View Full Version : Off-limits travel destinations

June 1st, 2008, 11:49 AM
Off-limits travel destinations

Band-i-Amir, Afghanistan
What to see: A stunning series of lakes in a narrow, enclosed valley.

Problem: The security situation in Afghanistan remains poor and the area is covered with land mines.
Picture: ALAMY

Mururoa Atoll, French Polynesia
What to see: A sandy atoll of white beaches and palm trees enclosing the turquoise waters of a Pacific Ocean lagoon.

Problem: French nuclear test site until the mid 1990s.
Picture: CORBIS

Tibesti Mountains, Chad and Niger
What to see: A string of volcanic mountains running through the remotest parts of the Sahara desert.

Problem: An uprising of Tuareg tribesmen against central government.
Picture: GETTY

Hatra, Iraq
What to see: Ancient Assyrian city where the opening scenes of “The Exorcist” were filmed.

Problem: The area south of Mosul has suffered many insurgent attacks since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Picture: GETTY

Western and southern highlands, Papua New Guinea
What to see: Flamboyantly dressed tribes in remote mountain valleys.

Problem: Conflicts between tribes and clans is a constant threat in much of the highland area.
Picture: GETTY

Darien Gap, Colombia and Panama
What to see: Virgin jungle separating Central and South America containing some of the rarest plants on earth.

Problem: The area is roamed by extremist guerrilla groups that kidnap anyone who crosses their path.
Picture: REUTERS

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast
What to see: The world’s largest church topped by a massive dome completed in 1990.

Problem: The Ivory Coast is slipping into civil war.
Picture: AFP/GETTY

Marib, Yemen
What to see: The ancient palace of the Queen of Sheba and the remains of a monumental ancient dam.

Problem: Kidnapping is a constant threat in northern Yemen.
Picture: GETTY

Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
What to see: Jungle-covered volcanic mountains that are home to one of the last remaining populations of mountain gorilla.

Problem: North Kivu province is beset by a long-running civil war.
Picture: GETTY

Hebron, West Bank
What to see: Tomb of the patriarchs: a complex built by King Herod in the first century BC.

Problem: The West Bank town has been a major flashpoint throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Picture: GETTY


© Copyright (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/portal/main.jhtml?menuId=-1&menuItemId=-1&view=TERMSCONDITIONS&grid=A1NoGoogle) of Telegraph Media Group Limited (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/pressoffice/index.jhtml) 2008.

June 1st, 2008, 08:46 PM
While I do not have personal, firsthand knowledge of the other destinations mentioned in the opening post here, I DO know something about Ivory Coast.

To claim that Ivory Coast is off-limits to travelers due to civil unrest right now is non-sense. I was there last November and will be returning this October. Last October there had been far less progress made towards peace than now. Yes, there is presently a bit of civil unrest due to food prices, but this is hardly a dangerous situation for visitors.

I had local friends who acted as guides last November. I found an extremely friendly, hospitable country, with fabulous markets, a huge cathedral (the largest Catholic cathedral in the world), excellent French pastry, splendid coffee, and lots of shrimp and lobster to eat.

I am greatly looking forward to my return, where I will resume the travel photography I did last year. I hope that this time I will be able to finmjish the photo book I started work on.

The Benniest
June 2nd, 2008, 12:43 AM
Very interesting.

Thanks Brian. :)

June 2nd, 2008, 04:28 AM
While I do not have personal, firsthand knowledge of the other destinations mentioned in the opening post here, I DO know something about Ivory Coast.

To claim that Ivory Coast is off-limits to travelers due to civil unrest right now is non-sense.

Perhaps the writers of the article had checked with the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office, who say this.

Sub Saharan Africa

Ivory Coast http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/flag/flag-of-ivory-coast

Still current at: 02 June 2008
Updated: 07 May 2008

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary, Local Travel, Road Blocks, Checkpoints and Road Travel sectionsSummary and Terrorism/Security Section (There is an underlying threat from terrorism in Ivory Coast). The overall level of the advice has not changed.

Travel Summary

We advise against all travel to the 18 Montagnes and Moyen Cavally regions of western Ivory Coast due to the unstable security situation there. We advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the country. See the Terrorism/Security and Local Travel sections of this travel advice for more details.

Whilst the situation throughout most of the country is stable, the potential for unrest and the sudden deterioration of law and order remains. Events can move fast and violence can erupt at short notice. See the Terrorism/Security section of this advice for more details.

We are unable to provide you with formal consular assistance in Ivory Coast. Nonetheless, you should register with our warden network in Abidjan, and our High Commission in Accra, Ghana. Should there be a serious breakdown in law and order, you should seek the assistance of other EU missions in Abidjan.

