World Travel Watch: Kidnapping in Mauritania, Border Hassles in Mexico and More
World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news
12.03.09 | 11:35 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.
Egypt: Travel Restricted in Northern Sinai
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo cited recent press reporting when it released a message reminding visitors that the security situation in the Sinai north of the Cairo-Nekhl-Taba road remains fluid because of the continuing potential for violence in the region. The Egyptian government continues to restrict travel north of this road to the Mediterranean coast from Al Arish to the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip. The Embassy also advised when traveling in the Sinai, tourists should travel in groups or convoys, and only during daylight hours.
Italy: Rome Taxi Company Trying to Improve Drivers’ Reputations
Rome is trying to make tourists feel more welcome and reduce scams perpetrated against them with billboards that proclaim “Rome loves tourists” and posters with the slogan “Be smart, don’t try to be clever” aimed at service providers, not visitors. Part of the campaign is meant to burnish the reputation of Rome’s taxi drivers by giving tourists ways to pay in advance online or by text message. The new online payment system is being launched by Radiotaxi 3570, the city’s largest taxi company, in an effort to help tourists avoid ripoffs while streamlining its business operations. Tourists will be able to order a driver who speaks their language (English, French, German or Spanish).
Mauritania: Three Spanish Aid Workers Kidnapped
Militants allied with al-Qaeda abducted three Spanish aid workers Nov. 29, just days after a French citizen was kidnapped in neighboring Mali by al-Qaeda’s North African branch. The Sahel region, which includes both countries, has seen several kidnappings of Westerners in recent months and remains dangerous. The Spanish aid workers were in the last car in a convoy of vehicles delivering donations to small towns on the road from Nouadhibou to the capital Nouakchott when they were cut off by armed men in a 4x4 vehicle.
Mexico: New Border Security Measures May Cause Delays
Driving into Mexico will involve longer delays come January when the Mexican government implements new border security measures designed to disrupt the flow of weapons and cash to Mexican criminal groups. The new measures, which include gates, cameras and vehicle weighing scales, are being tested in Tijuana and have lengthened the border crossing process from a few minutes to an hour or more despite officials’ claims that initial screening will take only eight seconds. Business leaders in Baja California are concerned that the new policy will further erode an already bleak tourist trade, but the government is determined to go through with the plan in an effort to improve security.
Russia: Train Bombings Raise Worries Over New Terrorist Campaign
Two train bombings occurred within days recently, raising fears that a new wave of violence against the state may be underway similar to the campaign carried out by Chechen rebels in Moscow five years ago. The first bombing derailed a high-speed train on the main line between Moscow and St. Petersburg overnight Nov. 27-28, killing 26 people. A North Caucasus Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for the attack. The second incident occurred in Daghestan with no injuries and the train continued on its journey.