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Thailand protests coming to an end

This post has been updated here.

It looks like this will be my final update on the political protests in Bangkok. Today we’ve seen only a few small gatherings and marches. My representatives in Thailand told me there are no major disruptions in the city. Their sense is these gatherings will fizzle out over the next few days.

If anything does change, I will update you here as I have been doing all along. But overall, the protests did not slow tourism down, and Friendly Planet travelers are happy to be in Thailand.

Thailand protests not slowing tourism

This post has been updated here.

Here’s the latest update from my representatives on the political situation in Thailand.

On Sunday, supporters of the former prime minister began protests, described as peaceful, in a small part of Bangkok. Sources estimate about 100,000 supporters showed up and the demonstrations continued through Monday.

As we anticipated, these protests did not affect tourism. The Grand Palace, Wat Po, other tourist sites, shops, restaurants, and businesses all remained open in Bangkok. Even traffic remained light, making access to the tourist sites very easy. Travel to other parts of Thailand has also not been affected.

Here at Friendly Planet, we did have a few travelers who opted for an alternative itinerary during the protests, and we were more than happy to oblige. Other than that, the balance of our travelers continued on their originally planned tour. Either way, it was fine with us!

Stay tuned to the blog for the latest news and updates on the Thailand situation for travelers.

Thailand political protests update

This post has been updated here.

I just got off the phone with our representatives in Thailand. Here’s the latest update. I told you yesterday that supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatrain were going to start protesting today outside of government buildings in Bangkok. I’m happy to report that there is, indeed, very little to report.

Sites where protests were scheduled had very little attendance. There have been no major disruptions in the city of Bangkok. In fact, there was barely any traffic today. Most people either stayed home from work or did not drive their cars into the city. And the roads that we anticipated were going to close, did not.

But this is only day one of the planned protests. I understand that more supporters will be arriving over the weekend, culminating in a large gathering on Sunday. Our contingency plans that I discussed for Friendly Planet travelers are still in place.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation very closely, but my representatives in Thailand feel confident that these protests will pass peacefully and not disrupt tourism. Stay tuned to the blog for the latest information.

Update on the political situation in Thailand

This post has been updated here.

In the past I’ve told you about how we take care of our travelers when the unexpected arises. No sooner had I written that post did I get an opportunity to live up to it.

In my effort to keep you up to date with the political situation in Thailand, I wanted to let you know what is expected to happen this weekend. As I mentioned in my previous post, supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra were planning to hold a rally in mid March. Well, they made a public announcement that they plan to protest around Bangkok government buildings from March 12 – 14.

In anticipating these events, Friendly Planet is planning to reroute some itineraries for our travelers who are in Thailand. These protests could be large or they could be small. We don’t yet know. But either way, we’re taking steps to ensure that our travelers, no matter what, have a great time in Thailand, and are not affected by these demonstrations.

If the roads within Bangkok close due to the protests, travelers booked on tours to the Grand Palace, Wat Po, or Chinatown will be picked up at their hotels and taken to the nearest river pier. They will get to travel by boat to their destination, rather than drive through the city.

New tours will be offered to those who prefer to stay outside of Bangkok completely, at no additional charge. If travelers want to stay in their hotels and not tour, Friendly Planet will refund any of their prepaid tours.

All other tours in Thailand including Klong Tours, Ayuthaya Tours, and Amphawa Tours will operate as usual. As I’ve said before, we would never send our travelers into harm’s way. Safety and security are our prime concerns, and we’re taking these steps to make sure our travelers are well served and enjoy their trip.

If you have any questions or want more information, write to me directly.

Update your passport now, or it’ll cost you

While nothing has been set in stone, it’s very likely that the U.S. Department of State will increase fees for new passport applications and renewals, as well as other services. If you’ve been procrastinating getting a passport or getting one renewed, don’t wait. The increases are substantial.

Here’s what they’re proposing. The cost of a new passport will increase from $100 to $135 for adults and from $85 to $105 for minors. Renewals will increase from $75 to $110 for adults and from $60 to $80 for minors. Travelers who need extra visa pages could soon pay $82. Currently, this service is free.

