Ask Phil

Ask Phil

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  • +4 rating

    I heard that there is some kind of river tubing thing where you can get really really really drunk while floating down a river. Cant find it

    Ah, Vang Vieng! I recently posted on tubing in Laos which covers the safety aspects, and gives some tips on Tubing Without Drowning http://bit.ly/abTxQE The things already posted here are all great advice. Go, have a good time, it's a great party, but take care it an be really, really dangerous. Just one other word of advice, and it applies everywhere not just VV: if you get blind drunk and injure yourself your insurance claim for the medical evacuation might be knocked back. Travel insurance is not a licence to be stupid. It assumes you'll take reasonable steps to ensure your own safety. "I thought it was a good idea to jump off a 10 metre tower while blind drunk and broke my leg." probably won't go down well with your insurer, and you'll be stuck with the medical bill and a holiday cut short.(ps they do check if you were drunk or drug affected!). Please take care. Phil almost 10 years ago

  • +4 rating

    Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

    Colombia is not as bad as it once was, but you need to use common sense and caution to stay safe. The bad news first: 3 foreign tourists were among the 146 people kidnapped (for ransom) so far this year, they've since been released. The number of kidnappings is down hugely from a few years ago, but there's been a surge in 2010... 25% more than the same time last year. The south of the country is especially dangerous and many foreign governments recommend against any travel to that region because of the risk of kidnap or being caught in the crossfire of a gun battle. The US State department reissued its warning that it considers Colombia "dangerous" in March 2010 and said: "...violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas as well as large cities." http://bit.ly/akTzev The Australian government (mine) says Do Not Travel to the south - at all. it recommends you Reconsider Your Need To Travel to: provinces of Cesar, La Guajira and Antioquia (excluding Medellin), the cities of Cali and Popayan, and most rural areas. Of Colombia as a whole it says Exercise A High Degree of Caution. (It says the same thing about Brazil.) http://bit.ly/9iF5uV The good news now: In February 2010 the French government declared parts of Colombia to be "safe": adding Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Bogota, Tunja, Bucaramanga, as well as the Zona Cafetero departments of Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas to Cartagena and San Andres as destinations approved for travel. http://bit.ly/9J74G0 Traveller forums (people who've actually been there - this year) overwhelmingly rave about the place; they say it's beautiful and it's safer than other Sth Am countries.... as long as you stick to the popular tourist destinations. Which seems to be the key: Going off the beaten path might not be the best idea, and when you're in the cities ask locals or other travellers which are the areas to avoid. The city of Cali continues to be troublesome and best avoided, as are most rural areas, and the whole of the south. And as always use care on your travels. Phil almost 10 years ago

  • +3 rating

    Vaccinations - yellow fever and meningitis

    The World Health Organization states that a Yellow Fever vaccination is effective for 30-35 years, possibly for life. So you don't need to be re-vaccinated. To enter Saudi Arabia you will need your Yellow Fever Vaccination card. In December 2007 the WHO adopted a new-style of YF Vaccination certificate, however the old style (which you'll have) is still valid for 10 years from the date of issue. As for meningitis: there are several types of meningitis. Not sure which one you're talking about. Have a look at the FAQ on the CDC website here: http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/about/faq.html and get some advice from your doctor about what's appropriate for you (make sure you go to the doctor 6 to 8 weeks before departure). Phil over 9 years ago

  • +3 rating

    Is it safe to travel to Japan now?

    Tiara, it depends where you intend to go. Obviously the entire north east, north of Tokyo is not safe. There are still 300,000+ people living in emergency shelters. Food, clean water and fuel (including heating oil) is in extremely short supply. In particular you are advised to stay at least 80km away from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station. The situation there has improved but it is still considered very serious. There's no certainty the 2 damaged reactors and a pool of spent fuel rods are contained, and could still be emitting radiation. Today, for a period of about 6 to 12 hours the winds over the plant are expected to turn south and south-west. IF there were any leak of radiation it would be carried over the main island of Honshu. HOWEVER, the authorities point out that levels of radiation OUTSIDE that 80km zone would have negligible effect on human health. Many foreign governments - as a precaution - have advised their citizens to leave Tokyo. There have been some higher-than-normal radiation levels, but again, nothing considered a threat to human health (some argue the level of radiation exposure on an international flight is greater than the exposure on the ground in Tokyo). This Japanese man is using a geiger counter to take his own readings.... and today reports "normal" levels of radiation. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tokyo-Radiation-Levels/196845207013685 South of Tokyo, and the north-western coast (inc Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Yokohama) are all cleared for travel and are no less "safe" than usual. Hope that helps. Phil about 9 years ago

  • +3 rating

    With the issues with drinking the water in Mexico, can you drink coffee or will the ice in mixed drinks have the same effect?

