May 12, 2008
The five islands of Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius (or “Statia”) and St. Maarten (Dutch side) comprise the Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All Americans traveling by air outside the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed loop cruises), including ferry service, by the summer of 2009. Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea must have government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization), or other document compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, such as a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S. Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.
Applications for the new U.S. Passport Card are now being accepted. Based on current projections, we expect to begin production of the passport card in June 2008 and be in full production in July 2008. The card may not be used to travel by air and is available only to U.S. citizens. Further information on the Passport Card is available at http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt_card/ppt_card_3926.html and upcoming changes to U.S. passport policy can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html. We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel. American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.
The U.S. Consulate recommends traveling in the Netherlands Antilles with a valid U.S. passport to avoid delays or misunderstandings. A lost or stolen passport is also easier to replace when outside the United States than other evidence of citizenship. Visitors to the Netherlands Antilles may be asked to show onward/return tickets or proof of sufficient funds for their stay. Length of stay is granted for two weeks and may be extended for 90 days by the head office of immigration. For further information, travelers may contact the Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or the Dutch Consulate in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston or Miami. Visit the web site for the Embassy of the Netherlands at http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/homepage.asp for the most current visa information.
We have more information pertaining to dual nationality and international child abduction. Please refer to our customs information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Drug-related organized crime exists within the Netherlands Antilles but has not directly affected tourists in the past.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: In recent years, street crime has increased, especially in St. Maarten. Valuables, including passports, left unattended on beaches, in cars and hotel lobbies are easy targets for theft, and visitors should leave valuables and personal papers secured in their hotel. Burglary and break-ins are increasingly common at resorts, beach houses and hotels. Armed robbery occasionally occurs. The American boating community has reported a handful of incidents in the past, and visitors are urged to exercise reasonable caution in securing boats and belongings. Car theft, especially of rental vehicles for joy riding and stripping, can occur. Incidents of break-ins to rental cars to steal personal items have been reported by American tourists. Vehicle leases or rentals may not be fully covered by local insurance when a vehicle is stolen. Be sure you are sufficiently insured when renting vehicles and jet skis.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Please see our information for American Victims of Crime Overseas.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care is generally good in Curaçao and St. Maarten, but may be limited on the other three islands. Hospitals have three classes of services i.e.: First Class: one patient to a room, air conditioning etc.; Second Class: two to six patients to a room, no air conditioning; Third Class: 15 to 30 people in one hall. Patients are accommodated according to their level of insurance.
Bonaire: The San Francisco hospital is a medical center (35 beds) with decompression facilities. The hospital has an air ambulance service to Curaçao and Aruba.
Curaçao: St. Elizabeth hospital is a public hospital that may be compared to midrange facilities in the United States. St. Elizabeth's hospital has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness. Several private clinics provide good to excellent medical service.
St. Maarten: St. Maarten Medical Center (79 beds) is a relatively small hospital where general surgery is performed. Complex cases are sent to Curaçao.
Statia: Queen Beatrix Medical Center (20 beds) is a medical facility well equipped for first aid. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten.
Saba: Saba Clinic (14 beds) is a well-equipped first aid facility. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten. The Saba Marine Park has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Netherlands Antilles is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in the Netherlands Antilles is on the right hand side. Right turns on red are prohibited, and traffic conditions require somewhat defensive driving. Local laws require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts and motorcyclists to wear helmets. Children under 4 years of age should be in child safety seats; children under 12 should ride in the back seat.
Nonexistent or hidden and poorly maintained street signs are the major road hazard in the Netherlands Antilles. Therefore, drivers should proceed through intersections with caution. Roads in the Netherlands Antilles are extremely slippery during rainfall. Night driving is reasonably safe in the Netherlands Antilles as long as drivers are familiar with the route and road conditions. Most streets are poorly lit or not lit at all. In Curacao, drivers should be aware of herds of goats that may cross the street unexpectedly. In Bonaire, wild donkeys may also cross the road.
Taxis are the easiest, yet most expensive form of transportation on the islands. As there are no meters, passengers should verify the price before entering the taxi. Fares quoted in U.S. dollars may be significantly higher than those quoted in the local currency. Vans are inexpensive and run non-stop during daytime with no fixed schedule. Each van has a specific route displayed in the front of the windshield. Buses, which run on the hour, have limited routes. The road conditions on the main thoroughfares are good to fair.
See road safety information at the following sites; http://www.curacao.com, http://www.statiatourism.com, http://www.sabatourism.com, http://www.infobonaire.com, http://www.st-maarten.com/.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the Netherlands Antilles’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the Netherlands Antilles’ air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Dutch law in principle does not permit dual nationality. However, there are several exceptions. For example, American citizens who are married to Dutch citizens are exempt from the requirement to abandon their American nationality when they apply to become a Dutch citizen by naturalization. For detailed and specific information on this subject, contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington or one of the Dutch consulates in the U.S. In addition to being subject to all Dutch laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Dutch citizens.
Time-share buyers are cautioned about contracts that do not have a "non-disturbance or perpetuity protective clause" incorporated into the purchase agreement. Such a clause gives the time-share owner perpetuity of ownership should the facility be sold. Americans sometimes complain that the timeshare units are not adequately maintained, despite generally high annual maintenance fees. Because of the large number of complaints about misuse of maintenance fees, particularly in St. Maarten, prospective timeshare owners are advised to review the profit and loss statement for maintenance fees. Investors should note that a reputable accounting firm should audit profit and loss statements.
Potential investors should be aware that failed land development schemes involving time-share investments could result in financial losses. Interested investors may wish to seek professional advice regarding investments involving land development projects. Real estate investment problems that reach local courts are rarely settled in favor of foreign investors.
An unusually competitive fee to rent vehicles or equipment could indicate that the dealer is unlicensed or uninsured. The renter is often fully responsible for replacement costs and fees associated with any damages that occur during the rental period. Visitors may be required to pay these fees in full before leaving the Netherlands Antilles and may be subject to civil or criminal penalties if they cannot or will not make payment.
Netherlands Antilles customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Netherlands Antilles. For example, it is strictly prohibited to export pieces of coral and/or seashells. Please see our information on customs regulations.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating the laws of the Netherlands Antilles, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Netherlands Antilles are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The Netherlands Antilles has strict gun control laws; even a stray bullet in a suitcase can trigger a fine or time in jail. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues web site.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
American citizens residing or traveling in the Netherlands Antilles are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Netherlands Antilles. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Consulate General is located at J.B. Gorsiraweg #1, Willemstad, Curaçao, telephone (599-9) 461-3066; fax (599-9) 461-6489; e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information dated May 7, 2007, to update the Entry/Exit, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registry / Embassy Location sections.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Washington, May 16, 2019 (AFP) - The Church of Scientology said Thursday all the passengers from a cruise ship that was quarantined over a measles case had been cleared to leave. "All passengers and crew (100%) of the Freewinds have been fully cleared of any possible risk of being infected by the measles or infecting others," the organization said in a statement. "All passengers and crew are free to come and go as they wish," a spokesman added to AFP.
The infected individual was a member of the crew who, according to the Church, had fully recovered and was given a clean bill of health a week ago. She had been earlier confined on the ship. The ship, which is based in Willemstad on the island of Curacao in the Dutch West Indies, was quarantined after its arrival in Saint Lucia on April 30. It remained there for two days before returning to Willemstad on May 4 where local authorities ordered a fresh quarantine to give them time to confirm the passengers were either immunized or had no risk of contracting the virus.
By Sara MAGNIETTE
The Hague, May 4, 2019 (AFP) - The Dutch territory of Curacao said Saturday it would do what is needed to prevent measles spreading from a Scientology cruise ship, after a crew member came down with the disease. The Freewinds, which left the Caribbean island of St. Lucia on Friday, arrived back in its home port of Curacao at around 9:00 am (1300 GMT) Saturday, according to myshiptracking.com.
The Curacao government said in a statement that it would "take all necessary precautions to handle the case of measles on board of the Freewinds," including vaccinations. "An investigation will also be done to determine who will be allowed to leave the ship without (posing) a threat to the population of Curacao," it said. "It is imperative to make all efforts to prevent a spread of this disease internationally." Dutch broadcaster NOS reported that three health officials had boarded the boat to examine those on board. Only people able to prove that they have been vaccinated against measles or had already had the disease would be able to leave the boat, its correspondent there reported.
- Anti-vaccine movement -
The Church of Scientology says the 440-foot (134-meter) vessel is used for religious retreats and is normally based in Curacao. The vessel had arrived in St Lucia from Curacao on Tuesday, when it was placed under quarantine by health authorities there because of a measles patient, said to be a female crew member. According to NOS, the crew member concerned is a Danish national, who arrived in Curacao from Amsterdam on April 17. It was only when the boat was at sea, on route to St Lucia, that a doctor discovered she had measles, their correspondent said.
The resurgence of the once-eradicated, highly contagious disease is linked to the growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as a major global health threat. The authorities in Curacao nevertheless urged local people not to panic, as the risk of the disease spreading in this case was fairly low. Several people did however visit the cruise ship between April 22 and April 28 before it set sail for St Lucia and the authorities asked them to make themselves known to health officials.
Officials said the Freewinds had travelled between Curacao, St Lucia and another Dutch-held island, Aruba, several times towards the end of April. There were about 300 people aboard the ship, according to Saint Lucia authorities, which placed the vessel in quarantine. They said they provided 100 doses of measles vaccine at no cost. The Scientology church, founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in 1953, did not respond to requests for comment. Its teachings do not directly oppose vaccination, but followers consider illness a sign of personal failing and generally avoid medical interventions.
Miami, Aug 26, 2015 (AFP) - Tropical storm Erika took aim at the Lesser Antilles Wednesday as storm warnings went up there and in Puerto Rico in anticipation of heavy rains, US forecasters said. With winds of 75 kilometres (45 miles) per hour, Erika was 540 kilometres (335 miles) east of Antigua at 1200 GMT, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported.
Advancing at a speed of 28 kilometres (17 miles) per hour, it was expected to sweep over the Lesser Antilles Wednesday night and then head toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Tropical storm warnings were up in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Saba, St Eustacia and St Maarten.
A US Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft that flew into the storm found it was slightly increasing in strength. "Some slow strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours," the hurricane centre said. According to the NHC's projections, Erika could become a hurricane by the end of the week, or early next, as it nears Florida. But "the intensity forecast remains very uncertain," it said.
