Latest on the UK's Brexit. Also, China-visa hitch with Nepal-to-Tibet travel.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the February 2020 issue.
The 26-foot-long, stone-arch Tanners’ Bridge, or Tabak Bridge, is an 18th-century Ottoman footbridge in Tirana, Albania. The river it crossed was diverted in the 1930s.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 528th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine.

This is the time of year when I ask subscribers to send in their lists of countries they visited in the previous year. The countries are tallied and the information is shared with you a few months later in this column (June issue).

Considering how well traveled ITN’s readership is, the results are fairly impressive and help us attract potential advertisers, which, aside from subscriptions, is the other source of income that’s kept this magazine in publication for, now, 45 full years!

So if you are an ITN subscriber, make a list of all of the nations you visited outside of your own country anytime in 2019 and email it to or send a letter or postcard to Where Were You in 2019?, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Either way, please include your postal address.

For tallying purposes, Tibet, Hong Kong and Macau all are officially part of China and are not separate nations; visits to any or all count as only one visit to China. Similarly, a visit to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (for now; see below) will be counted as a single visit to the United Kingdom.

Nonsovereign territories will be tallied but listed separately from sovereign nations.

The deadline for entry is March 31, 2020, after which we’ll put all the lists into a bin and hold random drawings for prizes. I’ll announce the country-count results — and the names of the prize-winning subscribers — this summer.

Let’s see if ITN subscribers went everywhere last year. (It’s happened before.)

What do the tea leaves say about the future of the UK?

On Dec. 20, a newly elected British Parliament voted to approve Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposal, ending years of political wrangling and speculation.

The proposal, officially known as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, effectively removed the United Kingdom from the European Union as of Jan. 31. However, while negotiations on the terms of withdrawal continue between the two parties, the UK could remain under EU regulations until Dec. 31, 2020, at which point, Johnson says, the country will break off regardless of whether a complete agreement has been reached or not.

One of the biggest sticking points, how to manage the border between Ireland (in the EU) and Northern Ireland (in the UK), has basically been resolved. In the proposed plan, the land border will remain open, and movement of people and goods will continue unhindered. However, anyone and any imports going between the island of Ireland and Great Britain, be it by boat or plane, will require a Customs declaration.

Even though the stress of getting a Brexit deal done is no longer hanging over the UK, it may face another problem: its own end.

The same election that gave Boris Johnson the votes he needed to pass his Brexit bill also gave the Scottish National Party (SNP), a pro-Scotland-independence party, a near sweep of Scottish seats.

Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU during the public Brexit vote in 2016. In an independence referendum two years before, the region voted to remain in the UK by a small majority (55% in favor). However, feelings there appear to have changed, and the leader of the SNP has already demanded that the UK government allow another independence vote to be held.

In Northern Ireland, whose citizens also voted in 2016 to remain in the EU, the Democratic Unionist Party, a pro-UK party, lost two seats to the SDLP, a pro-independence party, on Dec. 20. When combined with the seats held by the pro-independence Sinn Fein, it means there are now more Northern Ireland pro-independence members in the British Parliament than there are unionists.

Are you planning a trip to visit both Nepal and Tibet? If so, take note.

An ITN subscriber and his wife arranged for a March-May 2019 trip with private guides in Southeast Asia. Part of the trip took them from Kathmandu, Nepal, directly into Tibet, China, about which he wrote, “Readers should know that the visa rules for entering Tibet from Nepal are different than when traveling to Tibet from within China. Our guide explained that when entering Tibet from Nepal, in addition to getting a Tibet Travel Bureau permit, you must have a ‘group visa,’ and any other China visa you have will be canceled.

“We never knew this. My wife and I each have 10-year China visas, and we expected to use them again twice in the next few years.

“Our Nepalese guide handled our passports and special visas for us, and we asked him to see if our 10-year visas could be saved. I think because they were in expired USA passports and not in our new passports that we also were carrying, the 10-year visas were not canceled and we were allowed to enter Tibet with all our passports.

“We also learned that the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu will not accept a visa picture in which the traveler is wearing any jewelry. In my wife’s current USA passport picture, she has on small earrings, as she had in the visa pictures used for her 10-year China visa application and in all of her other visa pictures.

“Including transportation to the picture service, the cost for our having new visa pictures taken was $15 each. (I was directed to get a new picture too, since I was there.)”

Keep the above in mind if you have an existing China visa and are planning to visit Nepal and Tibet. The route matters.

CORRECTION to note —

Red faces here all around. The “News Watch” item “Armenia earthquake” (Jan. ’20, pg. 19) should have been titled “Albania earthquake,” and the first line should have begun, “In Albania, an earthquake…”

We thank Jim McGee of Sun City, California; Michele Burgess of Huntington Beach, California, and Helen Martin of Edmond, Oklahoma, for alerting us to that error. Michele added, “I visited Albania in October, between the 5.6-magnitude Sept. 21 quake and the 6.4 Nov. 26 quake.” And Helen wrote, “My husband and I have been frequent visitors to the Adriatic port city of Durres, which was heavily damaged by the Nov. 26 earthquake and aftershocks.”

Tressie Alvernaz of Lakeside, California, wrote, “There are three articles with very helpful packing tips that were printed in ITN way back in 2002 and which I have kept all these years.

“They are ‘The Ultimate Packing List’ (Aug. ’02, pg. 77), ‘Packing Light — the Bare Necessities of Travel’ (Sept. ’02, pg. 60) and ‘The Ultimate Pre-trip “To Do” List’ (Oct. ’02, pg. 58).

“I think other subscribers would like them, too, but they are not on ITN’s website. Please consider posting them there for others to see.”

For your reference or, at the least, for your nostalgic perusal, we have posted all three of those reader-generated compilations on our website, Click on “Resources,” then on “Packing Tips.” Or we can send you reprints of all three articles for $3.50 (send check or credit card info to ITN’s street address given on page 2).

But we’re taking Tressie’s suggestion one step further and — with your help — are coming up with an updated Ultimate Packing List. You can read about that in our “Calling All Readers!” section on page 17. (This is one you’ll want to get in on. A lot has changed in travel in 18 years!)

And don’t forget to send us your “Where Were You in 2019?” list.