Gap Year Travel Safety News and Articles

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Covid - 19: Over 150m cases globally, over 3m deaths
Covid- Case numbers on rise again in Europe
Covid/UK- Entry restrictions from S Africa & S America
Brazil: Surge in Covid deaths
India: Farmers strike continues
Kenya: Continued threat of terrorism
 

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Indian Sub Continent

Due to Covid 19 the India Governmant suspened all travel visas and Sri Lanka have closed their borders to foreigners. As at the beginning of May 2021 new cases are running at over 400,000 per day & the country India has now recorded over 20m cases and over 230,000 deaths.  India's land borders remain closed to non returning nationals. In mid January India began a mass vaccination programme and by mid April over 100m have been vacinnnated.  Despite the huge spike in cases local elections are continuing which will only make the situation worse.  Due to the new Covid variant India banned the majority of travel from the UK in late December 2020. In mid January 2021 India began a mass vaccination prorgramme and by mid April over 100m have been vacinnated but cases arealso rising at over 100,000 new cases were occurring daiy. Covid cases are also rising in Nepal, Bangladesh & Pakistan. Kathmandu began 2 week lock down on 29 April 21. Pakistan has also imposed a lock down.

Key Travel Safety Points when travelling and backpacking in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma) & Nepal:

The greatest risks are from road traffic accidents (RTA's) and getting sick, especially in India. Contracting Dengue Fever is certainly a risk in many parts. Use insect repellant with 50% DEET to reduce the risk. In the winter months, pollution is a serious problem in the big cites of India and seems to be only getting worse. The 2019 monsoon in India is causing extensive flooding acorss the country, notably in Kerela and Assam. Relations between India and Pakistan are currently very strained following the withdrawal in August 2019 of special status that India had given Kashmir since 1947. Pollution is causing a serious health risk in most cities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

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The Middle East

The Covid -19 Coranavirus has affectecd all the Middle East although Iran is the epi centre with ten of thousand of  cases and officially 20,000 deaths but the true figure maybe nearer 40,000 deaths.  Turkey & Iraq have implimented strict border controls and many flights across the region have been cancelled. The number of cases in all Middle East countries is begining to stabilise although accuate data is scarse.  Isreal is the world leader with it's vaccination roll out and case numbers have dropped off dramatically. The UAE has also embarked on an impressive programme, whilst other countries are lagging behind. Inevitabely Iran has banned any vaccination with UK or USA association. As at the beginning of May 2021 Turkey has seen a spike in infections although the reporting of the true covid situation is assessed as having been misleading throughout the pandemic. The main air hubs of Dubai & Doha are restricting transit flights. On 4 August 2020 a huge commercial explosion in the docks area of Beirut caused very extensive damage to most of the city. Over 200 people were killed and thousands injured. Public anger against what is seen as a corrupt political elite is rising prompting political resignations. The economy was in a dire situation even before this blast.  

Countries across the Middle East (Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Iran & Libya) face political turmoil following the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and the ongoing one in Syria. Libya remains highly unstable due to inter-factional fighting & criminal activity, including kidnapping that are on the rise. The British Embassy closed in July 2014 due to security concerns and FCO is advising Against All Travel to Libya. The FCO also advises 'against all travel to Syria', unrest will continue and the country in now in a state of civil war. Lebanon remain relatively stable and Beirut is a wonderful city to visit but the general level of unrest in the regions is putting strains on the country. Resentment against Iran's involvement in the region is on the rise, in October and November 2019 violent protests have occurred across Iraq and Lebanon against Iran's axis of influence namely the Shia dominated Iraqi government and Hizbollah. This comes at a times when more mass protests have also broken out in Iran following a 50% hike in fuel prices. The killing by the USA of Iran's top General & IRGC leader Gen Soliemani in iraq on 3 Jan 20 increased tension in the region and its very likely that the Iranian regime will have to react against the USA in some form. UK citizens should keep a low profile if in Iran. Further signs of change in the region occurred towards the end of 2020 with a peace accord being signed between UAE & Isreal and reports of a high level meeting between old adversies Saudi Arabia and Isreal. 


