Could LAX to Tehran Soon Be a Reality?

A direct flight to Iran? According to the Iranian airline Asseman, it’s possible, if relations improve. The airline’s managing director, Abbas Rahmatian, points out that because the airline recently transported President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations meeting, it was requested to open up flights to the United States and Canada. Apparently the airline has 33 planes in operation and are completely capable of overhauling them.

While direct flights between the United States and Iran seem a little far off, it’s not surprising that Iran’s airline industry would want to look outwards; currently more than 60 percent of Iran’s total 220 planes are grounded because of technical and logistic issues. “Iranians airlines are facing great losses due to the low price of domestic flight tickets,” Sirous Baheri, managing director of Airtour Airline, which also operates in Iran, said, as reported by the website Skift. “They are currently having difficulties competing with foreign airlines.” Things are so bad that the deputy transport minister recently called for 16 of the country’s airlines to merge because they were in bankruptcy.Open Iranian airlines up to foreign markets like the United States and Canada, maybe they will have the potential for competing again. Of course that will depend on diplomatic relations improving. There’s the usual strict U.S. State Department travel warning, and because the United States does not have diplomatic relations in Iran, you can’t expect any consular services while there (although you could go to the Swiss embassy who handles all that stuff for the United States). And of course you need a visa.

So while you wait for those direct flights to open up, you may want to consider a few other methods of travel.

State Department Strengthens Warning Against Travel To Egypt

The State Department strengthened the intensity of its warning against travel to Egypt on Thursday. Overriding an earlier warning issued on July 3, the new alert advises U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Egypt at this time and asks Americans currently in the country to leave.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Egypt and U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on July 3, 2013.

The announcement followed a new series of protests in Cairo, which have caused more than 500 deaths at this writing.

For the full warning, visit the State Department’s website.

State Department Issues Travel Alert Over Potential Al-Qaeda Attack

The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert that Al-Qaeda is planning an attack in the Middle East or North Africa in the month of August.

The press release, which has not yet appeared on the State Department website [Update: Here’s the alert] but is reprinted by Business Insider in full, warns,

“The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August. This Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2013.”It adds, “We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens Traveling abroad enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.”

CNN is reporting that some U.S. embassies in the region, including those in Egypt and Israel, will close starting on Sunday for an unspecified length of time.

As of this writing, there is no detail about the nature of the threat.

Update: August 5, 10:07 a.m.
Nineteen U.S. diplomatic posts have also been closed, at least through this week.

Travel Warnings: often not as bad as they sound

The United States Department of State issues travel warnings when dangerous, long-term conditions lead to a recommendation that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to certain countries around the globe. They also issue warnings when the U.S. government’s ability to assist American citizens is compromised by the closing of an embassy or consulate or a reduction of its staff. Still, seeing a country’s name on the list does not necessarily mean all travel to a given country should stop.

Mexico is a good example of a country where there have been issues of concern, a travel warning has been issued, but not all travel there is unsafe. Since 2006, the Mexican government has battled drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. Still, a lot of Americans travel to Mexico safely.

“Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico” states the Department of State in their current travel warning for Mexico.

Still, the Department of State notes that violence along Mexican roads and highways in the northern border region make that area off limits to U.S. government employees and their families, good advice to consider for travelers as well. Often, common-sense advice is given for those who must travel

“If you make frequent visits to border cities, you should vary your route and park in well-lighted, guarded and paid parking lots. Exercise caution when entering or exiting vehicles.”

Some travel warnings go back quite some time too, like travel to North Korea where entry requirements are strict and explicit official permission plus an entry visa are required from the government of North Korea.

“Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea without proper documentation, even accidentally, have been subject to arrest and long-term detention” warns the Department of State.

Again, following some common sense tips for safety when traveling abroad are given by the Department of State including:

  • Dressing for the part– Do not dress in a way that will make you look like an affluent tourist. We got that same recommendation from a friend before our recent trip to Italy who urged avoiding bright colors or designer clothes.
  • Travel light– You can move quickly and have a free hand that way. On our recent trip it was a backpack and a small carry-on for each member of our traveling party.
  • Limit the valuables you take and plan places to conceal them– Inside pockets, money belts worn under clothing and the like are good places for credit cards, passports and cash. Leave the jewelry at home.
  • Keep essentials with you– eyeglasses, medicine and other not easily replaceable items should be kept with you when traveling or locked in a hotel safe.
  • Tag your luggage carefully– Put your name, address, phone numbers inside and outside luggage. Tags on the outside of luggage should be difficult to read from a distance, like standing in line at a foreign airport, where your identity or nationality could make you a target.
See more on these and other tips for traveling abroad at the U.S. Department of State website and don’t forget their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) that provides most current information about the country where you will be traveling or living.

Flickr photo by Håkan Dahlström

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Worldwide travel alert issued in wake of Bin Laden’s killing

The U.S. State Department issued an updated worldwide travel alert in response to the news that broke last night about the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.

Fears of anti-American retaliation attacks in response to the killing spurred the department to issue updated guidance about what travelers and those living abroad should do to keep themselves safe.

“Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations,” the warning stated.

Want to know what you should do to protect yourself? Check out these tips.