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Fiji: should you stay or go?
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The Independent Travel

"A state of emergency is now in place in Fiji and curfews could be imposed without warning," warns the Foreign Office. Following the coup in the archipelago on 5 December - the fourth in two decades - the UK government is advising against "all but essential travel to Fiji". This places the islands in the same risk category as Haiti, Liberia and East Timor. Other governments have issued similar warnings; New Zealand has evacuated dependents of its embassy staff in the capital, Suva, and says: "There is high risk to your security in Suva".

Yet the US Department of State has not issued an official Travel Warning for Fiji, suggesting Washington sees the danger level as low; the advice warns only against travelling to Suva. The international airport at Nadi, at the opposite end of the main island, has functioned as normal. And some travel specialists say the risks to holidaymakers have been greatly exaggerated.

"Fiji is a country with virtually no private firearms," says Haydn Wrath of the round-the-world specialist, Travel Nation. "I struggle to envisage its citizens attacking each other and taking their anger out on the tourist population in the resorts on the Coral Coast and on the offshore islands.

"In a dangerous world, I think that the FCO advice is over-cautious at best. We were never advised not to go to the USA after 9/11 or not to go to Spain when ETA targeted tourist areas."

Most UK visitors to Fiji, and other South Pacific destinations, are on trips to or from New Zealand, or on round-the-world itineraries. According to the latest figures, an average of 1,100 tourists arrive in Fiji each day. The economy is heavily dependent on tourism,

"All of the contact we have received from people who are in Fiji tells us that there's nothing to worry about," says Wrath. He quotes a dispatch from one customer: "I've been in Fiji for the last week and have not encountered one problem in the entire time. I've travelled round from Nadi to Suva - the heart of the so-called trouble.

"The biggest thing I've seen are a few army checkpoints - and all they do is wave at the tourists. Please don't encourage people to stop coming: the local people are being laid off work as there are no tourists filling the resorts."

On its official tourism website, the Fiji government makes no mention of the coup.

The Australian government has issued a strongly worded warning about the dangers facing visitors to the Philippines. "We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines because of the high threat of terrorist attack", says the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra. "If you do decide to travel, you should exercise extreme caution."

Cebu is singled out for special caution because "information suggests terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks".

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