There is an underlying threat from terrorism in Ivory Coast. Attacks (although unlikely) could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. See the General (Travel Insurance) section of this advice for more details.

June 3rd, 2008, 07:02 AM
Travel is not for the timid.

Last year the U. S. Dept of State was saying similar things, while the people I had direct contact with in Ivory Coast said much of this information was false. They continue to say it now that the political situation has improved even further.

If one is worried about terrorism, one should not visit New York City (remember the World Trade Center ?) or Bali (remember the bombing there a few years back ?) or London or Madrid (remember the subway terrorism ?) or Egypt (where 60 or 70 tourists were gunned down a few years ago as they visited an archeological site). The terrorist threat is much greater in all these places than in Ivory Coast.

Yes, there are parts of Ivory Coast where one should not venture, just as there are parts of New York City, San Francisco, Mexico City and many other destinations.

I would be much more inclined to believe your warning about Ivory Coast if you had actually been there during the last year or two. I have found official government pronouncements of the sort you quote to be highly selective and speculative, based as much on the desire to be able to say "But we warned you" (Let's cover our butts in case something does happen) than on facts.

Travel simply is not for the timid. Or perhaps it should be restricted to the Mauii Sheraton.

As for me, I can promise you two things: Within minutes of arriving in Abidjan this November, I shall be enjoying French coffee and French pastry at my favorite local bakery; and I shall provide a report to you all upon my return.

June 3rd, 2008, 09:54 AM
Yes, there are parts of Ivory Coast where one should not venture, just as there are parts of New York City, San Francisco,...

It's a bit of a stretch to lump them together. New York City, Ivory Coast?? Come on now.

June 3rd, 2008, 11:52 AM
... there are parts of Ivory Coast where one should not venture, just as there are parts of New York City, San Francisco ...

Wow! Please let us know those specific NYC & SF areas that are too dangerous to visit.

June 3rd, 2008, 02:48 PM
and I shall provide a report to you all upon my return.
And no doubt, a sales pitch. (www.zazzle.com/goodmanster)


June 5th, 2008, 12:30 AM
Zippy, if I had wanted to send you a sales pitch I would have done it already. I stand by my comments concerning Ivory Coast. For my other critic, any big city has places travelers ought not to go to. In San Francisco, I think an out-of-town visitor would be foolish to drop by Hunter's Point unless he had specific important business there.

June 5th, 2008, 12:41 AM
Mid-Town Guy,

I found Ivory Coast a very pleasant and benign place. All I can tell you is my personal experience from having spent two weeks there.

I cannot come up with much specific information about New York City except that in the past I have found a few places I wouldn't want to linger in. And I can tell you from extensive first-hand experience that there are areas of Oakland, California where even the people who live in those areas find extremely dangerous. I'm sure New York City has them, too. I didn't find such places (though they undoubtedly exist) in Abidjan. But where has terrorism actually taken place ? My point was not that New York or the other cities I mentioned are so dangerous, but rather that the negative reports about Ivory Coast are greatly exaggerated.

But then if you want to be a timid traveler, the Kona Hilton beckons.

June 5th, 2008, 06:18 AM
Regarding Ivory Coast as being an unsafe travel destination:

If we cut to the quick here, let's first summarize the points of this discussion and then look at evidence:

Summary: The statement was made that Ivory Coast is an off-limits travel destination because of political unrest. I stated that this is nonsense. As evidence that the original statement is correct, a current British government travel advisory was posted.

Evidence that I am Correct:

1) I stated that I was in Ivory Coast last November, and that this travel advisory is exaggerated to the point of being untrue. That in itself should at least be a warning flag that this government intelligence might not be accurate.

2) Read the daily US Embassy report and also a summary of blogs about Ivory Coast, which I have read almost every day for two years. You will find that a peace agreement was signed some months back, that the rebels have indeed been turning over their arms, that a large program giving voters cartes d'identite is making progress (to establish identification for voting), that voting will take place fairly soon, and that the cocoa business is booming (Ivory Coast produces about half the world's cocoa). You will also find that foreign investors have begun pouring millions and millions of Euros into the country's business sector. This last item should be very strong evidence of safety, because businessmen try to avoid risk.

3) I have received anecdotal evidence in abundance. This includes comments from a friend who is a professor at the local university, also comments from an old Lebanese man who has been in Ivory Coast 25-30 years and whose acquaintance I made when I was there, and from a number of average citizens whom I had contact with. I know of Ivory Coast and French citizens who thought about starting a particular type of business together in Abidjan, but who when the rebel unrest began decided to go instead to Ghana, but who are now trying to get the business started once more in Abidjan.

