Embassy of Ireland
1011 Buenos Aires
Her Excellency Paula Ní Shlattara
Argentina - US Consular Information Sheet
October 02, 2008
Last year, Argentina's charm, natural beauty and diversity attracted more than 400,000 American citizen visitors, and this year's total is expected to be even higher. Buenos Aires and other large cities have well-developed tourist facilities and services, including many four- and five-star hotels. The quality of tourist facilities in smaller towns outside the capital varies. The country suffered a major financial crisis in 2001-2002. While it has made a dramatic recovery, continued economic hardship has been linked to a rise in street crime. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Argentina for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter Argentina. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days for tourism and business. U.S. citizens who arrive in Argentina with expired or damaged passports may be refused entry and returned to the United States at their own expense. The U.S. Embassy cannot provide guarantees on behalf of travelers in such situations, and therefore encourages U.S. citizens to ensure their travel documents are valid and in good condition prior to departure from the United States. Different rules apply to U.S. citizens who also have Argentine nationality, depending on their dates of U.S. naturalization. For more information, check the Argentine Ministry of the Interior web site at www.mininterior.gov.ar/migraciones/. Most dual nationals are permitted 60-day visits. Dual nationals who stay beyond their permitted time are required to depart on an Argentine passport.
The application process for an Argentine passport is lengthy, and the U.S. Embassy is not able to provide assistance in obtaining Argentine passports or other local identity documents. Children under 21 years of age who reside in Argentina, regardless of nationality, are required to present a notarized document that certifies both parents' permission for the child's departure from Argentina when the child is traveling alone, with only one parent, or in someone else's custody (click on the "international child abduction" link below for more information). An airport tax is collected upon departure, payable in dollars or Argentine pesos.
American citizens wishing to enter Brazil are required to obtain a visa in advance from the Brazilian Embassy or consulate nearest to the traveler's place of residence. The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires cannot assist travelers to obtain Brazilian visas. For more information, see the Country Specific Information for Brazil.
Visit the Embassy of Argentina’s web site at http://www.embassyofargentina.us/ for the most current 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:
Traffic accidents are the primary threat to life and limb in Argentina. Pedestrians and drivers should exercise caution. Drivers frequently ignore traffic laws and vehicles often travel at excessive speeds. The rate and toll of traffic accidents has been a topic of much media attention over the past year. The Institute of Road Safety and Education, a private Buenos Aires organization dedicated to transportation safety issues, reports that Argentina has the highest traffic mortality rate in South America per 100,000 inhabitants.
Care should be exercised when traveling in Brazil and Paraguay, near the Argentine border, where criminal entities are known to operate. These organizations are involved in the trafficking of illicit goods, and some individuals in the area have been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department for financially supporting terrorist organizations.
The U.S. government is supportive of coordinated efforts by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to combat illegal activity in that region. Americans crossing from Argentina into Paraguay or Brazil may wish to consult the most recent Country Specific Information for those countries.
Demonstrations are common in metropolitan Buenos Aires and occur in other major cities as well. Protesters on occasion block streets, highways, and major intersections, causing traffic jams and delaying travel. While demonstrations are usually nonviolent, hooligans in some of the groups sometimes seek confrontation with the police and vandalize private property. Groups occasionally protest in front of the U.S. Embassy and U.S.-affiliated businesses. U.S. citizens should take common-sense precautions and avoid gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to protest. Information about the location of possible demonstrations is available from a variety of sources, including the local media. Additional information and advice may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy at the telephone numbers or email address listed at the end of this document.
Domestic flight schedules can be unreliable. Occasional work stoppages, over-scheduling of flights and other technical problems can result in flight delays, cancellations, or missed connections. Consult local media for information about possible strikes or slow-downs before planning travel within Argentina.
Public transportation is generally reliable and safe. The preferred option for travel within Buenos Aires and other major cities is by radio taxi or "remise" (private car with driver). The best way to obtain safe taxis and remises is to call for one or go to an established stand, rather than hailing one on the street. Hotels, restaurants, and other businesses can order remises or radio taxis, or provide phone numbers for such services, upon request. Passengers on buses, trains, and the subway should be alert for pickpockets and should also be aware that these forms of transport are sometimes interrupted by strikes or work stoppages.
Argentina is a geographically diverse country with mountains, forests, expansive deserts, and glaciers, making it a popular destination for outdoor and adventure sports. Despite the best efforts of local authorities, assisting visitors lost or injured in such remote areas can be problematic. American citizens have been killed in recent years while mountain climbing, skiing, trekking, and hunting. Travelers visiting isolated and wilderness areas should learn about local hazards and weather conditions and always inform park or police authorities of their itineraries. Reports of missing or injured persons should be made immediately to the police so that a search can be mounted or assistance rendered.
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 United States, or for callers outside the United States 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 pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Most American citizens visit Argentina without incident. Nevertheless, street crime in the larger cities, especially greater Buenos Aires and Mendoza, is a problem for residents and visitors alike. As in any big city, visitors to Buenos Aires and popular tourist destinations should be alert to muggers, pickpockets, scam artists, and purse-snatchers on the street, in hotel lobbies, at bus and train stations, and in cruise ship ports. Criminals usually work in groups and travelers should assume they are armed. Criminals employ a variety of ruses to distract and victimize unsuspecting visitors.
A common scam is to spray mustard or a similar substance on the tourist from a distance. A pickpocket will then approach the tourist offering to help clean the stain, and while doing so, he or an accomplice robs the victim. Thieves regularly nab unattended purses, backpacks, laptops, and luggage, and criminals will often distract visitors for a few seconds to steal valuables. While most American victims are not physically injured when robbed, criminals typically do not hesitate to use force when they encounter resistance. Visitors are advised to immediately hand over all cash and valuables if confronted. Thieves will target visitors wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
Your passport is a valuable document and should be guarded. Passports and other valuables should be locked in a hotel safe, and a photocopy of your passport should be carried for identification purposes. The U.S. Embassy has observed a notable rise in reports of stolen passports in the past year. Some travelers have received counterfeit currency in Argentina. Unscrupulous vendors and taxi drivers sometimes pretend to help tourists review their pesos, then trade bad bills for good ones. Characteristics of good currency can be reviewed at the Argentine Central Bank web site at www.bcra.gov.ar.
Along with conventional muggings, so-called express kidnappings continue to occur. Victims are grabbed off the street based on their appearance and vulnerability. They are made to withdraw as much money as possible from ATM machines, and then their family or co-workers are contacted and told to deliver all the cash that they have on hand or can gather in a couple of hours. Once the ransom is paid, the victim is usually quickly released unharmed. There have been some foreign victims. Visitors are particularly advised not to let children and adolescents travel alone.
Travelers worldwide are advised to avoid packing valuables in their checked baggage. In Argentina, officials have publicly acknowledged the systematic theft of valuables and money from checked baggage at Buenos Aires airports. Authorities are working to resolve the problem and have made a number of arrests, but travelers should exercise continued care and caution. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm
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 can 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. The Argentine Federal Police have established a special Tourist Police Unit to receive complaints and investigate crimes against tourists. The unit, located at Corrientes 436 in Buenos Aires, responds to calls around the clock at 4346-5748 or toll-free 0800-999-5000 from anywhere in the country. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in the city of Buenos Aires or in the surrounding Province of Buenos Aires is 911 for police assistance. In the city of Buenos Aires, dial 100 in case of fire and 107 for an ambulance. In the Province of Buenos Aires, fire and ambulance numbers vary by location. See our information for Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The public health system in Argentina provides emergency and non-emergency services free of charge to all, regardless of nationality or immigration status. However, the quality of non-emergency care in public hospitals is generally below U.S. standards. Medical care in private hospitals in Buenos Aires is generally good, but varies in quality outside the capital. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization in private facilities and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Private physicians, clinics, and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
HIV/AIDS restrictions. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Argentina.
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 Preventions hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (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 policies apply overseas and will cover prior conditions and emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars. If not covered, visitors are encouraged to consider purchasing travel insurance. No Medicare benefits are available abroad. 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 Argentina is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Argentina is generally more dangerous than driving in the United States. By comparison, drivers in Argentina tend to be very aggressive, especially in the capital city of Buenos Aires, and frequently ignore traffic regulations. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in the capital and the province of Buenos Aires, but Argentine or international licenses are required to drive in the rest of the country. For further information, please contact the Argentine Automobile Club, Av. Libertador 1850, 1112 Capital Federal, telephone (011) (54)(11) 4802-6061, or contact the Embassy of Argentina as listed in the above section on Entry Requirements. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the websites of Argentina's national tourist office and national roadways office at www.turismo.gov.ar and www.vialidad.gov.ar.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Argentina’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Argentina’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to being subject to all Argentine laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Argentine citizens. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. 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 also be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Argentina's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Argentina are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children and using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country are crimes 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.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Argentina are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site, so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Argentina. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it much easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida Colombia 4300 in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires (near the Plaza Italia stop on the "D" line subway). The main Embassy switchboard telephone is (54) (11) 5777-4533. Recorded consular information, including instructions on whom to contact in case of an American citizen emergency, is available at tel. (54) (11) 4514-1830. The Consular Section fax is (54) (11) 5777-4293. The Consular Section is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on American and Argentine holidays. Additional information on Embassy services is available on the Internet at http://argentina.usembassy.gov or by e-mail: BuenosAires-ACS@state.gov
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This replaces the Country Specific Information December 28, 2007 to update Sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registration/Embassy Locations.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
August 29, 2008
Sudan is a diverse, developing country in northeastern Africa. The capital city is Khartoum. The civil war between the northern and southern regions, which began in 1
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: The Government of Sudan requires all travelers to present a passport and an entry visa. Most travelers must obtain the entry visa before arrival; only American citizens who also possess a Sudanese national identification document (such as a Sudanese passport or national identification card) may apply for an entry visa at Khartoum International Airport. The Government of Sudan routinely denies visas to travelers whose passports contain visas issued by the Government of Israel or other evidence of travel to Israel such as exit or entry stamps.
Travelers must obtain an exit visa before departure from Sudan as well as pay any airport departure tax not included in the traveler’s airline ticket. Visitors may obtain the latest information and further details from the Embassy of Sudan, 2210 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: 202-338-8565.
Travel permits issued by the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) or by the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) are not adequate for entry to the country, although travelers may find these documents useful to present to local authorities when in the south. Personal baggage, including computers, is routinely searched upon arrival to and departure from Sudan. The authorities will seize material deemed objectionable, such as alcohol or pornography, and may detain or arrest the traveler. Travelers intending to bring electronic items should inquire about entry requirements when they apply for a visa; restrictions apply to many devices, including video cameras, satellite phones, facsimile machines, televisions, and telephones. Travelers are not allowed to depart Sudan with ivory, some other animal products, or large quantities of gold.
All visitors must register with the authorities within three days of arrival. Travelers must register within 72 hours of arrival in Sudan at the Ministry of Interior. All foreigners traveling more than 25 kilometers outside of Khartoum must obtain a travel permit from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs in Khartoum. This applies to all travel, including private, commercial, and humanitarian activities. Americans risk detention by Sudanese authorities when traveling more than 25 kilometers outside of Khartoum without a travel permit issued by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Travelers must register again with the police within 24 hours of arrival. The government requires a separate travel permit for travel to Darfur. These regulations are strictly enforced and even travelers with proper documentation may expect delay or temporary detention from the security forces, especially outside the capital. Authorities expect travelers to strictly respect roadblocks and other checkpoints.
