Philippines Travel Alert

Posted on November 24, 2009
Filed Under Travel Alerts -- From www.travel.state.gov | Comments Off

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the southern Philippine islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago and urges extreme caution if traveling there. This Travel Alert reflects the recent acts of violence in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao and is supplemental to our September 17, 2009 Travel Warning to the Philippines. This Travel Alert expires on January 6, 2010.

Travelers should exercise extreme caution if traveling in the central and western portions of the island of Mindanao, as well as in the islands of the Sulu Archipelago. Recent violence in Maguindanao resulted in the Government of the Philippines declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and the city of Cotabato. The state of emergency includes road checkpoints conducted by the Philippine military and law enforcement. If U.S. citizens travel to Maguindanao despite this Travel Alert, they should understand there are heightened tensions and there will be a significant military presence. They should carefully research restrictions imposed upon travel and follow the instructions of officials with regards to limitations on movement.

Travelers to this area should remain vigilant and avoid congregating in public areas. Some foreigners who reside in or visit Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago hire their own security.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. The Worldwide Caution reminds U.S. citizens that terrorism can occur anywhere.

The Department strongly encourages U.S. citizens in the Philippines to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manila through the State Department’s travel registration website. The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section’s fax number is 63-2-301-2017 and the ACS web page can be accessed online.

For information on general crime and security issues, U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for the Philippines and the Worldwide Caution, located at the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website. U.S. citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 from the United States and Canada, or 202-501-4444 from overseas.



Philippines Travel Alert

Posted on November 24, 2009
Filed Under Travel Alerts -- From www.travel.state.gov | Comments Off

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the southern Philippine islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago and urges extreme caution if traveling there. This Travel Alert reflects the recent acts of violence in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao and is supplemental to our September 17, 2009 Travel Warning to the Philippines.  This Travel Alert expires on January 6, 2010.  

Travelers should exercise extreme caution if traveling in the central and western portions of the island of Mindanao, as well as in the islands of the Sulu Archipelago. Recent violence in Maguindanao resulted in the Government of the Philippines declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and the city of Cotabato.  The state of emergency includes road checkpoints conducted by the Philippine military and law enforcement.  If U.S. citizens travel to Maguindanao despite this Travel Alert, they should understand there are heightened tensions and there will be a significant military presence.  They should carefully research restrictions imposed upon travel and follow the instructions of officials with regards to limitations on movement.

Travelers to this area should remain vigilant and avoid congregating in public areas. Some foreigners who reside in or visit Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago hire their own security.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. The Worldwide Caution reminds U.S. citizens that terrorism can occur anywhere.

The Department strongly encourages U.S. citizens in the Philippines to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manila through the State Department’s travel registration website. The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section’s fax number is 63-2-301-2017 and the ACS web page can be accessed online.

For information on general crime and security issues, U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for the Philippines and the Worldwide Caution, located at the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website. U.S. citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 from the United States and Canada, or 202-501-4444 from overseas.



Chad Travel Warning

Posted on November 23, 2009
Filed Under Travel Warnings -- From www.travel.state.gov | Comments Off

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Chad and recommends that American citizens avoid all travel to eastern Chad and the Chad/Central African Republic border area. This Warning is due to insecurity caused by recently increased levels of violent criminality, the continuing risk of clashes between Chadian government and rebel forces, and current political tension between Chad and Sudan. The U.S. Embassy in Chad has prohibited official government travel to eastern Chad without express authorization. American citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts should review security precautions and consider measures to mitigate exposure to violent crime. American citizens residing in Chad should exercise extreme caution throughout the country. This replaces the Travel Warning for Chad dated June 02, 2008 to remind U.S. citizens of continuing security concerns in Chad.

Violent crime in eastern Chad has escalated in recent weeks, including robbery and carjacking at gunpoint, kidnapping and attempted kidnapping, and murder. The level of violence in each incident has increased significantly; robbery victims have been beaten and killed. In addition, armed rebel groups continue to be a threat to the region. Criminal and rebel activity tends to increase during the dry season, which lasts from late September to July.

The overall security situation remains fluid and potentially dangerous. Violent criminal gangs are difficult to interdict, despite the presence of a United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in the region. The government of Chad is unable to guarantee the safety of visitors in eastern Chad. If rebels approach the capital, N’djamena, the U.S. Embassy may decide to evacuate non-emergency personnel and family members of Embassy personnel on short notice, as was done in June 2008. Family members of Embassy personnel under the age of 21 are not authorized to reside in Chad. Commercial flights continue to operate from N’Djamena International Airport, but flights are subject to change when rebel activity intensifies.

