World Travel Watch: Volcanoes in Ecuador and Guatemala, Violence in Rome and More

World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

06.09.10 | 12:29 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.

Italy: Fake Goods Carry Hefty Price; Thuggery on the Rise in Rome

It’s hard to resist a bargain, especially if it strolls right up to you on the beach, but an Austrian tourist discovered the true cost of buying a fake Louis Vuitton purse from a vendor when she was hit with a 1,000 euro ($1,195) fine for buying a $13 knockoff. The beach vendors, often Senegalese itinerants, are noted for hassling beachgoers, and authorities throughout Italy are trying to discourage the trade by reducing the demand through such fines. The trouble is, many tourists are unaware of the severe fines for making such purchases. This incident took place at Jesolo near Venice. In other news, an assault by far-right thugs on a gay man leaving a bar near the Colosseum in Rome was the eighth such incident in nine months. The violence, often fueled by alcohol, has city officials considering a ban on drinking in piazzas.

Ecuador: Tungurahua Volcano near Baños Appears Ready for Major Eruption

Volcanic activity at Tungurahua volcano near Quito increased, prompting authorities to raise the alert to yellow-orange and the U.S. Embassy in Quito to issue an alert recommending tourists defer travel to Baños and the surrounding area. The volcano threw off large plumes of ash amid heavy explosions and officials consider the situation volatile, with a major eruption a strong possibility.

Guatemala: Pacaya Volcano Continues to Flow; Many Roads Affected by Tropical Storm Agatha

Authorities warned tourists to stay away from erupting Pacaya volcano and closed Pacaya National Park, but enterprising locals continued to take visitors near the lava flows via a private farm. Emergency officials said the volcano, which erupted dramatically May 27 and killed a reporter in a shower of volcanic rock, is still very dangerous. In other news, hazardous road conditions remain in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Agatha. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City reported that tourist areas with road problems include Lake Atitlan and surrounding areas in the Department of Solola, Georginas hot baths in Zunil and Almolonga in the Department of Quetzaltenango, Champerico and Tulate in the Department of Retalhuleu, and the archaeological site of Quirigua in the Department of Izabal.

Suriname: Blue Wing Airlines’ Antonovs Grounded After Crash, US Embassy Prohibits Employees from Using Airline Domestically

After three crashes of Blue Wing Airlines’ flights since 2008, with the most recent occurring May 15, the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo has prohibited its employees from flying with the airline on domestic flights. All three crashes involved Antonov 28 planes, which Blue Wing uses only domestically. The government has grounded all Antonov planes and an investigation is under way.

Australia: Northern Territory Might Offer Cane Toad Safaris

Cane toads are considered a scourge in the Northern Territory, where they were introduced in 1935 and whose numbers are estimated to have swollen to 92 million. If Darwin’s lord mayor gets his way, tour operators will be able to offer toad safaris to tourists where part of the attraction of camping out in the bush will be a toad cull. Already the Great Toad Muster occurs annually on the border with Western Australia and draws many volunteers. But park rangers have opposed tourist toad culls near Darwin. The toads compete with native animals for food and have few predators.

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