Erika is arriving on the heels of Danny, the season's first hurricane which petered out before reaching the Caribbean. Experts said earlier this month that there was a 90 percent chance the 2015 hurricane season in the Atlantic would be less active than usual.
July 19, 2006
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bolivia is a constitutional democracy and one of the least-developed countries in South America. Tourist facilities are generally adequate, but vary greatly in qualit
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A U.S. passport valid for at least six months from the date of proposed entry into Bolivia is required to enter and depart Bolivia. U.S. citizen tourists do not need a visa for a stay of one month or less (that period can be extended up to 90 days upon application to the Bolivian immigration authorities). Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Bolivia must obtain a replacement passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to a Bolivian government immigration office in order to obtain permission to depart. For more information on replacement passport procedures, please consult the U.S. Embassy's Web site at
Bolivian consulates are located in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at
ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS: In an effort to prevent international child abduction, the Bolivian Government has initiated procedures at entry/exit points. Minors (under 18) who are citizens or residents of Bolivia and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Bolivian Embassy or a Bolivian consulate within the United States. If documents are prepared in Bolivia, only notarization by a Bolivian notary is required. Using these documents, a t ravel permit may be obtained from the Juzgado del Menor. This requirement does not apply to children who enter the country with a U.S. passport as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Bolivian citizenship or have been in Bolivia for more than 90 consecutive days.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The countrywide emergency number for the police, including highway patrol, is 110. The corresponding number for the fire department is 119. The National Tourism Police has an office in La Paz, with plans to expand to Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, providing free assistance to tourists 24 hours a day. These services include English-speaking officials who may assist tourists in filing police reports of lost/stolen documents or other valuables. The La Paz office is located at Plaza del Stadium, Edificio Olympia, planta baja, Miraflores, telephone number 222-0516.
Protests, strikes, and other civic actions can occur at any time and disrupt transportation on a local and national level. This is particularly true before, during and after elections or other changes in government. While protest actions generally begin peacefully, they have the potential to become violent. The police have used tear gas to break up protests. In addition to rallies and street demonstrations, protesters sometimes block roads; they sometimes react with force when travelers attempt to pass through or go around roadblocks and occasionally have used the threat of explosives to press their point.
U.S. citizens should avoid roadblocks and demonstrations. Demonstrations protesting government or private company policies occur frequently, even in otherwise peaceful times. Roadblocks and demonstrations in June 2005 led to the closure of the El Alto airport in La Paz, resulting in cancellation and diversion of flights and other inconveniences to travelers. U.S. citizens planning travel to or from Bolivia should take into consideration the possibility of disruptions to air service in and out of La Paz and other airports. Americans should monitor Bolivian media reports for updates. The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas where roadblocks or public demonstrations are occurring or planned. Political rallies should similarly be avoided in light of press reports of violence at some rallies in various parts of Bolivia.
U.S. citizens who find themselves in a roadblock should not attempt to "run" a roadblock, as this may aggravate the situation and lead to physical harm. Taking alternative, safe routes, or returning to where the travel started may be the safest courses of action under these circumstances. U.S. citizens embarking on road trips should monitor news reports and may contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz at (591)(2)(216-8297 or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba at (591)(4)425-6714 and/or Santa Cruz at (591) (3) 351-3477 for updates. Given that roadblocks may occur without warning and have stranded travelers for several days, travelers should take extra food and water. The U.S. Embassy also advises its employees to maintain at least one week's supply of drinking water and canned food in case roadblocks affect supplies, as occurred in June 2005. For more information on emergency preparedness, please consult the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) Web site at
Americans living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register and update their contact information at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and/or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Registration may be done online and in advance of travel. Information on registering
In February and October 2003, approximately one hundred people died during violent demonstrations and protests in downtown La Paz and the nearby city of El Alto. These demonstrations also affected Cochabamba and other towns and villages in the Altiplano. While the protests and demonstrations subsided, many of the underlying social, political, and economic causes remain, and in March 2005, several intercity roads, including Bolivia's major east-west highway, were closed by blockades for several weeks.
Since 2000 the resort town of Sorata, located seventy miles north of La Paz, has been cut off by blockades on three occasions, ranging from one week to one month. Visitors contemplating travel to Sorata should contact the Consular Section in La Paz prior to travel.
In the Chapare region between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and the Yungas region northeast of La Paz violence and civil unrest, primarily associated with anti-narcotics activities, periodically create a risk for travelers to those regions.
Confrontations between area residents and government authorities over coca eradication have resulted in the use of tear gas and stronger force by government authorities to quell disturbances. Pro-coca groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests. U.S. citizen visitors to the Chapare or Yungas regions are encouraged to check with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy prior to travel. Violence has also erupted recently between squatters unlawfully invading private land and security forces attempting to remove them.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad
CRIME: The U.S. Department of State currently classifies Bolivia as a medium to high crime threat country. Street crime, such as pick pocketing and theft from parked vehicles, occurs with some frequency in Bolivia. Theft of cars and car parts, particularly late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles, is common. Hijacking of vehicles has occurred, and travelers should take appropriate precautions to avoid being victimized. In November 2003, an American citizen was murdered during an attempted carjacking in Santa Cruz.
Bolivian police state that there are currently eight organized criminal groups operating in the La Paz area. The techniques employed by these groups vary, but there are a few major patterns that can be identified.
There have been reports of "false police" -- persons using police uniforms, identification, and even buildings modified to resemble police stations -- intercepting and robbing foreign tourists. Under Bolivian law, police need a warrant from the "fiscal" or prosecutor to detain a suspect. Any searches or seizures must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the fiscal. The warrant requirement also applies to suspected drug trafficking cases, although such searches and seizures may occur without a fiscal present. If detained, U.S. citizens should request to see the warrant and demand immediate contact with the nearest U.S. Consular Office (in La Paz, Cochabamba or Santa Cruz).
According to press reports, criminals using the "false police" method focus on foreigners in areas frequented by tourists including bus terminals and tourist markets such as Sagarnaga Street in La Paz. The perpetrators will identify a potential victim and have an accomplice typically driving a white taxi offer taxi services to the potential victim. They focus on European/American tourists who are not wearing a traditional "trekker" backpack and are traveling without a large number of bags. A few blocks after the potential victim boards the taxi another accomplice, pretending to be a recently arrived tourist, boards the taxi with the potential victim. With all the accomplices then in place, the "false police" stop the taxi, "search" the passengers, and rob the victim. As part of this scam, the false police may take the victim to a "false police" station.
A similar variation also introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This introduction can take place on a bus, taxi, train, or just walking down the street. The "tourist" will befriend the victims and might seek assistance in some manner. After a period of time, the "police" intercept the victims and the "tourist." At this point, the "police" discover some sort of contraband (usually drugs) on the "tourist." The entire group is then taken to the "police station." At this point, the "police" seize the documents, credit cards, and ATM cards of the victims. The perpetrators obtain pin numbers, sometimes by threat of violence, and the scam is complete.
Another technique again introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This "tourist" can be any race or gender and will probably be able to speak the language of the victims. This meeting can happen anywhere and the goal of the "tourist" is to build the trust of the victims. Once a certain level of trust is obtained, the "tourist" suggests a particular mode of transportation to a location (usually a taxi). The "taxi" picks up the victims and the "tourist" and delivers the group to a safe house in the area. At this point the victims are informed that they are now kidnapped and are forced to give up their credit cards and ATM cards with pin numbers.
Bolivian police sources state that two Austrian citizens fell victim to this scam and had their bank accounts emptied through use of their ATM card. The perpetrators then suffocated the victims and buried them in clandestine graves, where police found their bodies on April 3, 2006. During that timeframe, a Spanish citizen also purportedly fell prey to this scam, and his body was found nearby.
In most instances, the victims are released, but the murder of the victims is still a possibility. The techniques and the perpetrators are convincing. Authentic uniforms, badges, and props help persuade the victims that the situation is real and valid. All tourists visiting Bolivia should exercise extreme caution. Visitors should be suspicious of all "coincidences" that can happen on a trip. If the tourist has doubts about a situation, the tourist should immediately remove him/herself from the scene.
Thefts of bags, wallets, and backpacks are a problem throughout Bolivia, but especially in the tourist areas of downtown La Paz and the Altiplano. Most thefts involve two or three people who spot a potential victim and wait until the bag or backpack is placed on the ground, often at a restaurant, bus terminal, Internet café, etc. In other cases, the thief places a disagreeable substance on the clothes or backpack of the intended victim, and then offers to assist the victim with the removal of the substance. While the person is distracted, the thief or an accomplice grabs the bag or backpack and flees. In such a situation, the visitor should decline assistance, secure the bag/backpack, and walk briskly from the area. To steal wallets and bags, thieves may spray water on the victim's neck, and while the person is distracted, an accomplice takes the wallet or bag. At times the thief poses as a policeman, and requests that the person accompany him to the police station, using a nearby taxi. The visitor should indicate a desire to contact the U.S. Embassy and not enter the taxi. Under no circumstances should you surrender ATM or credit cards, or release a PIN number. While most thefts do not involve violence, in some instances the victim has been physically harmed and forcibly searched for hidden valuables. Visitors should avoid being alone on the streets, especially at night and in isolated areas.
Five years ago female tourists reported being drugged and raped by a tourist guide in the city of Rurrenabaque in the Beni region. Visitors should be careful when choosing a tour operator and should not accept any type of medication or drugs from unreliable sources. The Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults against female hikers in the Yungas Valley, near the town of Coroico. Visitors to Coroico are advised to avoid hiking alone or in small groups.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in large cities is adequate for most purposes but of varying quality. Ambulance services are limited-to-non-existent. Medical facilities are generally not adequate to handle serious medical conditions. Pharmacies are located throughout Bolivia, and prescription and over the counter medications are widely available. Western Bolivia, dominated by the Andes and high plains (Altiplano), is largely insect-free. However, altitude sickness (see below) is a major problem. Eastern Bolivia is tropical, and visitors to that area are subject to related illnesses. In March 2005, several cases of yellow fever were reported in the Chapare region. News media periodically report outbreaks of rabies, particularly in the larger cities.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Most medical evacuation flights cannot land at the airport serving La Paz due to the altitude; instead flights may need to use the international airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas
HIGH-ALTITUDE HEALTH RISKS: Official U.S. Government travelers to La Paz are provided with the following information: The altitude of La Paz ranges from 10,600 feet to over 13,000 feet (3,400 to 4,000 meters) above sea level. Much of Western Bolivia is at the same altitude or higher, including Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni, and the cities of Oruro and Potosi. The altitude alone poses a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, if you have a medical condition that affects blood circulation or breathing.
