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What a strange little story. Over the summer news began to emerge that TSA was letting people confirm their identities, and then to board planes, using only Notice to Appear letters and paperwork. Those documents don't have photos or really any kind of security information - so that would have been problematic, which was one problem. But the story was actually much more about travel politics than about airline security, because it was wrapped up in the immigration debate. In any case it eventually made international headlines.
TSA for its part promptly denied that it was doing something as stupid as just letting people show random letters they could have printed at home. Agency spokespeople actually got kind of pissy about it - "completely wrong... never contacted us for a statement" - and made sure to let people know. Snopes.com rated the story flat out false.
We've talked before about how drones are are set to upend the travel world, from travel photography to travel safety. Sometimes the developments are newsy, like when the federal government banned drones inside national parks out of safety and noise concerns. Other times they can get kind of worrying, like when we gave you the heads up that idiots are using hobby drones to buzz commercial aircraft.
But overall, the trend in the travel world is the same as everywhere else: innovation then disruption then regulatory concerns and then innovation. People are finding lots of new ways to do old things. Travel photography is just one of the more obvious examples.
We've been warning you off tourist scams since the very earliest days of Jaunted, and that's because we know what you know: getting ripped off on vacation sucks. It could be something as simple as a cabbie overcharging you, all the way to schemes that involve multiple people and magic tricks. The particularly hateful "metal detector shuffle" - where you not only get robbed but you get your time wasted - was something we flagged for you all the way back in 2008. But no matter how simple or complicated, the loss of money burns and can cast a shadow over an otherwise good time.
Travel website Just The Flight has published an entire infograph listing down 40 common scams from around the world, broken down by country. The page hosting the graphic offers up a bunch of reasons why the scams work. The most basic issue is that people in strange situations genuinely need help to navigate, find landmarks, etc. That means they're inherently vulnerable. The fact that they're probably carrying a lot of cash on their person in one place- because you guys never listen to us - makes them even more attractive targets.
Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Drones / LAX / LGA / Travel Safety / → All Tags
Just posted online: part 3 of the Washington Post's "Hazard Above" investigative series on drones. Based on the premise that drones are "set to become a widespread reality in American skies," the Post spent a year investigating whether pilotless plane thingys will accidentally kill everybody. Over 50,000 pages of accident and other records were apparently examined and, indeed, it does turn out that we're all going to die.
We're paraphrasing and exaggerating for effect, of course, but not really.
Mom and cub lounging in the savanna of the Masai Mara
The situation in Kenya has certainly not improved since our visit a few months ago in April, when we explored one of the world's top safari regions and feasted on game meat. At the time, we penned our thoughts on whether it's safe to visit Kenya, concluding that the safari regions were as removed from the threats in Nairobi and Mombasa as Upstate New York is from New York City.
Things have definitely not stabilized since, and, to be honest, it doesn't sound like the situation is under control or getting better by any stretch of the imagination. The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has scrambled to ensure tourists that the attacks are not near or directed at at foreign facilities or tourist zones, but that reassurance has convinced few as many would-be visitors cancel their trips and tourism numbers continue to suffer. We can't blame those who cancel at this point, especially given this statement by the Somalia-based Al Shabab militant group that once again declared Kenya a "war zone" and warned foreigners that they were not safe:
In response to a number of muggings and attacks against Chinese tourists, it was announced today that the French government has called upon the Chinese police force to help patrol the streets of Paris this summer. According to reports, at least ten Chinese police officers will help strengthen the security at popular tourist spots and public transportation hubs. They will also help translate between Chinese tourists and local police offers.
We cover a lot within the travel industry, but this has to be one of the most significant stories we've seen in a long time. The implications and fallout of this industry first are absolutely huge, and it goes to show how far countries are willing to go in order to get a piece of the world's largest tourism market. Reading between the lines, it seems like this is a move by France to appease China and keep the tour buses coming. Last year, 1.5 million Chinese tourists visited France, and that number is expected to increase by 40% this year after France relaxed its visa process.
