World Travel Watch: Violence in Jamaica, World Cup Preparations in South Africa and More

World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

05.26.10 | 11:50 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.

India: Darjeeling Shut Down by Political Tensions

Political tensions sparked by the killing of a moderate Gorkha leader stranded hundreds of tourists in the popular hill town of Darjeeling May 23 when all transport and shops closed down. Police detained 45 supporters of the political party Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), but GJM’s leader denied involvement in his rival’s murder and condemned the crime. Shops were closed for a fifth day following the murder and tensions remained high. Travel to Darjeeling may be disrupted for the foreseeable future.

Jamaica: Police Storm Kingston Slum to Root Out Drug Lord

The government’s attempt to extradite a suspected drug lord to the U.S. erupted in significant violence in Kingston May 23 when security forces had to storm his stronghold to try to take him into custody. At least 30 people were killed in gun battles and violence spread to nearby Spanish Town where a major road was blocked. Unrest did not spread to the tourist areas of Montego Bay, Negril or other resorts far from Kingston. A state of emergency remained in place for parts of Kingston, and the U.S. State Department advised against travel there at this time.

Mexico: U.S. Consulate Warns of Travel on Highways 8 and 15

The U.S. Consulate in Nogales cautioned visitors about traveling two highways near the U.S./Mexico border because of the threat of violence. The consulate advised travelers to avoid Highway 15 between Nogales and Hermosillo after an American was abducted and murdered there May 3. Consular officials now allow personnel to use the highway, but only in armored vehicles if on consular business, and only during daylight hours. The consulate urges visitors to use extreme caution and to travel with at least two vehicles, preferably in the morning or early afternoon. Consular officials also consider Highway 8 between the U.S./Mexico border and Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) to be dangerous. They have received reports of unauthorized checkpoints by unknown persons at night. Further reports indicated that the operators of the checkpoints only requested identification before allowing vehicles to pass. The consulate strongly advises travelers who must take this route to do so during daylight hours.

Nigeria: Kidnapping Threat in Niger Delta, Elsewhere

Kidnapping in the Niger Delta continues to be a problem, but recently it appears to have become more violent. Two Americans were killed in separate kidnap attempts in April in Port Harcourt, and since January 2009 at least 111 foreign nationals have been kidnapped and six of them have been killed. The U.S. State Department recommends avoiding all but essential travel to the states in the Niger Delta region, the southeastern states of Abia, Edo and Imo, and the city of Jos in Plateau state. The risk of kidnapping, robbery and other armed attacks in these areas is high.

South Africa: World Cup Begins June 11, Johannesburg Trains Service Station Workers as Tourist Guides

The World Cup will be held in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria and other cities June 11 to July 11, and South Africa has been working for years to assure a safe and secure series of games. South Africa has high crime rates and visitors must be vigilant to avoid becoming crime victims. Robberies often become violent at the first sign of resistance. In other news, the city of Johannesburg is training service station attendants as tourist guides for the tournament, hoping they will make visitors feel welcome and point them to the city’s attractions beyond the soccer matches.

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