World Travel Watch: Violence in Cartagena, Evacuations in Peru and More

World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

01.27.10 | 11:36 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.

Antigua: American Woman Murdered in Fourth Major Incident in Two Years

The tragic murder of an American woman on a shore excursion at Pigeon Point Beach Jan. 19 was the fourth major incident in the last two years involving tourists visiting the island. In 2008 a honeymooning British couple was murdered in their hotel room; in 2009 an Australian yachtsman was killed when walking with his girlfriend and daughter; last September six Carnival Cruise passengers brawled with police and were arrested. In the recent incident, the victim allegedly left an afternoon beach barbecue and walked off alone on a secluded path where she was killed. All of these incidents are a reminder that safety cannot be assumed, and precautions should always be taken, especially if in unfamiliar territory.

Canada: Special Expedited Courts to Serve Olympics Tourists

British Columbia authorities have put in place an Olympics expedited court to handle prosecution of minor crimes that occur during the Olympic Games. The temporary court system’s purpose is to resolve all minor crimes within two weeks in the hope that international visitors will not have to remain in Canada longer than they had planned or return to Canada for trials. Crimes such as simple assault, drunk driving, petty theft and credit card fraud will be handled by the expedited court system. Officials were able to establish the system because they suspended most criminal trials in greater Vancouver for the two weeks of the Olympics to free up police who might otherwise have to appear in court, thus allowing the courts to handle minor crimes involving visitors during the Olympics.

Colombia: Drug Violence Rocks Cartagena, Gang Robs Hostel Guests

Cartagena, Colombia’s primary tourist city on the Caribbean Sea, largely escaped the years of violence from drug gangs in cities such as Medellin and Cali, but its luck may be running out. A series of assassinations in the first weeks of this year have authorities worried that drug gangs from elsewhere are now fighting over turf in what until recently has been a tranquil city. National officials sent 270 additional police officers to patrol the streets but that did not prevent an early morning assault by seven hooded and armed men on a hostel where they rounded up the 21 foreign guests, locked them in a room and stole all of their valuables. Police arrested three suspects and believe the crime was aided by the hostel staff. Authorities then closed the hostel, saying it did not have permits to operate.

Peru: Evacuations Underway for 2000 Tourists Stranded Near Machu Picchu by Floods, Landslides

Three days of heavy rain over the weekend caused floods and landslides that buried the only rail link between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, stranding some 2000 tourists at Aguas Calientes, the rail terminus at the base of the mountain below the famous Inca citadel. As the rain diminished, helicopters brought in tents and food and began evacuating stranded tourists, but the roads and railway were expected to be closed for several days. Landslides also hit the Inca Trail, killing an Argentine hiker and a Peruvian guide. Authorities closed the trail and declared a state of emergency in Machu Picchu and surrounding areas. Floods washed out the Pisac bridge and the Huallabamba bridge was under water. Travel to the region, including Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, should be deferred until the weather settles.

Philippines: Travel Alert for Mindanao, Sulu Archipelago

The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert Jan. 20 warning of the risks of travel to the central and western portions of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, in particular the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, and the city of Cotabato. These three areas are covered by a state of emergency that includes police checkpoints and a significant military presence, where travel may be restricted. Tensions are high, especially in Maguindanao following the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people in a political feud. A murder trial is now underway in Manila.

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