News in brief for travelers around the world. Share
In complement to our feature articles and our online travel guides, we point out here good and bad news which may be of interest for travelers in various parts of the world. This includes also information about some practical changes (e.g. as for entry requirements) and various innovations in the air travel market. News and other useful information are added whenever appropriate. Read this page as often as necessary.
August 2018 - Belarus: Thirty-day stay exempted from visa.
Citizens of 80 countries, including all countries of the European Union, Australia, Japan and the United States, can now stay up to 30 days (instead of five) in Belarus without a visa, provided that they arrive at the Minsk International Airport (without transiting through Russia) with a passport that is valid at least three months after the departure date and a travel assistance insurance.
This measure aims to promote tourism in this country which hosts the European Games in 2019 although it is not part of the Schengen area. Belarus, marked by the traces of the Soviet era, benefits from tourist attractions such as the Białowieża Forest National Park, which is the territory of European bison.
July 2018 - World: Quick connection between Star Alliance flights.
Star Alliance, which brings together a large number of airlines, including United Airlines, Lufthansa (and its Belgian, Swiss and Austrian subsidiaries), Air India, Air China, Air Canada, ANA, Thai Airways and many others, offers an assistance service to travelers in case of tight connection between flights. This service monitors flight delays and passengers' connection time. It intervenes to help each traveler with a close connection in order that he does not miss the connection with his next flight.
This proactive service operates in 11 major hubs: Frankfurt (FRA), London Heathrow (LHR), Munich (MUC), Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), New York-Newark (EWR), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Washington Dulles (IAD) and since end July 2018 Toronto (YYZ).
June 2018 - New Zealand: Plan to tax tourists.
New Zealand authorities announce the introduction of a tax of NZ $ 25 to NZ $ 35 (US $ 17 to 24) payable as from May 2019 by each foreign visitor, with the exception of children under 2 and citizens of the Pacific Islands Forum (including Australia, French Polynesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Cook Islands, and more). They also announce an increase in the rent of some campsites on trekking trails and, as from November 2018, of the visa fee.
These measures aim to involve foreign tourists in the financing of the country's infrastructure and the environmental protection. Tourism in New Zealand is growing strongly. Over the past 12 months, the country, which has a population of 4.7 million, has welcomed 3.8 million foreign visitors.
May 2018 - Africa: Benin and Zimbabwe adopt the E-visa system.
Benin and Zimbabwe have just introduced an e-visa system. For Benin, the e-visa system is available for tourism travel, business travel and transit while a tourist visa remains possible upon arrival in the country for a maximum stay of 8 days. As far as Zimbabwe is concerned, citizens of a hundred countries may obtain a visa upon arrival in the country while other citizens who must obtain a visa before their arrival can now do so online (e-visa). Laos plans to introduce a similar system by the end of 2018.
May 2018 - Balearic Islands: Ban on vacation rentals of apartments.
As from July, vacation rentals of apartments in Palma de Mallorca will be banned. Only single-family homes will remain available for holiday rentals, provided they are not located in protected areas, near the airport or in industrial areas. The measure aims to ensure long-term rentals at affordable prices to local people. Since 2013, the rents of accommodation in Palma de Mallorca have risen by 40%, making Palma the second Spanish city, after Barcelona, with the most expensive rents.
Recently, the amount of illegal holiday rentals in Palma de Mallorca has been reduced dramatically as a result of the collection of fines on (among others) Tripadvisor and Airbnb. But, the city still has 11,000 holiday rentals of which only 645 have the required license.
April 2018 - Réunion: Eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise.
On the island of Réunion, the Piton de la Fournaise volcano erupted on 27 April. Mid-May, the eruption of the volcano continued, but it occurred largely in tunnels. A previous eruption that took place on 3 April lasted only a few hours. Over the last ten years, the volcano has erupted about fifteen times.
April 2018 - Philippines: Boracay Island closed to visitors.
As from April 26, 2018 and for a period of 6 months, tourists have no longer access to Boracay Island in the Philippines. The Philippine authorities have made this decision in order to restore the island's environment, which has been severely damaged by its tourism development. Boracay Island is part of the Visayas archipelago. It enjoys a great popularity among tourists, especially surfers.