Travelers who wish to take any photographs must obtain a photography permit from the Government of Sudan, Ministry of Interior, Department of Aliens.
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:
On January 1, 2008, unknown assailants shot and killed two U.S. Embassy employees - an American USAID officer and a Sudanese national driver. Terrorists are known to operate in Sudan and continue to seek opportunities to carry out attacks against U.S. interests. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, or kidnappings. U.S. citizens should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, which include tourist sites and locations where westerners are known to congregate, and commercial operations associated with U.S. or Western interests. Terrorists are known to have targeted both official facilities and residential compounds. Anti-American sentiment is prevalent and Americans should exercise utmost caution at all times.
The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services in Sudan, including emergency assistance, is severely limited. Many areas outside the capital of Khartoum are extremely difficult to access.
Travel in many parts of Sudan is hazardous. Outside the major cities infrastructure is extremely poor, medical care is limited, and very few facilities for tourists exist.
Conflict among various armed groups and government forces continues in western Sudan, in the states of North Darfur, South Darfur, and West Darfur. Banditry and lawlessness are also common in the west. Many local residents are in camps for internally-displaced persons, and receive humanitarian assistance for basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. Expatriate humanitarian workers have been the targets of carjackings and burglaries.
Land mines remain a major hazard in southern Sudan, especially south of the city of Juba. Visitors should travel only on main roads unless a competent de-mining authority such as the UN has marked an area as clear of mines. The armed Ugandan group known as The Lord’s Resistance Army is present along the southern border and reportedly has announced it will target Americans.
Occasional clashes between armed groups representing communal interests continue to occur in the centrally-located states of Upper Nile, Blue Nile, and Bahr al Ghazal. Banditry also occurs.
Sudan shares porous land borders with nine other countries, including Chad, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Conflict in these countries occasionally spills over into Sudan.
Americans considering sea travel in Sudan's coastal waters should exercise caution as there have been incidents of armed attacks and robberies by unknown groups in recent years, including one involving two American vessels. Exercise extreme caution, as these groups are considered armed and dangerous. When transiting in and around the Horn of Africa and/or in the Red Sea near Yemen, it is strongly recommended that vessels convoy in groups and maintain good communications contact at all times. Marine channels 13 and 16 VHF-FM are international call-up and emergency channels, and are commonly monitored by ships at sea. 2182 Mhz is the HF international call-up and emergency channel. Wherever possible, travel in trafficked sea-lanes. Avoid loitering in or transiting isolated or remote areas. In case of emergency, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In the event of an attack, consider activating Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons.
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.
CRIME: Crime is on the increase throughout Sudan. Additional security measures should be taken at places of residence to protect life and property. Anti-American sentiments can be found throughout the country. Americans should exercise caution by avoiding crowded public areas and public gatherings. Americans should avoid traveling alone. Report all instances of anti-American acts and crime targeting westerners to the American Embassy, and report incidents of crime to the Sudanese Police.
Americans should guard their backpacks or hand luggage. When traveling by air, travelers should maintain constant contact with their baggage and assure that they do not contain illicit items, such as alcohol or military ordinance. Americans have been removed from international airlines and detained when suspect items have been detected in checked baggage.
Carjacking and armed robbery continue to occur in western and southern Sudan. Sexual assault is more prevalent in the areas of armed conflict. Travelers who do not use the services of reputable travel firms or knowledgeable guides or drivers are especially at risk. Travel outside of Khartoum should be undertaken with a minimum of two vehicles so that there is a backup in case of mechanical failure or other emergency. Solo camping is always risky.
The Sudanese mail system can be unreliable. International couriers provide the safest means of shipping envelopes and packages, although anything of value should be insured.
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: Individuals with medical conditions which may require treatment are discouraged from traveling to Sudan. Medical facilities in Khartoum fall short of U.S. standards; outside the capital, very few facilities exist and hospitals and clinics are poorly equipped. Travelers must pay cash in advance for any medical treatment. Ambulance services are not available. Medicines are available only intermittently; travelers should bring sufficient supplies of needed medicines in clearly-marked containers.
Malaria is prevalent in all areas of Sudan. The strain is resistant to chloroquine and can be fatal. Consult a health practitioner before traveling, obtain suitable anti-malarial drugs, and use protective measures, such as insect repellent, protective clothing, and mosquito nets. Travelers who become ill with a fever or a flu-like illness while in Sudan, or within a year after departure, should promptly seek medical care and inform their physician of their travel history and the kind of anti-malarial drugs used. For additional information about malaria and anti-malarial drugs please see the Center for Disease Control travelers’ health web site, http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/index.htm.
Officially, people with HIV are not granted a visa and are not permitted to enter Sudan. A negative HIV test result must be presented at a Sudanese embassy or at Khartoum airport in order to obtain a visa. However, anecdotal reports indicate this requirement is not enforced in practice. Please confirm this requirement with the Embassy of Sudan at www.sudanembassy.org.
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.
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 Sudan is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Road conditions throughout Sudan are hazardous due to erratic driver behavior, pedestrians and animals in the roadways, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles. Only major highways and some streets in the cities are paved; many roads are narrow, rutted, and poorly maintained. Local drivers do not observe conventions for the right-of-way, stop in the road without warning, and frequently exceed safe speeds for road, traffic, and weather conditions. Driving at night is dangerous and should be avoided if possible; many vehicles operate without lights.
In the north and west, dust storms and sand storms, known locally as haboobs, greatly reduce visibility when they occur. Roads in these areas can be quickly covered with shifting sand at any season of the year. Roads in southern Sudan often are impassable during the rainy season, from March to October.
U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling, including traffic laws. In Sudan vehicles have the steering wheel on the left side and drivers use the right side of the road.
Traffic from side streets on the right has the right-of-way when entering a cross street, including fast-moving main streets. Traffic on the right has the right-of-way at stops. Right turns on a red light are prohibited. Speed limits are not posted, but the legal speed limit for passenger cars on inter-city highways is 120 kph (about 70 mph), while in most urban areas the limit is 60 kph (about 35 mph.) The speed limit in congested areas and school zones is 40 kph (about 25 mph).
Many local drivers carry no insurance despite the legal requirement that all motor vehicle operators purchase third-party liability insurance from the government. Persons involved in an accident resulting in death or injury must report the incident to the nearest police station or police officer as soon as possible. Persons found at fault can expect fines, revocation of driving privileges, and jail sentences, depending on the nature and extent of the accident. Persons convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol face fines, jail sentences, and corporal punishment.
Americans may use their U.S. driver's licenses for up to 90 days after arrival in Sudan, and then must carry either an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a Sudanese driver's license. There are no restrictions on vehicle types, including motorcycles and motorized tricycles.
Public transportation is limited to within and between major urban areas. Passenger facilities are basic and crowded, especially during rush hours and periods of seasonal travel. Schedules are unpublished and subject to change without notice. Vehicle maintenance does not meet U.S. standards. There is routine passenger train service on the route from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa (on the border with Egypt) and to Port Sudan (on the Red Sea.) Bus service between major cities is regular and inexpensive. Intra-city bus service in the major urban areas is regular, but most buses and bus stops are privately-operated and unmarked. Taxis are available in the major cities at hotels, tourist sites, and government offices. The motorized rickshaws in common use in Khartoum are unsafe. Travelers are encouraged to hire cars and drivers from reputable sources with qualified drivers and safe vehicles. Irregularly-scheduled mini-buses provide some public transit to rural communities; many areas lack any public transportation.
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 Sudan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sudan’s 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.
Enforcement of aviation safety standards in Sudan is uneven; civil aviation in Sudan continues to experience air incidents and accidents, including 5 crashes with at least 64 fatalities between November 8, 2007, and June 30, 2008. Incidents included engine failures, collapsed landing gear, and planes veering off the runway. Whenever possible, Americans traveling to Sudan despite the ongoing travel warning are advised to travel directly to their destinations on international carriers from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program. Adverse seasonal weather conditions, such as dust or sand storms in the north between April and June and severe rain storms in the south between March and October, cause frequent flight cancellations.
Two hijackings originated in Sudan in 2007; no passengers were harmed.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In November 1997, the U.S. imposed comprehensive financial and commercial sanctions against Sudan, prohibiting U.S. transactions with Sudan. Travelers intending to visit Sudan despite the Travel Warning should contact the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Office of Compliance, telephone 1-800-540-6322 or 202-622-2490, regarding the effect of these sanctions.
Travelers must be prepared to pay cash for all purchases, including hotel bills, airfares purchased locally, and all other travel expenses. Major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, cannot be used in Sudan due to U.S. sanctions. Sudan has no international ATMs. Local ATMs draw on local banks only.
Travelers, including journalists, must obtain a photography permit before taking any photographs. Even with a photography permit, photographing military areas, bridges, drainage stations, broadcast stations, public utilities, slum areas, and beggars is prohibited.
Sudan is a conservative society, particularly in the capital and other areas where the Muslim population is the majority. Alcohol is prohibited by law and modest dress is expected. Loose, long-sleeved shirts and full-length skirts or slacks are recommended attire for women visitors. Women who are not Muslim are not expected or required to cover their heads. Men may wear short-sleeved shirts but short pants are not acceptable in public.
Please see our information on Customs Information.
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 Sudanese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in alcohol or illegal drugs in Sudan 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 as well in Sudan.
Sudan’s Public Order Courts have continued to serve as the state mechanism for morality enforcement since the early 1980's. Today the court still issues punishments ranging from fines, to lashings, to lengthy prison sentences for offences such as drinking alcohol, wearing inappropriate clothing, or associating with unmarried women.
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.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Sudan 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 Sudan. 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 at Sharia Ali Abdel Latif, Khartoum, Sudan; tel: 249 1 83 774-701, http://sudan.usembassy.gov/.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information dated March 12, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Aviation Safety Oversight, and Criminal Penalties.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
5 November 2019, Khartoum, Sudan -- To prevent a potential spread of the current cholera outbreak to Khartoum State – including to the country’s capital Khartoum City – and at the request of the Federal Minister of Health Dr Akram Eltoum, WHO is working closely with health partners, nongovernmental organizations, and at-risk communities to ensure that suspected cases are quickly identified and responded to, and that people can effectively protect themselves from infection. “The risk of cholera spreading is very real. If not properly managed, this could have potentially serious consequences. More than eight million people live in Khartoum State, where the public health system is impacted by the economic crisis, recent flooding, and ongoing outbreaks of infectious diseases,” said Dr Naeema Al Gasseer, WHO Representative in Sudan.
