Dubai alcohol warning. TSA testing new airport security scanners

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the October 2018 issue.

As mountain gorillas foraged, visitors watched — Rwanda. Photo by Marilyn Marx Adelman
Dear Globetrotter:Welcome to the 512th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine, the one that showcases travelers' experiences, knowledge and opinions. Any subscriber can write in, and we print no articles or news about destinations in the US. Just anywhere else!

Someone reading this magazine would benefit from something you learned on your last trip. The littlest thing might save someone time or money. Jot off a quick email so we can share it.

In addition to subscribers' travel accounts and the columns of a few Contributing Editors, you'll find numerous unique trips, services and products described in the advertisements throughout this issue. If something catches your eye, let the company know where you learned about it. ITN continues with everyone's support.

In the spaces not filled by travel offers or your stories, we relay relevant news. Case in point, on July 13, 2018, a woman traveling with her 4-year-old daughter to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was pulled aside in the Dubai International Airport over issues with her visa.

At one point during the ensuing conversation, the Immigration officer asked her if she'd had anything to drink. She reported that she had had a glass of wine during the Emirates flight from London. It had been given to her by the crew as part of her meal.

She was immediately detained and a blood-alcohol test was administered. When the results showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.04%, she was arrested for public intoxication. Both she and her daughter were put in a Dubai prison.

The daughter was retrieved by her father after two days, while the woman eventually was released to a local friend and, four weeks after her arrival, deported back to the UK. In the meantime, she had racked up tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills and had been forced to shutter her dentist office in the UK.

Despite the fact that, in Dubai, it is technically legal to drink alcohol in licensed locations, such as restaurants and hotels, having ANY amount of alcohol in your system in public is considered public intoxication, an offense for which you can be arrested. And, in the case of this woman, the fact that the crew of Dubai's national carrier served her the alcohol had no bearing on the legality of her "public intoxication."

Such arrests are not uncommon. In fact, a nongovernmental organization, Detained in Dubai (phone +44 207 060 6900, www.detainedindubai.com), was formed in the UK to provide legal advocacy for foreigners jailed in Dubai (and in the rest of the UAE) for alcohol-related violations as well as other infractions.

Detained in Dubai has a number of recommendations to help people avoid arrest when they have been legally drinking alcohol in the UAE.

It seems that authorities in Dubai will tolerate visitors drinking in their hotels so long as they stay indoors, so it is recommended that you not drink off-site, away from your hotel, since you will then have to find your way back, putting you in jeopardy of being arrested. Even carrying an unopened bottle of alcohol off-site is illegal!

Also, according to Detained in Dubai, taxi drivers have been known to turn people in to the police whom they suspect of having been drinking, even if they aren't noticeably drunk. There are also examples of police waiting outside of licensed establishments and detaining anyone exiting whom they believe may have consumed alcohol.

You should also avoid being in the proximity of someone who is drinking in public or appears intoxicated, as you could be arrested along with the allegedly drunk person (or along with anyone flouting the law), even if you have not been drinking, yourself.

Additionally, be aware that in another emirate of the UAE, Sharjah, there are absolutely no licensed sellers of alcohol, so under no circumstances should you ever consume alcohol there, even if offered it at a restaurant or hotel.

As for the woman arrested in the Dubai airport, she might have gotten away with having had a glass of wine on her flight if she hadn't also made a number of poor decisions.

A permanent resident of England, she held passports from both Iran and Sweden, but her Iranian passport, which held her still-valid multiyear UAE visa, had expired. The Immigration officer was willing to let her enter the country with her Swedish passport if she purchased a 96-hour transit visa, but since she was unwilling to pay the additional fees and did not want to change her return flight date, she refused.

The woman admitted to recording her interaction with the officer on her phone, an act that is illegal in the UAE. She also was charged with profanity, as she is reported to have used it against the officer.

Now, I'm sure readers of ITN have more sense than this woman, but if you're heading to Dubai and are offered wine with your in-flight meal, consider having a ginger ale instead, just in case you encounter any unexpected difficulties upon or after your arrival.

Science marches on.

A new scanning technology, approved for use in airports by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in early September 2016, may soon allow travelers at security checkpoints across the country to keep electronics and liquids in their carry-on bags rather than requiring the items to be scanned separately.

While use of the new scanners would not allow passengers to pack larger containers of liquids (the maximum size limit of which, 3.4 fluid ounces [100 milliliters] per container, would remain), it would save travelers a little time and hassle.

Electronics and liquids absorb or reflect traditional x-rays, and in the traditional 2-D x-ray machines used by security screeners in airports, those items can block the view of other items in carry-on bags. That's why those items have to be pulled out and set on the conveyor belt. The new scanners use "computed tomography" (CT), the same technology used in a CAT scan, to create 3-D images of bags' contents.

The technology has been around for years, but in the past, the size of the machines prevented their being used in airports. Manufacturers have now developed smaller, more manageable machines, making their use at security checkpoints feasible.

The advantage of CT scanners is they can produce multiple cross-sectional images from various angles and digitally process them to create a 3-D image that can be visually rotated.