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Central and South America

Cases of Covid 19 are growing and the FCDO now advises against all but essential travel to most South and Central American countries and most of them are or have shut their borders to foreigners.  Brazil, Argentina & Mexico have witnessed a rapid rise in deaths, over 220,000 in Brazil and more than 50,000 in Mexico. Argentina has banned all flights, domestic and international. The emergence of a new Covid variant in Brazil (Manaus) in early Januarty 2021 has resulted in many countires banninng flights from South America.  Bolivia & Peru are now allowing travellers to arrive on commercial flights provided they arrive with a negative covid results taken within 72 hours of arrival. Flights to Argentina are still suspended. Chile opened its border to international travellers on 24 November, however land borders to other countries are still closed. The picture in Central America is similar with strict entry restrictions. Some gap year projects continue in Costa Rica but opportunities to travel are limited. Cases are rising again in Brazil with a record daily death toll reported in March and April 2021. Cases in Argentina are also rising slightly which will prompt sricter border controls. Chile's vaccination programme was going well however in early April the country scrapped covid restrictions which has lead to a surge in covid cases and the reimposition of social restrictions. Ecuador now allows visitors to enter provided they have proof of vaccination. 

Most visits to South and Central America are trouble free, but the threat from crime is of concern in many of the continent's urban areas. It's essential to ensure your valuables are split up - not all eggs in one basket! In popular tourist areas across South America (Buenos Aires, Cuzco, Bogota & Quito), travellers face a significant threat of being mugged - always comply. Argentina and Brazil are both experiencing severe economic difficulties which in turn is leading to social unrest and some public protests. Venezuela is in a state of permanent unrest, the economy is collapsing and civil protests against the Maduro govenment are growing. The UK FCO currently advises against all but essential travel to Venezuela. 

Thailand has a reputation for scams, crime and drugs and therefore travellers need to be very careful. It must be remembered that there are severe penalties for drugs smuggling in all South East Asian countries, the execution by Indonesia of five foreign drug smugglers in June 2015 is a timely reminder. In China cases of Coronavirus (Covid -19) is now slowing with over 120,000 cases and over 3300 deaths and some movement restrictions remain in place. Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and South Korea have all had a smalll number of cases but have been sucessful in controlling the virus.  Thailand has extended its emergency measures with a continued ban on non nationals entering the country. In early September Vietnam has seen a slight increase in infections, especaily in the Da Nang area. As a general rule non residents are not currently permitted to enter SE Asian except on essential business. More information at: https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/world.php. A military coup in Burma in Feb 2021 has led to street protests and in turn violent repression from the military.

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Virtual Courses for Gap Year Travellers

NEW! Virtual Gap Year Travel and Safety Course

We've launched our new Virtual Gap Year Travel and Safety courses due to covid restrictions.  This means that you still get the same travel safety advice virtually in preparation for whenever you resume your gap year travel plans. 

The virtual course is just £125 per person - A four hour blended learning course broken down into two 2 hour sessions within a day. Numbers will be limited to a maximum of 8 people per course. Book online

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Covid -19 Gap Year Travel

Covid -19 - Where can I go on my Gap Year?  In the last few days across Europe the rate of Covid-19 infections have been on the rise. The long predicted second wave has arrived earlier than was hoped. Belgium Health Minister has talked of a tsunami of new cases, tighter restrictions have been imposed in France, Italy, Ireland, Wales, parts of Germany and Czech authorities are warning of complete national lockdown. Europe, perhaps prompted by the onset of Autumn, is seeing the most rise in infections rates compared to other areas across the globe.