As of 3 November, Sudan’s Ministry of Health reported 332 suspected cases of cholera, concentrated in Blue Nile and Sennar States. Two cases were confirmed in Khartoum State on 19 October. Together with the Ministry of Health, WHO has conducted initial risk mapping in Khartoum State to identify which areas are more likely to be at increased risk of an outbreak. This will allow for more informed planning to ensure high-risk areas, including Sharq Elnil and Ombada localities, are better prepared to respond as needed. Scaling up health capacities to detect and respond to cholera
To ensure that health facilities and cholera treatment centres in Khartoum State are equipped to diagnose and treat suspected patients, WHO has delivered cholera medicines and supplies sufficient for 400 severely dehydrated patients, and 500 Rapid Diagnostic Tests used for immediate detection and screening of cholera patients in health facilities. WHO is also supporting the establishing of two cholera treatment centres in Ombada and Bahri localities by providing additional cholera medicines, medical supplies, and Rapid Diagnostic Tests.
To strengthen disease surveillance in Khartoum State, WHO, with support MSF, is providing refresher training for 271 health staff and paramedics from all 7 localities on cholera detection and management. An additional 35 health staff are being trained to form Rapid Response Teams who will be the first to respond to suspected cases at locality level. Ensuring communities are aware of prevention and treatment actions. “A key aspect of preventing and controlling cholera is how well at-risk communities are able to protect themselves by drinking safe water, properly handling food, avoiding defecation in open areas, handwashing, and knowing what to do when they see the first signs of infection,” said Dr Al Gasseer.
WHO and the Khartoum State Ministry of Health are working with more than 1700 male and female health promoters and volunteers who will play a critical role in raising awareness among communities on cholera, hygiene practices, and environmental health, as well as linking communities with available health services and involving them more in health planning activities.
WHO’s work to protect people from cholera in Sudan is made possible through the Sudan Humanitarian Fund.
For more information
WHO Regional Office
[As stated in Lutwick LI, Preis J, Choi P: Cholera. In: Chronic illness and disability: the pediatric gastrointestinal tract. Greydanus DE, Atay O, Merrick J (eds). NY: Nova Bioscience, 2018; pp 113-136, oral rehydration therapy can be life-saving in outbreaks of cholera and other forms of diarrhea:
Juba, Oct 30, 2019 (AFP) - Three aid volunteers working at Ebola screening points along the DR Congo border were killed in clashes in South Sudan, the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) said Wednesday. "The IOM volunteers, one female and two males, were caught in a crossfire during clashes that broke out" on Sunday, in Morobo County in the Central Equatoria region, the UN agency said in a statement. Two other male volunteers were injured, while a female volunteer and the son of the woman who was killed were abducted. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleagues and we extend our heartfelt condolences to their families and friends," said IOM chief of mission in South Sudan, Jean-Philippe Chauzy.
According to the statement, the IOM has suspended screening for Ebola at five sites along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. An Ebola outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people in DR Congo since August 2018, placing the region on high alert, with cases already having spread to Uganda. "The safety of our personnel is paramount and will not be further jeopardised until we secure guarantees for the security of all our personnel operating in Morobo County," said Chauzy. The UN's humanitarian agency OCHA also condemned the killings in a statement, noting it was the first reported killing of aid workers in South Sudan since 2018.
At least 115 aid workers, mainly South Sudanese, have been killed since the country plunged into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him. The conflict has left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced millions. A peace deal was signed in September last year and a ceasefire has largely held, but fighting in the Central Equatoria region has continued between government forces and a holdout rebel group. A long-delayed unity government is due to be formed by November 12, however Machar is seeking further postponement over crucial outstanding issues.
KHARTOUM, 11 October 2019 - "Sudan has launched an oral cholera vaccination campaign in response to the ongoing outbreak of cholera. More than 1.6 million people aged one year and above in the Blue Nile and Sinnar states will be vaccinated over the coming five days. “The announcement of the Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan on the cholera outbreak last month allowed national and state authorities, and health partners, to act quickly and respond to the outbreak.
“Since the announcement on 8 September, 262 cases of suspected cholera and eight related deaths have been reported as of 9 October in the Blue Nile and Sinnar states. No cholera-related deaths have been reported since mid-September. “The vaccines were procured and successfully shipped using funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. In addition, Gavi is providing nearly US$ 2 million to cover operational costs for the campaign.
“We joined efforts to respond as quickly as possible to contain the current outbreak of cholera and prevent it from spreading further in Sudan. The vaccination campaign kicking off today in combination with other measures including scaling up water, sanitation and hygiene activities, enhancing surveillance, prepositioning supplies and case management, will help protect people who are at highest risk.
“The first round of the campaign will conclude on 16 October and will be followed by a second round in four to six weeks to provide an additional dose to ensure people are protected for at least the next three years. “As part of the campaign, over 3,560 vaccinators, more than 2,240 social mobilizers, and almost 70 independent monitors have been trained and deployed to the two affected states.”
October 13, 2006
Guatemala has a developing economy, characterized by wide income disparities.
Hotels and other tourist facilities in the principal tourist sites most freq
A peace accord, signed in 1996, ended a 36-year armed conflict.
Violent crime, however, is a serious concern due to endemic poverty, an abundance of weapons, a legacy of societal violence, and dysfunctional law enforcement and judicial systems.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Guatemala for additional information.
A valid U.S. passport is required for all U.S. citizens, regardless of age, to enter Guatemala and to depart Guatemala for return to the U.S.
Even if dual nationals are permitted to enter Guatemala on a second nationality passport, U.S. citizens returning to the United States from Guatemala are not allowed to board their flights without a valid U.S. passport.
Guatemalan authorities do not accept Certificates of Naturalization, birth certificates, driver's licenses, and photocopies as alternative travel documents.
While in Guatemala, U.S. citizens should carry their passports, or a photocopy of their passports, with them at all times.
An exit tax must be paid when departing Guatemala by air.
The exit tax (currently $30) is generally included in an airline ticket price, but may be charged separately.
There is an additional airport security fee (20 Quetzales, approximately $2.50) that all travelers must pay at the airport.
Minors under 18 traveling with a valid U.S. passport need no special permission from their parents to enter or leave Guatemala.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less (that period can be extended for an additional 180 days upon application to Guatemalan immigration).
A U.S. citizen whose passport is lost or stolen in Guatemala must obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the Dirección de Migración (Guatemalan immigration agency), Sub-director de Control Migratorio (Sub-director for Migratory Control), to obtain permission to depart Guatemala.
The agency is located in Guatemala City at 6 Avenida 3-11, Zone 4, Guatemala City.
Office hours are weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; telephone 2411-2411.
No fee is charged by Guatemalan immigration for this service.
In June 2006, Guatemala entered a "Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement" with El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Under the terms of the agreement, citizens of the four countries may travel freely across land borders from one of the countries to any of the others without completing entry and exit formalities at Immigration checkpoints.
U.S. citizens and other eligible foreign nationals, who legally enter any of the four countries, may similarly travel among the four without obtaining additional visas or tourist entry permits for the other three countries.
Immigration officials at the first port of entry determine the length of stay, up to a maximum period of 90 days.
Foreign tourists who wish to remain in the four country region beyond the period initially granted for their visit are required to request a one-time extension of stay from local Immigration authorities in the country where the traveler is physically present, or travel outside the CA-4 countries and reapply for admission to the region.
Foreigners "expelled" from any of the four countries are excluded from the entire "CA-4" region.
In isolated cases, the lack of clarity in the implementing details of the CA-4 Border Control Agreement has caused temporary inconvenience to some travelers and has resulted in others being fined more than one hundred dollars or detained in custody for 72 hours or longer.
See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Guatemala and other countries.
For further information regarding entry, exit and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Guatemalan Embassy at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 745-4952, extension 102; fax (202) 745-1908; e-mail at email@example.com; Internet web site - http://www.guatemala-embassy.org or contact the nearest Guatemalan consulate (Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco).
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.
Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Violent criminal activity has been a problem in all parts of Guatemala for years, including murder, rape, and armed assaults against foreigners.
The police force is inexperienced and under-funded, and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient.
Well-armed criminals know that there is little chance they will be caught and punished.
Traditionally, Guatemala experiences increases in crime before and during the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons.
Large demonstrations occur throughout Guatemala, often with little or no notice, and they can cause serious traffic disruptions.
Although most demonstrations are peaceful, they can turn violent, and travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place.
The use of roadblocks and/or blocking of public facilities, including the international airport, has increased and demonstrators may prevent tourists caught behind the blockades from leaving.
Due to uncontrolled drug and alien smuggling, the Guatemalan border with Mexico is a relatively high-risk area, in particular in the northern most Peten Department.
The most dangerous area in that region is on the northwestern border of the Peten, in the area including the Sierra de Lacandon and Laguna del Tigre National Parks.
Extra precautions are required when travel by U.S. Government personnel to the region is required.
In October 2005 Hurricane Stan caused widespread flooding and landslides on Guatemala's Pacific coast and in many parts of the Highlands, affecting a number of tourist destinations frequented by foreign travelers.
All major highways and tourist destinations reopened by the end of the month, and most secondary routes are also fully open.
Temporary repairs are still in place; some have already been washed out and others will likely fail during the current rainy season (May through October).
The following recommendations will help residents and visitors alike to increase their safety:
Avoid gatherings of agitated people.
Guatemalan citizen frustration with crime and a lack of appropriate judicial remedies has led to violent incidents of vigilantism, including lynching, especially in more isolated, rural areas.
Attempting to intervene may put you at risk of attacks from mobs.
Avoid close contact with children, including taking photographs, especially in rural areas.
Such contact can be viewed with deep alarm and may provoke panic and violence.
Rumors of foreigners stealing children surface periodically and can provoke a violent response towards strangers.
Foreign tourists have been attacked by mobs and some years ago one was killed while photographing children.
Keep informed of possible demonstrations by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides.
Avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring.
Strong currents, riptides, and undertow along Guatemala's Pacific Coast beaches pose a serious threat to even the strongest swimmers.
Signs warning of treacherous surf are rare and confined mostly to private beaches owned by hotels.
Lifeguards are rarely present on beaches.
Tourists planning to climb Pacaya and Agua volcanoes during Guatemala's rainy season (May through October) should plan their climb for the morning hours, when it is less likely that thunderstorms will occur.
Climbers should monitor the weather situation and return to the base of the volcano as quickly as safely possible if thunderstorms gather.
In 2003, a Canadian tourist was killed by lightning while climbing Pacaya.
INGUAT, the Guatemalan Tourist Institute, has organized an active community-based tourism program in San Vicente Pacaya to minimize the risk of armed robbery on Pacaya.
Climbing in groups is still highly advisable for any volcano climb to reduce the risk of assault.
Security escorts for tourist groups and security information are available from the Tourist Assistance Office of INGUAT (the Guatemalan Tourist Institute) at 7a Avenida 1-17, Zona 4 Centro Cívico, Ciudad de Guatemala.
INGUAT's 24 hour/seven days per week direct telephone numbers for tourist assistance and emergencies are (502) 2421-2810 and (502) 5578-9836 and the fax is (502) 2421-2891.
INGUAT may be reached by its toll free number within the United States at 1-888- 464-8281.
You may also simply dial 1500 in Guatemala to reach INGUAT Tourist Assistance.
The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travelers may also wish to visit INGUAT's website, http://visitguatemala.com.
Tourist groups are advised to request security escorts from INGUAT, Attention: Coordinator of the National Tourist Assistance Program.
