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Travel Advisory

More Security at Jamaica Site

March 02, 1997|EDWARD WRIGHT | Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

Caribbean

Jamaica: A dozen tourists were robbed at gunpoint during a sightseeing trip to a coffee and sugar plantation on the tourist-rich north coast in January, the business periodical Travel Weekly reported. The tourists were part of a group of 32 passengers from the Holland America Line cruise ship Noordam who were touring the Prospect Plantation in Ocho Rios aboard a jitney, a flatbed truck with benches. Five masked robbers, armed with knives and a gun, moved in on the group, roughed up the driver and stole money, jewelry and watches. "The thought of being held up in a major tourist attraction was inconceivable," one passenger later commented. The cruise line suspended excursions to the popular plantation for more than two weeks after the robbery, and the government reportedly beefed up security.

Most Jamaican crime against tourists centers on Kingston, the capital. According to the U.S. State Department, the north and west coasts are notably safer because of self-contained resort facilities and the assignment of special tourist security police. But two Americans have been stabbed to death in northern resort town of Montego Bay in the past 14 months, and a Los Angeles woman told The Times of being robbed at machete-point during a daylight walk near the police station there.

Latin America

Mexico: Stating that growing numbers of Americans have been assaulted, abducted and robbed after hailing Volkswagen "bug" taxis and other cabs cruising the streets of Mexico City, the State Department has advised U.S. citizens to use taxis only from authorized stands, called sitios, at the airport and throughout the city. The advisory was similar to one issued two years ago but more strongly worded, and it drew a protest from Mexico City officials. Although acknowledging that 2,215 cab riders reported being assaulted or robbed by their drivers last year, the officials said that such assaults are decreasing and that the vast majority of the victims are Mexicans. The State Department suggests that travelers consult their hotels for sitio locations or call a 24-hour radio taxi.

Africa

South Africa: At least 40 foreign tourists staying in a Johannesburg-area hostel were held up in January by six gunmen who stole more than $11,000 in cash, plus jewelry, passports and airline tickets, the Reuters news service reported. The tourists were from the United States, Britain, France, Canada and several other countries; none was hurt. The late-night robbery occurred at the Backpackers Ritz hostel in Johannesburg's upscale Dunkeld West suburb. South Africa has been plagued with bad press recently because of the country's level of crime, some of it affecting foreigners. Police initially withheld news of the hostel robbery because of its "sensitivity," Reuters said.

Briefly . . .

India: The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi has warned Americans living in India of possible terrorist retaliation following the United States' Jan. 16 extradition to India of Daya Singh Lahoria, a suspected Sikh militant leader. There are no specific threats, the embassy said, but "We cannot discount the possibility of acts of anti-American violence."

Russia: Despite crime news that included the November murder of an American businessman in Moscow, travel agents interviewed by Travel Weekly agree that travel in Russia is fairly safe. Among their common-sense tips: Hire a local tour guide instead of exploring on your own; always book airport transfers in advance; and use only yellow, metered taxis.

France: Violence in the French Mediterranean island of Corsica spilled over into France itself last month as bombs wrecked an Air France office and damaged a post office in the Riviera city of Nice. Corsican nationalists, who have fought for greater autonomy for 21 years, recently began expanding their terrorist campaign to the French mainland.

Eritrea: Five Belgian tourists and their driver were killed in an ambush by unknown assailants during an outing in Eritrea, the Horn of Africa country that was once part of Ethiopia, a Belgian news agency reported.

Hot spots: State Department travel warnings are in effect for Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.

The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225; the fax line is (202) 647-3000.

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