The technology is so precise that liquids of different densities can be color-coded, so explosive liquids (and benign liquids of similar densities) could be made to always appear red on the screen, while something innocuous like a bottle of water would be programmed to always be blue. Also, image layers can be removed to better view particular objects in a carry-on bag.

Items deemed suspicious still will be inspected by hand.

CT scanners were placed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Boston-Logan for testing by the TSA in June 2017. In July 2018 in New York, scanners were placed at JFK's American Airlines terminal for additional testing.

Internationally, the UK government is testing their own CT scanners, having placed them at London's Heathrow Airport this summer for a trial run that is expected to last six to 12 months.

It should be stated that the TSA has not announced that the new scanners definitely will allow passengers to leave electronics and liquids in their carry-ons, but the possibility is being explored.

Other scanners that may make life easier for travelers are also in the works, including one being tested in Europe that can identify liquid explosives in sealed containers inside luggage. If that scanner gets approved for the US, then we finally may be able to take a tube of toothpaste larger than a travel-size in our carry-ons again.

CORRECTIONS to note —

We're back on track for part three, but in part two of the article "Bentley's 4WD Cross-Australia Adventure," appearing in last month's "Far Horizons" column (Sept. '18, pg. 50), May 10 should have been labeled as "Day 4," May 11 as "Day 5," etc.

Our apologies to David Bentley, who, based on his writing style and approach to life, is someone I would love to meet.

We're partway through our series "The World on $100 a Day," presenting subscribers' budget-travel tips. After reading the August installment, Judy Serie Nagy of San Jose, California, wrote, "Love reading articles like this! No matter what your level of style, it's always nice to save money."

She continued: "I have a question for Helen Harper, who wrote, 'I flew Wednesday and Thursday so did not buy food those days.' Did the poor woman fast for 48 hours while flying? Even if she flew first class, how was she able to sustain herself with airline food? I'm just curious."

We forwarded Judy's email to Helen, who shared her reply with us, writing, "I never starve! Quite the opposite. I love to eat.

"I play United's game and fly enough to maintain a Premier Gold status, so I can get into the lounges when I fly to Europe either in business or economy class. The food on the plane and in the lounges is plentiful.

"Unlike most of the world, I do not dislike airplane food. It provides entertainment and nourishment during long flights. Sometimes I do fly business so that I can make fewer trips to reach 50,000 award miles per year (required to maintain my Gold status), and I often plan my trips according to times I can find bargain business-class flights.

"I realize that this rather mitigates the budget ceiling of $100-per-day travel we were writing about, but it is the bargain I make with myself."

Helen, the subscriber who requested tips about traveling on less than $100 a day excluded international airfare from the total, so you didn't break any rules, but point taken: sometimes you'll pay more on airfare, but it doesn't mean you can't continue to be frugal and take advantage of extra perks.

Marilyn Marx Adelman, an ITN subscriber in Chicago, Illinois, wrote, "Recently, I created a digital album of the gorilla photos that I took during a September 2016 trip to Rwanda's Virunga Mountains.

"I have pictures of those frisky, roly-poly animals eating, grooming, resting and playing. They paid no attention to us visitors, sometimes swiping our legs as they walked right past us.

"In the background of some pictures are candid shots of other people in our trekking group, and I love their expressions. One shows travelers grabbing onto porters' arms after a silverback leapt in to stop two youngsters from sparring.

"I went on gorilla treks two days in a row, and, each day, the guides divided us into groups of eight according to our trekking skills, health and other characteristics. I was on a trip arranged by Mountain Travel Sobek (Emeryville, CA; 888/831-7526, www.mtsobek.com), but each of my groups of eight had members of other tour groups as well.

"For both of my treks, stretchers were provided for people having difficulty hiking. On Sept. 27, I visited the Umubano gorilla family, which was led by the silverback Charles. On that day, one woman in our group used the stretcher service in both directions; a second woman used the stretcher half the way up and all the way down. The next day, when we visited the Kwitonda group, two individuals used the stretcher services.

"While I sent pictures to some Mountain Travel Sobek tour members after the trip, I neglected to get email addresses of the people from the other tour groups each day. I think they would love to see their pictures, and I would truly appreciate any photos they may have of me as well. I wonder if ITN can help. (I should have exchanged email addresses with the other travelers!)"

Well, Marilyn, if anyone reading this was on your trip or knows someone who might have been, they can find your pictures posted with this column on our website. (Visit www.intltravelnews.com and click on "Departments," "Columns" and "Boarding Pass." The October issue is posted on October 1st.)

And anyone wanting to contact Marilyn can reach her through ITN; email editor@intltravelnews.com or write to her c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818.

Does anyone else have a request or something to share?


Gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda on Sept. 27 (visiting the Umubano gorilla family, led by the silverback Charles) or Sept. 28 (visiting the Kwitonda group), 2016. Photo by Marilyn Marx Adelman.

(If you have any pictures of Marilyn on this Rwanda trip or would like to contact her, email ITN at editor@intltravelnews.com and put “Marilyn's gorilla photos” in the subject line. ITN will forward your email to Marilyn, who will be happy to send you copies of her pictures or to receive some.)