World Travel Watch : Natural Disasters, Health Concerns to Consider

<i> Habegger and O'Reilly are free-lance writers living in Northern California</i> .

World Travel Watch is a monthly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel. Because conditions can change overnight, always make your own inquiries before you leave home. In the United States, contact the nearest passport agency office; abroad, check in with the nearest American embassy .

Worldwide travel updates:


--Bangladesh: Record floods have displaced thousands and have created serious health problems. Avoid travel here until conditions improve.


--China: Travelers wishing to ride the Trans-Siberian Express from Beijing to Berlin are required to obtain Mongolian and Polish visas before the Soviet Union will issue a transit visa. The Mongolian consulate in Beijing is only open for half an hour twice a week.


--Kenya: A vaccination certificate for cholera is required of all travelers arriving from an area infected with the disease. The certificate is not required, however, of travelers who have only been in transit at the airport in an infected country.

--Lesotho: A vaccination certificate for cholera is technically required of all travelers arriving from areas infected with the disease, but in practice, airport authorities have not been requiring it.


--Tanzania: Cholera is active. A vaccination certificate is required of travelers going to Zanzibar or Pemba.

--Zaire: Crossing the Congo River from the Congo’s capital of Brazzaville to Zaire’s capital of Kinshasha requires two documents, a laissez-passer and a Zairean visa, either of which can be obtained at the Zairean consulate in Brazzaville, but not both. The consulate claims one of them is redundant. This bit of bureaucratic red tape seems designed to force travelers to take the 10-minute, $350 Air Zaire flight between the two cities.

Soviet Union/Europe

--Soviet Union: The Soviet government has gone full circle in its campaign against alcohol consumption. The Draconian measures begun three years ago produced a significant loss of government revenue, plus intense anger and frustration on the part of the citizenry. The traditional wine and beer bars that have been popular meeting places are reopening, and champagne, wine and beer is again on sale in grocery stores.

Because of renewed unrest in the Armenian capital of Yerevan and the government’s inability to resolve the disputes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, a state of emergency has been declared in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and a 9 p.m to 6 a.m. curfew is in effect. Check with Intourist if your itinerary includes these regions.

The region of Primorsky Krai on the Sea of Japan was recently opened to visitors after being off-limits for 50 years. The region includes the port city of Vladivostok.


--Cuba: Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Cuba, and American travelers are urged to register with the Swiss Embassy in Havana on arrival. Telephone: 320551.


--Haiti: The situation remains extremely volatile following the recent army coup that deposed military leader Henri Namphy’s government. Avoid travel here at this time.

--Hurricane Gilbert: The worst storm of the century devastated many areas of the Caribbean. Hit hardest were Jamaica and the Yucatan Peninsula resorts of Cancun, Cozumel and Isla de las Mujeres. It is likely to take several months before the resorts are back to normal. Club Med Cancun expects to reopen by the end of November.

North America

--United States: The Senate recently passed a bill to ban ivory imports from countries that have not taken steps to conserve their elephant populations or do not take part in the ivory control system administered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The bill also bans imports from intermediary countries that cannot certify that the ivory came from legal sources. For import restriction information, contact the Division of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 28006, Washington 20005.

Southeast Asia

--Burma: The military has taken control of the government and is cracking down on dissent in the wake of demonstrations that have led to three changes of government since August. Avoid travel here at this time.


--Australian companies are considering building a tourist complex in Vestfold Hills despite grave concerns of scientists about the plan’s effect on the environment. One plan calls for a floating hotel moored in the ice just off the coast, and the proposed airport will be within a seven-hour flight of all southern continents: Africa, Australia and South America.



--New Caledonia: A vaccination certificate for cholera is required of all travelers arriving from an area infected with the disease. The certificate is not required, however, of travelers who have only been in transit at an airport in an infected country.

Note: The cholera vaccine is only about 50% effective, and the certificate is valid for six months after vaccination. The best way to prevent the disease is to avoid contaminated food and water.