.
Germany: Reichstag Dome Closed to Tourists
A security alert prompted the German parliament to close to tourists the glass dome atop the Reichstag that offers a panoramic view of Berlin. The dome, a popular tourist attraction, was closed indefinitely as part of tightened security at airports and train stations in the face of credible intelligence that Islamist extremists were planning attacks in Germany toward the end of November. The plans included bombings and a possible armed attack modeled on the Mumbai terrorist raids in November 2008.
India: Goa Police Enforce No-Smoking Ban
Police in Goa launched an anti-smoking campaign on the state’s popular beaches aimed both at second-hand tobacco smoke and drug users. They are targeting restaurants and beach shacks that offer the smoking of hookahs (water pipes) and insisting that the establishments post no smoking signs and remove ash trays from the premises. Restaurants that violate the law can be fined. Customers who smoke are also subject to fines, at the nominal rate of 100 rupees, or about two dollars.
Netherlands: Dutch to Close Cannabis Cafes to Tourists
The Dutch government is moving forward with plans to ban tourists from “coffee shops” that sell marijuana and permit pot smoking. Such cafes are popular among tourists throughout the country but especially in Amsterdam, where tourism officials worry that the ban will reduce the number of visitors to the city. They estimate that one-quarter of all tourists visit a coffee shop and 10 percent of all visitors to Amsterdam come specifically for the cafes. The plan is to convert cannabis cafes into closed clubs whose members must be at least 18 years old and Dutch citizens.