A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Passport to the World

Passport Brochure

For most of 2007 U.S. citizens faced frustrating delays getting new passports or simply renewing old passports that were about to expire. Apparently the U.S. State Department wasn’t prepared to handle the record number of applications that resulted from a change in travel rules requiring Americans to have passports for to travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.

Imagine my surprise when we were able to renew our children’s passports in just seven days. It may have been my most painless, efficient interaction with the U.S. government ever.

I was so impressed by the State Department’s handling of the passport renewal I thought I would spend some time on their web site familiarizing myself with the travel information and services they provide.

First I checked out their travel alerts and warnings. I read their ominously labeled “Worldwide Caution.” Just to be fully briefed, I read their “Avian Flu Update” and the memo on “International Travel Scams.”

Then I delved into a few of their “country-specific” reports. This quote is fairly typical:

“…Crime, including violent crime, has increased over the last few years… Incidents include pickpocketing; mugging; “snatch and grab” thefts of mobile phones, watches and jewelry; and theft of unattended bags, especially at airports and from cars parked at restaurants, hotels and resorts…

“Pickpockets target tourists, especially at historic sites, restaurants, on buses, and trains… Walking in isolated areas, including public parks, especially after dark, should also be avoided, as these provide advantageous venues for muggers and thieves….

“Travelers should not leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs. There have been some instances of drinks being spiked with illegal substances, leading to incidents of robbery and rape.”

That’s the report on London.

After spending time on the State Department web site, it’s a wonder any American would leave their house, let alone the country.

I have no doubt the State Department is providing useful information for worst-case scenarios. Imagine the grief they’d get if they didn’t warn Americans abroad about date-rape drugs in London nightclubs.

Seriously though, Americans who travel abroad can become victims of crime, both large and small. And it probably is a good idea to stay out of the few countries that the State Department suggests Americans avoid (particularly when traveling with young children).

It does provide some comfort to think the men and women serving in the State Department are there to help if you run into serious problems overseas. You can bet that if something were to go wrong on our trip, I’d be on the phone to the U.S. Embassy faster than you can say “Pledge of Allegiance.”

But unless you want to develop an ulcer from constant worry, you probably don’t want to spend too much time brooding over warnings about Acts of God that could occur while traveling – things like volcano eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

When it comes down to it, ask yourself this: Are bad neighborhoods in Quito really that much more dangerous than bad neighborhoods in Los Angeles?

Which raises another question. What do other countries say to their citizens about travel to the U.S.? Consider this:

“Attacks on tourists have decreased, but violent crime remains a serious concern. Criminals have demonstrated that they will use violence with little or no provocation…

“Many attacks have occurred in urban areas, and others have taken place on rural roads and at interstate highway rest areas…

“Theft has increased, particularly from trunks of parked cars and at airports. Be alert, as criminals use a variety of techniques to steal personal belongings.”

What is the warning for, you ask?

It’s the Canadian government’s warning to its citizens about travel to Florida.

Passport 1


1 James' of the North { 01.28.08 at 4:26 am }

Yeah, many warnings should certainly be taken with a grain of salt. I found myself feeling very safe in Thailand. Surprising to me, for all the warnings I’d read. Theft just isn’t part of the normal persons thoughts in Asia mostly. South America wasn’t too bad either, but one felt the underlying need to be more cautious there. Check out the Tilly Endurables Store. They’re good old Canadians, but have fantastic travel clothing with secret pockets all over the place. There’s a few stores in Canada, one in Florida (and maybe some other States?) and online. The clothes are strongly stain resistant and wrinkle free as well. We all bout only two or three pieces each, and I regret not choking back the high prices and getting more.

Also, (it’s probably too late) make sure if you can to get a larger passport. The Canadian government issues them with 24 pages or 48. I only had a 24 and am running out fast! Maybe yours are only all large though…

2 Janet { 02.17.08 at 1:00 am }

Craig wrote:
It does provide some comfort to think the men and women serving in the State Department are there to help if you run into serious problems overseas. You can bet that if something were to go wrong on our trip, I’d be on the phone to the U.S. Embassy faster than you can say “Pledge of Allegiance.”

Before you think that the US Embassy is going to be your knight in shining armor, please know that going to the embassy (or in my case the Consulate in Barcelona) is like going to the DMV to renew your drivers license. My travel companion had her purse snatched with all her money, credit cards, and of course, passport. She alone was allowed into the consulate (her companions had to wait outside in the rain on a street with no where to go to wait.) She had to have cash (about 80 bucks if I recall correctly) and of course she had none, and they didn’t allow someone to wire it directly to them at the consulate. Her photocopy of her passport was of absolutely no value. Luckily, they allowed her to leave and get the cash from me (I had my emergency money) and not lose her place in line. It took most of the day.

The best advice I can give anyone traveling is to use the hotel safe to hold your passport and emergency credit cards and only carry an ID, cash, and the credit card you plan to use for daily transactions on your person. Always have financial backups. Don’t overindulge in alcohol or drugs. Avoid splitting from your companions without a clear plan of when and where to hook back up.

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