There have been no incidents of armed robbery of groups escorted through the Tourist Protection Program.
The request should be submitted by mail, fax or e-mail and should arrive at INGUAT at least three business days in advance of the proposed travel, giving the itinerary, names of travelers, and model and color of vehicle in which they will be traveling.
Travelers should be aware that INGUAT might not be able to accommodate all requests.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, 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.
The number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners has remained high in recent years.
Incidents include, but are not limited to, assault, theft, armed robbery, carjacking, rape, kidnapping, and murder.
Criminals often operate in groups of four or more and are confrontational and violent.
Gangs are a growing concern in Guatemala City and rural Guatemala.
Gang members are often well armed with sophisticated weaponry and they sometimes use massive amounts of force.
Emboldened armed robbers have attacked vehicles on main roads in broad daylight.
Travel on rural roads always increases the risk of a criminal roadblock or ambush.
Widespread narcotics and alien smuggling activities can make remote areas especially dangerous.
Though there is no evidence that Americans are particularly targeted, criminals look for every opportunity to attack, so all travelers should remain constantly vigilant.
Most tourists and visitors travel throughout Guatemala without mishap.
However, violent criminal activity on the highways continues, and tourists, among others, have been targeted.
Many of the robbery attempts have occurred in daylight hours on main highways.
Carjacking incidents and highway robberies are often violent.
Four Americans were killed in highway robbery attempts in 2002 and three killed and one wounded in 2003.
In 2004 one American tourist was murdered, and women and children were raped in highway assaults.
Several highway assaults of American citizens also took place in 2005, but without serious injury to the victims.
In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating that some elements of the police might be involved.
Armed robberies have occurred within minutes of the tourist's vehicle being stopped by the police.
U.S. Embassy personnel continue to observe heightened security precautions in Guatemala City and on the roads outside the capital city.
U.S. tourists are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when traveling on the roads in Guatemala.
Rather than traveling alone, use a reputable tour organization.
Stay in groups; travel in a caravan consisting of two or more vehicles; and, stay on the main roads.
Ensure that someone not traveling with you is aware of your itinerary.
Resist the temptation to stay in hotels that do not have adequate security.
Travel after dark anywhere in Guatemala is extremely dangerous.
It is preferable to stay in the main tourist destinations.
Do not explore back roads or isolated paths near tourist sites.
Pay close attention to your surroundings, especially when walking or when driving in Guatemala City.
Refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.
Finally, if confronted by criminals, be aware that resistance may provoke a more violent response.
In recent months there has been an increasing number of carjacking incidents and armed robberies near the airport, most frequently between 6:00 and 10:00 am (see list of Recent Crime Incidents Involving Foreigners on the Embassy website for more specifics).
In the most common scenario tourists or business travelers who land at the airport around 7:00 am are held up by armed men as their vehicle departs the airport.
Private vehicles, taxis and shuttle buses have been attacked.
Typically, the assailants steal money, passports, and luggage, and in some but not all cases, the assailants steal the vehicle as well.
Victims who did not resist the attackers were not physically injured.
The Embassy advises its own employees to seek alternative routes for exiting the airport.
Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are active in all major cities and tourist sites, especially the central market and other parts of Zone 1 in Guatemala City and the city of Antigua.
In a common scenario, an accomplice distracts the victim, while an assailant slashes or simply steals a bag or backpack while the victim's attention is diverted.
As in other countries, criminals also use a number of scams to steal money and possessions from tourists in Guatemala.
In one popular scam, robbers place a nail in a parked vehicle's tire.
The vehicle is then followed by the robbers who pose as "good Samaritans" when the tire becomes flat and the victims pull to the side of the road.
While "help" is being rendered, the contents of the car are stolen, often without the knowledge of the victims.
However, in some cases, the robbers have threatened the tourists with weapons.
Parking areas in and around the Guatemala City International Airport are particularly prone to this crime.
In another scam, victims are approached in a hotel, restaurant or other public place by an individual claiming there is some sort of problem with his or the would-be victim's automobile in the parking lot.
On the way to investigate the "problem," usually in a remote or concealed area near the parking lot, the robber pulls a gun on the victim demanding cash, credit cards and other valuables.
A third popular scam involves various attempts to acquire a victim's ATM card and PIN number.
Some sophisticated criminals have even placed boxes outside ATM kiosks that record PIN numbers when unsuspecting victims believe they must enter their PIN number to gain entry to the ATM foyer.
After recording PIN numbers, robbers then steal the owner's ATM card to complete their crime.
There are dozens of techniques scammers can use to rob victims of money and possessions.
While most people mean no harm, always be cautious when strangers approach you for any reason or make unusual requests.
Parents adopting children in Guatemala have also been victimized in public places and at their hotels by police (or individuals dressed as police) who have threatened to arrest foster mothers and turn adoptive children over to orphanages, but released them in exchange for significant payments, often approaching $1000.
Such threats have no basis in Guatemalan law, and should be immediately reported to the Embassy.
For security reasons, the Embassy does not allow U.S. government employees to stay in hotels in Zone 1 in Guatemala City and urges private travelers to avoid staying in this area.
Avoid low-priced intra- and inter-city buses (recycled U.S. school buses); they are often attacked by armed robbers and are poorly maintained and dangerously driven.
The use of modern inter-city buses somewhat improves security and safety.
There have been, however, several attacks on travelers on first-class buses on highway CA-2 near the border areas with both Mexico and El Salvador and on highways CA-1 and CA-9 near the El Salvador border and in the highlands between Quetzaltenango and Solola.
Be cautious with personal items such as backpacks and fanny packs while riding buses, because tourists' possessions are a favorite target of thieves.
Do not hail taxis on the street in Guatemala City.
Use radio-dispatched taxis or taxis from major hotels instead.
The main road to Lake Atitlan via the Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and Solola is safer than the alternatives, though attacks in recent years have made traveling in a caravan highly recommended, even on the Inter-American Highway.
Robbery and assault have been frequently reported on secondary roads near the lake with the highest number of incidents occurring on the RN-11 (Las Trampas road) parallel to the east side of the lake.
Robbers have used mountain roads advantageously to stop buses, vans and cars in a variety of ways.
Armed attacks have occurred on roads from Guatemala City to the Peten.
Visitors to the Mayan ruins at Tikal are urged to fly to nearby Flores and then travel by bus or tour van to the site.
Violent attacks have occurred in the Mayan ruins in the Peten, including in the Cerro Cahui Conservation Park, Yaxha, the road to and inside Tikal Park, and in the Tikal ruins.
Tourist police (POLITUR) patrols inside the park have significantly reduced the violent crime incidents inside the park, but travelers should nevertheless remain in groups and on the principal trails leading to the Central Plaza and the Temple IV complex, and avoid remote areas of the park.
POLITUR (a joint police/Guatemalan Tourism Institute initiative) is present in all major tourist destinations.
They should be contacted in case of any criminal incident in such areas, even if minor.
Foreign residents of Guatemala have special concerns.
Twenty American citizen residents and five American citizen tourists have been murdered since December 1999, and suspects have been convicted in only two cases.
There have been "express" kidnappings in recent years, primarily in Guatemala City, in which a relatively small ransom that can be quickly gathered is demanded.
U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in recent years.
At least one incident of a random kidnapping, in which the victim was grabbed off the street in an affluent neighborhood of the city, occurred in December 2003 and resulted in a physical and sexual assault.
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: A full range of medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside the city is limited.
Guatemala's public hospitals frequently experience serious shortages of basic medicines and equipment.
Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries, and many of the medical specialists working in them are U.S. trained and certified.
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 http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
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 Guatemala is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Guatemala requires one's full attention, and safe drivers must take extraordinary efforts to drive defensively to avoid dangerous situations.
Traffic rules are only casually observed.
Many drivers do not use their turn signals to alert other drivers.
Instead, a common custom is for a driver or passenger to stick a hand out the window and wave it to indicate that they will be taking an unspecified action.
Speed limits, lane markings and stop signs are frequently ignored.
Passing blindly on winding and/or steep mountain roads, poorly designed surfaces, and unmarked hazards, including frequent landslides and precarious temporary highway repairs, present additional risks to motorists.
Common public transportation is by local recycled school busses, which serve every town in the country.
Criminal activity and frequent fatal accidents, however, make the low-priced inter-city buses particularly dangerous.
Modern inter-city buses offer some security from highway violence, but armed attacks are increasing, showing that all buses are vulnerable.
(See additional information in the CRIME section.)
Although city streets are lit, secondary and rural roads have little to no illumination.
Driving outside of urban areas at night is dangerous and not recommended.
The Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Caribbean coast (CA-9) are especially dangerous due to heavy traffic, including large trucks and trailers.
There are no roadside assistance clubs, however a roadside assistance force (PROVIAL) patrols most of the major highways in the country.
PROVIAL can be contacted by calling 2422-7878.
Their vehicles are equipped with basic tools and first aid supplies, and their services are free.
Police patrol the major roadways and may assist travelers, but the patrols are sporadic and may be suspended due to budget restraints.
For roadside assistance, travelers may call the police by dialing 120 or the fire department by dialing 122 or 123.
Cellular telephone service covers most areas frequented by tourists.
Valid U.S. driver's licenses are accepted for the first 30 days of a visit, and international driving permits are accepted in Guatemala for extended stays.
Guatemala's road safety authorities are the Department of Transit and the Joint Operations Center of the National Police.
Drivers use the right-hand side of the road in Guatemala, and speed limits are posted (in kilometers) depending on the condition of the road.
Speed limits are different in rural and urban areas, but are rarely enforced.
Drivers often drive at the absolute maximum speed possible for the particular vehicle at the time.
These drivers share the road with slow vehicles, some barely able to manage 20 miles per hour, creating a hazardous mix of velocities.
Turning right on red is not permitted unless otherwise posted, and drivers must yield when entering a traffic circle.
Seat belts must be worn in Guatemala, but there are no laws regarding the use of child safety seats.
It is against the law for drivers to operate cellular phones while driving.
People found driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are arrested and may serve jail time.
In an accident resulting in injury or death, every driver involved is taken into custody and the vehicle(s) impounded until a judge determines responsibility in a re-enactment of the accident.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of Guatemala's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.inguat.gob.gt or via e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Guatemala's Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Guatemala's air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
A major renovation of the international terminal at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City is currently under way.
Until completion in late 2006 or early 2007, there is a temporary reconfiguration of arrival and departure vehicle traffic and major construction works inside the terminal.
Guatemalan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guatemala of items such as antiquities and other cultural property.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington or one of Guatemala's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
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.
Non-Guatemalan citizens who wish to marry in Guatemala are required to provide proof of identity and civil status (indicating whether they are single or divorced).
Prior notice of the marriage must be given in the Diario de Centro America (Guatemala's Official Record) and any large circulation daily newspaper for fifteen days.
The marriage must take place within six months of the publication of the notice.
Guatemala is a geologically active country.
Visitors should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes at any time and the need for contingency plans.
There are also four active volcanoes.
Volcanic activity, such as that of Fuego Volcano near Antigua in January 2003, and again in January 2006, has on occasion forced evacuations of nearby villages; the January-February 2000 activity of Pacaya Volcano near Guatemala City also briefly closed Guatemala City's international airport.
Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Guatemala are also vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from June through November.
Mudslides and flooding during the May to November rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads.
In October 2005 Hurricane Stan caused widespread flooding and landslides on Guatemala's Pacific coast and in many parts of the Highlands.
Over 1000 Guatemalans died, and many highways across the affected regions were closed for days.
All highways have now reopened.
Temporary repairs are still in place; some have already been washed out and others will likely fail during the current rainy season.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
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 Guatemalan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guatemala 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.
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 Guatemala are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Guatemala.
Americans withoutInternet 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 latest security information is available from the Embassy, including its website, http://guatemala.usembassy.gov
The Consular Section is open for citizen services, including registration, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursdays and 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Fridays, excluding U.S. and Guatemalan holidays.
The second and last Friday of each month are reserved for administrative matters; therefore, routine citizen services are not provided.
Emergency services are available at all times.
The U.S. Embassy is located in Guatemala City at Avenida La Reforma 7-01, Zone 10; telephone (502) 2-326-4000 during Embassy business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or (502) 2-331-2354 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (502) 2-332-4353; Internet web site - http://guatemala.usembassy.gov.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 13, 2006 to update the Entry and Exit requirements section.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Guatemala City, March 9, 2019 (AFP) - The parents of a British tourist who has been missing in Guatemala for the past five days launched an emotional appeal for her return Saturday as authorities continued their investigation. Catherine Shaw, 23, was last seen Monday at a hotel in San Juan La Laguna near the country's fabled Lake Atitlan, about 75 kilometres (45 miles) west of the capital Guatemala City. The area is famous for its lakes beneath towering volcanoes. Lake Atitlan is one of Guatemala's main tourist attractions.
Her parents put up a video appeal on the Twitter account of the Lucie Blackman Trust, a British charity that provides support to the families who have relatives missing, murdered or in a crisis abroad. "Hello Catherine, we've been out of touch for five days and we, your family and your friends, need to know you're happy and that you're well. So please get in touch, get in touch with us, and we really you home," said her mother, who did not provide her name on the video. "We need you, please come home, sweetheart," added her father.
Shaw was described as being five feet seven inches tall (170 centimetres) and of slim build, with blonde hair, blue eyes and piercings in her nose, lip and ears. She had been traveling in Guatemala for two weeks having previously been in Mexico and California, leaving home in England in September 2018, according to the charity. Eduardo Smith, the British embassy spokesman, told Prensa Libre that embassy staff were working with Guatemalan police on the case.
Guatemala City, Nov 20, 2018 (AFP) - Guatemalan authorities declared a red alert and evacuated around 4,000 people Monday after the Fuego volcano erupted for the fifth time this year, sending bursts of ash and lava down the mountain before its activity decreased and then stopped. Memories are still painfully fresh of the volcano's eruption in June, which swept away villages and left nearly 200 people dead and 235 missing. The Institute of Volcanology's director Pablo Oliva said the volcano's activity level had dropped significantly by late Monday.
A spokesman for Guatemala's disaster management agency CONRED had earlier said it decided to evacuate the municipality of Escuintla and two other districts. Some 4,000 people were taken to temporary shelters as a precaution. The spokesman, David de Leon, said the eruption became increasingly violent after it began Sunday morning, leading to fears for the safety of the thousands of people who live on the slopes of the 3,763 meter-high (12,246 feet) mountain.
A column of ash rose about 1,000 meters above the crater and areas west of the volcano -- 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Guatemala City -- were under a barrage of gas ash and fiery rocks, CONRED said. As the volcano's activity fell back to normal parameters, evacuees were asked for the sake of cautiousness to return home on Tuesday by bus.
A previous eruption on October 12-13 was characterized by increasingly loud booms and lava flow. On that occasion, 62 people were evacuated from their homes as a precaution and a highway around the mountain was closed. Many of those evacuated on Monday said they had feared a repeat of the deadly June eruption. "We were scared and that's why we evacuated," said Miriam Garcia, from the village of El Rodeo which was largely spared the deadly eruption.
Oscar Juarez from El Rodeo said: "You have to get out as soon as possible because when that (volcanic material) comes close, you no longer have time to leave, even if you run, because it comes very fast." Activity inside Guatemala's two other volcanoes, Pacaya and Santiaguito, has increased in recent months but they have not entered the eruptive phase.
Guatemala City, Nov 19, 2018 (AFP) - Guatemalan authorities on Monday declared a red alert after the Fuego volcano erupted again, forcing about 200 residents to flee. A fiery glow rose from the crater of Fuego which is erupting for the fifth time this year, one month after the last one and following a June 3 rain of rocks, ash and toxic gases that left almost 200 people dead and 235 missing. A spokesman for Guatemala's disaster management agency CONRED, David de Leon, said 214 residents who live on the slopes of Fuego, mostly in the southern municipality of Escuintla, were moved to safe zones and more will follow.
He said about 2,000 people in total have been asked to leave the area of the 3,763-meter (12,246-foot) volcano, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Guatemala City. Since the eruption began Sunday morning, lava rises 500 meters above Fuego's crater, while the ash column exceeds one kilometre above the volcanic cone and is causing a rain of particles, the Institute of Volcanology said. The previous eruption lasted from October 12-13 with loud booms and lava flow. It caused the evacuation of 62 people and closed a highway.
Guatemala City, Oct 12, 2018 (AFP) - Guatemala's deadly Fuego volcano erupted anew early Friday, unleashing a 600-meter flow of lava and sending clouds of ash spiralling into the sky. Increased volcanic activity over the last 24 hours could release tons of fiery volcanic material and force evacuations of mountain villages, warned Guatemala's disaster management agency CONRED.
A powerful June 3 eruption of the Fuego volcano -- located 35 kilometres (22 miles) southwest of the capital -- rained rocks, ash and toxic gases on several villages and left 190 people dead and 235 missing. CONRED had yet to issue evacuation orders for mountain communities early Friday, but spokesman David de Leon said: "Considering how the volcano is behaving some communities could make decisions to evacuate to safe areas."
Authorities shut down a nearby highway as a precaution and vulcanologists warned the civil aviation agency of an ash cloud to the west and southwest of the volcano. Scientists monitoring the 3,763-meter (12,346-foot) volcano reported increased activity from late Thursday. However, activity intensified on Friday with loud booms and lava flows, the Institute of Vulcanology said. Some 2,900 displaced victims of the earlier disaster remain in temporary shelters as government promises to build a 1,000 permanent homes on a state farm have been held up by irregularities.
Viet Nam is becoming a more popular tourist destination with Irish travellers each year. In many cases these will be those who have no defined itinerary and so their travel plans may change at short
Further local information on health issues in Viet Nam is available at http://www.doctorkot.com/index.htm
Safety & Security:
The majority of those visiting Viet Nam will have no particular difficulty though street crime can be a problem in the main cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Ming. Generally this is in the form of pick-pocketing, or snatch and grab incidents. Take care of your personal belongings at all times and tourists should not flaunt their relative wealth. Be careful while walking along the footpaths as occasionally a motorcyclist may grab at your bag or camera. Use the hotel safe to store belongings. Attacks against ships in the South China Sea are reported and it is sensible to be vigilant at all times.
Local Laws & Customs:
Drug smuggling offences carry the death penalty. Don’t take photographs of any military or police installation and avoid any large gathering as the mood can suddenly change. Travel to some of the border areas of the country can be very restricted and so should be avoided. Religious freedom in Viet Nam is quite restricted and those attending gatherings may be detained and fined. Police may occasionally raid hotel rooms without notice. Seizure of documents, pornographic material, compact disks and other goods have lead to high fines and detention.
Traffic accidents are becoming more common throughout the country and tourists are occasionally involved with serious consequences. Hiring your own means of transport (car, motorbike etc) is generally unwise. International driving licences are not valid and those wishing to drive will need to obtain a Vietnamese licence. The streets are crowded and many road users will stop suddenly to make purchases from roadside vendors. Traffic laws are often unobserved and horns and gesticulations are used to indicate right of way! Outside the cities, buses and trucks often travel at high speed and accidents are a regular occurrence.
Food & Water:
The level of food and water hygiene varies greatly throughout the country. Many tourists become ill following consumption of food from both street vendors and also from good quality hotels. Care should be taken at all times. Undercooked or reheated food should be avoided and tap water must be checked for the smell of chlorine. Make sure that a sealed bottle of water is brought to your table during meals. Carbonated water is safer. Bivalve shellfish meals are high risk and previously peeled fruit should not be eaten. Typhoid is reported as a particular problem in the Mekong Delta.
Viet Nam is endemic for malaria and the risk of transmission occurs in many regions of the country. However, the risk is highest during the monsoon season (May to November) and in the southernmost provinces of Ca Mau and Bac Lieu. The urban areas of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, the Red River Delta and the coastal plain north of Nha Trang are regarded as low risk regions throughout the year.
Mosquito Borne Diseases:
The other two main mosquito borne diseases are Dengue Fever and Japanese B Encephalitis. Both of these viral conditions can cause serious disease and it is essential that all travellers continually take special care to avoid mosquitoes. The mosquitoes which transmit Dengue tend to bite in the main urban areas while the ones that transmit Japanese B (and malaria) are more common out of the large cities.
The direct sunlight in Viet Nam can be very intense and both burn and dehydration can easily occur. After a long-haul flight this is a particular concern as many travellers will sleep beside the hotel pool to recover from their journey. After just a short while they may have become significantly burnt. Those trekking should increase their fluids and also take more salt in their diet if possible.
Viet Nam has a reputation of a location where it is too easy to obtain sexual exposure for those unaware of the risks. This is particularly true following the consumption of alcohol. The risk of AIDS and other serious STD’s is very high and so contact should be avoided at all costs. A number of otherwise healthy male travellers have suddenly died during the past few years following what is thought to have been laced alcoholic drinks.
Rabies occurs throughout Viet Nam and any contact with warm-blooded animals should be avoided at all times. Dogs, Cats and Monkeys are most commonly involved in transmitting the disease to humans. Treat any exposure very seriously and wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention immediately.
Vaccinations for Viet Nam:
There are no essential vaccines for entry to Viet Nam from Western Europe. However, for personal health, it is advised that all travellers consider cover against;
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food and water borne disease)
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those trekking within the country there are a number of other vaccines which should be considered including Hepatitis B, Rabies, Japanese B and Meningitis.
The biggest risks within Viet Nam tend to be associated with food and water borne diseases, mosquito bites and the traffic. Commonsense and care is needed at all times to ensure a good safe holiday.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Hanoi, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Selfie-snapping tourists railed against the closure of Hanoi's 'train street' on Thursday after police blocked off the Instragram-famous tracks for safety reasons. The narrow railway corridor in central Hanoi has become a hotspot among visitors seeking the perfect holiday snap on the tracks -- often dodging trains that rumble through daily. But Hanoi authorities said this week they would block people from the tracks to avoid accidents, and police on Thursday erected barricades to keep out disappointed visitors. "I'm very frustrated because today I can't go in and take a picture," Malaysian tourist Mustaza bin Mustapha told AFP, vowing to come back later.