While no formal implementation date has been given for the changes, the U.S. Department of State has indicated that it intends to implement the new fees once it has had time to consider public comments. The public comment period ends on March 11.

ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) will be filing comments on March 11, urging restraint in fee changes. If you also feel strongly about the new fees, you can submit your comment on the U.S. Department of State’s Web site. Traveling is expensive. If we get a say in not increasing these fees, we should take that opportunity.

Large waves hit Louis Cruise Lines’ Louis Majesty

As many of you know, we work with Louis Cruise Lines and take our travelers on its Louis Majesty to cruise the Mediterranean. It saddens me to report that on March 4, abnormally large waves hit the cruise ship, damaging it severely and taking the lives of two passengers. Our hearts go out to the families involved.

We love this ship, and it is unfortunate that this unexpected force of nature disrupted, what I’m sure was, a beautiful journey for the travelers on board. Thankfully, no Friendly Planet travelers were on the ship.

The Mediterranean offers some of the best cruising values in the world, and we’ll continue to work with Louis Cruises. Friendly Planet travelers who are booked on Louis Cruise Line ships for later this year will not be impacted by the incident. If anything does change, we will update you quickly here on the blog and on our Facebook page.

Update: Is it safe to travel to Thailand?

This information has been updated here.

Last week there were numerous travel advisories telling people to be cautious when traveling to Bangkok, Thailand. In my previous post, I told you the advisories were issued because the Thai supreme court was announcing its decision regarding the seizure of assets from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Feb. 26. Diplomats were worried the decision would spark demonstrations.

I wanted to update you on what has happened since last week. It was ruled that Shinawatra did abuse his power as Prime Minister to enrich himself, and $1.4 billion of his frozen $2.3 billion fortune will be seized. There was plenty of reaction from Shinawatra’s supporters, but no demonstrations were held.

However, there are reports from his supporters about a mass rally taking place in Bangkok in mid March. With that said, if travel advisories are issued for Thailand around that time, Friendly Planet would take all of the measures I discussed in my earlier post.

There is no need to change any of your travel arrangements if you’re going to Thailand. I will keep you updated here and on our Facebook page if the situation does change. You can always e-mail me with any additional questions.

Is it safe to travel to Thailand?

This information has been updated here.

You might have heard about a travel advisory telling people “to consider safety matters when traveling to Bangkok, Thailand.” I was asked about it on our Facebook page and have received a couple of e-mails, so let me tell you what I know.

There has been an ongoing legal debate between the Thai government and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. On Feb. 26, the Thai supreme court announces its decision regarding the seizure of billions of Thai Bhat in Shinawatra’s assets.

If the court rules against him, his supporters originally announced they would demonstrate. This announcement caused various government agencies, namely Australian and British, to warn travelers to avoid Bangkok around the decision date.

Fortunately, the demonstration leaders announced that no demonstrations will take place. Travelers can set their worries aside. Go to Thailand and enjoy the splendid white sand beaches, exotic architecture, fascinating culture, and ancient ruins.

However, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain how Friendly Planet handles these situations. We’ve been in business for 30 years, and over that long span, we’ve experienced many travel advisories and warnings for points around the globe.

If the demonstrations in Bangkok had been held as originally announced, we would have rerouted our travelers already in the country to avoid any areas where the demonstrations were taking place.

For customers who were about to depart for Thailand, we would have carefully assessed the situation and made a decision whether or not to operate the tour. If the U.S. Department of State did issue a travel warning, we would have postponed our tour. But, our travelers wouldn’t incur any penalties.

We would never send our travelers into harm’s way. I want you to know that our travelers’ safety and security are our prime concerns. The determining factor behind any of our actions is always for your safety.

I spoke to our representatives on the ground in Thailand, and they told me that the streets of Bangkok are calm, and it’s business as usual. Our Taste of Thailand and Treasures of Thailand tours are happening as planned.

If the situation in Thailand does change, we will let you know about it on our blog and our Facebook page as soon as possible. If you have questions or would like more information, please send them directly to me.

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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