U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Chad are strongly urged to closely review the policies and procedures of their organizations to mitigate risks from violent crime. All should coordinate travel plans with their UN partner agency security officers in Abeche and N’Djamena, and follow UN Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS) guidance regarding safety and security. The government of Chad requires all individuals traveling to or residing in refugee-affected areas in eastern Chad to obtain permits issued by the Ministry of Territorial Administration in N’Djamena, and to register in Abeche upon arrival in eastern Chad. American citizens who intend to enter Sudan from Chad, despite the Department’s Travel Warnings for both countries, must obtain the appropriate visas and permits in advance of entry into Sudan. Further information is available in the Department’s Travel Warning for Sudan.

The U.S. Embassy is not able to support evacuation from eastern Chad. All Americans affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Chad must have an evacuation plan developed with the United Nations mission, which has aircraft and other logistical support. The Embassy strongly recommends that all U.S. citizens in Chad be prepared to implement their personal evacuation or safe haven plans on short notice should the situation warrant, and exercise extreme caution. Americans in Chad should closely monitor news media and the U.S. Embassy’s website. The embassy webpage is http://ndjamena.usembassy.gov/

American citizens traveling to or resident in Chad should register with the U.S. Embassy by completing a registration form online and provide contact information and specific travel data if traveling outside the capital. Registration enables the Embassy to contact American citizens in case of emergency and provide updates on the security situation. The U.S. Embassy is located in N’Djamena on Avenue Felix Ebou; mailing address B.P. 413, telephone (including after hours emergencies): (235) 251-70-09; alternate numbers 251-62-11, 251-90-52, 251-92-33, 251-77-59, 251-92-18; fax (235) 251-56-54. Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Chad and the Worldwide Caution, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.

Andrew Harper’s New York Holiday Calendar

Posted on November 20, 2009
Filed Under Andrew Harper, Destinations, General, Travel | Comments Off

Andrew Harper is the pseudonym of a gentleman traveler who, frustrated by commercially driven travel coverage, began writing his own candid reviews of smaller, unique hotels. The Hideaway Report, which began as a small newsletter for friends and family, is now one of the most distinct voices in luxury travel.

Impatient with pretense and skeptical of passing trends, Andrew Harper has an abiding passion for classic hospitality and refined service amid peaceful surroundings. He is on the road for several months each year, and hotels are his second home.

These are his personal tips for traveling in New York during the holidays:

By Andrew Harper

In many ways, New York gave Christmas to America. The television spectacles from Rockefeller Center have their roots in the books and broadsheets of 19th-century New York writers and illustrators such as Washington Irving and Thomas Nast. Today, the city plays host to hundreds of holiday celebrations. Here are a few of my favorites.

Window Displays
The holiday window displays in New York’s finest department stores (Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Saks) make an excellent excuse for a winter walking tour of Manhattan. Start at Bloomingdale’s (59th and Lexington), then make your way west to Fifth Avenue via Barneys (Madison and 61st) and head south (past Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Saks and Lord & Taylor) to 34th Street (Macy’s). This map details a two-mile itinerary that takes roughly 90 minutes: http://gonyc.about.com/od/christmassights/l/bl_xmaswindows.htm.

Rockefeller Center
The Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony, traditionally a very crowded affair, takes place on the Wednesday following Thanksgiving (December 2). That said, Rockefeller Center is a mandatory stop during the holidays, if only to size up the tree (traditionally a Norway Spruce) and take in the general revelry. On Sunday, December 13, at 3:30 p.m. the Ice Rink will host a special performance of “Tuba Christmas,” which has to be seen to be believed.

Radio City Music Hall
Needless to say, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is far more than a few camels and a can-can line. These days the production seems to be taking a cue from the flamboyant Cirque du Soleil affairs, replete with special effects and flashy dance numbers. This dedicated web site features ticket details and a video trailer, as well as information on the national touring production: http://radiocitychristmas.com.

92nd Street Y
One of the city’s most treasured public speaking venues celebrates Hanukkah with a variety of family-oriented events throughout the holiday season, including challah-making, menorah-lighting events and a midday festival on Sunday, December 6. Other light-hearted events include “AcapaJewza — A Celebration of Jewish Acapella Music” on December 12 and a talk on December 20 by New York Times metro reporter, Jennifer 8. Lee titled “Jews and Chinese Food: A Love Affair.” Check the December calendar for more details: http://www.92y.org/calendar/calendar.asp?subject=View+All+Subjects&month=December&year=2009&catalog=92y%5FCatalog&site=Y.

