Joan Scales travel writer with The Irish Times
Thailand – Martial Law
People in Thailand woke us on Tuesday morning to discover that the army had declared Martial Law in the wake of the ongoing political turmoil and violent protests.
Thailand, the Land of Smiles is a hugely popular tourism destination, 63,000 Irish people went there last year and more planned to go this year. It is not the first time that Thailand has been under the care of the Army – there have been at least 18 episodes martial law and army coups since it became a constitutional monarchy.
So what does it mean for people who have booked holidays to Thailand?
At the moment – the Department of Foreign Affairs and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office are advising caution – and to stay away from the border with Cambodia and the far southern border with Myanmar.
There are demonstrations going on for months between the two factions in Bangkok and the bigger cities between the Red Shirts supporters of Shinawatra the deposed Prime Minister in exile and whose sister, Yinluck, the caretaker prime minister, was removed by the Constitution Court on May 7 and the Yellow Shirts – mainly rural and from the north and north east. A caretaker government remains in place.
Martial Rule means that the army is in charge of public safety and security and they certainly do not want the country to end up in civil war. Demonstrations will be restricted and hopefully a new general election will happen soon. There is no Irish Embassy in Thailand, the nearest one is Kuala Lumpur.
Otherwise it is business as usual, with a few riders. Such as there is a curfew in place from 10pm to 5am all over the country.
Stay away from demonstrations and gatherings
Register with the Department of Foreign Affairs before you go
Listen and watch TV, radio and Social Media
Contact the Tourist Friend Centres set up by the Thai government for information, details on dfa.ie website with phone number. Print this page to take with you.
Book through a travel agent or tour operator and don’t travel without insurance. Check that your insurance will cover you in the event of having to cut your holidays short due to political unrest.
One word of warning, particularly to young people who experiment with drugs and alcohol in Thailand – martial law means that you not subject to civil law and soldiers have the right to detain you without arrest, need less of a burden of proof and can impose harsher penalties for wrongdoings.
If after all that, you still want to travel to Thailand – airfares are dropping, and Air France for instance has a sale today (May 22) on flights from Dublin via Paris for €559 including al taxes.
All charter flights to Egypt from Ireland have been suspended for the foreseeable future due to the continuing ongoing unrest. The Department of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel to the Sinai Peninsula where Sharm el Sheikh is. You can still go to Hurghada and other Red Sea resorts but arrive by air only.
The British FCO hasn’t advised against Sharm el Sheikh and you can still travel there from Belfast with Thomson Holidays, from £500-£800 for a week.
There are elections in Egypt this weekend and visitors are warned to stay well away from polling stations. Falcon Holidays hope to bring back trips to Egypt in December.
Aer Lingus – cabin crew strike
Next Friday is traditionally the beginning of the summer holiday season and the Aer Lingus cabin crew strike is well timed to really annoy people. Thousands of people are being disrupted and I think many people who booked bank holiday breaks will cancel rather than lose a day of their trips.
If the strike goes ahead flights will still operate on Friday but not all services. Aer Lingus is bringing in extra crewed aircraft to operate some routes and there will be additional flights on Thursday and Saturday. There is a list of the flights and the additional services that will operate on aerlingus.com.
If you are booked to travel next Friday your options are
· Change to another day between now and June 9 for free, use Manage my Booking option
· Request a full refund.
However, if you make a change before Aer Lingus has to cancel your flight you will have to bear the cost of any additional accommodation, transport etc. To be compensated under EU261 you will have to wait.
That means that if you were booked to travel next Friday and you change to another date and have paid for your hotel, hard luck. If however, Aer Lingus switches you to another date or you have to cancel your hotel, then you can expect to be reasonably compensated. It’s all in the timing.
Needless to say, prices with other airlines on the same routes have gone up.
Things have flared up again in Kenya and the advice is to avoid all non essential travel there. Holiday traffic from Ireland to Kenya tends to be more in the winter time, so things may have settled down by then. The warnings are not for the whole country but specific areas. However tourists have been kidnapped, robbed and threatened in resort areas. Disruptions to Kenya tend to settle down quite quickly.