Africa Travel / Mailbag / Kenya Travel / Nairobi Travel / Masai Mara / Safari Travel / Laikipia Travel / Travel Safety / → All Tags
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Those who have been following the news are aware that Kenya has been the target of Somali terrorist groups and, obviously, the attacks have been incredibly heartbreaking. Considering we are covering so much of the good coming out of Kenya, this writer doesn't think it's fair to leave that elephant completely out of the conversation. Admittedly, before deciding to make the journey from my home in Denver, I too wondered if it was safe to visit Kenya.
On my trip it was confirmed that, in terms of taking a safari, the answer is absolutely yes it is safe. The risk of danger in the national reserve areas like the Masai Mara and Laikipia are no greater than encountering a problem in any of America's national parks. Like here in the States, terrorism in Kenya has thus far been limited to populated places like Nairobi and Mombasa.
"One is an example. Two is a coincidence. Three is a trend."
Something has been troubling us lately. Recent footage and images of emergency aircraft evacuations show passengers consciously disobeying flight crew commands to leave their luggage onboard. Fools are grabbing carry-ons and shopping bags, hopping down the emergency slides with them, and running for their lives.
Granted, emergency landings and evacuations are an extremely rare occurrence and it's likely you'll never have to experience one. Still, should you find yourself queuing up to shimmy out an emergency exit, please remember to put the well-being of fellow passengers before that of your duty-free impulse buys.
Take, for instance, the tragic incidence of the Asiana 214 crash landing at SFO last year. Video footage of the evacuation (as the plane burns!) has passengers running with armloads of bags. Several bags are clearly from duty-free shops. To say this is embarrassing is a gross understatement, especially considering three passengers lost their lives.
Travel Safety / Thailand Travel / Phuket Travel / Passports / MH370 / Crimes / → All Tags
An entire weekend has passed since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and, in that time, the only news of any consequence has been that at least two passengers onboard were traveling under false identities, using stolen passports.
No aircraft, wreckage, emergency calls, or anything to decipher the mystery has been found.
What we have now is a world distressed by the use of these stolen passports, both swiped in the last two years while the original owners (who are alive still) were visiting the popular vacation destination of Phuket, Thailand. Phuket is an island towards the south of Thailand, much nearer to the border with Malaysia than the Thai capital of Bangkok.
Bangkok Travel / Thailand Travel / Protests / Travel Tips / Political Travel / Travel Safety / Travel Alerts / → All Tags
Last time we checked-in on the political protests happening in Bangkok, a few airlines had reduced service to the Thai capital. Even though there's no immediate cessation of anti-government protests in the near future, can travelers still consider Bangkok as a safe destination this season?
Interestingly enough, Thai Airways hasn't said much when it comes to reduced flights or travel waivers. There is a warning on their website that, due to road closures, they recommend leave 4 hours early before a scheduled flight. Apart from that, operations are running as per normal and as if nothing was actually happening in the city center.
Having a passport is a big, frickin' deal. Just think about ita flimsy notebooky thing contains all your necessary personal data to allow you to show up on almost any foreign shore demanding admittance for tourism. What's more is that these things are valid for ten years. Ten years. That means that at no point in ten years can you spill coffee on it, use it to steady the leg of a wobbly table, or absentmindedly leave it behind in a hotel room safe. Replacing it isn't fun, and neither is being without it completely.
Thus, to avoid any mishaps and keep you always at the ready to hit the road, here's our top tips on What NOT to do with your passport::
Whether you're a frequent flyer or an armchair traveler, there are certain details it's nice to review before making plans for that next big trip. Every week, we'll squeeze our mindgrapes and share tips to make sure you're the best informed flyer in seat 1A...or 38K.
This Week: The 5 Things Everyone Should Do Before Leaving for the Airport