March 2018 - World: Low cost trips.
The growing popularity of low-cost airlines continues to generate responses from their competitors. For example, as for transatlantic flights, several conventional airlines (Air France, KLM, British Airways, Iberia, Alitalia, American Airlines and others) announce that they will offer low cost tickets provided travelers do not have checked baggage or want to choose their seat in the plane. Travelers will be entitled to the meal at no extra cost.
Another strategy is to serve new destinations that are not popular with low-cost airlines. Thus, Iberia announces flights three times a week between Madrid and Managua, the only air link between Europe and Nicaragua.
Promotional offers, such as the Hi Belgium Pass that Brussels Airlines offers for the second year in a row, remain among the best responses. This Pass allows you to visit two Belgian cities of your choice departing from 50 airports in Europe for only €149, excluding accommodation. It includes round-trip flight (without checked luggage), unlimited train rides during the stay and a city pass to museums and attractions in both cities.
As for the low-cost carriers, they continue reaching agreements about connections between their short- and medium-haul flights and cheap long-haul flights of other airlines. Following the Easyjet agreements with Norwegian and Westjetin 2017, Ryanair has just signed an agreement with Aer Lingus about connections between flights of both airlines.
March 2018 - World: E-visa systems more and more popular.
More and more countries are introducing an electronic visa system. Thus, since a few weeks, Brazil has been offering it to American, Canadian, Japanese, and Australian citizens. Uzbekistan and Pakistan have just decided to implement soon (as from July 2018 in Uzbekistan) such an electronic system. Other countries go further and cancel other ways of obtaining a visa: for instance, Uganda and Oman no longer allow you to get a visa from the local embassy.
Travelers must be careful though. Unofficial sites sometimes appear in first position in the results of Google in this matter. Some of these sites are reliable third-party sites. However, it may happen that others issue fake visas. This is in any case a recent warning of the Indian authorities.
February 2018 - Cambodia: New National Marine Park.
The government of Cambodia has just established the Koh Rong archipelago located off the seaside resort of Sihanoukville as a national marine park in order to preserve its ecosystem and promote responsible tourism. The Koh Rong Marine National Park, the first in Cambodia, covers 52,448 hectares and encompasses 7 islands, including Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Kon and Koh Toch. The archipelago receives a growing number of visitors.
February 2018 - Thailand: Smart Visa.
As from February 1, Thailand introduces a 4-year visa for foreign experts, investors, executives and entrepreneurs. Obtaining this visa, called Smart Visa, requires permission from various Thai organizations and may take about thirty days.
January 2018 - Congo Brazzaville: Online Visa
The Embassy of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) in Paris has just put online a website to apply online for a visa. The payment can be made through Paypal. The site is only in French.
January 2018 - Oman: New official website for tourism.
Tourism in Oman is in full development. The Minister of Tourism of Oman has just put online a new and comprehensive website for tourists who are planning a trip to the Sultanate. He also expanded the missions entrusted to the Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran).
December 2017 - Russia: Visa-free entry to Russia for the FIFA World Cup.
Football enthusiasts who want to travel to Russia to attend the FIFA 2018 World Cup competitions are exempt from the Russian visa provided they hold a personal spectator card - better known as a FAN ID -, a valid identity document, and an entry ticket to a match (or a document providing the right to receive it).
The FAN ID is the card that any spectator of the 2018 World Cup matches must hold to gain access to the stadiums. In order to get the FAN ID, you must first buy a ticket for the FIFA World Cup, then register on the official website www.fan-id.ru or at a FAN ID distribution center.
Otherwise, you may apply for a tourist visa (or a private visa if you have relatives or friends in Russia). Read more
December 2017 - Egypt: E-Visa.
Egypt has officially announced the introduction of an electronic visa system. However, the web site shown currently in Google's search results in this matter is not the right site. You find here the official site of E-Visa to Egypt. The new system is available to citizens of 46 countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, China, western European countries and Russia. Read more .
For travel news of the year 2017, click here
For travel news 2016, click here.
For travel news 2015, click here.