All this contradicts the statement that Ivory Coast should be regarded as an off-limits travel destination. If you have evidence -- facts, not ultra-conservative government opinions -- then let's hear them. If you have personal experience, then let's hear about it. There is no substitute for having been somewhere, seen something, and knowing about it.

I rest my case.

June 5th, 2008, 07:41 AM
Thanks for the info ^

And now, unable to give us any direct or compelling evidence about those terribly dangerous areas of NYC such as you had previously mentioned, do you now retract your comment regarding places in NYC "where one should not venture"?

Please keep in mind your own statement:

There is no substitute for having been somewhere, seen something, and knowing about it ...

June 5th, 2008, 07:57 AM
In San Francisco, I think an out-of-town visitor would be foolish to drop by Hunter's Point unless he had specific important business there.

Is this based upon your own first hand experience?

Or on mis-information that Bayview / Hunters Point is nothing but a nasty ghetto?

The truth:

Hunters Point (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunters_Point,_San_Francisco,_California) has some of the highest private home ownership rates of any neighborhood in San Francisco.

As for crime, see the map below (Bayview / Hunters Point is at the far lower right) ...

Jennifer and I (http://www.teamten.com/lawrence/projects/sfcrime/) were thinking of buying a house in a neighborhood known
as Silver Terrace, which we hadn’t heard anything about, so we asked
about it on Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org/) and most of the replies warned us that crime there
was high. So Jen found the SFPD website (http://www.sfgov.org/site/police_index.asp?id=20066), which has some interactive
maps that tell you the crime rate as of October 2003. It’s difficult to
compare various areas, though. You have to click on a high-level city
map, which takes you to a low-level map, where you can click on a plot,
which takes you to a text page with various crime statistics.

So I wrote a program using Python (http://www.python.org/) and the Python Imaging Library (http://www.pythonware.com/products/pil/) that
parses the HTML and creates a map with crime highlights.

http://www.teamten.com/lawrence/projects/sfcrime/map_small.jpg (http://www.teamten.com/lawrence/projects/sfcrime/map.jpg)

http://www.teamten.com/lawrence/projects/sfcrime/legend.png http://www.teamten.com/lawrence/projects/sfcrime/no_data.png

A few interesting things:

The Bayview and Hunter’s Point areas, notorious for crime, aren’t really much worse than anywhere else.
For five years Jen lived in the plot immediately north of the two bright yellow blocks. Silver Terrace (at the intersection of the lower-right four blocks) looks mild in comparison.
Don’t leave your car in Golden Gate Park.
The color represents the number of crimes, but really it should represent the number of crimes per unit area, since some plots are much larger than others. For example, just below the two bright yellow plots are two smaller plots that are suspiciously dark. It’s probably because they’re smaller that their numbers are lower in absolute terms. I tried to do this but it failed pretty badly because I don’t have the actual plot area, only the area as it was in the clickable map of the original web page. Plots that are on the edges of tiles are far too small, since they’re clipped off. That was throwing everything off, so I went back to absolute numbers.
I also had the various breakdown data (violent crime, burglaries, etc.) but
I didn’t think it was useful to display it. It’s probably fairly proportional all
around. It would be cool to see this over time, say over 30 years. We
could also plot the exact locations of registered sex offenders (Megan’s
Law), etc. If anyone knows where I can find more raw data, please let me
know. It’d make a useful Flash applet.

(Technical notes: The original website broke the city in 16 sub-maps,
hence the seams. The thick red lines are district lines. The plot contours
were taken from the clickable maps’ <area> tags, some of which were of
type RECT and some were POLY.)

June 5th, 2008, 10:22 AM
I think that the fact there are rebels with arms to hand over is evidence enought that the country isnt that stable or safe as it seems on the surface.

June 6th, 2008, 04:14 AM
I am basing my comments on personal experience. I am not expert on New York City, but I do know that when I visited there two years ago I was a guest of a husband and wife deep in the projects of Harlem. A few months before, the husband, who is one very large fellow, had been jumped late one morning by five people, had some teeth knocked out, and had been robbed. He was wary of his own neighborhood, mentioned here and there that a murder had recently been committed in this or that place. He had lived in the same few blocks for more than 20 years. He made it very clear that he considered the place dangerous. There was a reason for his constantly looking over his shoulder when he walked anywhere.

