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State Department Issues Travel Alert Updates for Thailand and Ukraine

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The State Department has updated its travel alerts for Thailand and Ukraine, responding to an uptick in politically-charged violence affecting both countries.

In Ukraine, demonstrations have flared up after the government opted for closer economic ties with Russia rather than with the EU. Since Thursday, over 100 individuals have died in the Kiev street riots. And anti-government rallies in Bangkok claimed their twelfth casulty—a police officer—on the February 18th.

We've been monitoring the Thai situation for months, and the new travel alert sends the same message: US citizens should avoid protest sites and any large gatherings.

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State Department Issues Travel Alert for Russia Olympics

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The U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert today for Americans planning to attend next month's Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Six potential risks spurred the alert: untested medical treatment facilities, terrorism, petty crime, unpredictable public demonstrations, lack of proper accommodations, and Russia's newly imposed law banning LGBT "propaganda" in public.

The Olympics are always an "attractive target for terrorists," the alert states, but an uptick in deadly suicide bombings in Russia within the past month has officials on guard.

Given these factors, the State Department urges U.S. citizens to "remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times."

T+L has been following the Russia situation closely, and will continue to do so. For up-to-the-minute information, follow the State Department and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on Twitter.

Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: iStockphoto


Travel to Thailand Okay Despite Clashes in Bangkok, According to U.S. State Department

Political demonstrations in Bangkok took a violent turn this weekend, as anti-government groups clashed with government supporters and riot police. The ongoing protests need not affect travelers' plans to Thailand as of yet, however, according to local sources and the U.S. Department of State.

In an official statement yesterday, the State Department recommends US citizens join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the embassy to contact enrollees during emergencies. It also urges travelers to steer clear of the demonstrations and exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings. Significantly, the statement does not go so far as to suggest individuals cancel their travel plans.

Local hotels are open for business, as are most major sites in the city. Outside of Bangkok, popular areas such as Chiang Mai are unaffected by the clashes.

Pat O'Connell, a T+L A-List Agent with Asia Transpacific Journeys, reports that travel to and around Thailand has not been significantly impacted by the protests. Allowing more time for airport transfers has been the only effect to date, although the company's on-the-ground staff is monitoring the situation closely.

The demonstrations have left at least 4 protesters dead and scores more injured. Anti-government activists want Ms. Shinawatra out of office, alleging that her brother, and ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra is leading the country behind the scenes from exile.

It is unclear whether the protests will calm down in time for the Thai King's birthday this Thursday.

We here at T+L share the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok's hope for a peaceful resolution, and will follow the situation closely. For up-to-the-minute news, follow the embassy on Twitter.

 

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor news team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

How to Help Victims of the Philippines' Typhoon Haiyan

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Following the destruction wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which appears to be the Philippine Islands’ worst natural disaster in history, relief efforts are rapidly rising up across the world. Here, while Americans commemorate the courage of their veterans, the State Department is hurrying to organize a team of these hometown heroes to provide aid in the storm-torn Philippines.

The scale of Haiyan’s devastation is overwhelming. More than 10,000 lives are feared to have been lost in Friday’s storm, and at least 600,000 people have been displaced. Police officials report at least 80-percent of the worst hit Leyte province’s infrastructure was leveled by the 200-mph winds and 20-foot waves.

This beloved travel destination, known for its breathtaking white sand beaches and jungle-capped cliffs, is home to four of the World’s Best Hotels, and is now in great need of international support. At TravelandLeisure.com, we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by Haiyan, and we encourage everyone to do what they can to make a difference for those in need.

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Worse than Sand in the Labor Day Potato Salad? Hurricane Earl

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As of 2pm, the National Weather Service had issued a hurricane watch for the North Carolina coast. The state is currently evacuating visitors from Hatteras Island and the rest of the Outer Banks.

Virginia and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware, and the Jersey Shore (batten down the Situation!) are all under hurricane warnings, and small craft advisories extend into New England, and all the way south to the Florida Keys.

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TSA Increases Terrorist Matching, But Security Gaps Remain

Sounds like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken a big step to keep us safer from terrorists in the sky. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that 100 percent of passengers on domestic and international flights by U.S. airlines are now being matched against government watchlists through the Secure Flight program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Previously, individual airlines were responsible for matching passenger names against terrorist watchlists.

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That’s all well and good. But here’s a remaining security gap:

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U.S. Renews Travel Alert to Mexico

Washington (CNN) |  The United States has renewed a travel alert to Mexico, citing increased violence in the country.

The alert, issued Sunday by the State Department, is in effect until August 20 and supersedes an alert issued August 20, 2009.

"Recent violent attacks have caused the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Michoacan, Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua ... and to advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution," the alert says.

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