Drought in Cape Town. US/Turkey visas update. State Department warnings change

By: David Tykol
This article appears on page 2 of the February 2018 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 504th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine, yours because you and your fellow readers keep it going by being subscribers and providing the bulk of the material for each issue. Your participation is the key.

An easy way you can play a part right this minute is to send us a quick email or postcard telling which countries you visited last year (outside of your own own). If you’re a subscriber, email your list to editor@intltravelnews.com or write to Where Were You in 2017?, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include your surface-mail address.

At the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town harbor, the red-and-white, Victorian Gothic-style Clock Tower, built in 1882, was the original port captain’s office.

We use the stats to attract potential advertisers, which ITN also depends on.

Get your list to us by March 31, 2018, after which we’ll gather up all the entries and hold random drawings for a number of prizes, the results of which I’ll announce in the June issue.

Regarding advertisers, longtime subscribers know that ITN is unique among travel publications in that we print travelers’ candid accounts — including criticisms — about hotels, cruises, tours, etc., even in cases when the company or establishment advertises in this magazine.

We do give travel firms the opportunity to provide a response to any complaints about their services, and if ITN staff determines that travelers would benefit from knowing about a particular issue, we will print the matter followed by the company’s response.

How any advertisers being criticized respond — and the fact that they continue to advertise in ITN — says a lot about those companies.

And, by the way, just as an observation, I would point out that ALL companies receive complaints, simply because things are bound to happen. Again, it’s how a company addresses an issue that matters.

This magazine (which covers destinations outside of the US) remains a forum in which travelers provide recommendations, tips and warnings to other travelers. If you’ve gone someplace recently or have used the services of a particular travel firm, tell others what you wish you would have known in advance.

In each issue, we’ll also supply news of interest to travelers, including items like the following.

ITN subscriber Alan Ramsay of Cape Town, South Africa, informed us about the severe drought that his hometown is currently experiencing. He wrote, “Our reservoirs may run dry around May 2018, but there are plans afoot to use the extensive underground water aquifers and introduce desalination plants.”

Cape Town has been suffering from this drought for three years now, and as of press time, the city’s reservoirs were at about 30% capacity (though the bottom 10% is not considered potable). 

The city’s tourist board has asked visitors to each keep their consumption under 87 liters (23 gallons) a day, and it issued a list of 10 ways in which visitors can help conserve water:

1. Stay in accommodations that have water-saving measures in place.

2. Reuse towels instead of asking for a new one daily.

3. Flush the toilet as little as possible. (Toilets in Cape Town use six to 14 liters with each flush.)

4. Use a cup to rinse after brushing your teeth instead of letting the faucet run.

5. Avoid taking baths, and limit each shower to two minutes.

6. Report leaks as soon as you notice them.

7. Avoid washing clothes until you have a full load’s worth.

8. Swim in the ocean instead of in swimming pools. (As Mr. Ramsay wrote, “We have some of the best beaches in the world.”)

9. Wash dishes in a dishwasher (once it’s full) as opposed to in the sink.

10. Use the water-use calculator that can be found at mycapetown needs.co.za/thinkwater/calculator.html.

It’s important to remember that even if you’re visiting a city for only a short time, your presence still has an impact on the locals and the environment. If you find yourself in Cape Town this year, work to keep your water use to a minimum.

In the December 2017 issue, I wrote about a diplomatic conflict between the US and Turkey. 

After two staff members of the US consulate in Istanbul, and the family of a third, were arrested and accused of being associated with Fethullah Gülen — whose sect of Islam is illegal in Turkey and who is accused of masterminding the July 15, 2016, military coup attempt in Turkey — the US Embassy in Ankara announced it would no longer be accepting applications for travel visas for citizens of Turkey wishing to visit the US. In response, the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC, said it would cease accepting travel visa applications from US citizens.

Since then, relations have thawed ever so slightly. As of Nov. 7, 2017, US citizens can again get travel visas to Turkey but only in person at a Turkish consulate or the embassy. 

An American wishing to travel to Turkey must fill out an application at www.visa.gov.tr (this site will not work with older browsers), make an appointment at his nearest consulate or embassy and take all the required documents along. The consulates are in Boston, New York City, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles. A single-entry Turkish visa costs $160 and a multiple-entry, $200.

Visas-on-arrival and evisas are still not available to US travelers. 

Visas that were granted before this imbroglio began are still valid, and plane passengers transiting through Turkey will still be allowed to transfer to other flights without having entry visas.  

On Nov. 6, the US Embassy agreed to start accepting some visa applications, however on Dec. 19 it was announced that no interviews would be available for business- or tourist-visa applicants until January 2019. Those wanting to travel to the US on visas for medical care will be able to get expedited interviews.

Each month, ITN prints a list of countries for which Travel Warnings have been issued by the US Department of State. By the time you receive this magazine, the way the Department presents that list online will have been revised, due to changes in the way it alerts travelers to dangers abroad.