Prior to departing the U.S. for high-altitude locations (over 10,000 feet above sea level), travelers should discuss the trip with their personal physician and request information on specific recommendations concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitudes. Coca-leaf tea is a popular beverage and folk remedy for altitude sickness in Bolivia. Possession of this tea, which is sold in bags in most Bolivian grocery stores, is illegal in the United States.
The State Department's Office of Medical Services does not allow official U.S. Government travelers to visit La Paz if they have any of the following:
Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: 30 percent of persons with sickle cell trait are likely to have a crisis at elevations of more than 8,000 feet.
Heart disease: A man 45 years or older, or a woman 55 years or older, who has two of the following risk factors (hypertension, angina, diabetes, cigarette smoking, or elevated cholesterol) should have a stress EKG and a cardiological evaluation before the trip.
Lung disease: Anyone with asthma and on maximum dosage of medication for daily maintenance, or anyone who has been hospitalized for asthma within the last year should not come to La Paz and surrounding areas.
Given potential complications from altitude sickness, pregnant women should consult their doctor before travel to La Paz and other high-altitude areas of Bolivia.
All people, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) upon arrival at high altitude. Most people will have increased respiration and increased heart rate. Many people will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes. Many travelers limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after arrival and avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival.
For additional information, travelers should visit the World Health Organization's website at
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bolivia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. U.S. citizens planning on driving in Bolivia, despite the hazards described below, should obtain an international driver's license through their local automobile club before coming to Bolivia.
Road conditions in Bolivia are hazardous. Although La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba are connected by improved highways, the vast majority of roads in Bolivia are unpaved. Few highways have shoulders, fencing or barriers, and highway markings are minimal. Yielding for pedestrians in the cities is not the norm. For trips outside the major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended. Travel during the rainy season (November through March) is difficult, as most routes are potholed, and some roads and bridges are washed out. Added dangers are the absence of formal training for most drivers, poor maintenance and overloaded vehicles, lack of lights on some vehicles at night, and intoxicated or overly tired drivers, including commercial bus and truck drivers.
The majority of intercity travel in Bolivia is by bus, with varying levels of safety and service. In recent years there have been major bus crashes on the highway between La Paz and Oruro, and on the Yungas road. The old Yungas road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world. Taxis, vans, and buses dominate intracity transportation. From a crime perspective, public transportation is relatively safe and violent assaults are rare. However, petty theft of unattended backpacks and other personal items does occur. For reasons of safety, visitors are advised to use radio taxis whenever possible.
Drivers of vehicles involved in traffic accidents are expected to remain at the scene until the arrival of local police authorities. Any attempt to leave the scene is in violation of Bolivian law. The Embassy believes any attempt to flee the scene of an accident would place the driver and passengers at greater risk of harm than remaining at the scene until the arrival of local police. Please refer to our Road Safety page
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bolivia as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Bolivia's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In the run-up to the July 2006 Constituent Assembly elections, President Morales accused the United States military of infiltrating Bolivia with operatives disguised as "students and tourists." As an apparent result of these comments, some U.S. citizens have reported harassment by Bolivian officials and been subjected to unwanted media attention. In one case, a local Bolivian newspaper wrongly identified an American citizen as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. Americans planning on traveling to Bolivia should be aware of the political atmosphere and the possibility of unwanted attention from pro-governmental groups and other Bolivian officials.
For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at
Please see our information on customs regulations
MARRIAGE: Please see our information on marriage in Bolivia
MOUNTAIN TREKKING AND CLIMBING SAFETY: U.S. citizens are advised to exercise extreme care when trekking or climbing in Bolivia. Since June 2002, four American citizens have died in falls while mountain climbing in Bolivia. Three of the deaths occurred on Illimani, a 6,402-meter peak located southeast of La Paz. Many popular trekking routes in the Bolivian Andes cross passes as high as 16,000 feet. Trekkers must have adequate clothing and equipment, not always available locally, and should be experienced mountain travelers. It is not prudent to trek alone. Solo trekking is the most significant factor contributing to injuries and robberies. The safest option is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm to provide an experienced guide and porter who can communicate in both Spanish and English. If you develop any of the following symptoms while climbing at altitude - severe headache, weakness, vomiting, shortness of breath at rest, cough, chest tightness, unsteadiness - descend to a lower altitude immediately. Trekkers and climbers are strongly encouraged to purchase adequate insurance to cover expenses in case of injury or death.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Bolivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bolivia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties
It often takes years to reach a decision in Bolivian legal cases, whether involving property disputes, civil, or criminal matters. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court can order a defendant held in jail for the duration of the case. Prison conditions are primitive, and prisoners are expected to pay for food and lodging. For further information, please see the Annual Human Rights Report for Bolivia at
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consular Agency through the State Department's travel registration website,
The U.S. Embassy is located at 2780 Avenida Arce in La Paz, between calles Cordero and Campos; telephone (591-2) 216-8297 during business hours 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or (591-2) 216-8000 for after-hours emergencies; fax (591-2) 216-8808; Internet
There are two consular agencies in Bolivia, which provide limited services to American citizens, but are not authorized to issue passports. Anyone requesting service at one of the consular agencies should call ahead to verify that the service requested would be available on the day you expect to visit the agency.
Santa Cruz: The Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is located at 146 Avenida Roque Aguilera (Tercer Anillo); telephone (591-3) 351-3477, 351-3479, or 351-3480; fax (591-3) 351-3478. The U.S. Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is open to the public Mondays from 09:00 to 12:30 and from 2:00PM to 5:00PM and on Tuesday through Friday from 09:00 to 12:30, except U.S. and Bolivian holidays.
Cochabamba: The Consular Agency in Cochabamba is located at Avenida Oquendo 654, Torres Sofer, room 601; telephone (591-4) 411-6313; fax (591-4) 425 -6714. The U.S. Consular Agency in Cochabamba is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, excluding U.S. and Bolivian holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 4, 2006 to update Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Marriage, Special Circumstances and web links.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Source: Cordoba Epidemiology Report and Los Tiempos news article [in Spanish, trans., edited]
Los Tiempos, Bolivia, 2 Dec 2019 Confirmation of the 1st case of the year (2019) of human rabies in Cochabamba After confirming the death of rabies of a 7-year-old girl in the southern area of Cochabamba, the Departmental Health Service (SEDES) and the Zoonosis Unit of the Mayor's Office intensified prevention actions to prevent the proliferation of the virus. This would be the 1st case confirmed so far this year .
The head of the Epidemiology Unit of SEDES, Arturo Fernando Quiaones Lapez, reported that in the last rabies vaccination campaign for dogs more 1000 doses were given. "We suspected rabies in the case of this minor. She tested positive by laboratory both in cerebrospinal fluid as well as in brain tissue," according to lab results obtained on 2 Dec 2019. The victim died on 26 Nov 2019 after being hospitalized in intensive care of the Children's Hospital for 2 days with signs of rabies," said Dr Manuel Ascencio Villarroel.
The patient's relatives reported the girl had contact with a puppy which died a month ago. The dog did not receive rabies vaccines and belonged to someone the family knows. QuiÃ±ones mentioned the family members of the girl and the owners of the animal are receiving preventive treatment. Meanwhile, the head of Zoonosis of the Mayor's Office, Javier Humberto Rodraguez Herrera, stated on 2 Dec 2019 a "massive focus blockade" will be held with the participation of 8 health centers to prevent the circulation of the virus in the area.
He commented that, to date, 11 cases of canine rabies have been recorded in the municipality. In more than 11 months of 2019, SEDES identified 25 positive cases of canine rabies, the majority in the metropolitan region. Quiaones asked the population to report the death of their pets with signs of rabies at health centers for follow-up to fight the disease. Meanwhile, from the City Hall, the owners of dogs were urged to have their dogs vaccinated. Javier Rodraguez added another risk factor is when animals are collected from the street and they are not vaccinated.
[The rabies virus attacks the nervous system in animals. When a rabid animal bites a human being, it can transfer the virus, contained in saliva, to that individual. "After inoculation, rabies virus may enter the peripheral nervous system directly and migrates to the brain or may replicate in muscle tissue, remaining sequestered at or near the entry site during incubation, prior to central nervous system invasion and replication. It then spreads centrifugally to numerous other organs. The case-fatality ratio approaches unity [100%], but exact pathogenic mechanisms are not fully understood. "Susceptibility to lethal infection is related to the animal species, viral variant, inoculum concentration, location and severity of exposure, and host immune status.
Both virus-neutralizing antibodies and cell-mediated immunity are important in host defense. "Early diagnosis is difficult. Rabies should be suspected in human cases of unexplained viral encephalitis with a history of animal bite. Unvaccinated persons are often negative for virus-neutralizing antibodies until late in the course of disease. Virus isolation from saliva, positive immunofluorescent skin biopsies or virus neutralizing antibody (from cerebrospinal fluid, or serum of a non-vaccinated patient), establish a diagnosis. "Five general stages of rabies are recognized in humans: incubation, prodrome, acute neurologic period, coma, and death (or, very rarely, recovery).
No specific anti-rabies agents are useful once clinical signs or symptoms develop. The incubation period in rabies, usually 30 to 90 days but ranging from as few as 5 days to longer than 2 years after initial exposure, is more variable than in any other acute infection. Incubation periods may be somewhat shorter in children and in individuals bitten close to the central nervous system (such as the head).
Clinical symptoms are first noted during the prodromal period, which usually lasts from 2 to 10 days. These symptoms are often nonspecific (general malaise, fever, and fatigue) or suggest involvement of the respiratory system (sore throat, cough, and dyspnoea), gastrointestinal system (anorexia, dysphagia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea), or central nervous systems (headache, vertigo, anxiety, apprehension, irritability, and nervousness).
More remarkable abnormalities (agitation, photophobia, priapism, increased libido, insomnia, nightmares, and depression) may also occur, suggesting encephalitis, psychiatric disturbances, or brain conditions. Pain or paraesthesia at the site of virus inoculation, combined with a history of recent animal bite, should suggest a consideration of rabies. "The acute neurologic period begins with objective signs of central nervous system dysfunction.