Dozens of other tourists were turned away, though some managed to get onto still-open sections of the railway, moving out of the way as an afternoon train chugged past. Built by former colonial rulers, the railway once shipped goods and people across France's former Indochina colony and remains in use today by communist Vietnam's state-run railway company. The stretch of the tracks was once known as a rough part of town, occupied by drug users and squatters until their recent discovery by camera-wielding holidaymakers who have splashed images of the area across social media.
Cafe owners complained that business would be hurt thanks to the new regulations, and that tourists always moved out of the way for oncoming trains. "There has never been any regretful accidents here," said Le Tuan Anh, who runs a cafe from his home along the tracks. "Compared to traffic density elsewhere in the city, this is much safer," he said, referring to Hanoi's chaotic, motorbike-clogged streets. New signs were installed in the area Thursday, warning passersby not to take photos or videos in the "dangerous area", much to the chagrin of British tourist Harriet Hayes. "People come from all over the world to Hanoi just to see the train go past," she told AFP. "It's such a shame that we come and have been told that we have to leave."
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, May 10, 2019 (AFP) - Most visitors to Vietnam's famed Ha Long Bay opt for cruise views of the UNESCO heritage site but from Friday tourists can hop on a helicopter to see the area's famous karst rock formations from the skies. Nervous flyers beware. A pair of five-seater helicopters soared up to 300 metres (1,000 feet) to offer passengers aerial views of the limestone towers, cruise ships and the odd houseboat dotting Ha Long's green waters for the maiden flights on Friday.
Helicopter manufacturer Bell said the trips, which start at $125 for 12 minutes, were aimed at tapping into a growing number of tourists to Vietnam -- many from the world's second biggest economy. "With the Chinese economy growing, you're seeing more tourists come here," said David Sale, Bell's managing director for Asia-Pacific.
The number of visitors to Vietnam grew nearly 20 percent last year, with one-third of the total coming from its powerful communist neighbour to the north. Domestic tourism is also booming among Vietnam's fast-growing middle class with expanding appetites -- and budgets -- for travel. Ha Long Bay is one of the country's top draws, with as many as 500 cruise ships in the bay every day and a newly-opened airport helping to funnel visitors into the area.
But the tourist boom has also prompted environmental concerns in the once-pristine bay in Quang Ninh province, also home to home to rapid industrialisation. "We're under pressure from the coal industry, the urbanisation process, the arrival of more tourists and the population increase," said Le Minh Tan, deputy director of Quang Ninh's tourism department. He added that a waste-water management system is set to be rolled out soon to deal with sewage spewed out by cruise ships daily. "We're launching many programs in the area to ensure the environment of Ha Long is green and clean."
Hanoi, April 9, 2019 (AFP) - Three divers who helped rescue a Thai football team last year have made a fresh discovery in Vietnam where they explored a tunnel that could expand the footprint of the world's largest cave. The team was invited to descend into a waterlogged pit in the Son Doong cave in central Vietnam that has never been explored and is believed to connect to nearby chambers. They were forced back at 77 meters (252 feet) because they did not have enough oxygen to push further, but they think the tunnels could be 120 meters deep. If the tunnel connects to another cave, it would make Son Doong "easily the largest cave in the world and it would never be overtaken," British cave expert Howard Limbert, who helped organise the dive, said Tuesday at a press conference announcing the find.
The three divers -- Rick Stanton, Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewell -- were part of the daring rescue to save 12 Thai footballers and their coach who were trapped in a cave for eighteen days last year. Stanton -- who found the boys on a ledge -- said the painstaking task of safely leading the group out of the tunnel alive helped to prepare for the mission in Vietnam. "Our planning and preparation is without parallel," he said. The team plans to return to Vietnam next year to try to link the tunnel to another cave near Son Doong, which is so big that it has its own ecosystem and weather patterns.
The cave in central Quang Binh province was first found by a local forager in 1991, but was not re-discovered for another 19 years because its entrance was hidden by thick surrounding jungle. Only 30 percent of Vietnam's Phong Nha national park -- where Son Doong and a network of adjacent caves are located -- has so far been explored. Son Doong is the world's largest cave by volume, big enough to house a New York city block -- including 40-storey skyscrapers -- according to Oxalis, which runs tours into the caves.
Proposed plans to build a cable car in the area have sparked anger among the Vietnamese public who fear it will harm the area's wildlife and pristine views. An official said Tuesday there were no plans to move ahead with the project despite offers from several companies. "That is only in theory, in truth, to build a cable car there is no such project yet," the vice chairman of Quang Binh province Tran Thien Dung said Tuesday. Vietnam's tourism industry is booming among domestic and foreign travellers alike, but the communist country has come under fire for failing to preserve landscapes as it rapidly expands the sector.
By Jenny VAUGHAN
Vu Thu, Vietnam, Jan 25, 2019 (AFP) - Tran Huu Hoa was scared, desperate and on the verge of suicide after his leprosy diagnosis in 1958, fearing he'd never work or marry in an age when lepers were completely shunned from Vietnamese society. He could not imagine he would find new life at the leprosy hospice where he has been living for 61 years, a walled off compound in northern Thai Binh province where he met his wife, worked as a union boss and took in needy children. "There were about 2,000 people here then, mostly young people. It was fun because we started a teen union," the 80-year-old told AFP, sitting on his bed with his wife Teo of 54 years.
Today there are only 190 patients at the hospital, all cured but living with disabilities caused by leprosy. Many walk with prosthetic legs. Others like Hoa have lost fingers. Some are so severely disabled they spend the day bent over in bed, covered with thick blankets to keep the cold at bay. Founded in 1900, Van Mon is the oldest leprosy hospital in northern Vietnam. At its peak it treated 4,000 patients a year -- a number that has dwindled as leprosy cases have dropped across Vietnam thanks to improved healthcare, hygiene and greater awareness of the disease. World Leprosy Day is January 27.
There were 248 people being treated for leprosy in 2017 in Vietnam, down by more than half from a decade earlier, according to data from the World Health Organization. But as numbers have decreased so have the live-in patients at the Van Mon centre. Meandering days are punctuated with a morning and midday meal. Some pass the time worshipping at the on-site chapel or pagoda, while most watch TV or listen to the radio during the day when they are not sleeping. "I have no one to count on, I'm so lonely, so I just follow God. When I die I will follow God then too," said Pham Van Bac, 83, who has been at the centre since 1960.
His daughter no longer visits and his grandchildren come only once a year, so he has little to look forward to most days, he says. But many like Bac chose to stay, fearing they will be a burden on their families, or lose the care and small stipend provided at the government-run hospital. Some, like Hoa, have found companions in the centre. "It's a source of encouragement and motivation and they can have a happier and better life," said Nguyen Thi Thai, deputy director of the hospital where both her parents were once treated for leprosy. And even though stigma against leprosy sufferers has largely faded outside the walls of the hospice, many prefer to remain at Van Mon. Hoa said: "This is my second home, I will live here until my death."
Afghanistal US Consular Information Sheet March 03, 2009
Afghanistan has made significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, but still faces daunting challenges, including de
A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport or any other ports of entry in Afghanistan. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports are not stamped to show that they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will depart the country on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan web site at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org for the most current visa information. The Consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone number 202-298-9125. 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:
The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan emphasizes that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. The Taliban and associated insurgent groups, al-Qaida network terrorist organizations, and narco-traffickers oppose the strengthening of a democratic government. These groups aim to weaken or bring down the Government of Afghanistan and to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence, including targeting civilians. Terrorist activities may include, but are not limited to bombings -- including improvised explosive devices and car bombs -- assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults and kidnappings. There were over 120 suicide attacks in 2008. There is an ongoing threat to attack and kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. In 2008,, more than 30 NGO workers were killed (six foreigners) and at least 78 NGO staff members (seven foreigners) were abducted. Over 25 other foreign civilians, including journalists, were kidnapped. Kabul continues to experience suicide bombings against Afghan government personnel and installations, Afghan and coalition military assets, and international civilians. Riots -- sometimes violent -- have occurred in response to various political or other issues. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. Official Americans' use of the Kabul-Jalalabad, Kabul-Kandahar highways and other roads throughout the country is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. Insurgents continue to use roadside and car bombs to conduct attacks and abductions along major highways. Millions of unexploded land mines and other ordinance present a constant danger. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. Americans should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns. The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property, or Americans coming to the country to engage in business, have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death. Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated, with few roads, mostly in poor condition, irregular cell phone signals, and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or the larger cities. Americans traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may not even have a way to communicate their difficulties to the outside world. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, 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.
A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries as well as kidnappings and assault. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for assistance. The Embassy 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 provide a list of attorneys if needed. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in Afghanistan is: 119 Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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 Afghanistan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Another sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing is often viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Proselytizing may lead to arrest and/or deportation. 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.
Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are limited. Some ATM machines exist at Standard Charter Bank and Afghan International Bank (AIB) in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using them. International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities, but can be unreliable. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited. In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page for our dual nationality flyer. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited. Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors -- men and women -- are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; American women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose. Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States. Please see our Customs Information sheet.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. Several western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), Acomet Family Hospital (www.afghancomet.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is limited and could take days to arrange. Even medevac companies that claim to service the world may not agree to come to Afghanistan. Those with medevac insurance should confirm with the insurance provider that it will be able to provide medevac assistance to this country. There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in Afghanistan, to include the areas of Nangahar, Laghman, and Wardak provinces, and in the city of Kabul, however, there have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans. Updates on the Avian Influenza situation in Afghanistan are published on the Embassy’s web site at http://kabul.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html. For additional information on Avian Influenza, please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet available at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Afghanistan. For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx| The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Afghanistan. However, if one has questions, please inquire directly with the Embassy of Afghanistan at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org before you travel. 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. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site. Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
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 Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. All drivers face the potential danger of encountering improvised-explosive devices and land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of unexploded ordinance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and kidnappings are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads. Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded, and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved. 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 Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa. U.S. Government personnel are not authorized to travel on Ariana Afghan Airlines or any other airline falling under the oversight of the Government of Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, owing to safety concerns; however, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel on international flights operated by airlines from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. R
EGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. 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 in Kabul on Great Massoud (Airport) Road, local phone number 0700-108-001 or 0700-108-002, and for emergencies after hours 0700-201-908. The web site is http://kabul.usembassy.gov/ * * * * * This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 16, 2008 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - Scores of people including children were wounded Monday after a series of explosions shook the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, as the country's independence day was marred by bloodshed.
As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar province, authorities said, and casualty numbers rose as the day wore on. "The explosions were caused by IEDs in different parts of the city and as groups of people were celebrating independence day," the Nangarhar governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said, referring to improvised explosive devices. Jalalabad is the scene of frequent bomb attacks, and the surrounding terrain is home to both Taliban fighters and the Islamic State group's local affiliate.
At least 52 people were wounded, Khogyani said. Zaher Adel, a spokesman for a local hospital, said 66 wounded people had been brought in. An AFP correspondent saw children among the victims. This year's August 19 celebrations mark 100 years of Afghan independence from British influence. The day was supposed to be one of national pride and unity, but was overshadowed by an IS suicide attack Saturday on a crowded Kabul wedding hall that killed at least 63 people.
