Starling March Forecast

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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North Korean Optimism?
The closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang appears to have punctuated an apparent change in North Korean foreign policy. The amelioration in public rhetoric could signal many things, including a willingness to discuss sanctions and a possible détente. However, there are three major obstacles that persist.

Firstly, the United States has warned that it will insist any possible negotiations focus on North Korea’s nuclear programme, something Pyongyang is not likely to entertain. Secondly, the effect of any increase in international pressure will be very limited so long as China is not involved. Thirdly, relations are likely to become tense once again in March as the United States and South Korea hold joint military exercises around the peninsula, something which draws Pyongyang’s ire every year. Those optimistic for some sort of meaningful détente between Pyongyang and Washington any time soon are therefore likely to be disappointed.

Colombian Concerns
After promising developments last year, the relationship between the Colombian government and the ELN rebel group has fallen back on the rocks. With a suspension of talks and a recent rise in terrorist attacks believed to have been conducted by the group it will take considerable efforts by both sides to pull things together again.

In the longer term, an agreement is still likely to result in a peaceful deal with (most of) the group but for now, expect further sporadic attacks on energy sector interests and the security forces as the ELN attempts to pressure the government into acceding to certain demands. The military may also launch counter-insurgency operations against the group in certain parts of the country as well. Fortunately, travel to popular destinations such as Bogotá, Cartagena and Medellín should be largely unaffected.

Anti-Kabila Protests
In the DRC, instability persists around the borders with Rwanda but in urban areas closer to the seat of power in Kinshasa, protests against President Kabila’s attempts to stay in power have grown increasingly confrontational and violent. A number of people have been killed and injured in recent weeks.

Many of the protests are being organised by the Church and much like the Arab Spring when anti-government demonstrations tended to peak after prayers on a Friday, the trend in the DRC is for these demonstrations to peak after congregations on Sunday. Expect more potentially violent anti-government demonstrations over the course of March, especially on the 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th.

Syrian horrors
In Syria, international attempts to calm the situation in Eastern Ghouta may achieve a partial reduction in hostilities, but the violence will not stop and the humanitarian crisis will remain dire, even with Russia pressing for a reduction in some of the attacks being conducted by pro-government forces.

The latest negotiated ceasefire has already failed to last, while the recent UN resolution did not go far enough to achieving any practical or lasting levity in the situation.

International politics aside, so long as a small band of anti-government fighters continue to use the area as a base for attacks on Damascus, Eastern Ghouta will continue to suffer retaliatory action at the expense of its long-suffering civilian population.

Seasonal weather changes
The month of March sees the Northward equinox and normally marks the end of winter in the northern hemisphere. Nonetheless, bad weather can still persist in many areas, as recent cold weather across much of Europe demonstrates.

Ski season can start to wind down in some destinations, although it can last until April in certain resorts. The weather starts to heat up in Persian Gulf destinations such as the UAE, marking the end of the most pleasant time of the year.

March normally sees the end of the worst of the Harmattan winds in parts of West Africa. These winds bring dry, dusty conditions which have an impact on visibility and respiratory conditions among other things. They are normally felt most keenly in Niger, Burkina Faso, western Chad, northern Ghana, northern Nigeria, northern Benin, northern Togo, eastern Cote D’Ivoire as well as further west and south of these areas to a lesser but still noticeable degree

Popular travel destinations at this time include the Alps, Australia, the Caribbean, parts of East Africa such as Kenya and Mozambique, the Maldives, Mediterranean cities (rather than beaches – go to the Canary Islands for those), Morocco, the UAE, South Africa, south and southeast Asia, as well as different parts of the United States. It is also a nice time to visit parts of the world with Persian and Kurdish communities where they mark the Spring festival of Nowruz (shown below).

