Loyal reader Cherish sent me the following question:
Hey, I hope all is well with you!
I have a friend who was scheduled to travel to Thailand at the beginning of May. It’s his first time going to Asia and his buddy is pretty scared and wants to re-route the trip. Do you have any suggestions (other than the travel.state.gov) for where he can get realistic/up-to-date information on Americans travalling to bangkok… maybe a local blog site or something that I can send him? You’re the travel-guru, so I figured I’d ask!
This is a real concern for people who are heading to Thailand or any other hotspot.
Mexico had travel plans cancelled when swine flu broke out and more recently after violence in border towns related to drug trafficking.
Kenya had riots in late 2007 over their presidential elections that caused many trips to be rerouted to Tanzania.
Paris has had youth riots with rock throwing and burning cars in 2005 and 2009.
The USA had the Rodney King verdict sparked LA riots back in 1992.
No country is immune from civil unrest. So what can you do if you have travel planned for a locale where the usual images of sunny beaches, great food and interesting artifacts is replaced with shouting protesters and burning cars and dead in the streets?
Check out this blog post from Arthur Frommer where he warned people not to go to Thailand at all. Then in the comments, the consensus was Thailand was safe – from people who are on the ground in Thailand. As far as I know Frommer is not in Thailand and is basing his recommendation from news reports and his own feeling about the situation. I would trust information from people who are there.
So how do you find these people. How about simply putting
in your favorite search engine. Or entering those same phrases in the Twitter search engine. People are constantly tweeting about conditions in Thailand and elsewhere around the world AS IT HAPPENS. No delay waiting for your favorite news station to broadcast or website to get updated. Twitter has become an instant and seemingly credible news source for those who can access it.
I was in Athens when there was rioting by farmers. I heard explosions when I was out food shopping, saw the protest and got out of the way. My time in Athens was not interrupted and I hardly noticed anything was going on.
Now if you saw a 60 second segment on TV, you might have avoided Athens thinking there was anarchy in the streets. Far from the case, which is why info from people who are actually there is so vital.
And I was next door in Cambodia when protesters closed Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok’s main airport and the hub for Southeast Asia. Again this looked really bad from afar, with thousands of tourists trapped at the airports. But the airports opened and everyone went home… eventually.
Everyone got home alright and the people who were in Thailand did not experience any problems beyond being severely inconvenienced. Some, like me, were out of money initially because I had to change my flight plans to get to Hong Kong, but that was all reimbursed.
Checking in with your embassy before you get there is always a good idea. Cherish mentioned the US State Department, and each country has travel warnings for its citizens. The problem is that the travel warnings and advisories that come from government agencies tend to be a blanket statement not to go to a certain place without any specifics.
- Go with Your Gut
Even after reading news reports, first person blogs and Twitter feeds and you’re still nervous about going, just don’t go.
Remember part of the reason we travel is the see the rest of the world for what it really is, without the filter of media. Don’t let 10 second video snippets stop you from traveling in the first place. Try to get first person accounts of what’s happening on the ground. Shots of bloodied faces and rioters turning over cars tells a dramatic story that brings in big ratings, but may have nothing to do with your trip. And may be a very small part of what is really going on.