World Travel Watch: Traffic Restrictions in Italy, Conflict on the Thai-Burmese Border and More

World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

11.10.10 | 1:29 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.

Guatemala: Road Closure May Make Lake Atitlan Hard to Reach until January

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City strongly recommends deferring travel to Lake Atitlan until January because the road from the Department of Solola to Panajachel on the lake will be closed until the end of the year while a new road is being built. The Embassy reported that alternate routes to Panajachel by road or boat involve unnecessary risk because of “banditry, lack of infrastructure and cell phone coverage, and hazard prone stretches.” The notice also urged visitors to avoid travel to the lake during the holiday season because of increased crime at that time.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories: New Rules Allow Israeli and Palestinian Tour Guides to Visit Bethlehem, Jerusalem

In time for the Christmas holidays, authorities agreed to permit Israeli tour guides to accompany tours to Bethlehem and to allow Palestinian tour guides to accompany groups from the West Bank to Jerusalem. The plan authorized 200 Israeli guides and drivers to continue into the West Bank and 40 Palestinian guides to work in Israel. The initiative should increase tourism to Bethlehem and make the experience easier for visitors because their guides no longer will have to stop at the border. Officials see the effort as strengthening normalization between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and foresee a time when all tourist restrictions between Bethlehem and Jerusalem will be lifted.

Italy: Drivers, Beware the Limited Traffic Zones in Rome, Elsewhere

Tourists in Rome and other Italian cities need to know that the cities have restricted driving zones to reduce traffic congestion. If you drive there without a permit you will be fined as much as 99 euros ($136). If your hotel lies within such a zone and you need to drive there to park or unload luggage, you are exempt from the fine but need to ask the hotel to send your license number to the traffic police to avoid a citation.

Thailand: Burmese Border Conflict Spills into Thailand

Fighting between the Burmese army and ethnic rebels in Myawaddy, Burma near the Thai border spilled over into Mae Sot, Thailand Nov. 8 when mortar rounds injured some ten people and destroyed a store. Several thousand Burmese nationals crossed the border seeking refuge only to be sent back the next day. Further conflict in the area is likely and the extent unpredictable.

United Kingdom: Big Ben Closed to Non-UK Tourists

London’s iconic clock at the Palace of Westminster known as Big Ben has been placed off limits to non-British citizens because of tightened security and the cost of processing tourists who wanted to go up the tower. British citizens may still take a tour, but only after writing to their Member of Parliament and obtaining approval. Other tourists have to admire the clock from afar.

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