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WORLD TRAVEL WATCH

Tensions High in Some Tourist Centers of India

December 02, 1990|LARRY HABEGGER and JAMES O'REILLY | Habegger and O'Reilly are free-lance writers living in Northern California .

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

India: Political and religious tensions are high in many parts of India at this time, and potentially dangerous demonstrations can occur on very short notice. Check with the American Embassy in New Delhi or the consulates in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras for the latest security information on regions you plan to visit.

Due to communal violence, curfews have been imposed in some tourist centers, including the cities of Agra (home of the Taj Mahal), Varanasi (Benares) and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh; Jaipur and Jodhpur in Rajasthan; Gwalior, Jhansi and Indore in Madhya Pradesh, and Ranchi in Bihar. In addition, road travel should be avoided in the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar and Orissa. Train travel has occasionally been disrupted, but air travel has not been affected.

Tibet: International direct telephone dialing has arrived, but only works occasionally; telex remains the best mode of communication. The only reliable way to visit Tibet is to follow the rules: You must book a "group" tour (minimum size to qualify: one person) and get a travel permit.

Winter is a special time to visit Lhasa, as it becomes crowded with nomads and traders in search of shelter and in the process of making their yearly pilgrimage to holy sites. The weather is cool and dry at this time of year, and usually sunny. The popular Saturday CAAC flights from Katmandu to Lhasa (55 minutes over the Himalayas with views of Everest and Kanchenjunga, weather permitting) is scheduled to run until the end of December, resuming in March.

Africa

Sudan: There recently have been large anti-U.S. and pro-Iraq demonstrations, and there is a high potential for terrorist acts in Khartoum, the capital. Don't travel here unless necessary.

Europe/Soviet Union

Albania: While the Albanian government is continuing to welcome foreign visitors, American travelers should be aware that there are still no diplomatic relations between the United States and Albania. Because of this, there is no consular assistance available to U.S. citizens.

Belgium: This country has the worst traffic accident statistics in Europe. Drive carefully.

Hungary: American tourists no longer need to arrange a visa in advance.

Northern Ireland: Incendiary bombs have been placed recently in commercial areas of Belfast. While travel in Northern Ireland is generally safe, there has been an increase in sectarian violence in the Belfast and Londonderry areas. Exercise caution.

Soviet Union: Soviet officials have announced that payment for rail trips abroad will no longer be accepted in rubles, but must be in foreign currency. Smokers and nonsmokers alike might think about packing some cigarettes in their luggage. Like U.S. dollars, cigarettes--Marlboros in particular--are a de facto currency.

While the government debates the pace of reform, a free market of sorts already exists on the folding tables outside a Moscow soccer stadium, the Ismailova Market, and at Ostrovsky Square in Leningrad. Another way to experience the astounding changes taking place is to witness the scene outside the offices of the Moscow News, where Muscovites publicly air their feelings and vigorously debate issues.

South America

Chile: A serious bombing incident took place recently that may have been directed at the United States. Travel here is generally safe, but be aware that there may be some risk attending events associated with the United States.

Caribbean/Central America

Haiti: The Dec. 16 election may bring civil disturbances. Avoid nonessential travel.

Jamaica: An outbreak of typhoid has been reported in western Jamaica in and around the town of Savannah-la-Mar in Westmoreland Parish. Avoid untreated fruits and vegetables and meals sold by street vendors. Eat only foods that have been thoroughly cooked and served immediately, and avoid swimming in rivers (best known in the area are the Roaring River in Westmoreland Parish and the Black River in neighboring St. Elizabeth Parish).

Trinidad and Tobago: Conditions are stable, but a curfew remains in effect on Trinidad between 1 a.m and 5 a.m. Most tourism facilities are on Tobago, however, and there is no curfew there. A state of emergency is still in effect, and American citizens need a valid passport to enter and leave Trinidad and Tobago. For visitors to rural areas of Trinidad, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta recommend a yellow fever vaccination for travelers over the age of nine months. The vaccination isn't necessary for visits to resort areas.

Southeast Asia

Malaysia: Some Malaysian states have new Islamic laws against unmarried men and women being alone together, non-Muslims included. Check with Malaysian tourist officials on where these laws are being enforced.

Philippines: The popular mountain retreat town of Baguio, on the main island of Luzon, is accessible once again after the devastating earthquake earlier this year. The road from Manila is open, as is the airport. The best large hotel in town, the Hyatt Terraces Baguio, was destroyed in the earthquake, but there are other hotels now open for business.

For more information on safety concerns in countries you may be visiting, contact the Citizens Emergency Center, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520, (202) 647-5225 .

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