Prevailing Conditions Abroad

Habegger and O'Reilly are free-lance writers living in Northern California .

World Travel Watch is a monthly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel throughout the world. 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 .


--China: A wave of thefts of freight and luggage has hit China's trains. Keep an eye on your bags.

--India: The crashes of two domestic aircraft on the same day recently have raised concerns about safety and maintenance of Indian Airlines and the smaller Vayudoot Airlines. Both of these state-owned companies have been criticized for management and maintenance deficiencies. Both companies have a shortage of aircraft, keeping the planes in service more than they should be and hampering maintenance efforts because the aircraft spend so little time on the ground.

--Nepal: Meningococcal meningitis is present here. All travelers should be immunized before arrival. An outbreak of Japanese encephalitis has been reported in the tropical plains bordering India. The best prevention of this mosquito-borne disease is to avoid being bitten. Wear clothing that covers the arms and legs, and use an insect repellent that contains Deet.


--Algeria: The worst riots since Algeria achieved independence 26 years ago erupted recently, with demonstrators demanding economic and political reform. The situation has returned to normal, but dissatisfaction remains. Exercise caution, especially in urban areas.

Middle East/Persian Gulf

--Iraq: Because of the annual Baghdad International Fair that began last week and continues till Nov. 15, hotel accommodations will be extremely limited in Baghdad through Nov. 20.

--Israel: A recent polio outbreak in Hadera has prompted the Israeli Health Ministry to order a mass immunization of all residents under 40. Be sure your polio immunization is up to date if traveling here.

Europe/Soviet Union

--Ireland: All hotels and guest houses in Dublin are fully booked for the weekend of Nov. 16-20 and the Boston College/Army football game Nov. 19. Bed and breakfast accommodations are still available outside the city.

--Soviet Union: Customs regulations are strict and are strictly enforced. Anything that officials deem not for personal use can be confiscated, as well as any valuables not declared, including wedding rings and traveler's checks.

Antiques, defined as anything that might have historic or cultural value, may be seized, sometimes including even modern sidewalk art that is properly documented. Officials are also very sensitive about foreigners carrying correspondence or other articles out of the country for Soviet citizens, and anyone suspected of this can be subjected to several hours of interrogation.

Tourism has increased in 1988, and with it, theft of valuables and documents. Exercise caution.

--Yugoslavia: Deteriorating economic conditions and traditional ethnic differences recently produced mass demonstrations in major cities throughout the country. The unrest is likely to continue. Exercise caution, especially in urban areas.

South America

--Brazil: The government has finally moved to protect the diminishing Amazon rain forest, calling for an end to tax breaks for cattle ranching and a ban on the export of unprocessed tropical timber.

A group B strain of meningococcal meningitis has been reported in Sao Paolo. The vaccine for meningitis available in the United States is not effective against this strain, but a Cuban vaccine that does provide immunity is available in Brazil. The outbreak is not widespread, so immunization is not essential.

Caribbean/Central America

--Jamaica: The tourism industry is recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Gilbert. Most of the damaged hotels have reopened and services are returning to normal.

Southeast Asia

--Philippines: The second sinking of an inter-island ferry in less than a year, this time in a typhoon, underscores safety concerns with Philippine passenger ships that routinely overcrowd and whose maintenance is suspect. It's best to avoid Sulpicio Lines, owner of both doomed vessels, especially during typhoon season.


--Malaria: After years of recommending that travelers take chloroquine for six weeks after returning home from malarial regions, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently determined that four weeks is long enough. Immunization Alert of Storrs, Conn., a travel medicine service that provides personalized health strategies, recommends that pro guanil (brand name Paludrine) be taken along with chloroquine in areas where chloroquine-resistant malaria exists.

Pro guanil is produced in England and is available without a prescription in Europe, Africa and most of Asia. It is not available in the United States. Dosage is two 100-milligram pills a day, continuing for four weeks after returning.

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