World Travel Watch: Protests in Thailand, Dingo Trouble in Australia and More

World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

03.17.10 | 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.

Australia: Fraser Island Campers Harass Dingoes, Dingoes Bite, Campsites Close

After three campers were bitten by dingoes in recent weeks on Queensland’s Fraser Island, rangers closed two campgrounds in an effort to keep people and wildlife separated. The task is complicated by too many campers’ willful ignorance of laws to leave the animals alone: Encounters like these usually occur because the campers harass the dingoes. The dog-like creatures are in the midst of mating season, a time when their behavior becomes more erratic, and with Easter approaching, Fraser’s campsites will be especially crowded, increasing the likelihood of encounters. Some observers, in particular the Fraser Island Defenders Organization, fear authorities will ban all camping on the popular island if human-wildlife encounters continue.

Dubai: Where a Kiss Isn’t Just a Kiss

The laws against showing physical affection in public here are so strict that even simple kissing can be cause for arrest, or so learned a British tourist and her boyfriend. They testified in court that they greeted each other with kisses on the cheek and nothing more, but a family at a nearby table saw it differently, reported them to the police, and they now face 30 days in jail and deportation. Restaurant staff and management saw nothing to justify such treatment. Consuming alcohol also must be done with discretion. It is sold at bars and hotels, but drinking alcohol is technically illegal without a permit from the Ministry of the Interior, and police have the power to arrest and impose fines for drinking, especially if they deem the imbiber to be drunk.

Fiji: Cyclone Tomas Bashes Northern Islands

Cyclone Tomas clobbered Fiji March 12-15, wrecking villages and causing major flooding in the northern Lau and Lomaiviti island groups. Storm surges were up to 23 feet and were expected to take 36 hours to diminish. The northern area of Vanua Levu was also hit hard. A state of emergency will remain in place for 30 days in the northern areas, where services were still disrupted, but flights resumed March 16 to Fiji’s international airport at Nadi on Viti Levu.

Thailand: “Red-Shirt” Protests in Bangkok, Bad Air in Chiang Mai

As promised, hundreds of thousands of “Red Shirt” protesters descended on Bangkok to demand the prime minister resign and fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra be allowed to return. The demonstrations over several days became theatrical when protesters had their blood drawn, then retrieved it to splash at the gates of Government House to symbolize the death of democracy. The rallies did not halt travel in or out of Bangkok and all airports were operating normally. In other news, the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai released an alert stating that during the dry season from now until June, the air quality in the city and other areas of Northern Thailand could pose a health hazard because of smoke and other pollution.

United Kingdom: British Airways Cabin Crews, National Rail Workers May Strike

British Airways cabin crews planned to strike for three days March 20-22 and four days March 27-30 ahead of the Easter holidays in an ongoing dispute that almost produced strikes at Christmas and New Year’s. If the strikes occur, the airline intends to use substitute crews to operate a substantial number of both its long-haul and short-haul flights. If a resolution is not reached, further strikes were planned for after April 14. In another labor dispute, a national railway strike may occur over Easter after two unions voted in favor of the action. If the strike occurs it would disrupt travel for millions of people and represent the first national rail strike since 1994. Union and management officials continued to negotiate to break the impasse.

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