'Diplomatic' advice on travel

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The Independent Online
If you think Spain is a dangerous place for a holiday, take a look at the Foreign Office's guide to travelling the world. There is Papua New Guinea, for example, with its "constant threat of danger" or the "currently calm" Casamance region of Southern Senegal, where "the situation could, however, change at any time".

You may consider it a priority to avoid internal flights in Russia, as "It's not known whether aricraft maintenance practices are always properly observed." Attempt "desert travel" in Sudan only if you are "fully equipped and experienced". The Foreign Office updated its Spanish travel advice to the 10 million Britons due to visit the country this year. The amended version refers to the bomb, but otherwise the advice remains unchanged. Tourists are reminded that the "stated aim" of Eta is to disrupt the tourist industry and told to "report any suspicious bags or packets to the local police".

The Foreign Office travel advice - which warns of potential hazards ranging from political insurgency and diptheria epidemics to pickpockets - is available on Ceefax and in travel agents. Tour operators take their cue from the Foreign Office and describe the information as "crucial" since it is "independent".

The travel advice unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises Britons that they "should not attempt to visit" the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, Iraq, Jammu and Kashmir (India), Liberia, Montserrat, Somalia and Western Sahara.

Other countries to be avoided "unless on essential business" are Angolia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Central African Republic, Congo, Rwanda and Tajikstan.

The situation in Spain is not yet bad enough to be in the "Be Vigilant" bracket. "Such advice is reserved for visitors to places like Georgia, where you must "Be vigilant and take sensible precautions against mugging", and Kashmir, where you are told to be "vigilant" and wary of explosions. A Foreign Office spokesman explained: "People should report suspicious packages and be aware of the background to the recent terrorist attacks.''

Sometimes, however, the language can sound a bit understated. "They might say 'non-essential trips should be reconsidered' which is Foreign Office speak for don't go there," said Keith Betton, head of corporate affairs at the Association of British Tourist Travel Agents. "They have to be diplomatic."

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