The disease may be classified as furious rabies if hyperactivity (that is, hydrophobia) predominates and as dumb rabies if paralysis dominates the clinical picture. Fever, paraesthesia, nuchal rigidity, muscle fasciculations, focal and generalized convulsions, hyperventilation, and hypersalivation may occur in both forms of the disease. "At the end of the acute neurologic phase, periods of rapid, irregular breathing may begin; paralysis and coma soon follow. Respiratory arrest may occur thereafter, unless the patient is receiving ventilatory assistance, which may prolong survival for days, weeks, or longer, with death due to other complications.
"Although life support measures can prolong the clinical course of rabies, rarely will they affect the outcome of disease. The possibility of recovery, however, must be recognized, and when resources permit, every effort should be made to support the patient. At least 7 cases of human "recovery" have been documented." (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8618/>)
A very sad situation which could have been prevented if the animal had been vaccinated. Responsible owners vaccinate their animals. Condolences to the family. - ProMED Mod.TG]
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Bolivia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/55162>]
By Tupad POINTU
La Paz, Oct 22, 2019 (AFP) - Bolivia braced for a general strike on Tuesday hours after violence broke out in several cities when the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results that seemed set to hand a controversial victory to long-time incumbent Evo Morales. Opposition supporters reacted with fury, torching electoral offices in the southwestern cities of Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clashed in the capital La Paz. Incidents were reported in cities across the South American country. Carlos Mesa, who came a close second to Morales in Sunday's polls -- forcing a run-off, according to preliminary results -- denounced revised results released by election authorities as a "fraud." "We are not going to recognize those results that are part of a shameful, consumated fraud, that is putting Bolivian society in a situation of unnecessary tension," said Mesa.
International monitors from the Organization of American States voiced "deep concern" at sudden changes to the election count to show Morales closing in on an outright victory in the first round. Preliminary results released late Sunday showed neither Morales, 59, nor 66-year-old Mesa with a majority and "clearly indicated a second round," the OAS mission said. The partial results put Morales in the lead with 45 percent of the votes, with Mesa on 38 percent, meaning Morales would have to contest a run-off for the first time. But results released late Monday, after a long and unexplained delay, showed Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted. Mesa, a former president of the country between 2001-2005, accused Morales of colluding with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to tweak delayed results and avoid a run-off.
- Opposition call general strike -
The call for a general strike was issued by Fernando Camacho, head of an influential civil society organization in Bolivia's biggest city, Santa Cruz, where transport and businesses were expected to shut down from noon. "Tomorrow we start at 12:00 to block this country," Camacho told opposition demonstrators late Monday, before holding talks with leaders from other regions. Long lines formed at gas stations amid fears of shortages. Riot-police dispersed a crowd who tried to storm the electoral offices in the Andean city of Oruro, south of La Paz. Clashes were also reported in Tarija in the south, Cochabamba in the center and Cobija in the north.
- 'Subverting democracy' -
The United States' top diplomat for Latin America said the Electoral Tribunal was attempting "to subvert Bolivia's democracy by delaying the vote count and taking actions that undermine the credibility of Bolivia's elections." "We call on the TSE to immediately act to restore credibility in the vote counting process," the official, Michael Kozak, said on Twitter. The OAS observer mission in the country expressed "surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls," it said in a statement. It urged the election authority to "firmly defend the will of the Bolivian people" and called for calm on the streets. "It is extremely important that calm is maintained and any form of violence is avoided in this delicate situation."
- Longest serving president -
Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, is controversially seeking a fourth term. He obtained Constitutional Court permission in 2017 to run again for president even though the constitution allows only two consecutive terms. The former coca farmer and leftist union leader has led the poor but resource-rich Latin American country for the past 13 years, though his popularity has waned amid allegations of corruption and authoritarianism. He has led the country since taking office in 2006, when he became its first indigenous president.
A new mandate would keep him in power until 2025. As leader of his Movement for Socialism Party (MAS), Morales points to a decade of economic stability and considerable industrialization as his achievements, while insisting he has brought "dignity" to Bolivia's indigenous population, the largest in Latin America. He has come under severe criticism this year as wildfires in August and September ravaged Bolivia's forests and grasslands, with activists saying his policies encouraged the use of blazes to clear farmland.
- Laguna Negra virus (small vesper mouse, _Calomys laucha_ <http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomyslaucha.html> and large vesper mouse, _C. callosus_
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b
During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.
Safety & Security:
The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.
Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.
Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.
River Boat Travel:
Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.
Altitude Sickness in Tibet:
Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.
The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.
Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
AIDS risk in China:
Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.
Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.
China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing. Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed. "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster". A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!" Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.
The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car. She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her. Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case. Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave". The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release. East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said. The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings. Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties. Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.
An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt. Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku. Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Climate: Malawi is in the southern hemisphere and experiences a fairly typical sub-tropical climate with a rainy season from around October to May each year.
Dress Code: Quite uniquely Malawi has always had quite a strong dress-code applied for travellers and many tourists have found it necessary to change into more modest garments on request from the authorities. It is probably wise not to be the one to act too differently and to at least start with this in mind when arriving into the country. This includes avoiding short dresses for women and long unkept hair for men.
Banking Facilities: There are some ATM's in the main cities but generally they may not accept an international bank card. Credit cards are not accepted outside the main urban areas.
Security and Safety: In many regions of the world the level of crime and personal risk rises after nightfall. Malawi is no different in this respect and so travelling throughout the country at night is not recommended. It is especially unwise to walk in main cities during the hours of darkness.
Medical Facilities: Generally medical facilities throughout Malawi are limited and anyone with a serious illness would be recommended to move to more adequate facilities in either Zambia, Zimbabwe or ideally to South Africa if at all possible. Travellers on any personal medication should ensure that they carry sufficient supplies for the duration of their time abroad.
East African Safari: Many travel through Malawi on their way between Nairobi in Kenya and Capetown in South Africa. The road infrastructure and other facilities along this route is frequently difficult and it is unwise to consider travelling alone. Being part of an organised respected safari group is a very much wiser option. Even then it is essential to 'assess' the professionalism of the specific group you are travelling with during the first few days before granting them total control of your safety. It is important to listen to the leaders advice on the safety of food & water and their opinion on the necessity for adequate malaria prophylaxis to see if they can be trusted. Generally the answer is that among the well known groups there are excellent and superbly professional guides so this is not often an issue.
Food & Water: Like any trip to the tropics, what you eat and drink will largely determine how well you remain. Eat hot recently cooked food and steer clear of any street vendors. Eat what you know your stomach likes as otherwise it will be quick enough to tell you - often in the most unpleasant ways! Water is essential for survival but, despite this, it is better to remain thirsty for a short while rather than drink anything potentially contaminated. A cup of tea is often safer (if taken from a clean cup) as the water will have been boiled. Even when brushing your teeth make sure you use boiled filtered water if safe bottled water is unavailable.
Lake Malawi: It is hot. Everyone else is swimming in the Lake and they say it is safe. The answer is no, as unfortunately this is without doubt not the case, no matter what you hear. Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) is a parasitic disease which abounds in Lake Malawi and can infect a person very easily - even from very minimal contact with the water. This can occur from paddling along the water edge or showering close to the lakeside where the same water is used. If you do partake make certain that you report to medical staff on your return home so this risk can be adequately checked through as appropriate.
Sun Exposure & Dehydration: Africa is a hot continent and regularly travellers become quite significantly dehydrated as their water intake may not be sufficiently high to cope with the loss through perspiration. Also, at this time, salt is removed from the body and this may lead to tiredness, headaches and muscular crampy pains etc. It is important to increase your fluid intake and (for most travellers quite safely) to increase the amount of salt you take with your meals. Avoid salt tablets as these are unnecessary and can be quite harmful.
Malaria: There is a considerable risk of contracting Malaria in this region throughout the year - even in the dry season. Adequate insect repellents, good mosquito nets for night time, covering your arms and legs and appropriate malaria tablets are all essential. Don't take any chance as you protect yourself again malaria. It is a killing disease and yet with care you can significantly help to protect yourself. The tablets do not however provide 100% cover.
Vaccines: There are no essential vaccines required for entry into Malawi - unless you are coming from a Yellow Fever country. However, it is always recommended that you ensure you are covered against a number of different diseases before your trip and this all needs to be talked through well before leaving home. The doctor at that time can also discuss some of the other extremely important health issues relating to Malawi to try to ensure that you remain safe and healthy.
Summary: Malawi is a beautiful country with a lot to offer for the wise traveller. However staying healthy and well is essential and taking unnecessary risks with your long term health is foolhardy.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
The local hospital said it did not have a number of sleeping sickness cases. One community resident recalled at least 5 deaths from the disease.
Lilongwe, Malawi, Oct 24, 2019 (AFP) - A pay strike by truckers in landlocked Malawi has crippled oil and power supplies, leading to prolonged blackouts and fuel shortages on Thursday. Over 1,000 truck drivers stopped work from Monday, preventing all lorries from entering and exiting the country's borders with Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Their leader Richard Jubeki said the drivers are demanding a giant wage increase to push monthly salaries from the current $40 (35 euros) to $450. "We have closed all the borders across the country for trucks to try and force our employers to increase our wages," Jubeki said. As of Thursday morning, government and trucking companies' representatives were still locked in negotiations. An outcome is expected soon as Malawi relies on road transport to move goods mainly from the ports of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Beira in Mozambique. By Wednesday, the effects of the strike were felt by the 18 million population, particularly in the capital city Lilongwe where motorists were stranded after fuel stations ran dry. "I spent the better part of today driving around the city looking for petrol but I have been unsuccessful. This is not on," Lilongwe resident Patrick Banda said.
The protest has also disrupted power generation as the Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (Escom) sources some of its power from diesel-powered generators. The company said its tankers carrying diesel from the National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) fuel depot to diesel generators were barred from passing through. "Massive load-shedding will result," it said in a statement. Most parts of the country experienced 8-hour long blackouts on Wednesday. The state-owned oil firm told AFP there were adequate local "strategic fuel reserves". But spokesman Telephorous Chigwenembe said the responsibility of ensuring that this fuel is available to on the market rests with the power regulatory body -- the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority.
