World Travel Watch: Strikes in France, Festival Season Crime in Nepal and More
World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news
10.13.10 | 12:48 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.
Brazil: Drug Gangs Robbed Drivers En Masse in Rio
Crime in Rio de Janeiro is not news, but recent attacks by armed drug gang members have been especially brazen. They set up roadblocks and robbed drivers stuck in the traffic jams, yanking some from their cars and in some cases making off with their vehicles. At least 10 of these robberies occurred in the week ending Oct. 7. The incidents resulted in the firing of 19 police commanders whose assignment was to increase security in the area.
France: Strikes Against Pension Reform Could Continue Indefinitely
The largest protests against pension reform in four such demonstrations over the past month canceled flights and trains and closed the Eiffel Tower again Oct. 12. The government refused to back down from raising the retirement age from 60 to 62, and some unions declared open-ended strikes that mean they could continue for days or even weeks. Travel to and within France could be disrupted at any time for the foreseeable future.
Italy: Army Heading for Calabria to Combat Mafia
Authorities plan to send the army to the southern region of Calabria to combat the powerful ‘Ndrangheta mafia after the crime syndicate left a bazooka outside a courthouse in the city of Reggio Calabria as a death threat. Police believe that this criminal network is more powerful than the Sicilian mafia and extends its operations as far as Australia and the U.S. The army will not be patrolling the streets but protecting the judiciary. This is the first army deployment against the mafia since 500 elite soldiers were sent to neighboring Campania in 2008 to patrol the streets and man roadblocks against the Camorra mafia.
Nepal: Crime Increases During Fall Festival Season in Kathmandu
The fall festival season is underway with Dashain running through Oct. 22 and Tihar occurring Nov. 5-7. The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu reported that this is a time of year when criminal activity spikes, and urges travelers to remain alert for thefts, pickpockets, robberies and bag snatches. Street harassment from intoxicated individuals also increases during the holidays. Authorities have deployed an additional 1,090 police officers in the Kathmandu Valley throughout the holidays to ensure security and have set up checkpoints to screen for weapons and explosives. According to Nepal police, potential high crime areas in the valley are New Road, Thamel, Bhotahiti, Asan, Teku, Sankhamule, Chettrapati, Patan, Gaushala, Maharjgunj, Naya Bus Park, Balaju, Swoyambhu, Kalanki and Koteshwor.
Worldwide: Traffic Accidents Are Top Tourist Death Risk
Not surprisingly, the number one risk to tourists throughout the world is not terrorism or disease or natural disasters, but road travel. According to the FIA Foundation, a British road safety organization, tourist deaths by vehicle accident are estimated to be about 25,000 annually, with the likelihood of higher numbers in the future. Bad roads, poorly maintained vehicles, missing seatbelts and reckless or untrained drivers all contribute to the risks, as does tourists’ unfamiliarity with the driving customs and conditions when they step off the airplane. Part of the problem is also inadequate advice on the subject provided by the international tourism industry.