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Posts Tagged ‘News’

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Thailand remains calm, tourism to resume

This post has be updated here.

I received an update from the Thai Ministry of Tourism today. Here’s what they told me. Bangkok remains calm as the Thai government continues to work towards resolving the political situation. Popular tourist destinations outside of Bangkok have not been affected.

This past week, the Songkran, the Thai New Year holiday, brought a period of cooling off while many people celebrated the holiday. As a result, traffic has improved and protesters have moved from their traffic-stopping locations.

At this time, tourism to Thailand will continue as usual, unless something new occurs.

Here’s what Friendly Planet is doing for our travelers going to Thailand. We have asked our suppliers to help us with those travelers who, despite the calmer atmosphere, still do not feel comfortable traveling to Thailand.

For those traveling with Friendly Planet on April 28 (our next departure), anyone who feels unwilling to continue with the tour can postpone their trip without any penalties. They also have the option to book our Vietnam tour, which flies on the same airline.

I will post an update if there are any new developments in Thailand. Please write to me directly if you have any questions or concerns about your trip.

Thailand protests spark travel alert from US: What Friendly Planet travelers need to know

This post has been updated here.

We have been posting regular updates on the blog about the political situation in Thailand, keeping you informed on what has been taking place. The situation changed over the weekend, and I wanted you to know what you should do and how we are handling it.

The safety of our travelers is one of our prime concerns, so we reacted immediately to the situation. Here is the e-mail we sent to all of our travelers who have booked a tour to Thailand. It explains what has happened and what we are doing to accommodate each traveler.

If, after reading it, you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly or post a question here on the blog.

Dear Friendly Planet Thailand Travelers,

Like us, you have no doubt been following the unfolding drama in Bangkok. We have posted regular updates about the situation on our blog, and until this past weekend, the situation was peaceful despite the growing numbers of protesters. Unfortunately, as we now know, violence erupted during the weekend causing some deaths and injuries. This is truly not in character with the Thai people, who have a history of expressing their dissatisfaction with their government through marches and demonstrations but not violence.

These are the facts as we know them at this moment. According to our representatives on the ground in Bangkok, the outbreaks of violence have occurred in a small part of the city and did not spread to other areas. While the protesters have not yet dispersed, the city appears to be calm, although many people are shocked and saddened that such hostile acts could occur in their midst. Both sides of the dispute are now in talks to try and resolve the impasse, and we are hopeful that a solution will now be found so that no further violence will occur.

This coming week, Thailand will celebrate a national holiday and many people are away. The streets are relatively quiet, and all tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, shops and businesses are all open as usual. The US Department of State has issued a travel alert about the situation. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_1998.html. While the alert describes the situation, it does not ask travelers to refrain from visiting Thailand. In fact, the alert states that Thailand is usually a very safe tourist destination and only asks that visitors take extra precautions to avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. Please follow the link to read the entire text of the alert.

Under the circumstances, we want to make sure that you are comfortable in knowing that all options are available to you, from going forward with your plans to canceling your trip without penalty. Please consider the following options for travel to Thailand between April 12 and April 23:

  • You may proceed with your trip as planned. If, when you arrive in Bangkok, the situation has not stabilized, our representatives will offer a revised program outside of Bangkok. Details of this alternate program will be made available upon arrival.
  • You may switch to another date of the same trip. No change fees will apply should you select another departure. However, the tour price in effect for the new dates will apply. That is, if your tour price is presently $1500 and the new date price is $1800, your balance due will be $300. If your new date price is $1300, you will receive a refund of $200.
  • You may cancel your Thailand tour and apply your tour payments to a different Friendly Planet tour. Again, the tour price of the new tour will apply.
  • You may cancel your tour without any cancellation penalties whatsoever, even if tickets have already been issued.


For departures after April 23, we do not as yet have a ruling by the airline or hotels regarding penalties. It is believed that the situation will be calm by then, and no further cancellations will be necessary. However, if this is not the case and the situation remains volatile, we believe our suppliers will extend the grace period and waive penalties for departures beyond April 23.

Please notify us without delay about your wishes. You may call us (800-555-5765) or send us a message by email at (reservations@friendlyplanet.com)

Rest assured that your well being and safety is our primary concern. We are watching the situation carefully, and we will do everything possible to facilitate a proper and positive outcome for all our travelers. If you have questions or need further clarification or information, contact us so we can help.


If you want to be the first to find out about Friendly Planet news, we will be introducing a new feature that will let you sign up for e-mail notifications. Once it is in action, I will tell you about it here.

After Peru mudslide, Machu Picchu reopens today

I wanted to start the week off with some good news. But before I tell you, let me bring you up to speed on what was happening in Peru. A massive mudslide occurred on Jan. 26 that closed cities, suspended all transportation, shut down tourist attractions, and more.

Since then, the country has been working hard to repair the damage. On the top of the list was reopening Machu Picchu, which is among the most important and popular tourist destinations in this hemisphere. I’m happy to report that PeruRail will resume service to Machu Picchu starting today!

I’m looking forward to bringing travel back to Peru’s most spectacular site. When we first heard about the mudslide, we got very busy. Two of our tours, Amazing Peru and Peru, Ecuador and Galapagos were directly affected.

If you’re wondering how Friendly Planet handled this force majeure, let me tell you what we did to accommodate our travelers. First, we immediately contacted our suppliers and made sure that there were no penalties associated with any of the options we were giving our travelers. Then we gave everyone four options to choose from.

Travelers could go on the same tour, but with an adjusted itinerary. The next option was to schedule a later departure date and receive a $100 credit to help with costs associated with changing domestic flights. Lastly, if travelers didn’t like either of those options, they could book any other Friendly Planet tour or, if travelers found none of the options appealing, they could get a full refund.

When situations such as these occur, we do everything possible for our travelers so they avoid incurring extra costs and experience as little inconvenience as possible. I put myself in their shoes. Telling them their tour is canceled because something happened that was beyond their control, and then letting them cope with the consequences themselves, is simply not an option for Friendly Planet.

In the case of Peru, I think we did a terrific job accommodating our travelers. Now that tours to one of the most stunning sites in the world is back in business, take a trip to see Machu Picchu. It’s one location everyone should see. If you want to experience it, book our 12-day Amazing Peru tour or the 15-day Peru, Ecuador and Galapagos tour.

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.

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.

Weekly wrap up: Taj Mahal Express marveling travelers

Last week I told you about Friendly Planet’s hot new deal to India on the Taj Mahal Express tour for only $1,099. If you didn’t hear about it, I encourage you read the post to see all of the new features we added. Travel editors have been kind enough to feature the Taj Mahal Express in their publications and I want to say THANKS to them all. Go ahead and take a gander:

National Geographic: Daily Radar: 2.04.10

Frommer’s: The Band-Wagon to India Picks Up Speed, As Friendly Planet Offers Another Budget-Priced Marvel to Your Options

Vacation Agent: Friendly Planet Travel Offers Taj Mahal Express For $1,099

Travel Pulse: Friendly Planet Travel Offers Taj Mahal Express for $1,099

Weekly wrap up: Friendly Planet Travel in the news

FP_news3.jpgDog bites man! Man bombs moon! Man vacations Dubai for under $1,500! It’s all run of the mill here at Friendly Planet Travel.

Trip Atlas: Six (affordable!) days in Dubai

The Washington Post: The week’s best travel bargains around the globe, by land, sea and air.

Examiner.com: Cruise the Med during the holiday season starting at $1300 from NYC…we’re talkintravel.

Examiner.com: Friendly Planet Travel offers deals if you’d rather not be home for the holidays

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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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