    All major hotels and restaurants and businesses that cater to the tourist industry are aware of Montezuma's Revenge and many use purified water to make their ice. Just ask first before ordering 'on the rocks'. Even small-to-medium sized businesses will have a tank of purified water on display and an ice-maker attached. Non-tourist areas and small towns and street vendors anywhere in Mexico - be very wary, it's unlikely to be purified water. There are plenty of reports from visitors who never drink the tap water, and always use bottled water - even for brushing their teeth. Sounds like sound advice. Coffee: good question. Boiling water for a minute will kill most bugs... does an American-style percolator get hot enough? Is an espresso machine hot for long enough? I'll go in search of an answer. Note: even the purest water can give you traveller's diarrhoea. All water contains a mixture of microbes, and your stomach gets used to the 'local' mix in your town. Go elsewhere and it has to adjust to the new mix. It's only a problem if you get dehydrated, which happens after several days of illness. We have a piece about TD on WorldNomads here: http://bit.ly/fCDp6e over 9 years ago

  • +3 rating

    Malaria Tablets: To take or not to take, that is the question!

    In those destinations you're probably more at risk of Dengue fever than malaria - also a mosquito-borne disease. Unfortunately there's no vaccine or preventative medicine for DF. The only option is to avoid mosquito bite in the first place - which you seem to have covered with your anti-malaria plan. Stick to that plan and you'll be giving yourself the best chance of avoiding both illnesses. Prevention is better than cure. This article will give you more information on DF. http://safety.worldnomads.com/Worldwide/29083/What-you-need-to-know-about-Dengue-Fever Phil at the safety hub. over 6 years ago

  • +3 rating

    What are some of the top scams I should look out for while I am in Thailand?

    Scams in Thailand: Generally in Thailand (as elsewhere in SE Asia) there's a locals price and a much higher Farang price. Is it a scam - no. Is it a rip-off - not really. It's just a matter of fact. think of it as an unofficial tourism tax levied directly by the Thai people. Thinking you've paid more than you OUGHT to will leave you feeling ripped-off. A tourist trap restaurant where the rice costs as much as a whole meal on the street. A knock-off t-shirt you didn't haggle hard enough for. The tuk tuk ride which costs more than an air-conditioned taxi. The pushy Bangkok travel agent who loads you up with trips and accommodation you didn't want (and at a breath-taking mark up!) These are all rip-offs - but you'll never lose more than a few dollars. But there are SCAMS where you risk losing a substantial amount of money. The Gem Scam: those underpriced gems will make you rich at home, right? Wrong, they're glass. The time share real estate deal, could cost you thousands of dollars. Don't fall for it. And the Grand Palace BIRD SEED scam won't lose you a lot of money, but it gets ugly and h=threatening. The bird seed vendors literally thrust the seed on you, and when you refuse to pay they bring in the heavies to threaten you. Just walk away, or call the Tourist police on 1155. Richard Barrow is an excellent journalist who's lived in Bangkok for umpteen years and writes about Thailand life. he's written about the Top Ten Scams here: http://www.thai-blogs.com/index.php/2008/08/05/top-10-scams-in-thailand?blog=5 And the NZ embassy in Thailand identifies the most common scams here: http://www.nzembassy.com/thailand/nzers-overseas/living-in-thailand/scams-in-thailand Unfortunately you need to be wary of "friendly strangers" - which is a pity. And unless you get caught in one of the big scams it's unlikely you'll lose more than a couple of dollars - don't let it ruin your enjoyment of a great country. over 9 years ago

  • +3 rating

    How safe are the Philippines airlines? I heard they are banned from flying in Europe.

    Technically Philippines Airlines are banned from operating in Europe, but that's because the Europeans don't accredit any airline which doesn't fly to its destinations - and PAL stopped flying to Europe in 1998 because of difficulties arising from the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. It was in receivership until 2007. It's still in financial difficulty - in July 2010 25 pilots resigned without warning and joined other airlines. The airline also has problems with other staff relations. However it is accredited with the IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) and has been awarded a 3-star rating by the independent research consultancy firm Skytrax. I'm not an aircraft engineer or crash investigator, but I can tell you about the last few incidents the airline had, so you can make up your own mind. Oct 2007 an A320 with 154 people on board (POB) over-ran the single runway at Bhutan (one of the most difficult strips in the world) - no deaths, 19 people injured. Dec 2002 an A330 with 115 POB got a bit low on approach to Guam and struck a transmission tower. It went back to Manilla and landed safely. no injuries. May 2000 an A330 domestic flight with 298 POB was robbed mid-air. Yes, I said "robbed".The 1 fatality was the thief who tried to escape by jumping out the door with a parachute. You have to go back to march 1998 for the last fatal accident attributable to the airline. An A320 domestic flight with 130 POB tried to land with a faulty thrust reverser. As a consequence the pilot tried to land with one engine in reverse and the other one at full forward! The plane ran off the end of the runway, through a field, a wall and some shanties. No one on the aircraft died, but sadly 3 people on the ground were killed. Not the greatest airline in the world, but they have 1.7 million flights a year. (Can you tell I'm a bit of a plane spotter?) Your chances of being in a crash are very, very low. over 9 years ago