Boarding Pass

By David Tykol

Dear Globetrotter:
Welcome to the 355th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who until now have been able to cross borders between the U.S. and certain destinations without passports soon will need passports to do so, due to requirements of the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

As of Dec. 31, 2005, passports will be required of all people traveling between the United States and the Caribbean, Bermuda or Central or South America (to or from), whether by air or sea.

By Dec. 31, 2006, passports (or other accepted documents) will be required for all air and sea travel to or from Canada or Mexico and the U.S.

By Dec. 31, 2007, a passport will be required for any air, sea or land U.S. border crossing.

Other accepted documents may include, for land border crossings, a SENTRI, NEXUS or FAST program card, used by frequent international travelers, or a Border Crossing Card (laser visa), which often is used by Mexican citizens. Passports will not be required of U.S. citizens traveling to the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands or Guam.

FYI, about 20% of Americans — 60 million people — currently hold passports.

For more info, call the National Passport Information Center at 877/487-2778 or visit

Hang on to your passport in Costa Rica. Police recently arrested seven Costa Ricans and two Colombians who were running a business buying and selling stolen U.S. and Western European passports. In Costa Rica last year, 1,274 American passports were stolen; that number already was matched this year by press time.

Lately, the Transportation Security Administration has been strict in fining anyone caught passing through airport security with a banned item, even if the item was packed unintentionally.

Of course, explosives, firearms and box cutters are prohibited, but if you forget that your Swiss Army knife (or any knife with a blade over three inches) is in your shaving kit, you likely will be fined. Fines can reach $10,000, though the average is $208.

Federal security directors can use their discretion, even handing down fines that are less than the minimum of $250, but if they run across your sewing scissors, for instance, and you are unapologetic and talk disrespectfully to the agent, expect to pay.

At least until Nov. 19, 2005, if you have a ticket for a flight on a U.S. airline that goes bankrupt, other U.S. carriers operating that route are required to transport you, but now they may charge you up to $50 each way (up from a previous cap of $25), and on overseas flights they may pass along any fees charged by a foreign government. That’s the gist of a recent ruling from Congress issued by the Department of Transportation.

If you choose not to get a refund from the insolvent airline but to make alternative arrangements with another carrier within 60 days of the original carrier’s suspension of service, the airline must allow you to travel “on a space-available basis” on the ticketed flight date or as soon thereafter as a seat is found, not to exceed one week. The ruling does not apply to passengers on a charter flight.

This even counts if you have an “e-ticket,” but the alternate carrier can request reasonable proof of purchase, such as a receipt or printed itinerary.

On July 3, one of Australia’s “12 Apostles” — the limestone tower formations just off the southern coast of Victoria state, and actually there were only nine of them — collapsed from erosion.

A family of sightseers watched as the 150-foot stack, pounded by surf, shuddered, fractured and collapsed straight down into a pile of rubble 30 feet above sea level.

Italy has passed a new decree against “abusivismo,” or illegal street trading, that treats both sellers and buyers of counterfeit goods as accomplices to a crime.

On-the-spot fines of €10,000 (near $12,180) have been imposed on tourists for buying fake designer goods on the Italian Riviera. A 60-year-old Dane was fined for buying bogus Dior sunglasses. A 27-year-old French woman was handed a fine by a uniformed policeman after purchasing a fake Louis Vuitton handbag.

If the fine is paid within 60 days, it will be reduced to €3,333 ($4,060). Fines not paid accrue interest and extra penalties.

Marjorie Kaufman of Scottsdale, Arizona, wrote, “ITN is by far the most informative travel magazine published. Each issue has a new ‘tidbit’ of advice and a great deal of relevant data. Thank you for providing such a wonderful service for travelers. My husband and I have toured around 112 countries and have always consulted ITN for data concerning our trips. I’m honored to be a Charter Member.”

Marion Gillespie of Melrose, Florida, wrote, “My husband and I treasure your publication. ITN and National Geographic are the only magazines we subscribe to, and we talk it up every chance we get. On our latest trip to Egypt and Jordan, we passed the word to our fellow travelers and promised them each a sample copy.”

And we’re fulfilling Marion’s promise, sending all six people complimentary copies of the next-printed issue. If you know of any travelers who are unfamiliar with ITN and would appreciate subscribing to the publication read by the most-traveled people in the world, send us their names and addresses.

A request. No, an assignment. To get to know all of you readers better, we’re running another of our one-question surveys and we need you to participate. We’re simply asking where you traveled in March of this year. See the easy instructions in the box on page 19. We want to hear from all of you.

This column was going to end here, but just before this issue went to press, several bombs were set off and nearly 90 people were killed in the popular tourist resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. We had an article on Egypt set for this issue, and, as you can see, we decided to run it as scheduled. Here’s why.

Of course, many tourists departed Sharm el-Sheikh following the bombings, and others canceled scheduled plans to visit. Many, no doubt, canceled trips to the rest of Egypt as well. I would argue the wisdom in that.

On top of the devastation from the attack, Egypt now will suffer a second blow from a lack of tourists, just as it did following an incident in the late ’90s. Those who did travel to Egypt in that period wrote to ITN to say how gratefully they were received and how hard the locals were working to please visitors. Not to be heartless here, but the letters also mentioned that prices had dropped and the sites were uncrowded.

We do not plan to stop running articles on Britain either, even though London was recently the target of terrorists. It has been expressed there that the best defense is business as usual.

When the tsunami struck the Indian Ocean countries in December, travelers were asked to stay away until supplies were replenished and utilities were restored. After that, however, tourism was greatly encouraged. Indeed, inland areas had not been hit by the monster waves, and, in the end, economic gains made anywhere in those countries are sure to help everyone.

That plus the friendship and goodwill inherent in tourism can help restore normalcy when it is needed most. Travel is beneficial in so many ways.

Those who enjoy traveling must be comfortable with their own decisions about where to go. The State Department keeps the public informed about areas of risk and also offers common sense suggestions on how to avoid trouble. Stay informed, and appreciate your next trip. — David Tykol, Editor