March 27, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) is a poor, developing country ruled by an authoritarian, Communist, one-party government. Political power is centralized in the
A passport and visa are required. The Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that visas can be issued upon arrival in Laos to U.S. citizen tourists with two passport-size photographs and $35 at the following ports of entry: Wattay Airport, Vientiane; Friendship Bridge, Vientiane, Pakse and Luang Prabang Airports; Boten-Bohan and Vangtao-Chong Mek. Persons who obtain entry visas prior to their arrival in Laos may also enter at the following international entry points: Huaixay, Khammouane-Nakhonphanom, Savannakhet-Mukdahan, Daensayanh-Laobao, Namphao-Kaopae, and Namkan. Foreign tourists are generally admitted to Laos for 30 days. The Department of Immigration in Vientiane will extend 30-day tourist visas up to an additional 60 days for a fee of $2 per day. Foreigners who overstay their visas in Laos risk arrest and upon departure will be fined $10 for each day of overstay.
The Lao government requires payment of visa fees and fines in U.S. dollars. Thai baht and Lao kip may sometimes be accepted for the fees, but at unfavorable exchange rates.
Foreign tourists who wish to obtain a visa in advance may contact a Lao embassy or consulate. In the United States, visas and further information about Lao entry requirements can be obtained directly from the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, 2222 S St. NW, Washington DC 20008, tel: 202-332-6416, fax: 202-332-4923.
Business visas can only be arranged in advance; a company or individual “sponsor” must contact the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Vientiane and request a visa for the traveler by offering a “guarantee.” Once this request is approved by the MFA, the approval will be communicated to the Lao Embassy in Washington, DC and the U.S. traveler may then apply for the business visa. This process normally takes 1-3 months. After the traveler’s arrival, these visas can usually be extended for one month.
U.S. citizens should not attempt to enter Laos without valid travel documents or outside of official ports of entry. Travelers should not cross the border between Laos and Thailand along the Mekong River except at official immigration check crossings. Unscrupulous travel agents have sold U.S.-citizen travelers false Lao visas, which have resulted in those travelers being denied entry into Laos. Persons attempting to enter Laos outside of official ports of entry risk arrest or other serious consequences.
Immigration offices at some of the less-used land border crossing points are not well marked. Travelers should make sure that they complete immigration and customs formalities when they enter Laos. Travelers who enter Laos without completing these formalities may be subject to fine, detention, imprisonment, and/or deportation.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship, such as the child’s birth certificate, and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
At Wattay Airport (Vientiane), Pakse Airport and the Luang Prabang Airport, there is an international airport departure tax of US$10. This tax may be included in the price of the airline ticket, depending on the carrier.
At the Friendship Bridge (Vientiane, Laos - Nong Khai, Thailand border crossing) there is an overtime fee after 4:00 pm weekdays and during weekends. Visit the web site of the Embassy of Laos in the Untied States at: http://www.laoembassy.com for the more visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
In recent years (2003-2005), there were periodic incidents of attacks on buses and other vehicles that killed 22 people; small bombings in public places; and other incidents of violence by anti-government forces. In 2007, the Embassy received reports from multiple sources of sporadic fighting between Lao Government forces and unidentified opponents in the area of Vang Vieng in northern Vientiane Province and in Bokeo Province. The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Laos exercise caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings, since the locations of future violent incidents are unpredictable.
Travelers are advised to be cautious when traveling the roads of Laos and to check with local authorities, transport companies, other travelers, and/or the Embassy regarding any recent developments prior to travel. Road obstacles such as changes in surface conditions due to the weather occur frequently.
The Lao Government security forces often stop and check all transport on main roads. Travelers should comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks.
U.S. citizens, especially those considering travel outside urban centers, are advised to contact relevant Lao government offices, such as Lao Immigration Police Headquarters in Vientiane, the Lao Tourist Police, local police and customs offices, or contact the U.S. Embassy for the most current security information. To avoid trouble with the authorities, U.S. citizens traveling outside of normal tourist areas or contemplating any unusual activity (including, but not limited to, engaging in business, extensive photography, or scientific research of any kind) should consider seeking advance permission from the Village Chief, District Head, Provincial Governor, or National Tourism Authority, as appropriate.
More than 100 casualties per year are caused by the large amount of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos left over from the Indochina War. Savannakhet, Xieng Khouang, Saravane, Khammouane, Sekong, Champassak, Houaphan, Attapeu, and Luang Prabang Provinces and parts of Vientiane Province are severely contaminated by UXO. In addition, numerous mine fields are left over from the war, including mine fields along Route 7 (from Route 13 to the Vietnam border), Route 9 (Savannakhet to the Vietnam border), and Route 20 (Pakse to Saravane). While traveling in Laos, U.S. citizens should never pick up unknown metal objects and should avoid traveling off of well-used roads, tracks and paths.
U.S. citizens considering travel by air, road or river within Laos are advised to carefully evaluate the relative risks of the three modes of transport (see sections on Aviation Safety Oversight, Traffic Safety, and River Travel below). Travelers should also exercise caution if contemplating swimming in rivers in Laos. Currents can be deceptive and strong.
The whereabouts of three Hmong-American men who went missing in August 2007 after reportedly going on a business trip to Xieng Khouang Province remains unknown. The Government of Laos stated that the three departed Laos, but none of the three has contacted family members in the U.S. since they were last seen in 2007.
U.S. citizens are also advised to exercise caution in remote areas along the Lao border with Burma. Bandits, drug traffickers, and other people pursuing illegal activities operate in these border areas, as do armed insurgent groups opposed to the government of Burma.
Travelers should be aware that from 2004 to 2006, seven Lao- and Hmong-American citizens have been murdered in northern and northeastern Thailand near the border with Laos.
During the same period, a number of non-Americans with ties to Laos have also been murdered in this region of Thailand. In addition, in March 2006 a Hmong-American disappeared from his residence in Chiang Mai along with seven other individuals. In most of these cases, no arrests have been made.
If U.S. citizens, particularly Lao-Americans or Hmong-Americans, must travel to these areas, they should exercise caution and remain vigilant with regard to their personal security. It is also recommended that persons wishing to travel to border areas check first with the Thai Police and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai or the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok or the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
While Laos generally has a low rate of violent crime, it is not immune from crime. While in Laos, Americans should remain aware of their surroundings and exercise appropriate security precautions. With the introduction of methamphetamines and other illicit drugs, thefts and assaults in Vientiane have increased and some have turned violent.
Bag-snatching is increasingly frequent and sexual assaults have also occurred. Residential burglary is commonplace. Expatriates attempting to report burglaries in progress to the police often find that police telephones are not answered or they are informed that the police are not authorized to respond to criminal activity at night or that they have no transportation. U.S. citizens who move to Vientiane are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for security advice.
Travelers in Vientiane should exercise caution, particularly after dark, at roadside restaurants and stalls near the banks of the Mekong River. Foreigners are often the victims of purse snatchings while sitting down to eat or while riding bicycles or motorcycles in this area. To help ensure the security of valuables and documents carried on their person, travelers may wish to carry them in bags that cannot be easily stolen. U.S. citizens traveling to Vang Vieng should be aware that some tourists have been robbed and assaulted while walking alone to the caves on the far side of the Nam Song River.
Camping at night anywhere except in authorized campgrounds in national parks is dangerous.
Many restaurants in popular tourist locations in the Vang Vieng area offer menu items, particularly “pizzas,” “shakes” or “teas” which may contain unknown substances or opiates. These products are often advertised as “happy” or “special” items. These unknown foods and drinks can be dangerous, causing illness and death.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities and services in Laos are limited and do not meet Western standards. In Vientiane, U.S. citizens may wish to contact the Primary Care Center also known as the Centre medical de L’Ambassade de France (CMAF), which is supported by the French Embassy.
The CMAF is located on Khou Vieng Road across the street from the Green Park Hotel, Tel. +856-21-214-150, or +856-20-558-4617, email: email@example.com.
U.S. citizens in Laos often seek medical care in Thailand. The Friendship Bridge linking Vientiane, Laos, to Nong Khai, Thailand, is open daily 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Officials generally will allow travelers to cross after hours in cases of medical emergency. AEK International Hospital (tel: 66-42-342-555) and North Eastern Wattana General Hospital, both in Udorn, Thailand (tel: 66-1-833-4262) have English-speaking staff accustomed to dealing with foreign patients. Nong Khai Wattana Hospital in Nong Khai, Thailand (tel: 66-1-833-4262) can handle most simple medical procedures. Ambulances for both AEK International Hospital and Nong Khai Wattana Hospital have permission to cross the Friendship Bridge to collect patients from Vientiane. In Vientiane, the Setthatirat Hospital ambulance (tel: 021-413-720) can take patients to Thailand. The Department of State assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or reputation of these hospitals.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Lao authorities have confirmed the presence in Laos of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, commonly known as “bird flu.” In 2007, two Lao nationals died after contracting the H4N1 virus. Travelers to Laos and other countries affected by the virus are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals. In addition, the CDC and WHO recommend eating only fully cooked poultry and eggs. The Lao government’s avian influenza hotline may be reached by calling 166 from anywhere in Laos.
This hotline may be used to report suspected cases of avian influenza in animals or humans, or to obtain information on areas in Laos where avian influenza may have been recently detected.
Operators speak Lao and English.
For the most current information and links on avian influenza in Laos, see the State Department’s Avian Influenza Fact Sheet or visit the website of the U.S. Embassy in Laos.
There is a problem with counterfeit pharmaceuticals throughout Southeast Asia. American citizens should be aware of this problem and purchase pharmaceuticals only through the most reputable pharmacies with a physician’s prescription.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Laos is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
The number of road accidents and fatalities in Laos has risen sharply in the last decade as the number of motor vehicles has increased. U.S. citizens involved in traffic accidents have been barred from leaving Laos before paying compensation for property damage or injuries, regardless of who was at fault.
A driver involved in a traffic accident should remain at the scene and attempt to contact the police or wait for them to arrive to prepare an accident report.
If renting a car or motorcycle, contact the rental company and its insurance agent.
If there is major damage, injury or death, contact the Consular Section or Embassy Duty Officer.
