Travel Alert for Jamaica, Warning for Thailand

There are a number of travel alerts in effect at the moment for some fairly popular travel destinations, including Thailand and Kingston, Jamaica. Here's the key section of the Kingston alert (current as of May 24):

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Kingston, Jamaica and its surrounding areas because of escalating violence, shootings, and unrest.  Jamaican Defense Forces are engaged in an operation to arrest an alleged drug and weapons trafficker.  Access to the Norman Manley International Airport has been blocked on an intermittent basis by gun battles between criminal elements and police.  A number of air flights into and out of Kingston have been canceled.  The Government of Jamaica has imposed a State of Emergency in Kingston and St. Andrew.  The possibility exists that unrest could spread beyond the general Kingston area. "

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And here's the travel warning for Thailand, issued May 15:

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Thailand of ongoing political demonstrations and unrest in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  Due to escalating violence in central Bangkok, including gunfire near the U.S. Embassy, demonstrations in Chiang Mai, and other incidents throughout Thailand, U.S. citizens should defer all travel to Bangkok and defer all non-essential travel to the rest of Thailand."

There's an important distinction to make between travel alerts and travel warnings. Per the State Department, Travel alerts are "issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, generally within a particular country, that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert."

Travel warnings, on the other hand, are "issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff."

In other travel safety news, the travel warning for Sri Lanka, issued last November, has been cancelled.

Now, the big story on everyone's mind is the gulf oil spill, and, from a travel perspective, whether or not beaches and resort areas are open. Well, most are open, and desperate for travelers to continue visiting. President Obama today urged people to continue supporting the region and reiterated that all but three Gulf Coast beaches are unfouled by oil. So if you've been planning a trip to the area, do the region a favor and stick with your plans. And if you're thinking about a trip, it's probably a safe bet to book, especially if the latest attempt to seal the leak actually works.

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