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WORLD TRAVEL WATCH

Last Link in Seven-Nation Phone System in Place

September 10, 1989|LARRY HABEGGER and JAMES O'REILLY | Habegger and O'Reilly are free-lance writers living in Northern California. and

World Travel Watch is a monthly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel throughout the world. Because conditions can change overnight, always make your own inquiries before you leave home. In the United States, contact the nearest Passport Agency office; abroad, check in with the nearest American Embassy. Asia

--Bhutan: The final telephone link among the seven nations of the South Asian Assn. for Regional Cooperation--Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka--opened recently, and it is now possible to make calls between India and Bhutan.

--India: The military road from Manali, Himachel Pradesh, to Leh, Ladakh, is now open to foreigners who wish to travel between the two cities by Jeep or bus. Formerly, the road was off-limits. It's a two-day journey (about the same as the traditional route from Srinigar in Kashmir) with an overnight stop in Darcha, Lahul.

The road crosses two high passes, one at 16,500 feet. Manali is a beautiful hill station at 6,000 feet that's popular among Indian tourists, but remains relatively undiscovered by foreigners. It's set in an area of steep, rugged valleys and snowcapped peaks, with forests of pine and spruce, apple orchards, hot springs and friendly, welcoming people.

--Nepal: The trade dispute with India recently took a turn for the worst when India closed the Calcutta piers where supplies from other countries were being unloaded for shipment to Nepal. The piers were reportedly closed for repairs. The dispute could have a major impact on Nepal's peak trekking season this fall if it isn't resolved.

--Sri Lanka: Tension has increased in this already troubled country, and travel should be planned with great care. Register with the U.S. Embassy on arrival.

--Tibet: Restrictions remain tight on foreigners in Lhasa, who can only leave their hotel as a group accompanied by their guide. One group recently was not allowed to go to the Barkhor, the market near the Jokhang. Martial law remains in effect only in Lhasa; overland travel between Kathmandu and Lhasa, including visits to the Everest base camp, is open.

No individual travel is permitted, and officially, groups must include 10 people or more. However, smaller groups have already been allowed to visit. Permits should be applied for at least 30 days in advance, but some groups applied as little as 10 days in advance and received the necessary papers. The scheduled opening of an overland route from Sikkim has been delayed indefinitely.

Africa

--Kenya: There have been fatal attacks on travelers along the coast south of Mombasa and in other remote areas, usually attributed to wildlife poachers. When visiting game parks, travel in groups with a ranger or a guide from a reputable safari company. Street crime has increased in Nairobi; take special care with handbags in restaurants and leave passports and valuables in a hotel safe. Chloroquine-resistant malaria is present, so take appropriate precautions.

--Senegal: Travel in northern Senegal between Saint-Louis and Bakel should be avoided due to unsettled conditions along the Mauritania border, where a minor grazing dispute led to widespread violence in May.

Dakar is generally safer than most African capitals, but discretion is advised. Muggings have occurred on the beach at night, and street crime is on the rise. Don't wander off alone at night, and leave valuables in a hotel safe. Persistent "traders" can also get on your nerves. They will approach you all over town and won't accept no for an answer. The best defense for some people is to completely ignore them.

Independent travelers should personally confirm return or onward flights immediately upon arrival because of chronic overbooking of flights out of Dakar. Do it in person because reservations accepted by phone will not find their way into the computer. All travelers should carry enough resources for at least five extra days in Dakar in case they get bumped from a flight. Malaria is endemic both in urban and rural areas, and the choloroquine-resistant strain is present. Take appropriate precautions.

--Zimbabwe: Exercise caution when traveling in eastern Zimbabwe along the Mozambique border due to occasional incursions of bandits from Mozambique. The main tourist areas from Inyanga to Vumba have not been affected, but travelers should contact local officials before venturing beyond these tourist areas or taking off-road excursions near the border. Currency transactions are strictly regulated, and all currency and traveler's checks must be declared upon arrival and before departure.

Europe/Mediterranean

--Northern Ireland: Frequent IRA bomb threats and small explosions have interrupted rail service, especially on the Belfast-Dublin line. No injuries or deaths have occurred because authorities have been warned of the bombs on the tracks, and have closed the routes and provided alternative transportation. Be prepared for delays.

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