Traffic in Laos is chaotic and road conditions are very rough. Few roads have lane markings. Where lane markings, road signs, and stoplights do exist, they are widely ignored. Many drivers are unlicensed, inexperienced and uninsured. Driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs is not uncommon, and penalties for such offenses may not be enforced. Theoretically, traffic moves on the right, but vehicles use all parts of the road. Motorcyclists pay little or no heed to cars. Motorcycles carry as many as five people, greatly impeding the drivers' ability to react to traffic. The evening hours are particularly dangerous. Road construction sites are poorly marked, appear with no advance warning, and can be difficult to see at night. Roads are poorly lit, many vehicles have no operating lights, few bicycles have reflectors, and trucks without reflectors commonly park on unlit roads.
Public transportation is unreliable and is limited after sunset. The most common form of public transport is three-wheeled, open-sided taxis called "tuk-tuks.” Automobile taxis or cars for hire are available at the airport, the Friendship Bridge, and most major hotels, and near the Morning Market in Vientiane. Tuk-tuks and taxis are frequently in poor repair, and drivers generally speak little or no English. Inter-city transport is provided by buses, pickups, and trucks, which are also often in poor repair.
Emergency services in Laos are either unreliable or non-existent. Lao road traffic regulations require any driver coming upon a road accident to assist in transporting injured persons to a hospital. Emergency telephone numbers in Vientiane are Fire: 190, Ambulance: 195 or 021-413-720, Traffic Police: 191, Tourist Police: 021-251-128 (only for incidents involving tourists). Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Laos, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Lao Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
TRAVEL OF FOREIGNERS WITHIN LAOS:
The Lao tourist police have informed foreign tourists that a licensed Lao tour guide must accompany any group of more than 5 foreign tourists; however, this regulation does not appear to be strictly enforced.
The authorities may restrict travel in rural areas outside of popular tourist destinations. Restricted areas may not be marked or even widely known by local citizens. If traveling without a reputable tour guide who is aware of local conditions, travelers should consult with local authorities before entering remote areas away from obvious tourist destinations.
Lao citizens who wish to have a foreign citizen -- including a family member -- stay in their home must obtain prior approval from the village chief. The foreigner may be held responsible if the Lao host has not secured prior permission for the visit. American citizens are strongly advised to ensure that such permission has been sought and granted before accepting offers to stay in Lao homes.
Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the local authorities. See Section below on Photography and Other Restrictions.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH LAO CITIZENS:
Lao law prohibits sexual contact between foreign citizens and Lao nationals except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao Family Law. Any foreigner who enters into a sexual relationship with a Lao national risks being interrogated, detained, arrested, or fined. Lao police have confiscated passports and imposed fines of up to $5000 on foreigners who enter into disapproved sexual relationships. The Lao party to the relationship may also be jailed without trial. Foreigners are not permitted to invite Lao nationals of the opposite sex to their hotel rooms; police may raid hotel rooms without notice or consent.
Foreign citizens intending to marry Lao nationals are required by Lao law to obtain prior permission from the Lao Government. The formal application process can take as long as a year. American citizens may obtain information about these requirements from the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane. The Lao Government will not issue a marriage certificate unless the correct procedures are followed. Any attempt to circumvent Lao regulations may result in arrest, imprisonment, a fine of $500-$5000, and deportation. A foreigner who cohabits with or enters into a close relationship with a Lao national may be accused by Lao authorities of entering into an illegal marriage and be subject to these same penalties.
A foreign citizen who wishes to become engaged to a Lao national is required to obtain prior permission from the chief of the village where the Lao national resides. Failure to obtain prior permission can result in a fine of $500-$5000. Lao police may impose a large fine on a foreign citizen a few days after he or she holds an engagement ceremony with a Lao citizen based on the suspicion that the couple subsequently had sexual relations out of wedlock.
A Lao Prime Ministerial decree requires that marriages of Lao citizens abroad be registered with Lao embassies in order to be legal in Laos. If an American citizen marries a Lao citizen in the U.S. and then the couple comes to Laos, the American could be subject to penalties under the Lao law governing sexual relationships (above) if the marriage has not been registered beforehand with a Lao Embassy.
Religious proselytizing or distributing religious material is strictly prohibited. Foreigners caught distributing religious material may be arrested or deported. The Government of Laos restricts the importation of religious texts and artifacts. While Lao law allows freedom of religion, the Government registers and controls all associations, including religious groups. Meetings, even in private homes, must be registered and those held outside of established locations may be broken up and the participants arrested.
River travel is common in Laos, but safety conditions do not conform to U.S. standards. In particular, travel by speedboat (local term “fast boat”) is dangerous and should be avoided, particularly during the dry season, which generally occurs from December through April. Travel on or across the Mekong River along the Thai border should be avoided at night. Lao militia forces have shot at boats on the Mekong after dark. Several people have drowned during the rainy season while inner-tubing or swimming in the Nam Song River near Vang Vieng.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS:
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest — including bridges, airfields, military installations, government buildings, or government vehicles — may result in problems with authorities, including detention or arrest and confiscation of the camera. Tourists should be cautious when traveling near military bases and strictly observe signs delineating the military base areas. Military personnel have detained and questioned foreigners who have unknowingly passed by unmarked military facilities.
Because of the prohibition on religious proselytizing, travelers should use caution when taking photographs or videotaping non-Buddhist religious services. If attending public services or religious gatherings, foreigners should ask permission from the local police and civil authorities to photograph or videotape. See section above on Religious Workers. Local police may suspect persons using any kind of very sophisticated still or video camera equipment of being professional photographers or possibly photojournalists which may lead to questioning, detention, arrest or deportation by the police.
There are network-connected ATMs in Vientiane, including those operated by the Foreign Commercial Bank of Laos, also know as the Banque Pour le Commerce Exterieur de Laos (BCEL). BCEL also has network-connected ATMS in Vang Vieng, and the Provincial capital cities, or “Muang”, of Luangnamtha, Oudomxay, Luangprabang, Khammouan, Savannakhet, and Champasak Provinces.
These machines are generally limited to withdrawals of the equivalent of about $100.00 in Lao kip only. Credit cards are accepted at major hotels and tourist-oriented businesses. Credit card cash advances and/or Western Union money transfers are available at banks in most provincial capitals and other tourist centers. While the government requires that prices be quoted in Lao kip, prices are often given in U.S. dollars or Thai baht, especially in tourist areas or at markets. The Lao Government requires payment in U.S. dollars for some taxes and fees, including visa fees and the airport departure tax.
Lao customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Laos of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, foreign currency, cameras and other items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. (Please also see section on “Religious Workers” above). There are prohibitions against importing or exporting more than $2500 (U.S. dollar equivalent) of currency without authorization. Contact the Lao Embassy or Lao customs authorities for more details. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
Please see our Customs Information.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Lao laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Laos are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
Americans living or traveling in Laos are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Laos. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located on Rue Bartholonie (near Tat Dam), in Vientiane; from the U.S., mail may be addressed to U.S. Embassy Vientiane, Unit 8165, Box V, APO AP 96546; Telephone (856-21) 267-000, recorded emergency information for American citizens (856-21) 267-111; duty officer emergency cellular telephone (856-20) 550-2016; Embassy-wide fax number (856-21) 267-190; Consular Section e-mail: CONSLAO@state.gov, Embassy web site: http://laos.usembassy.gov/.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Laos dated September 5, 2007, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Financial Transactions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Bangkok, Nov 21, 2019 (AFP) - A 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit north-western Laos near the Thai border early Thursday, the United States Geological Survey reported. The shallow quake hit at 6:50 am local time (2350 Wednesday GMT), USGS said.
Loei, Thailand, Oct 31, 2019 (AFP) - The once-mighty Mekong river has been reduced to a thin, grubby neck of water in stretches of northern Thailand -- record lows blamed on drought and a recently completed dam far upstream. The $4.47 billion Thai-owned Xayaburi hydro-electric power plant went into operation this week in Laos after years of warnings over the potential impact on fish flow, sediment and water levels on a river which feeds tens of millions.
Along parts of Thailand's northeastern border at Loei, the kilometre-wide (3,300-foot) river has shrivelled to a few dozen metres, with boulders and bedrock encasing muddy pools of water. From above, the encroaching banks of Laos and Thailand are now a thread of water apart, restricting fishing grounds to a slim channel. Fishermen blame a combination of this year's weak monsoon and the Xayaburi dam, around 300 kilometres (185 miles) to the north. "I don't want any more dam construction," said fisherman Sup Aunkaew, who tossed a meagre catch into his boat, adding that the fish spawning habits have been "confused" by the unseasonally low water levels. "But we can't really oppose their plans if they want to do it."
Landlocked and impoverished Laos has set its sights on becoming "the battery of Asia", with 44 operating hydro plants and 46 more under construction many on key tributaries of the Mekong, according to monitor International Rivers. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), a body governing regional water diplomacy, said the water levels from June to October are the lowest in nearly 30 years. In Nong Khai, which faces the Laos' capital Vientiane, the water dropped to around one metre (3.2 feet) on Tuesday, several times shallower than average, the MCR said. Measurements across the river "are significantly below the minimum levels for this time of year and are expected to decreases further", it said in a statement to AFP. "The concern is for the upcoming dry season."
- 'Death of a thousand cuts' -
Experts say the dam-building frenzy in China and Laos has compounded the drought. "These are causing the Mekong to die a death of a thousand cuts," said Brian Eyler, author of "The Last Days of the Mighty Mekong". He said the lower part of the river is at a "crisis point" until rains come again next year. The Mekong, which rises on the Tibetan plateau and courses through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam -- sustains tens of millions of people along its banks through fishing and agriculture.
The 1,285-megawatt Xayaburi dam was built by CKPower -- a subsidiary of the Thai builder and majority shareholder CH Karnchang -- which went ahead with construction despite protests in Thailand, which is buying most of the electricity. As it began operations the company plastered Thai newspapers with advertising this week referring to the "greatness of the Mekong" and calling the dam "fish riendly". It did not respond to several requests for comment but the company has trumpeted its commitment to clean, sustainable energy. In July the dam operator denied tests on the mega-structure were responsible for the river drying up downstream in northeastern Thailand.
Bangkok, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - At least 13 Chinese tourists were killed and dozens injured when their bus skidded off the road and plunged 30 metres into a ravine in Laos, a police officer said Tuesday. The bus was carrying more than 40 Chinese nationals heading towards the tourist town of Luang Prabang when the accident occurred late on Monday. "At this moment, 13 bodies have been recovered... while two are still missing," police officer Xaiyaphon Chitavong told AFP, blaming brake failure for the accident. He added that 31 people were receiving medical treatment. Chinese state media showed photos of rescuers wading through ankle-deep floodwaters.