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Visiting Vietnam

I recently travelled to Vietnam for a very brief fact-finding tour, gathering information to help our gap year students plan their travels in this wonderful country. I have previously visited Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (February this year), so I was really keen to see why Vietnam rated so highly. I travelled as a gap year student, staying in dormitories, hostels and getting about by both bus and train. Whilst in Saigon, I had a very useful meeting at the British High Commission. I say Saigon as I didn’t see a single bus or train timetable or a local person who referred to it as Ho Chi Minh.

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Courses and Talks for Schools

Objective Gap Safety can provide tailored made Gap Year Safety or Urban Safety Courses for schools.

The gap course is typically delivered in a half-day course and is a shortened version of our highly successful one day Gap Safety Course. It's designed to prepare 6th formers for the challenges of overseas travel and is full of life skills.

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Water – Safe abroad? Good question!

Can I drink the tap water? Or rather too many young travellers assume they can and are in for a nasty shock when they realised they actually can’t. Living in the UK, we just take this for granted and have done so for decades. Where would I feel safe drinking the tap water? Central Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia for certain and perhaps Chile and Argentina.  A Chinese audience recently said to me ‘absolutely not’ and quite definitely I would not be drinking tap water in India, Laos, Vietnam, Bolivia and Peru to name a few. 

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Japan - First visit

My first impression of Japan was bizarre to say the least. I wondered whether I had landed in a SARS or Ebola zone. I was greeted by a mask wearing immigration official who was very polite but looked completely ridiculous amongst scores of non mask-wearing human beings! It's been a delight to be here on business. Tokyo is a modern city (the US Air Force flattened most of bit in the latter months of the war) and works well. It's clean, doesn’t feel very crowded (but suspect I have got lucky) and everyone is so polite.

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Thailand - Full Moon Party

Thailand – The Full Moon Party

In order to make sure you are staying in the best hostel (this matters as it's where you will ‘pre’ and often you go to the party with people you have met in the hostel) it's best to pick a date and book the hostel about 2 to 3 months in advance as the best ones go quickly. The Full Moon happens once a month with a half moon once a month too (I didn’t go to a Half Moon but have heard good things).

Best time to go to Thailand is from about March onwards until July, as this is when most people of a similar age will be in Thailand and South East Asia. Some good hostels are Relax Corner, Slumber Party, Lazy House Shenanigans or Phagnan Arena. Most of these have a pool and they run events like beer pong in the evening that are fun and definitely worth taking part in for free drinks etc.

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Myanmar Burma

Myanmar is the most wonderful country to visit and it's a good time to go at the moment due to lack of other tourists. I had been before, in 1983, when one could only get a visa for six days and it was all rather fraught but exciting. Today Myanmar, in a semi-democratic mode, is a joy to visit and it’s relatively easy but perhaps a little more expensive than its neighbours.  The unrest in the north of Rakhine and the publicity surrounding the exodus of thousands of Rahinga Muslims has had a negative effect on the tourism trade.  Some estimates suggest that tourism may be down by up to 40%.

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Travelling East Africa Feb 2018

I have just returned from a short trip to Kenya and Tanzania. The former was returning to Nairobi and visiting the highland area around Nanyuki whilst in Tanzania it was a familiarisation trip to Zanzibar.

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Dengue Fever, Zika & Chikungunya Fever

In South America, Central America and South East Asia, Dengue Fever is a persistent threat & now Chikungunya in spreading into Central & South America too. The Zika virus is now spreading across much of South America, especailly in Brazil.

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South Island New Zealand

First visit to South Island New Zealand and some thougths on Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound and Kaikoura.

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Colombia Nov 2016

In the middle of November 2016 I returned to Colombia for the first time since 1990. The country has clearly had a torrid last two decades (well really five), just mentioning it’s name prompt comments about Pablo Escobar, rebel gangs and a generally thoroughly dangerous place. Happily things are improving, Escobar met a sticky end in a roof top shoot out in 1993 and from the turn of the century President Uribe took on the rebel groups, principally the FARC and ELN

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