Celebrating Nowruz in Tajikistan

The following countries and territories also mark notable weather changes this month:

Bangladesh: the humid ‘summer’ begins in March and normally lasts until the monsoon season in June.
Bolivia: the rainy season begins in the northeast of the country, normally lasting until April.
Congo: the rainy season normally begins, lasting until June.
DRC: the rainy season in areas south of the equator normally ends this month.
Mauritania: Sirocco winds last from now until April, bringing dry, dusty conditions affecting visibility and respiratory conditions.
Mauritius: the highest-risk part of the cyclone season normally comes to an end. The risk will persist until May but they are relatively infrequent overall.
Pitcairn Islands: the cyclone season comes to an end this month.
Sri Lanka: the monsoon season comes to an end in the north-east of the country, ushering in hot dry weather.
Tanzania: the rainy season normally begins, lasting until May.
Thailand: the monsoon season normally comes to an end in the northeast around the middle of March.
Tuvalu: the rainy season normally ends this month.
United States: tornado season normally begins, lasting until June (although they can occur all year round).
Zimbabwe: the rainy season normally ends this month.

Key Dates

1 March
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Independence Day
India: Holi
Israel: Purim
Moldova: Martisor
Paraguay: Hero’s Day
Romania: Martisor
South Korea: Independence Movement Day
Switzerland: Republic Day

2 March
Armenia: presidential elections
DPRK: Tree Planting Day
Ethiopia: Victory of Adowa Day
Myanmar: Peasants Day

3 March
Bulgaria: Liberation Day
Georgia: Mother’s Day
Malawi: Martyr’s Day
Pakistan: Senate elections

4 March
Italy: Senate and Chamber of Deputies elections
Qatar: bank holiday

5 March
Australia: Labour Day

6 March
Ghana: Independence Day

7 March
Sierra Leone: presidential, parliamentary and local council elections

8 March
Worldwide: International Women’s Day

9 March
Armenia: public holiday
Belarus: public holiday
Kazakhstan: public holiday
Russia: public holiday
Ukraine: public holiday

11 March
Colombia: parliamentary elections
Cuba: National Assembly of People’s Power elections
Lithuania: Restoration of Independence Day
United Kingdom: Mothering Sunday

12 March
Belize: National Heroes and Benefactors Day
Gibraltar: Commonwealth Day
Mauritius: National Day
New Zealand: Taranaki Anniversary
Turks and Caicos Islands: Commonwealth Day
Zambia: Youth Day

14 March
Albania: Summer Day

15 March
Belarus: Constitution Day
Hungary: National Day

17 March
Indonesia: Hari Raya Nyepi
Ireland: St. Patrick’s Day

18 March
Russia: presidential elections first round

19 March
Colombia: St. Joseph’s Day
Italy: Father’s Day
Honduras: Father’s Day
Malta: St. Joseph’s Day
Portugal: Father’s Day
Spain: St. Joseph’s Day
Switzerland: St. Joseph’s Day
Venezuela: St. Joseph’s Day

20 March
Azerbaijan: Novruz Holiday
Tunisia: Independence Day

21 March
Afghanistan: Nowrooz
Iraq: Eid Nowruz
Japan: Vernal Equinox Day
Kazakhstan: Nauryz Meyrami
Namibia: Independence Day
South Africa: Human Rights Day
Turkmenistan: Novruz-Bayram
Uzbekistan: Navruz

22 March
Albania: Nevruz
Puerto Rico: Emancipation Day

23 March
Pakistan: Pakistan Day

24 March
Argentina: Truth and Justice Memorial Day

25 March
Cyprus: Greek Independence Day
Greece: Independence Day
Turkmenistan: parliamentary elections

26 March
Bangladesh: Independence Day
Costa Rica: Holy Week Holiday
Egypt: two-day presidential elections begin (expatriates abroad will vote on 16-18 March)
Mali: Martyr’s Day
New Zealand: Otago Anniversary Day
Uruguay: Bank Holiday
Venezuela: Holy Week Holiday

27 March
Myanmar: Armed Forces Day

30 March
Palestinian Territories: Land Day (demonstrations commonly occur)

31 March
Malta: Freedom Day

We hope you have safe travels ahead!