Traffic accidents in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar are common, with safety regulations often flouted and law enforcement low. The monsoon season from June to October also drenches rural roads with heavy rains creating slippery conditions. Tourism to communist-run Laos has grown in recent years, and visitors from China increased by 13 percent in the first half of 2019 compared to the year before, according to the state-backed Vientiane Times.
Attapeu , Laos, July 28, 2018 (AFP) - Rescuers battled thick mud and flood waters across a swathe of remote southern Laos to find survivors of a deadly dam burst that submerged entire villages, as an official suggested faulty construction may have led to the disaster. The exact number of dead and missing from Monday's dam collapse remains a mystery because of the complexity of the rescue operation in an inaccessible area and the secretive reflexes of Laos's Communist authorities in the face of an unprecedented crisis.
"The search is very complicated, many areas cannot be accessed by cars or boats. Also we have limited modern equipment to bring to the field," deputy secretary of Attapeu province committee Meenaporn Chaichompoo told reporters Friday. The head of the rescue mission Kumriang Authakaison said Saturday that eight people are confirmed dead, down from 27 reported by officials earlier this week. He added that 123 were confirmed missing. But conflicting information swirled about how many remain unaccounted for after Chaichompoo said Friday "we can't find 1,126 people", without elaborating.
Makeshift shelters are packed with thousands of people who fled their homes in panic with just a few hours' notice of the impending disaster, now spending their days on plastic mats waiting for news of missing neighbours. All karaoke bars and entertainment venues were ordered tone down loud music and celebrations in the province as the nation mourned the calamity, the most devastating to hit Laos's contentious hydropower sector.
A stretch of land dozens of kilometres long and wide was submerged when the Xe-Namnoy dam collapsed after heavy rains. Slowly retreating floodwaters have cut off access to villages and covered much of the area with thick, sticky mud. "This is one of the worst (disasters) I've ever seen. Especially because we're not a very strong country in terms of rescue operations," a volunteer rescue worker told AFP, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to media.
- Poor construction? -
Days into the treacherous search for survivors, questions are being raised about the quality of the construction of the $1.2 billion dam, a joint venture between South Korean, Laotian and Thai firms. Operators said it burst after heavy rains in a country regularly battered by monsoons.
But Laos Minister of Energy and Mines Khammany Inthirath said poor design may have contributed to the accident, according to state media and Radio Free Asia. "It might be construction technique that led to the collapse after it was affected by the rain," he told RFA in an interview broadcast Friday. One of the Korean firms involved in the project, SK Engineering & Construction, said it was investigating the cause of the dam break and would donate $10 million in relief aid. The accident has kicked up criticism of Laos' ambitious dam-building scheme as it bids to become a major power exporter, billing itself the "battery of Asia" with more than 50 projects set to o online by 2020. The majority of energy generated in the tiny, landlocked country is sold to its neighbours, mostly to Thailand where much of it is sucked up in the sweaty, energy-hungry capital Bangkok.
Villagers have complained of being relocated -- sometimes repeatedly -- while river waters crucial for fishing and farming have been diverted, destroying livelihoods in one of Asia's poorest countries. Downstream countries like Cambodia and Vietnam also fret that their waterways and fishing stocks could be damaged by the hydopower boom in Laos. The accident has prompted fears over the safety of other dams in the country. "Most of the dams are built by foreign companies and Laos authorities don't have expert knowledge and management to check for weaknesses or problems, that's our worry," villager Si Wonghajak told AFP.
Attapeu , Laos, July 26, 2018 (AFP) - The torrent of water unleashed in a deadly Laos dam collapse has drained into Cambodia, forcing thousands to evacuate, as rescuers on Thursday battled monsoon rains to find scores of Laotians still missing after entire villages were washed away. Twenty-seven people have been confirmed dead, with 131 still missing, after the Xe-Namnoy dam collapsed on Monday in a remote southern corner of Laos, leaving villagers with little time to escape. It is an unprecedented accident to strike the hydropower industry in Laos, where the Communist government has dammed large sections of its myriad waterways to generate electricity that is mostly sold to its neighbours.
The search and rescue effort entered a third day Thursday, with China, Vietnam and Thailand sending in specialists, while villagers picked through their wrecked, mud-caked homes for possessions as the flood waters receded. Carcasses of livestock floated in the knee-deep waters in a devastated village visited by AFP, as heavy rain pounded the area. Thousands of villagers downstream in Cambodia have also been forced to flee as the water once held back by the dam flowed south. "Water is still rising, so more people will be evacuated," Men Kong, a government spokesman in Cambodia's Stung Streng province, told AFP. Cambodian soldiers ferried villagers and motorbikes from flooded zones on wooden boats, while supplies were handed out to some who found refuge on dry land.
In Laos, Chinese rescuers in life jackets and helmets joined local soldiers searching for the missing Thursday, according to an AFP reporter at the scene, while community volunteers pitched in with private boats to return to villages still submerged. Residents recalled their terror as water rushed through their homes. Tran Van Bien, 47, from Ban Mai village close to the ruined dam said he was told to evacuate just two hours before the dam burst on Monday evening, running to a neighbour's house with his family as his home quickly filled with water. "We were on the roof of that house the whole night, cold and scared. At 4:00 am a wooden boat passed and we decided to send my wife and my kid out," he told AFP from a nearby town where he eventually found dry land. "My wife tied our child to her body, saying if they died, they would die together rather than being alone."
- 'Insufficient warning' -
The $1.2 billion Xe-Namnoy dam, a joint venture between Laos, Thai and Korean companies, was still under construction in southern Attapeu province when it collapsed after heavy rains pounded the area earlier this week. Two South Korean companies involved in the project's construction and operation said damage was reported a day before the auxiliary "Saddle D" dam collapsed. However a timeline from operator Korea Western Power Co. obtained by AFP said 11 centimetres (four inches) of subsidence was spotted at the dam's centre as early as Friday. The company told AFP it could not yet determine the cause of the collapse. "It is too early to define whether it was a natural disaster or a manmade disaster," a spokesman told AFP Thursday.
Thailand issued new regulations for its hydro plant operators in Laos this week, ordering companies to report on dam conditions every week and communicate closely with residents. "If a dam plans to release water they must coordinate with local officials to warn people and to prevent people from panic at least seven days (in advance)," Thailand's Energy and Mining Minister Khammany Inthirath announced Wednesday. Southeastern Laos is frequently lashed by monsoon rains, and dam operators regularly release water from reservoirs in order to avoid overflow -- or collapse. The 410 MW Xe-Namnoy project is one of more than 50 hydropower plans underway in Laos, which has billed itself as the "battery of Asia" in its ambitious bid to become a major power exporter in the region.
Laos has said it wants to double its power generation capacity to 28,000 MW by 2020 and has opened its doors to foreign investors -- mainly from China, Thailand and Vietnam -- to build dams across the country. But the projects have come under fire from rights groups who say local communities are forcibly moved and lose key access to river waters for farming and fishing. "This tragedy has compounded their suffering," International Rivers said in a statement Thursday. "Communities were not given sufficient advanced warning to ensure their safety and that of their families. This event raises major questions about dam standards and dam safety in Laos."
World Travel News Headlines
Heavy rain has led to rivers bursting their banks, forcing the closure of shops and restaurants
Streets in the South Island tourist towns of Wanaka and Queenstown were slowly going under water on Friday, after Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu burst their banks earlier in the week, flooding businesses and sewerage systems.
Water and large debris closed the main street of Wanaka, a popular spot with Instagrammers thanks to its famous tree that appears to have grown out of the lake. On Friday businesses were sandbagging as heavy rain continued to fall.
Sewerage systems in the town were also at risk of contaminating the lake, with the Queenstown Lakes District council taking the precautionary measure of shutting down the sewer connection to a handful of premises.
Wanaka residents were told to be on “high alert” with heavy rain predicted all weekend.
The streets of the usually bustling tourist town were largely empty, and the popular cafes and restaurants on the lake shore were closed.
3rd December 2019
At least 25 people were killed in various rain-related incidents in Tamil Nadu, India since November 29, 2019. 17 of the victims died after a wall collapsed following a continuous heavy downpour in Coimbatore on Monday morning, December 2.
Among the fatalities were 10 women. Around 1 305 huts and 465 tiled-roof houses were damaged, while 1,000 people were evacuated to government relief centers in Tuticorin, Cuddalore, and Tirunelveli districts as the north-east monsoon intensifies.
Schools remain closed on Monday including those in the districts of Chennai, Chengalpet, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Cuddalore, and Tuticorin, as the areas received 90 mm (3 inches) rain in the past 36 hours.
A flood alert has been issued to residents near the banks of Bhavani River in this western district of Tamil Nadu as a dam built across it has burst in the wake of torrential rains in catchment areas, officials said on Monday.
- Southern Angola has been affected by widespread floods, triggered by heavy rains on 2-4 December.
- According to the Government of Angola, 60 people have been displaced in the city of Ondjiva (Cunene Province), while several houses are damaged, roads are flooded, and power outages have been reported across areas of Ondjiva.
- In Kalepi Municipality (Huila Province, southern Angola), a lightning event killed five people, and injured one on 2 December.
- Moderate to heavy rains will persist over central, southern and eastern Angola on 6-8 December.
By Clare BYRNE
Paris, Dec 9, 2019 (AFP) - France's transport chaos deepened Monday on the fifth day of a nationwide strike over pension reforms, ramping up tensions at the start of a crucial week in President Emmanuel Macron's battle with trade unions. With only two of the Paris metro's 16 lines running as normal and suburban trains also heavily disrupted, many commuters slipped behind the wheel to try to get to work in torrential rain, causing major gridlock.
By 9 am, the tailbacks in the Paris area ran to 600 kilometres (370 miles), twice the normal level, the Sytadin monitoring website said. Large queues formed at bus stops following an announcement that one out of two buses would be running but striking workers blocked seven out of 25 bus depots, leaving more travellers stranded. With many having opted to work from home last week and only now returning to the workplace, this week will test public support for the strike.
A poll Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed 53 percent of the French supporting the strike or expressing sympathy for their demands, up six points in a week. Unions have called a second day of mass protests for Tuesday, a day before the government unveils the full details of its plans for a single points-based pension scheme that does away with dozens of more advantageous plans enjoyed by train drivers, sailors, lawyers and other professions.