Another friend who lived nearby told me on the same trip that I should phone him when I was departing on the subway from one station so he could meet me at my arrival station, and that it was not safe in the area. This came from someone who lived there, someone who certainly knew. Just exactly what the addresses were, I cannot tell you. That's why I have not been able to be very specific. I certainly wouldn't retract my statement that there are areas of New York City that aren't safe.

Doesn't that fulfill our mutual "I've been there and seen it" requirement ? And just in case you are misreading me, let me also be clear about saying that as a whole I really enjoy New York City.

My perception of Hunter's Point comes from having been there a number of times, working on employment issues with people who had just been released from prison, and also visiting socially a few times. From the next paragraph or so you will see that I am hardly racially intimidated.

You haven't mentioned Oakland. On one job a few years back, I visited literally every neighborhood in the city multiple times. I know my city very well.

I teach in a ghetto high school and my students, of many, many ethnicities, live all over Oakland. This year, one of my students had two different family members murdered six months apart. Many of the kids tell me they go home AND DO NOT LEAVE THEIR HOMES unless and until it becomes absolutely necessary. Sometimes they travel in little packs on the bus to and from school to avoid being robbed. These are students aged up to 17 or occasionally 18 years. I recently had a series of long conversations about values a while ago with one student whom I can tell is a dope dealer. He doesn't admit it and there is no way to prove it because he doesn't deal at school. But he tells me he doesn't expect to live more than a few more years. Most of my students live in the ghetto, where life isn't pleasant.

On the other hand, there are areas of Oakland that are extremely pleasant. But that isn't the topic of our conversation.

I'll go right out on a limb and state that every large city has areas that are dangerous. I may not be able to cite the precise blocks in NYC, but I think we all know that dangerous areas exist. And I think you can surmise from my going to Ivory Coast and returning there that I am hardly a timid traveler.

We started out discussing Ivory Coast. Because I mentioned in passing a general rule that every large city has dangerous areas, our conversation drifted from the main topic of Ivory Coast to large cities and their safety. Let's get back to Ivory Coast. I've been there, I've seen it, I know. I've met your personal experience requirement. And even more importantly, in conjunction with that, let's discuss the guidelines any savvy traveler should follow when visiting a place some people consider dangerous.

Also, I want to tell you in the next day or so about a travel warning that has just been posted regarding Ivory Coast and that should be taken with a chunk of salt.

June 6th, 2008, 04:30 AM
The rebels are confined to a specific area quite a distance from Abidjan and Yamoussoukro. Whether or not they now qualify as "rebels" I don't know, because a peace treaty has been signed and they have been passing in their arms for some months now.

To give an analogy, one would not say that because there are floods 200 miles north of San Francisco and the roads up there are impassable, one cannot drive in the streets in San Francisco.

I want to point out that by the originaL photo representing Ivory Coast, the photo that caught my attention and drew me into this discussion, there is a very clear statement that "The Ivory Coast is slipping into civil war." That caption is four or five years old and misrepresents the current situation.

There are, however, interesting new developments in Ivory Coast that I will get into in a while.

June 6th, 2008, 04:43 AM
I certainly respect your position in this forum as one of the moderators and as a long-term veteran.

However, you made an incorrect assumption in posting the URL link to a small Internet store I have with African photos, that I was ever going to mention the store or give anyone a sales pitch.

Hold me responsible for what I say and do, but not for what you (erroneously) think I am going to do.

I have traveled extensively for more than 5 decades, for much of that time as a livelihood. I have taken thousands of photos and had them published in many places. I have much that I could contribute to this forum about many, many destinations, and a lot of photos to back all this up.

I just want it noted that when I do return to Ivory Coast, I will indeed send you a few reports about what the situation is. And if these are sales pitches, they will be for good French coffee and French pastries, not for an Internet store.

June 6th, 2008, 07:24 AM
My apologies.

But your aggressive defense of this one place, with the rebuff "travel is not for the timid," leads one to wonder about your objectivity.

I doubt the article was written for an Indiana Jones. Why can't timid people travel?

From what I've gathered, Ivory Coast is in a state of flux, even since you were last there. There are still UN and French peacekeepers in the country; there was a rocket attack on the PMs plane last year; rebels have started disarming only a month ago.

Elections have been pushed back to November. If I were offering a guide to travellers, I would at least advise to wait until after the elections.



It's a big world. There are other places - even for the timid.

June 7th, 2008, 01:48 PM
Just wanted to say how truly gorgeous and amazing this Yemen picture is, from the original post on the thread.



June 7th, 2008, 09:14 PM
^:eek:I know, that one made my jaw drop too!

June 7th, 2008, 10:40 PM
There are, however, interesting new developments in Ivory Coast that I will get into in a while.
Our Man in Abidjan. ^