Please find below a travel safety calendar for the upcoming month, as well as travel tips, analysis and guidance to help keep you safe.
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The opening ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games will take place in the South Korean City of Pyeongchang on the 9th February. Concerns have been raised by a number of competing nations over the safety of the event, specifically as regards the activities of neighbouring North Korea. However, with Pyeongyang sending a delegation of competitors to join in, the mood appears to have taken a more conciliatory tone, despite warmongering statements, particularly vis-à-vis the United States.
Nonetheless, participation in the games is not likely to suggest any de-escalation of North Korean rhetoric on its nuclear programme, which is seen as fundamental to the state’s resilience. The games are likely to pass without major security incidents, but the international deadlock over Pyeongyang’s nuclear programme will persist long after the closing ceremony of Pyeongchang 2018 has ended. South Korea and the US will hold joint military drills soon after, and these usually provoke critical rhetoric from the north.
In Syria, there are concerns that forces from Turkey might engage US troops and their allies in the Manbij area if they extend their current military operations beyond the enclave of Afrin. The Turks have certainly warned of their intent to do so, but they may fall short of overtly provoking their NATO allies. Instead, they might simply be sabre-rattling in order to draw attention away from a possible annexation of Afrin itself. Whichever side you might back in this bitter civil conflict (if any at all), it is the civilians who will continue to suffer most. From a traveller perspective, it means that Syria, which was once an incredible travel destination, will also remain largely off limits for the foreseeable future.
Costa Rica, Nepal and Monaco are all set to have elections this month, although the date for the Monaco National Council polls has not yet been finalised. Egypt is holding elections in March but related unrest may increase in February. Most credible opposition candidates have either withdrawn or been arrested so Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is likely to win another term. While this might be seen as a blow for civil liberties, it will nonetheless likely ensure continued security stability in cities and tourist resorts, although the military continues to face a highly concerning insurgency in northern Sinai region. Elections, originally scheduled for February in Thailand, are being pushed back by the junta. This has already provoked a rare incident of public disquiet and criticism of the military leadership, and further similar incidents may take place in the coming weeks.
More protests should be expected in the DRC, with President Kabila facing louder calls to hold overdue elections sooner rather than later. These are increasingly turning violent. Potentially violent demonstrations should also be expected in Venezuela and Brazil. Venezuela is to hold early elections by the end of April, with the opposition likely distressed that this will provide little time to mount a campaign against incumbent president Nicolas Maduro. Supporters of former Brazilian president Lula da Silva may also demonstrate against an ongoing corruption case against him which he claims is designed to prevent him from running for office again in October. Elsewhere in Latin America, the tentative peace process between the ELN rebel group and the government in Colombia deteriorated in January, with a resumption in sporadic violence by the group. February could see a worsening of this trend, although the political will to resolve the issue will likely force both sides back to the negotiating table to the benefit of national security.
While the news may seem bad for some parts of the Americas, bear in mind that February also sees the annual return of carnival season and Mardi Gras. Many countries hold public holidays for this exuberant celebration from the 12th February. It’s an idea time to travel to party cities such as Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans for colour, partying and all sorts of fun before the Christian period of Lent. There will be tensions in the Colombian city of Barranquilla following a recent bombing in the city but it is likely that the show will go on.
Seasonal weather changes
The end of February normally marks the end, or beginning of the end of summer in the southern hemisphere. Cold, wintry and disruptive conditions can persist in the northern hemisphere.
Popular travel destinations at this time of year include the Alps, Australia, Brazil, the Caribbean and Central America, east Africa (particularly Kenya and Tanzania), Egypt, New Zealand, the Persian Gulf (particularly Oman and the UAE) South Africa and southeast Asia.
The following countries and territories also mark notable weather changes this month:
Belize: the dry season usually begins this month and lasts until May.
Burundi: the first rainy season of the year normally begins this month and lasts until May.
Falkland Islands: two months of relatively warmer weather will draw to a close by the end of February.
Nauru: the rainy season which began in November usually ends this month.
Mozambique: Heroes’ Day
New Zealand: Waitangi Day
Slovenia: Preseren Day
Serbia: Sovereignty Day
Worldwide: Chinese New Year’s Eve
Kosovo: Independence Day
India: Statehood Day
Bangladesh: Language Martyrs’ Day
St Lucia: Independence Day
Russia: Defence of the Fatherland Day
Kuwait: Liberation Day
Dominican Republic: Independence Day
We hope you have safe travels ahead!