Previously, warnings and alerts were issued only for particular countries, with additional details about each warning/alert and why it was issued outlined in the State Department’s description of the country on a separate webpage. 

However, under the new guidelines, which were scheduled to commence on Jan. 10, travel advisories will be posted for ALL countries, with warnings ranked on a scale from 1 to 4. In addition, each country’s travel warnings and additional information will be presented on a single webpage.

The State Department’s new system of ranking destinations will advise travelers as follows:

Level 1 — Exercise Normal Precautions

Level 2 — Exercise Increased Caution

Level 3 — Reconsider Travel

Level 4 — Do Not Travel

Note that these are simply suggestions from the State Department. The “Do Not Travel” ranking does not mean that the US government forbids US citizens from traveling to the destination.

Also, and importantly, certain regions within a country may have different rankings than the overall ranking of the country, itself. So a Level 1 country may have one area ranked at Level 4, and, though unlikely, a Level 4 country may have an area that is ranked at Level 1.

This new format will allow the State Department to address certain safety issues that are present within a country (such as a terrorist act in London) without having to place the entire nation on a Travel Warnings list.

To see how the State Department has rated various countries and regions, visit travel.state.gov and click on “Travel Advisories” at the top of the page.

CORRECTIONS to note —

• Regarding a statement I made in my November 2017 column — “It wasn’t until the regime of General Francisco Franco (1939-1975) that Catalonia became an official part of Spain” — Arlene Lighthall of Del Mar, California, wrote in to point out that Catalonia was “officially” part of Spain centuries before Franco’s rule.

She is correct. Though Catalonia enjoyed autonomy for centuries, including after the unification of Spain in the 15th century, this autonomy was stripped after the defeat of the region during the War of Spanish Succession, in 1714, when Philip V abolished the established laws of Catalonia and, consequently, the region’s independence (a fate similar to that imposed by Franco in 1939, which voided the autonomy that Catalonia had since regained, something not reinstated in full until 1979). 

Thanks, Arlene, for writing in to set the record straight.

• Within our series of Top 10 lists of “countries best for beginning travelers,” a subscriber wrote about the attributes of Mexico, including, “The Aztec ruins of Mérida are another choice and an easy trip from the US” (Jan. ’18, pg. 41).

After reading that, Mette Djoko­vich of Orange, California, wrote, “I do believe that the Mérida area’s ancient ruins are Mayan, not Aztec.”

Mette is correct.

We have a couple of info requests from subscribers, for subscribers.

• Linda Beuret of Santa Barbara, California, wrote, “My husband, Peter, and I were very interested to read the letter ‘The Case for Do-it-yourself Travel’ by Robert Carrelli (Dec. ’17, pg. 27). We lived and worked in Europe for 12 years and did exactly as he says; we planned and organized our own trips, mostly driving throughout Europe.

“But now, at 79, we seem to do more tours, leaving the driving to others. Mr. Carrelli stated that, at 86, he still rents cars and drives on his vacations. I know that in some countries, such as Ireland, many agencies will not rent autos to persons over 75, and I am wondering if other travelers have found any difficulty renting autos anywhere else in Europe due to age.”

If you are a traveler of advanced years who has rented a vehicle outside of the US recently, particularly in Europe, please share your experiences. In which country were you not allowed to rent a vehicle because you were over an age limit? What were you told or what did you read? What was the limit? Approximately when (year) did this occur? What are other pertinent details? Did you find an alternative?

Email editor@intltravelnews.com or write to Senior Drivers of Rental Cars, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Responses will be printed in the magazine.

• Mazel Pernell of Rockville, Maryland, wrote, “For the past four years, I’ve enjoyed international travel with group tours. All of them had a chaperone or tour director who was with the group for the duration of the tour. In planning my sixth trip to Africa for the fall of 2018, I didn’t find a set tour that I liked, so I’m working directly with a Ghana-based company to customize a 3-week tour that includes Ghana, Benin and Togo.

“Since none of my travel friends are up to touring West Africa, it looks like I will be soloing. The tour company will provide one chaperone/

driver/guide for the duration of the trip as well as local guides in some locations. I would appreciate hearing from any traveler who has been on an extended solo tour. 

“Specifically, did you eat all or some meals with the chaperone? Did you pay for his or her meals? Obviously, in countries where tipping is encouraged, the total tip for the chaperone would be greater on a tour with multiple group members. Since I will be the only person on this tour, what would be a reasonable amount to tip the chaperone for a tour of nearly three weeks? (If a percentage of the total tour cost, what percentage? If a set amount per day of touring, how much? Another option?) What else do I need to consider?”

Write to Advice for a Solo on a Custom Guided Tour, c/o ITN.

Subscribers, if you have anything you can share, write in.