- 'A monstrosity' -
Critics argue that the shake-up will require people in both the public and private sector to work longer for a smaller retirement payout. Teachers are expected to walk out again for the second time in a week Tuesday, leading to widespread school closures.
Firefighters, electricity workers and "yellow vest" anti-government demonstrators have also joined railway workers in the streets in recent days. The government's pensions envoy Jean-Paul Delevoye, who drafted the reforms, and Health Minister Agnes Buzyn will meet with trade unions on Monday to try to negotiate an end to the deadlock. But the unions have sounded an uncompromising note. "I will not negotiate over the implementation of what I describe as a monstrosity which endangers tomorrow's pensioners," said Yves Veyrier, the head of the militant Force Ouvriere union.
The strike has squeezed retailers in the run-up to Christmas, raising the prospect of another bleak year-end after the unrest caused by the yellow vests in late 2018. The first day of the stoppage already caused an average 30 percent drop in sales, according to the Alliance of Commerce, which represents 27,000 supermarkets and clothing and shoe stores with almost 200,000 workers. A hotel association said reservations in the larger Paris region dropped by 30 to 40 percent on the first day of the strike. Regional and international trains, including the Eurostar to London and Thalys to Brussels, have also been hobbled by the unrest, and several flights were cancelled on the first days of the strike.
- Fairer system for all? -
Over 800,000 people took to the streets when the strike was launched on December 5, many accusing Macron of trying to weaken France's generous social safety net. The president, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and senior cabinet ministers met late Sunday to discuss the changes, which they argue will ensure a fairer and more sustainable system for all. "If we do not carry out a far-reaching, serious and progressive reform today, someone else will do a really brutal one tomorrow," Philippe told Le Journal du Dimanche.
The strike has drawn comparisons with late 1995 when three weeks of strikes forced the then centre-right government to withdraw its pension reforms. Adrien Quatennens, a lawmaker from the far-left France Unbowed party, acknowledged on LCI radio that the strike was hard on businesses and commuters, but said: "It's better to endure a few weeks of hassle than... years of hardship" in retirement.
By Neil SANDS, with Holly Robertson in Sydney
Wellington, Dec 9, 2019 (AFP) - Five people were killed, 18 were injured and several more were left stranded after an island volcano popular with tourists erupted unexpectedly in New Zealand on Monday. Police said some 50 people were visiting White Island when it exploded suddenly in the early afternoon -- hurling ash and rock high into the air. Two dozen people made it off the island, five of whom have since died. The rest are being treated for injuries, including severe burns.
Nothing is yet known about a group -- now estimated to number in the double digits -- who are still trapped on the island. "We're unsure of the exact numbers on there and we're unsure of their wellbeing," said deputy commissioner John Tims. As night fell, he said volcanic activity made a rescue attempt too dangerous. "The island is unstable, there's a danger of further eruptions, it is physically unsafe for us to return to the island" "I've got to consider the safety of our people and emergency services staff." The eruption occurred at 2:11pm (0111 GMT), thrusting a thick plume of white ash 3.6 kilometres (12,000 feet) into the sky. Seconds before, live camera feeds showed a group of more than a half dozen people walking on the crater floor. Then the images went black.
A "considerable number" of those caught up in the disaster are believed to be Australian, according to officials in Canberra. As many as 30 people are also believed to be cruise passengers on a day trip from the vessel Ovation of the Seas, Kevin O'Sullivan, chief executive officer of industry body the New Zealand Cruise Association told AFP. The ship's operator Royal Caribbean -- who had billed the trip to White Island as "an unforgettable guided tour of New Zealand's most active volcano" -- said "a number of our guests were touring the island" but did not confirm that number. The ship has a capacity of around 4,000 people and set sail from Sydney last week on a 12 day voyage.
- Scene of terror -
Tourist Michael Schade, made it off the island just in time and was able to capture footage of the devastation. His videos showed groups of startled tourists clustered by the shoreline, waiting to be evacuated as the ground around them smouldered, the sky filled with white debris. An ash-caked helicopter lies damaged nearby. As his ship hurtled away, the caldera became virtually invisible, shrouded by a thick bank of ash. Volcanic Air said they had landed a helicopter on the island shortly before the eruption carrying four visitors and one pilot. All were now accounted for. "It had landed on the island. What happened after that we don't know, but we know that all five made it back to Whakatane on one of the tourist boats," a company spokesman told AFP.
Guillaume Calmelet, the co-director of Skydive Tauranga, saw the eruption from above as he took a customer on a tandem skydive from a plane 12,000 feet above the Bay of Plenty. "As soon as the parachute opened there was this huge cloud that was really different to whatever we've seen before," he told AFP. "I could see it coming out in freefall, so probably about 30 seconds for the whole cloud to form, if that. It was pretty quick." The country's National Emergency Management Agency described the eruption as "moderate", although the plume of ash was clearly visible from the mainland and from satellites flying overhead. "We have seen a steady decline in activity since the eruption. There remains significant uncertainty as to future changes but currently, there are no signs of escalation."
White Island -- - also known as Whakaari -- is about 50 kilometres (30 miles) offshore in the picturesque Bay of Plenty and is popular with adventurous tourists willing to don hard hats and gas masks. It is New Zealand's most active volcano cone and about 70 percent of it is underwater, according to government-backed agency GeoNet. Around 10,000 people visit the volcano every year. It has erupted frequently over the last half-century, most recently in 2016.
In August of that year the New Zealand Defence Force airlifted a 2.4-tonne shipping container onto the island to serve as an emergency shelter in case of an eruption. "Sudden, unheralded eruptions from volcanoes such as White Island can be expected at any time," said University of Auckland volcanologist Shane Cronin. "The hazards expected from such events are the violent ejection of hot blocks and ash, and formation of 'hurricane-like' currents of wet ash and coarse particles that radiate from the explosion vent." "These can be deadly in terms of causing impact trauma, burns and respiratory problems. The eruptions are short-lived, but once one occurs, there are high chances for further, generally smaller ones as the system re-equilibrates."
Rome, Dec 9, 2019 (AFP) - A 4.5 magnitude earthquake hit the central Italian region of Mugello on Monday, sending panicked residents into the streets but causing minimal damage to buildings. The quake, centred some 31 km (19 miles) northeast of Florence in Tuscany, hit at 4:37 am (0330 GMT), after a series of smaller quakes, according to the national institute for geophysics and vulcanology (INGV).
Residents fled their buildings in the rain, congregating outside or in their cars to await authorities. "The quake went on for awhile, especially the first one, things fell down at a supermarket but for the moment we haven't seen any damage to people or things," said Filippo Carla' Campa, mayor of the town of Vicchio. A resident of Barberino del Mugello said his neighbours were panicking getting out of the building. "Paintings fell off the walls, bookcases fell over," he told Rai 24. In Barberino del Mugello, the 17th century church suffered a crack in one side, television images showed.
Schools were closed in the region and some trains through Florence were cancelled or delayed. Italy is frequently struck by seismic activity, often devastating. Most recently, a series of strong quakes hit central Italy in late 2016 and early 2017, killing 300 people. In 1919, the area was hit by an earthquake that killed 100 people.
Mount Hutt, New Zealand, Dec 9, 2019 (AFP) - Almost 1,000 tourists were stranded in New Zealand's South Island Monday after wild storms cut highways, washed away bridges and flooded the rugged landscape. Meteorologists said up to 400 millimetres (16 inches) of rain was dumped on the South Island over 24 hours by a severe weather system that unleashed gale-force winds and 230,000 lightning strikes. The main highway through the island was closed after the Rangitata river burst its banks. Townships near the popular Franz Josef glacier were isolated when landslips blocked road access.
With New Zealand entering its peak tourist season, some 970 travellers at Franz Josef were left facing the prospect of taking an expensive helicopter ride to get out or hunkering down until Friday, when the road is expected to be cleared. "Between the community, the hotels and motels and our welfare centre we've managed to billet out most people overnight," Civil Defence spokesman Stephen Doran told TVNZ. "We'd just ask people to stay put at the moment. We want to keep the work site clear so we can get supplies in there... and try to get the road into some sort of shape."
Another landslip on the island's west coast will take an estimated six weeks to clear. The worst of the weather hit over the weekend and it is forecast to deteriorate again later in the week, leaving authorities scrambling during a brief respite to complete as much repair work as possible.
Kigali, Dec 8, 2019 (AFP) - Rwanda on Sunday started a voluntary Ebola vaccination programme at its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly virus from its neighbour. All countries in high-risk areas, even if not hit by Ebola, had been advised by the WHO to use a new vaccine developed by US group Johnson & Johnson, the country's health minister, Diane Gashumba, told journalists. The idea was "to protect those with high chances of getting in contact with people living in areas where Ebola has been reported to be active", she said.
The vaccine, Ad26-ZEBOV-GP, is an experimental drug produced by US pharmaceuticals giant, Johnson & Johnson. It was used for the first time in mid-November in Goma in DR Congo, on the other side of the border. So far, there have no confirmed cases of Ebola in Rwanda. The epicentre of the outbreak in DR Congo, which has killed more than 2,200 people since August 2018, is located 350 kilometres (217 miles) north of Goma, in the Beni-Butembo region. That region sits on the DR Congo border with Uganda. More than 250,000 people in DR Congo have already been vaccinated using another product, rVSV-ZEBOV, made by US drug company, Merck Shape and Dohme.
- Ebola in Goma -
People working in the health sector, at border crossings, police officers, and business executives who frequently travel between the two countries are being given priority in the vaccination campaign. But all residents in the border districts can ask to be vaccinated if they wish. The first volunteers expressed relief at the measure. "We lived in a life of worry because of what was going on in DR Congo," Joel Ntwari Murihe, one of the first Rwandans to be vaccinated, told AFP. "It caused a lot of border disruptions as we were restricted to buying or selling with DR Congo residents who live in Goma. "The vaccine is an assurance to the safety for our lives and our children's lives."
The head of DR Congo's anti-Ebola efforts, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, and the WHO's representative in Rwanda, Kasonde Mwinga, were present at the campaign launch. In August, Rwanda briefly closed its border with DR Congo and ordered its citizens not to visit the country when the first Ebola cases were recorded in Goma. The city, which is the regional capital of the Congolese province of North Kivu, sits on the border with Rwanda. The border has since been reopened, but strict medical checks are being enforced.