New Travel Warning? Should I change plans?

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Jul 1st, 2005, 02:23 PM
  #1
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New Travel Warning? Should I change plans?

We just booked a safari to Kenya in March. And today the US state dept. posted a brand new travel warning for Kenya! I am considering calling the company to try to change our tour to South Africa/Kruger. I have a two part question
1) Is the travel warning a huge concern? Some people have traveled during the last one... We choose this area so we could really see a "true" africa not overly developed or full of tourists
2) If we changed the trips to South Africa/Kruger what would be the main differences. I have heard Kruger has tons of tourists and even has a "theme park" feel.
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Jul 1st, 2005, 02:46 PM
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I would just read the warning carefully and talk to your travel consultant about your concerns. I would not rebook a trip that was not my dream trip, only to find out that the Govt was overly cautious (which they can be)! The warning says to be careful-to use caution. I am still going to Vic Falls, and several safari spots in Zimbabwe- and there are travel warnings for Zim. I would continue with your dream trip, and just monitor the situation (and get full travel insurance to cover in case you DO need to change later)!
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Jul 1st, 2005, 03:25 PM
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I just read this too. Certainly no one can advise you when it comes to your travel and safety issues. And it is doubly difficult to decipher these warnings and figure out what you want to do-- what does "exercising caution" mean, really? (I exercise caution whenever I travel...and when I'm at home too. And being a bit of a skeptic, I also note that there are no travel warnings posted for dangerous places in the US (there are parts of all our major cities that need them!)

After 9/11, I decided that I was more worried about all the things I would never see if I stayed home (subject to terrorist attacks and crime here) than I was worried about the warnings. I figure they are just as likely to cause me problems at home as abroad. (And again the biggest risk we face IS ON THE HIGHWAYS HERE. But we don't stop driving. Why get all worried about some infinitisimal risk overseas when we ignore more significant risks at home, everyday. I can hear people saying, "but I NEED to go to work...or to the mall..." or whatever. Well, I need to travel...including to Kenya.

However, this sounded to me like more of an extension of the previous warning than a new warning. No new info, just a continuation of the things that made them issue the first one. And it is interesting that you booked this trip while the old warning was still in effect, so that didn't deter you. What is it about the new warning that made you nervous?
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Jul 1st, 2005, 03:29 PM
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hi, look. just go ok. i visited kenya days after 9/11. then again in 2002, 2004, 2005. warnings all over. not a problem. go an enjoy your self. your more likely to get into a car accident then anything else. even the insects are nothing to write home about. don't let anything change your plans. go with the wind and brag about it later
cheers, david
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Jul 1st, 2005, 03:31 PM
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This sounds silly...but since the old warning was from June-Nov. 2004, I thought it was just that....Old. Now, since it was just posted, for some reason in my mind it has more meaning.
Let me put it this way, on a recent trip to Costa Rica I was on edge the entire trip, and that was only Costa Rica. I can only imagine what my paranoid mind can dream up in the next 9 months. I just don't want my husband to miss out on a true safari experience. My other main question is would S. Africa/Kruger be a similar experience?
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Jul 1st, 2005, 03:40 PM
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megtr,
That old warning that you referred to was renewed in Dec 2004, so essentially there hasn't been a recent time period where there was no warning in effect for Kenya. I can't tell you what to do, but we traveled to Kenya in Jan/Feb of this year and will do so again in Nov. If Costa Rica made you nervous though, perhaps it's better for you to choose some place else and not have to worry.
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Jul 1st, 2005, 04:33 PM
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For whatever it's worth, I went to Kenya & Tanzania in February, 2002, after the 9/11 attack, to China in October, 2003 after the SARS epidemic and to Egypt in March, 2005. I am glad that I didn't cancel my plans and I had the best of times. Those State Department warnings come up all the time--just log onto the State Department website and you'll never go anywhere!
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Jul 1st, 2005, 04:36 PM
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megtr:

I would not consider changing your plans. The warnings have been up for a long time and thousands of Americans have been to Kenya with no bad events.
In Kenya you have more chance of being injured in an auto accident or robbery than you do of terrorism. Yes, it could happen, but it could happen in the U.S. also.

I have been to Kenya seven times since January 2001 and am returning at the end of this month. Once you are out of Nairobi you'll feel as safe as you do at home. Just don't go walking around Nairobi without an escort. Your tour operator will be extremely protective of you as will the employees in all the lodges and camps you stay in.

You will have a thrilling trip and, like the rest of us, become obsessed with Kenya, its wildlife and its people.

