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Posts Tagged ‘Travel advisory’

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Is it safe to travel to Egypt?

This post has been updated here

Political situations like the one unfolding in Egypt remind me that if you want to explore and experience the world, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Note that I didn’t say expect the unexpected. In almost every case, the risk is minimal when traveling. However, be prepared for any eventuality because it can happen anywhere. We just saw it unfold in our own country in Arizona.

Tens of thousands of protesters are filling the streets of Cairo demonstrating that they want current President Hosni Mubarak to step down from power. When Friendly Planet Travel got wind of this, we immediately contacted our two tour groups that are in Egypt right now.

One group is in Aswan, where no protests are taking place. That tour will continue as scheduled. The second group arrived in Cairo yesterday. They are currently in the Ramses Hilton hotel, which is on the east bank of the Nile River, where they have a clear view of the unfolding protests.

Every Friendly Planet Traveler in Egypt is safe. We have contacted every traveler’s emergency contact to make them aware of this. In fact, our group in Cairo was able to tour the Pyramids and Sphinx this morning as scheduled. Egypt’s tourist police safely escorted our travelers to and from the hotel before the protests heated up.

Right now the situation for our travelers is under control, with some enjoying the sites along the Nile River on a week long cruise and others about to fly to Luxor to begin a cruise on the Nile on Saturday morning. We hope that in the next hours and few days, the situation will improve and the demonstrations will stop. Friendly Planet Travel has experience when these things happen. They’re rare, but they do happen, and when they do, we know what needs to be done to take care of our travelers.

We’re monitoring the situation closely and have a Friendly Planet Travel representative with our travelers at all times. Every two hours we receive an update on the situation from our representatives in Cairo. All hands are on deck at Friendly Planet to make sure our travelers stay safe and continue to see the beauty of Egypt.

I will continue to keep you updated on the political situation in Egypt on the blog. And if you have any questions or concerns you can write to me or call our offices at 1-800-555-5765.

Ecuador still under a state of emergency, Friendly Planet issues refunds for cancelled departure dates

There is more news coming out of Ecuador today. Overnight the protests in Ecuador subsided, but USA Today is reporting that the political situation still remains unstable and the country will remain under a week long state of emergency.

We cancelled our Thursday, Sept. 30 departure to Ecuador from Miami. The travelers effected will have their payments fully refunded. Of course they were disappointed at this news, but understood we would never send travelers into harm’s way.

As for our nine Friendly Planet travelers were in Guayaquil, Ecuador last night, they were not able to depart for Quito to come back to the United States yesterday. We were in contact with the U.S. Department of State who told us that our travelers should remain at the airport and not go to a hotel.

Friendly Planet’s Galapagos representative was with them at the airport the entire night, and I’m happy to report that the flight finally returned to the U.S. today. Everyone is safe, happy to be home, and glad they had the chance to see the Galapagos before the police strike.

As of this writing, we have reinstated our Oct. 3 departure to the Galapagos, as the situation in Ecuador has returned to its peaceful norm. While a state of emergency officially exists, the situation is calm, and the government is fully in control. The strike is over, and Ecuador is once again open for business as usual.

I will continue to update you with more news on the blog as I receive it. And as always, write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 if you have any other concerns.

Protests in Ecuador shut down airports: What Friendly Planet Travelers should know

You might have heard about the protests that erupted in Ecuador today. Here’s what’s been reported by The Associated Press. Police officers are protesting a new law that was passed by Congress on Wednesday that cuts their benefits.

These protests quickly grew throughout the country to Quito, Guayaquil, and other cities. Airports are shut down, highways are blocked, and a state of emergency has been declared for the country.

Friendly Planet Travel has travelers in Miami’s airport who were trying to fly to Quito today. We also have travelers in the Guayaquil airport trying to fly back right now.

At this moment Friendly Planet Travel is all hands on deck. We will be working around the clock with the airlines and our representatives on the ground in Ecuador to make sure every one of our passengers is accounted for and is being taken care of.

We’ve been in the travel business for over 30 years and have experience dealing with these types of situations. Recently, you saw how we reported on the political protests in Thailand. And in one of my first posts about the Thailand protests, I explained what measures Friendly Planet Travel takes to ensure the safety of our travelers. I encourage you flip back to the post to see what we do.

Keep your eyes peeled to the blog. I will continue to keep you updated as I get more news on the protests and information from our reps in Ecuador. If you’re really concerned and don’t want to wait until my next blog post, write to me or call 1-800-555-5765.

Putting violence behind them, Thailand moves forward

Here’s the most recent report from my representatives in Thailand. I was told that the situation in Bangkok has calmed down substantially and life is pretty much back normal. Our Thai representatives have reopened their main office and everyone is back to work as usual.

During the worst of the violence, our office had to close due to its close proximity to the demonstrations and the staff worked out of satellite offices in other locations around the city. Everyone is now back to work and our staff is safe and well.

A few days ago, thousands of volunteers turned up at the demonstration sites around the city and cleaned up the streets to remove all evidence of the protests. My representatives describe an overwhelming sense of relief in that the Thai people appear ready to put these violent demonstrations behind them and move on with their lives.

People from all walks of life participated in the clean up, and judging from the comments of the participants, the people have no intention of allowing a repeat of the past few months. Everyone wants peace.

There are no restrictions or curfews imposed at the airports in Thailand, and all flights are operating. But as usual, all passengers must be in possession of their travel documents to access the airport if curfew hours are put into place by The Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation.

We have great faith in Thailand as a destination, and despite the events of the past few months, we are working hard on new programs to Thailand. As soon as these programs are finalized with dates and prices, we will post the new tours and invite our travelers to resume travel to Thailand.

There is hardly a more wonderful destination in the world, and with peace restored, we believe the rush to visit will resume as never before. Stay tuned for details of specials once the new tours are ready. Bookmark the Thailand tag on our blog to stay up to date on the latest information.

Thailand: Our hearts are with you

This post has been updated here.

This morning I received more bad news from Thailand. Our office in Bangkok is located just across the street from the Dusit Thani hotel — ground zero for the political demonstrations. The situation has become violent again, and we’ve moved our office to other quarters for the time being to make sure everyone stays out of harm’s way.

During the past few weeks, I have closely watched the deteriorating situation in Bangkok. I was sure that King Bhumibol Adulyadej, revered by all Thais, would speak out with a demand for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. But there has been nothing but silence from the king.

I was positive that the naturally peaceful and warm nature of the Thai people would ultimately cause the demonstrators to go home, the government to call for new elections, and life to go back to normal. Nothing of the sort has come to pass. The determination of both sides has created quite the stalemate, bringing a sense of tension and fear to the heart of Bangkok’s most affluent and popular neighborhood.

My heart is broken. I realize that until the Thai people decide once and for all to settle their differences through elections and not through force, there will not be peace. I worry for all the wonderful friends and colleagues who depend on tourism to feed, house, and clothe their families. And I’m sorry for all of us, who are deprived of visiting this gorgeous and friendly country. It is one of the most amazing vacation destinations in the entire world.

So it was with great regret and sadness that Friendly Planet had to cancel all travel to Thailand for the time being. But rest assured, the moment the current crisis is resolved, we will be back with more tours to Thailand. I will continue to pray that moment comes very, very soon.

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 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.

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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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