American Museum of Natural History
The venerable New York institution is home to two unique holiday traditions: the annual origami tree and the festively decorated “Holiday Barosaurs.” The origami tree, a museum tradition for 30 years, features more than 1,000 striking paper compositions representing highlights from the museum’s collection. It is on view from Thanksgiving through January 1 in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall on the first floor. The dinosaurs, resplendent in their holiday best, can be found in front of the Central Park West entrance to the museum. For more details, visit the museum’s official site http://www.amnh.org/programs/specials/holiday.

The New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden hosts one of the holiday season’s best-kept secrets — the Holiday Train Show. Dozens of miniature steam engines and trolleys wind their way past more than 140 woodsy and whimsical reproductions of New York landmarks, from the Guggenheim to the brownstones of Brooklyn. The museum also offers a remarkable gingerbread house exhibit featuring creations from well-known bakers. Advance tickets are recommended, as this is always a popular attraction. Check here for more details: http://www.nybg.org.

Lincoln Center
While there will be no Christmas tree this year owing to ongoing construction, Lincoln Center plays host to one of the most popular musical events of the season, the “Messiah Sing-In” (http://www.nationalchorale.org). On December 22 at Avery Fisher Hall, four accomplished soloists and 17 of the city’s best conductors will be accompanied by an audience-chorus of nearly 3,000 singers (participants are asked to bring their own scores). Jazz at Lincoln Center, located in nearby Time Warner Center, hosts the annual “Jazz Jam Red Hot Holiday Stomp” (http://jalc.org/concerts/details309a.asp?EventID=2047) December 10-12, a “Crescent City Christmas Card” featuring a rousing New Orleans take on the holiday classics.

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
This Gothic cathedral near Columbia University is probably one of the most spectacular venues in the city (you can fit the Statue of Liberty inside it). Ensemblist Paul Winter curates one of its most popular annual events, the celebration of the Winter Solstice (http://www.stjohndivine.org/30thWinterSolstice.html). This year’s 30th anniversary performance returns to the main cathedral space after several years and will feature the newly restored Great Organ. Performances run December 17-19.

Holiday Markets: Union Square, Grand Central, Bryant Park
The holiday markets in New York make for wonderful strolls, depending upon the hour and the weather: Grand Central is perfect for a blustery day (http://grandcentralterminal.com/go/mallEvents.cfm?eventID=2145364365); Union Square  is great on a bright afternoon (http://www.unionsquarenyc.org); and the new market in Bryant Park is magical at night (http://www.ThePondatBryantPark.com). Union Square is perfect for downtown dining and the European-flavored holiday market at Bryant Park features a free skating rink. While it’s much smaller than the other two, you can finish up your browsing at Grand Central with a festive drink in the Oyster Bar or The Campbell Apartment.

Niger Travel Alert

Posted on November 19, 2009
Filed Under Travel Alerts -- From www.travel.state.gov | Comments Off

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the risks of travel to Niger due to threat of kidnapping, and recommends against all travel to Niger at this time. This Travel Alert expires February 28, 2010.

On December 14, 2008, two United Nations officials, former Canadian diplomats, were kidnapped by the terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) while returning to Niamey after a visit to a Canadian-operated gold mine. On January 22, 2009, four Europeans were abducted by AQIM operatives along the Mali-Niger border as their tour group returned to Niamey from a cultural festival in the Malian town of Anderamboukane. On November 14, 2009, heavily armed individuals attempted to kidnap U.S. embassy employees in Tahoua.

In addition to the threat of kidnapping posed by extremists, a State of Alert is in effect for the region of Agadez, including the cities of Agadez, Arlit, and Iferouane. The State of Alert means that all travelers require Government of Niger permission for travel in and around these cities, and are liable to be stopped and held for questioning. Moreover, the Nigerien military has the authority to hold individuals for questioning, without cause, beyond the standard 48 hours that local law enforcement is authorized to hold an individual for questioning before rendering charges.

Conditions of insecurity persist throughout northern and western Niger, and armed groups operate with relative impunity throughout these border regions. In addition, conflict zones in northern Niger are strewn with landmines, further impeding travel. Please note that due to security concerns, U.S. government employees and official visitors are not permitted to travel outside of Niamey at this time.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens traveling to or remaining in Niger despite this Travel Alert to take responsibility for their own safety and security. American citizens should keep abreast of local events, monitor local news sources, and maintain heightened situational awareness at all times.

The U.S. Embassy in Niamey is located on Rue des Ambassades. The Embassy’s mailing address is P.O. Box 11, 201 Niamey, Republic of Niger. The Embassy’s telephone number is (227) 20-72-26-61. For after-hours emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please call (227) 20-72-31-41. The Embassy’s website is http://niamey.usembassy.gov/index.html.

Updated travel and security information for Niger may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. For additional information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Niger and the Worldwide Caution, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.



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