Jan

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Jul 1st, 2005, 05:16 PM
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it is a matter of personal choice, but you should take these warnings literally.

the kenya warning was relatively specific. it cautioned not to go to western style places. that means if you're booked into the nairobi sheraton (is there such a thing?) i would move.

it did not state that americans traveling in small group tours and staying in upscale lodges are being attacked by rogue forces on game drives. THAT would cause great concern.

just read it over and then carefully consider your itinerary and make changes as needed.

if it is going to ruin your next few months, then certainly try a different destination. animals are wonderful wherever you spot them...i have NOT been to kruger but i was to the manmade madikwe and spotting the wild dogs chasing the lions and rhinos was not less thrilling, nor inauthentic there.

we went to botswana for the "real" africa and it actually was hard to say what that really meant...
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Jul 1st, 2005, 07:50 PM
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Check out the NYTimes article on the warnings. The website is in a post I made a few days ago called "State Department warnings" or something like that.
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Jul 1st, 2005, 09:30 PM
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sunshine007
Thanks for the NY times article. It is interesting that Australia does not have Kenya on its warning list. We leave in a week and we are still going but of course concerned that there has been the proverbial increase in chatter that has caused the gov't to reissue its warning at this particular time. At least they did not revert back to the more severe warning against all non-essential travel. We are in a tour and hopefully in good hands but I am still packing our bear mace in my checked luggage so I can clutch my false sense of security when I hear that bump in the night.
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Jul 1st, 2005, 09:52 PM
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This new advisory mentioned the continuing terrorist threat to aviation. Does anyone know if a shoulder-held missile launcher such as the one unsuccessfully used in 2002 to bring down the Israeli jet in Mombasa can be used at night? We are flying into Nairobi from London in the middle of the night and departing Nairobi for London at midnight. I thought there might be a reason for the night arrival and departure but I did not know if it could be security. Just curious.
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Jul 1st, 2005, 10:08 PM
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Meg,
I get the feeling that your mind is made up, and you are just looking for others to confirm it...any chance that I'm right here?

What kind of information could convince you to go to Kenya? What kind of information would convince you to cancel Kenya and go to South Africa?

(Have you read State Dept."s information on South Africa yet?)

Are you feeling a bit guilty about your nervousness (especially because your decision or level of comfort will change your husband's vacation too?

There are no easy answers her...but if you are really not comfortable with a situation, you shouldn't put yourself in it! (But I do get an attack of nerves before every trip. I don't worry about me in a foreign country, my jitters are about things like a fire at my house while I'm gone...one of my pets getting sick...a family member needs me and I'm unreachable. But now I accept them for what they are (chronic jitters) and as soon as the plane takes off I'm fine. If your nervousness is like that...recognize it for what it is and get over it

But if you were really nervous for the whole trip in Costa Rica (what was it there that make you uncomfortable by the way???) I think the decision must be 100% yours. You are the one that needs to enjoy your vacation and being nervous and worried is not a vacation!
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 04:18 AM
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We just returned from Kenya/Tanzania and at no time felt uncomfortable or unsure of our safety. It's also amazing that while Kenya is on the list, Tanzania isn't - strange!

In NBO we stayed at the Intercontinental and all vehicles were mirror checked underneath and trunks opened before allowed on the property. There are security personnel on all floors of the hotel...but you never feel as if you're in an armed camp. Airport security was much better at NBO then anything I've seen in the U.S.

And we walked in NBO unescorted without a bother from anyone... they went about their business, as did we.

This warning and it's constant renewal of it have been in effect for sometime, and that hasn't stopped both Kenya and Tanzania having their best years (since '02/'03)yet for tourists arriving and going on their safaris.

The article as stated above is very clear in that the US is out there on their own - not the UK or Australia. The US, I believe, is being a bully.

In the end, only you can decide where you go, or not... and areas in Southern Africa have warnings as to crime and whatever else (haven't kept up on those). We live in strange times and no one has any guarantee where an incident will happen. Certainly home isn't anymore safe then being elsewhere.
 
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 08:27 AM
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When we were in East Africa quite a few years ago, a similar thing happened. The US State Dept. issued a travel warning against Americans traveling to East Africa. We decided to go anyway and had no problems at all. But, while we encountered very, very few Americans, there were lots of tourists from Australia, Germany, Italy, Canada,etc. We came to the conclusion that the US was attempting to put political pressure on Africa by keeping our tourists away. Now, I always check the warning sites of Canada, Great Britain and Australia before I make a travel decision. This may or not be the case here, but checking and confirming the advice from several countries gives you a more clear and accurate picture of the situation.
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 10:09 AM
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sandi is absolutely correct. We live in strange times and you never know what to expect anywhere. I have traveled many places others have considered dangerous, without incident. I never felt in jeopardy or that I was doing anything unusually risky, even when my airline tickets for Columbia were stamped with some warning message (I was forced to change my tickets at the last minute and had to change planes there). I never felt concern when I was in Indonesia (Irian Jaya) just prior to an uprising where 40 people were killed where I had been staying. The uprising occured right after I left, but no to my knowledge, no warning had been issued prior to my going there. Others considered Egypt and Israel dangerous when I went there, as well as various countries in Central America and so forth. I also traveled right after 9/11 (to China) without incident while many thought I was crazy for doing so.