In Kabul, locals took to the streets to wave the black-red-and-green Afghan flag, but several public events to commemorate the date were scrapped as Kabul mourns and due to fears of a fresh attack. "We postponed the celebrations to honour the victims, but we will definitely take revenge for our people," Afghan President Ahraf Ghani said. "We will avenge the blood of our people, every drop of it."
Mayhem from Afghanistan's war continues to wreak havoc on Afghans every day, even though the US and the Taliban are in final negotiations for a deal that would see US troops begin to quit Afghanistan and could potentially lead to a reduction in violence.
By By Emal Haidary and Mushtaq Mojaddidi
Kabul, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Joy and celebration turned into horror and carnage when a suicide bomber targeted a packed Afghan wedding hall, killing at least 63 people in the deadliest attack to rock Kabul in months, officials and witnesses said Sunday. The massive blast, which took place late Saturday in west Kabul, came as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan and hopefully build a roadmap to a ceasefire. The groom recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later.
The attack "changed my happiness to sorrow", the young man, who gave his name as Mirwais, told local TV station Tolo News. "My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting," he said. "I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again." Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said at least 63 people had been killed and 182 injured. "Among the wounded are women and children," Rahimi said. Earlier he stated a suicide bomber carried out the attack.
Afghan weddings are epic and vibrant affairs, with hundreds or often thousands of guests celebrating for hours inside industrial-scale wedding halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children. "The wedding guests were dancing and celebrating the party when the blast happened," recounted Munir Ahmad, 23, who was seriously injured and whose cousin was among the dead. "Following the explosion, there was total chaos. Everyone was screaming and crying for their loved ones," he told AFP from his bed in a local hospital, where he is being treated for shrapnel wounds.
Images from inside the hall showed blood-stained bodies on the ground along with pieces of flesh and torn clothes, hats, sandals and bottles of mineral water. The huge blast ripped parts of the ceiling off. The wedding was believed to be a Shia gathering. Shia Muslims are frequently targeted in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, particularly by the so-called Islamic State group, which is also active in Kabul but did not immediately issue any claim of responsibility.
Wedding guest Hameed Quresh told AFP the young couple were saying their vows when the bomb went off. "We fainted following the blast, and we don't know who brought us to the hospital," sobbed Quresh, who lost one brother and was himself wounded. Another guest told Tolo that some 1,200 people had been invited. With low security, weddings are seen as easy targets. The attack sent a wave of grief through a city grimly accustomed to atrocities. President Ashraf Ghani called it "barbaric", while Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah described it as a "crime against humanity".
- Withdrawal deal expected -
The attack underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face. While the police and army claim they prevent most bombings from ever happening, the fact remains that insurgents pull off horrific attacks with chilling regularity. On July 28, at least 20 people were killed when attackers targeted Ghani's running mate Amrullah Saleh as he campaigned in presidential elections. The incident showed how even amid tight security and known threats, insurgents can conduct brazen attacks. The issue also goes to the heart of a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban that would see Washington begin to withdraw its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan.
The deal relies on the Taliban providing guarantees they will stop jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS from using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Saturday's attack suggests any such promise would be tough to keep. The "Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists," Ghani said. Few believe such a deal will bring quick peace.
Many Afghans fear the Taliban could return, eroding hard-won rights for women in particular and leading to a spiralling civil war. Meanwhile, in the northern province of Balkh, 11 members of the same family were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb, officials said. The provincial governor blamed the Taliban for planting the device.
Kabul, July 1, 2019 (AFP) - At least one person was killed and dozens wounded in a Taliban-claimed attack which saw a powerful car bomb rock Kabul early Monday, followed by gunmen who battled special forces in an area housing military and government buildings. Many children were among the wounded, according to a hospital statement, after the rush-hour explosion sent a plume of smoke into the air above the Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of the Afghan capital and shook buildings up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) away.
AFP reporters could hear gunshots and multiple smaller explosions as fighting between the gunmen and special forces continued more than four hours after the attack began. "At first, a car bomb took place and then several attackers took over a building. The area is cordoned off by the police special forces and (they) are bringing down the attackers," interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said. He later said that at least one attacker had been killed. Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said that at least one person had been killed and 65 wounded -- including nine children -- and warned that casualties could rise. "Among the wounded, many children who were going to school," said the Twitter account of the Emergency Hospital in Kabul, where many victims were taken. Some social media images purportedly taken at the hospital showed wounded, stunned children in school uniforms, still clutching books as they arrived for treatment.
The Taliban claimed the attack, which came just two days after the insurgents began a seventh round of talks with the US in Qatar as Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan's September presidential election. Militant spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid released a statement saying the insurgents had targeted a defence ministry building in the area, which was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, with helicopter gunships seen overhead as firing continued. Authorities have not confirmed the target. "We were sitting inside the office when the world turned upside down on us," Zaher Usman, an employee at a branch of the culture ministry, which he said stands just 150 metres (yards) from the blast.
- Brief lockdown -
"When I opened my eyes, the office was filled with smoke and dust and everything was broken, my colleagues were screaming," Usman told AFP by telephone. Shams Amini, a spokesman for the Afghan Football Federation, told AFP that the blast occurred near their HQ gates, and said some colleagues had been injured. Nearby Shamshad TV station, which was attacked in 2017, aired images of broken glass and damage to its offices. "I was terrified," Shamshad anchor Hashmat Stanikzai told AFP.
The explosion came as the US was set to begin a third day of negotiations with the militants in Doha. There was no immediate confirmation if they would go ahead after the blast. With the attack still ongoing, the Taliban spokesman in Doha again insisted that the insurgents will not negotiate with Kabul. "Once the timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces is set in the presence of international observers, then we will begin the talks to the Afghan sides, but we will not talk to the Kabul administration as a government," Suhail Shaheen tweeted.
The insurgents have long refused to negotiate with the Western-backed government, whom they deem puppets. The talks have so far centred on four issues -- counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire. A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after more than 17 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among Afghans who fear Washington will rush for the exits and allow the militants to return to some semblance of power. In return, the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent extremism, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks. However, US officials have insisted that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", including intra-Afghan talks.
World Travel News Headlines
By Holly ROBERTSON, Andrew BEATTY, with Daniel De Cartert in Hillville
Sydney, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - Bushfires raging across eastern Australia singed Sydney's suburbs on Tuesday, with firefighters scrambling planes and helicopters to douse a built-up neighbourhood with water and red retardant. Experts have described the conditions as the worst on record, as spring temperatures climbed toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds topped 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour across a zone which has been plagued by persistent drought. Although the bushfire season is in its infancy, scientists predict it to be one of Australia's toughest ever, with climate change and unfavourable weather cycles helping created a tinderbox of strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.
Twin blazes in the north shore suburb of Turramurra -- around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the centre of Australia's largest city -- tore through a eucalypt forest park and sparked spot fires in homes, before eventually being brought under control. As night fell, authorities said they were bringing another "clearly suspicious" blaze in a national park in the city's southern suburbs under control. Throughout the day, more than 300 bushfires burned up and down Australia's east coast, fanned by gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland that has brought some of the most dangerous conditions the country has seen.
In Turramurra, gardens smouldered, thick smoke hung heavy in the air and cars, houses and roads were caked in raspberry-red retardant as if hit by a giant paintball. "It was the embers that floated up that actually went across and set off spot fires in the front yards" resident Nigel Lush told AFP, adding that one roof had been set alight. Another resident, Julia Gretton-Roberts, said the blaze spread shockingly quickly. "Next thing I know the fire was opposite our house and it was massive and the police came and grabbed our kids and took them away," she said. "My daughter is pretty freaked out." Firefighter Andrew Connon told AFP "a number of homes were threatened but it was contained by the aerial bombing".
- 'Catastrophic conditions' -
From early morning thousands of firefighters spread out across New South Wales in anticipation of what they called "off the scale" fire risk and "catastrophic" conditions. They were unable to prevent several bushfires from breaching containment lines and trapping residents who had not already evacuated. New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said so far only a dozen buildings had been damaged Tuesday and a handful non-life-threatening injuries were reported, but the crisis was far from over.
Firefighters will be "working on these fires for days and weeks given the enormity of the firegrounds," he said. Even before unfavourable weather hit, days of fires had killed three people and destroyed at least 150 homes. "The conditions are expected to get worse," Fitzsimmons said, warning residents in adjacent areas to stay alert. "Complacency kills," he added. Up to 600 schools were closed, as well as many national parks, a total fire ban was introduced for the affected area and Rally Australia -- due to be held in Coffs Harbour at the weekend -- was cancelled. The military pitched in, helping firefighters with logistics and water-dropping sorties using more than 100 aircraft.
- 'We'll fight it first' -
In the town of Hillville a fire that has ripped through an area the size of 25,000 soccer fields approached the home of Daniel Stevens. Like many, his family -- including his mother nursing a broken leg -- have packed their bags, but have resisted leaving their house and everything they own. "We'll fight it first," he told AFP, "but if it jumps the fence line into the paddock, we'll go."
In the nearby town of Taree, dozens of people have already moved to a showground that has become a makeshift evacuation centre. Fifty-nine-year-old Caroline Watson arrived last night with her husband and their dog. "The fires are just rife. They are absolutely everywhere" she told AFP. "They didn't ask us to get out, but we figured it was coming."
Further south in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney, veteran Winmalee firefighter Alan Gardiner said locals were "terrified and on edge". The town still bears the scars of a 2013 blaze that destroyed 200 homes, and residents are acutely aware that with few roads in and out of the mountains, a decision to leave late can be fatal. Efforts to burn fuel in a controlled way have been limited by months of drought-like conditions that made it too dangerous.
Denpasar, Indonesia, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - An Australian tourist who fly-kicked a motorcyclist and assaulted a man in his own home during a drunken rampage was jailed for four months on Tuesday. The ruling comes after Nicholas Carr's antics were caught in a viral video that saw him carry out a campaign of destruction in Seminyak, a popular tourist area on the Indonesian holiday island. "The defendant Nicholas Carr is found guilty and is sentenced to four months" in jail, presiding judge Soebandi, who goes by one name, told the Denpasar District Court. A lawyer for Carr, charged with assault and property damage, said the 26-year-old would not appeal the ruling. He is expected to be released next month because of time already served. In August, Carr ran barefoot on to a street and shouted expletives before the apprentice builder slammed into the bonnet of a moving car and then fly-kicked an unsuspecting motorcycle rider.
The biker, who was thrown from the moving scooter, sustained minor injuries -- later the pair embraced during a court hearing as Carr apologised to the victim. Carr also shattered a convenience store's glass door before stealing a motorcycle. Later, he broke into a house where he assaulted the sleeping homeowner, leaving him with injuries, police said earlier. He was eventually caught by locals and police and taken to hospital. Pictures that circulated on social media showed at the time showed Carr bloodied and bruised, and trussed with hosepipe and rope. Shortly after his arrest, Carr apologised and admitted drinking more than 10 small bottles of vodka as well as other alcohol.