But then each person has to decide his or her own level of comfort with anything they do.

Just yesterday someone at work told me I should reconsider my trip to Africa because it was dangerous there and went on and on about it. I gave him my standard answers and told him I had no intention of canceling my trip because something MIGHT happen. Something MIGHT happen anywhere with anything you do.

I was in Chicago not long ago, as I lived there for 15 years and have family there. While waiting at O'Hare to fly home, I met some people brought to the gate in wheelchairs. These people, a man and woman and their two young children, were each covered nearly head to toe in white gauze, barely able to walk, due to an isolated incident that happened while they were visiting Chicago. In broken English they said that due to what happened they would never return. Apparently someone had thrown a large rock off an overpass and the rock hit their car, causing it to crash and burst into flames while they were inside the car. This was while they were driving on a freeway in Chicago. They had their luggage in the car and so they lost all the things they had with them as well. They were most anxious to go home after spending time in the hospital. I guess the point I am trying to make is that there are no guarantees that if you stay home you are safe, and that if you travel you will encounter danger.

Things can happen anywhere. I choose not to live my life in that fear. But as I said each person has to decide what they are comfortable doing. There is no use to pay money to go somewhere if you are not going to enjoy it because you are concerned about your safety. Happy Travels!
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 07:38 PM
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Regarding U.S. pressure on Kenya through the latest advisory: the travel warnings and advisories since the terrorists bombed the U.S. Embassy in 1998 and the subsequent bombing of the Israeli hotel in Mombassa and attempt to shoot down the jet has fluctuated between outright warnigns to Americans to avoid all non-essential travel to Kenay to advisories to weigh the risks carefully. Of course, Kenya wants the advisory totally lifted and the issue has been the subject of some delicate diplomacy between it and the U.S.. The latest advisory represents a return to a specific comment that Kenya has not sufficiently increased security. Until relatively recently, the U.K. did not allow direct flights into Kenya for reasons of security. Does that mean the U.K. was a bully or does it mean the British government was concerned that Kenya was not doing a better job at securing aviation within its borders? I am fine with that kind of pressure if it means Kenya does what it needs to do against crime and/or terrorism to better secure the tourists from around the world. The British Foreign Office warning last month was no more calming than the one from the U.S. and specifically cautioned U.K. visitors from going to the Kenyan coast due to alarmingly violent crimes against travelers. A travel forum provides one with a smidge of information about what is really going on over there or what happens to tourists when things go wrong. The reports of a handful of people who have recently gone and had no problem is somewhat informative but not at all statistically significant. The Kenyan media is unreliable and the Kenyan govt. has no incentive either to broadcast the specifics of crimes against Americans. If my govt. has chosen to report its concerns to me as its citizen, then I want to know. If you do not believe or trust the warnings, then you do not have to read them. I have weighed the risks and I am still leaving in less than a week. In the unlikely event, the U.S. issues a new warning against all non-essential travel, I won't be going. Either way, I certainly appreciate the heads-up.
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 08:15 PM
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Hodi hodi--so I am both nervous and excited about my impending safari and writing long windy posts. I just have one more comment. My research discloses that contrary to the Times article, Australia is also apparently trying to "bully" Kenya and has a travel advisory practically identical to that issued by the U.S.. It is current as of June 22, 2005. This is some of the lengthy advisory:

"Australians in Kenya are advised to exercise extreme caution. The risk of possible terrorist attacks against Western interests in Kenya remains, particularly in the capital, Nairobi, and coastal areas. Crime rates, particularly in urban centres, are high.

Australians are advised to avoid land travel to the border regions with Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia."




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Jul 2nd, 2005, 08:24 PM
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Here is the Australia gov. travel website---http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Kenya

Note--I still agree with sandi and the other posters that there are a lot more dangerous activities like driving, etc. we don't think twice about. Of course, a car accident sounds more tolerable than the old machete chop. Going with a well-organized tour and spending very little time in Nairobi and the coastal areas has to lessen the risk. Hey--Angelina and Brad made it out of Kenya alive so we have a shot.
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Jul 4th, 2005, 10:53 AM
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My then 12 year old son and I traveled to Tanzania 10 days after the embassy bombings in 1998. Again, this year I spent 11 days in Guatemala about which the State Dept had also issued a warning. Especially on a safari, you will not be wandering around the cities by yourselves and I think you'll be fine. Lorraine
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