After a string of embarrassing incidents by tourists, Bali officials recently warned that boorish visitors may be kicked off the island, which attracts millions annually to its palm-fringed beaches, colourful nightlife and ancient temples. Australian professional rugby league player David Fifita returned home this week after he was briefly arrested in Bali for assaulting a nightclub security guard. Several days after Carr's arrest, a Czech couple who were slammed for disrespecting a Balinese temple took part in a ritual purification ceremony.
Lyon, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - An unusually strong earthquake hit south-eastern France on Monday, injuring four people, one of them seriously, authorities said. A physicist at a geophysics institute the IPGP said that quakes of this strength are rare in that region, but warned of possible aftershocks and said people should leave fragile buildings. The quake, with a magnitude of 5.4, was felt in a vast area between the cities of Lyon and Montelimar which are about 150 kilometres (93 miles) apart, the national seismological office said. "I was leaning against the oven in my mother's bakery when I felt the tremor," said Victoria Brielle, a resident in Privas, some 25 kilometres from the quake's epicentre. "A customer said her sideboard had moved and all her crockery was broken," she said.
Another resident in the area, Didier Levy, who lives in a 15th century castle, told AFP that "chandeliers were still trembling" several minutes after the quake. Levy, who said his dog starting barking even before humans felt the tremors, added: "I have never experienced anything like it, I could feel the trembling even though these wall are one metre thick." One person was seriously hurt when some scaffolding collapsed, the regional prefect's office said. Three other people in the neighbouring Ardeche region were slightly injured.
Quakes in this region are rarely higher than Magnitude 5, said Mustapha Meghraoui of the IPGP's office in Strasbourg. "We can say that this is a rare one," he added. But he said there might be an aftershock of around 4.5. "If people are in a fragile house, they would be better leaving it" for something more robust for a while, he said. The scale of the damage suggested the quake happened at a depth of between five and 10 kilometres, he added. But they were working on a more accurate reading.
Goma, DR Congo, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - A local radio station that has been involved in the fight against Ebola in eastern DR Congo said Monday it was closing down after one of its broadcasters was murdered. Joel Musavuli, head of Lwemba radio in Mambasa in Ituri province, told AFP that the station had been targeted by armed groups hostile to the campaign to roll back the Ebola epidemic.
"Each of us have received threats since last month. We have now decided to stop broadcasting, Musavuli said, adding that he himself had escaped two kidnap attempts. "We are victims of our commitment to the awareness campaign about the spread of Ebola virus disease. We don't know why the militiamen are targeting us." Nearly 2,200 people have died since the notorious haemorrhagic disease erupted in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in August 2018, according to the latest official figures.
The fight against the outbreak has been hampered by local fears and superstititions, exploited by militia groups that are rampant in the remote region. Several health workers have been killed and media that have supported the campaign have received threats.
Several radio stations in the Mambasa area say they have stopped broadcasting anti-Ebola messages because of intimidation. On November 2, Lwemba broadcaster Papy Mahamba was killed at his home by unidentified men. His wife was injured and their house set ablaze. The station said the authorities had failed to take action against the threats. It said it would resume broadcasts after "the state has restored authority in the area".
Kuwait City, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - Hundreds of workers at Kuwait's international airport held a one-hour strike Monday to demand better working conditions, threatening to stage longer walkouts in the coming days. Ahmed Mohammed al-Kandari, a union representative, said workers were calling for improved treatment and to be compensated for daily exposure to pollution and noise. Monday's strike by Kuwaiti staff did not affect flights, officials said. The right to strike is guaranteed for citizens in Kuwait, but such actions remain rare in the Gulf country.
Foreign workers do not have the right to strike. "Airport traffic is very normal," Sheikh Salman Al-Hamoud Al-Sabah, head of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, told AFP. Another official, Saleh Al-Fadaghi, the airport's director of operations, also said flights were not affected. "During the one-hour strike, 19 flights were operated as scheduled. There were five departures and 14 arrivals," he told AFP.
Kandari said the purpose of the strike was not to disrupt operations but "to make our voices heard". He added that Kuwaiti workers would hold a further two-hour strike on Wednesday and a 24-hour strike on Sunday if their demands are not met. Of 4,500 civil aviation employees, 1,500 took part in Monday's strike, he said.
La Jonquera, Spain, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - Catalan separatist activists blocked traffic on Monday on a motorway linking Spain and France, in a fresh protest against the sentencing last month of nine of their leaders to lengthy jail terms. Demonstrators cut the AP7 motorway at La Jonquera near the city of Girona in eastern Spain, a day after a repeat general election in which Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist emerged as winners but weakened, while far-right party Vox surged to third place on the back of its hardline stance against separatism. Dozens of vehicles blocked the motorway near the border with France while some 300 people set up a barricade, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. Some demonstrators began to set up a stage and speakers which they brought to the scene in vans. Catalonia's regional road department confirmed the motorway was cut in both directions at La Jonquera.
The protest was called by a new, mysterious organisation called "Democratic Tsunami" which last month sent thousands of people to block access to Barcelona airport in a protest which ended in clashes between demonstrators and police. "This mobilisation is a cry to the international community so that it makes the Spanish state understand that the only possible path is to sit down and talk," the group said in a message sent to its followers on encrypted messaging service Telegram. Radical separatist group CDR also called on its supporters to head to La Jonquera to block the highway. Catalonia was rocked by days of mass, sometimes violent, pro-independence rallies after Spain's Supreme Court on October 14 sentenced nine politicians and activists to jail for up to 13 years for their role in a failed secession bid in 2017. Demonstrators have frequently cut road and rail links between Spain and France while many shops in downtown Barcelona have been shut during the rallies and there are growing concerns about the impact of the unrest on business in Spain's second largest city.
MOUSOUNI ISLAND, India, Nov 9, 2019 (AFP) - Cyclone Bulbul hit India and southern Bangladesh on Saturday, leaving two dead as authorities in the countries ordered more than two million people to get out of the path of the storm. The cyclone, packing winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour, has "weakened" and "started crossing" India's West Bengal and Bangladesh's Khulna coast at about 9:00 pm (1500 GMT), Dhaka's Meteorological Department said in a special bulletin. "It is likely to move in a northeasterly direction" and "weaken gradually, and may complete crossing West Bengal-Khulna coast by midnight tonight," the department said. Airports and ports were shut down and the deaths were reported before the full force of the cyclone had hit. One person was killed by an uprooted tree in Kolkata and another by a wall that collapsed under the force of the winds in Odisha state, authorities said.
More than 60,000 people were moved away from the coast on the Indian side of the border. Bangladesh disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP that "2.028 million" have been evacuated and moved to more than 5,500 cyclone shelters. He said there was no reports of casualties and rejected reports in local media that dozens of local fishermen were missing on the southern coast. Bangladeshi troops were sent to some villages, while about 55,000 volunteers went door-to-door and making loudspeaker announcements in the streets to get people away from the danger zone in villages, many of which were below sea level.
- Ports closed, flights halted -
A storm surge up to two metres (seven feet) was predicted along the coast, Bangladesh's Meteorological Department said. About 1,500 tourists were stranded on the southern island of Saint Martin after boat services were suspended due to bad weather. Bangladesh's two biggest ports, Mongla and Chittagong, were closed because of the storm, and flights into Chittagong airport were halted. In India, flights in and out of Kolkata airport were suspended for 12 hours because of the storm. On the West Bengal island of Mousouni, which lies in the path of the storm, frightened residents took shelter in schools and government buildings because they had not been able to escape. Military planes and ships have been put on standby to help in emergencies, Indian authorities said.
Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, which straddles Bangladesh and part of eastern India, and is home to endangered species including the Bengal tiger and the Irrawaddy dolphins. Bangladesh's low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, is regularly battered by cyclones that leave a trail of destruction. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in cyclones in recent decades. While the frequency and intensity have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of 4,000 cyclone shelters along the coast. In November 2007, Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 people. In May this year, Fani became the most powerful storm to hit the country in five years, but the death toll was about 12.
Beirut, Nov 9, 2019 (AFP) - Several petrol stations in protest-hit Lebanon stopped services Saturday, as reserves ran dry due to a shortage of US dollars to pay suppliers, a syndicate head said. The shuttering of petrol stations came as demonstrators again took to the street across the country, keeping up their three-week-long movement against a political class regarded as inefficient and corrupt. "The petrol stations that opened today are the ones that still have reserves. They will close down as soon as supply runs out," said Sami Brax, the head of the Syndicate of Gas Station Owners. He said if officials do not facilitate access to dollars by Tuesday, "we will be forced to stop imports and close down all petrol stations."
Petrol stations receive payment from customers in Lebanese pounds but have to pay importers and suppliers in dollars. For two decades, the Lebanese pound has been pegged to the US dollar, with both currencies used interchangeably in daily life. But banks have been reducing access to dollars since the end of the summer, following fears of a shortage in central bank dollar reserves. In recent days, banks halted all ATM withdrawals in dollars and severely restricted conversions from Lebanese pounds. Many Lebanese have had to instead buy dollars from money changers at a higher exchange rate, in what amounts to a de-facto devaluation of the local currency that has sparked price hikes.
The official exchange rate has remained fixed at 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, but the rate in the parallel market has surpassed 1,800. "The banks are under pressure from people, both inside Lebanon and abroad," said economist Naseeb Ghabreel, after many rushed to withdraw their dollar savings or convert Lebanese pound accounts. Since September, petrol station owners have accused banks of failing to provide them with the dollars they need and threatened strikes. In response, the central bank last month pledged to facilitate access to the greenback for importers of petroleum products, wheat and medicine. But the measure has not yet gone into effect.
Lebanon has since October 17 witnessed an unprecedented popular uprising against everything from power cuts and poor social security to alleged state corruption. The government yielded to popular pressure and stepped down last month, with the World Bank urging for the quick formation of a new cabinet to prevent the economy from further deteriorating.
Madrid, Nov 8, 2019 (AFP) - Spanish health authorities confirmed Friday a case of a man spreading dengue through sex, a world first for a virus which until recently was thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos. The case concerns a 41-year-old man from Madrid who contracted dengue after having sex with his male partner who picked up the virus from a mosquito bite during a trip to Cuba, said Susana Jimenez of the Madrid region's public health department.
His dengue infection was confirmed in September and it puzzled doctors because he had not travelled to a country where the disease, which causes severe flu-like symptoms such as high fever and body aches, is common, she added. "His partner presented the same symptoms as him but lighter around ten days earlier, and he had previously visited Cuba and the Dominican Republic," Jimenez said. "An analysis of their sperm was carried out and it revealed that not only did they have dengue but that it was exactly the same virus which circulates in Cuba."
A "likely' case of sexual transmission of dengue between a man and a woman was the subject of a recent scientific article in South Corea, Jimenez said. In an e-mail sent to AFP, the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which monitors health and disease in Europe, said this was "to our knowledge, the first sexual transmission of the dengue virus among men who have sex with men."
According to the World Health Organization's website, dengue is transmitted mainly by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which thrives in densely-populated tropical climates and breeds in stagnant pools of water. It is most serious -- and deadly -- in children, especially young girls though scientists don't know why.
Dengue is most commonly caught by people travelling to hotter climates such as southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and South and Central America.