Please find below a travel safety calendar for the upcoming month.
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December is marked by the major religious events of Christmas and Hanukah, as well as New Year celebrations, which often involve busier-than-normal infrastructure as people travel to see family, friends and loved-ones.
The combination of busy networks and occasionally inclement weather (especially in the northern hemisphere) regularly leads to disruption and delays so plan accordingly and have contingency plans in place.
Popular travel destinations at this time of year include the Alps, South Africa, islands off the west coast of Africa (such as the Canary Islands, Madeira and Cape Verde), Latin America, the Caribbean, South and South East Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
December is also set to witness a number of elections around the world. Read on to see why some of these are likely to be controversial and even violent.
Seasonal weather changes
December marks the shortest days and wintry weather in the northern hemisphere, with colder conditions and heavy snowfall in some areas, leading to inevitable travel disruption. The southern hemisphere experiences summer, but this too can bring some risks, such as wildfires in certain areas (such as Australia).
It is normally around December that parts of West Africa begin to experience more frequent dusty Harmattan winds, a trend which usually lasts until March. They are particularly felt 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. The winds can have an impact on visibility and respiratory conditions among other things.
The following countries and territories also mark notable weather changes this month:
Christmas Island: the rainy season begins and usually lasts until April.
Japan: the typhoon season comes to an end (although typhoons can still sporadically occur).
Kosovo: snowfall can be particularly heavy this month, but it normally eases from the end of the year.
Mauritius: there is a particularly high risk of cyclones from mid-December to March (although they only usually occur once every few years)
Philippines: the typhoon season comes to an end (although they can still sporadically occur)
Sierra Leone: the rainy season usually ends this month
Sri Lanka: the north-eastern monsoon usually begins in December and lasts until March
Timor Leste: the rainy season usually begins this month and lasts until April
On the political front, several countries are holding elections in December. Some of them look to be particularly challenging, although some look set to be well-run and positive for regional stability.
Armenia holds national assembly elections on the 9th December, with Nikol Pashinyan’s Yelk Alliance widely expected to defeat the incumbent Republican Party.
Libya was scheduled to hold elections on the 10th December but international organisers appear to have quietly decided to postpone them until 2019.
Madagascar is also set to hold a run-off presidential election on the 19th December to decide whether Marc Ravalomanana or Andry Rajoelina will become the country’s next president.
In Togo, opposition supporters are set to protest after the authorities failed to register a number of opposition parties for the 20th December national assembly elections.
Even more contentious polls are due to take place in the DRC on the 23rd December. Controversial appointments, potentially problematic touch-screen voting terminals, amid an ongoing Ebola outbreak, criminality, regional instability and even a terrorist threat which recently closed the US embassy have all raised the stakes in this high-pressure poll.
Bangladesh is also planning to hold controversial elections on the 30th December, with opposition supporters set to demonstrate (potentially violently) against many things, most prominently the detention of opposition leader Khaleda Zia and many of her followers.
Mali is holding national assembly elections on the 31st December but logistical and security challenges mean that turnout could be low while terrorist attacks aimed at disrupting events could also take place in the coming weeks.
No polls are currently scheduled for Sri Lanka but a snap general election could be called amid the constitutional chaos currently being experienced in parliament.
Elsewhere in the world of political risk, Saudi Arabia continues to grapple with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ongoing war in Yemen. Both topics are making for a very awkward G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Martial law has also been declared in Ukraine. Russian nationals of fighting age are no longer permitted to enter the country while other controlling measures have also been imposed. The ruling is set to last until the 26th December and could be extended further.
The following is a chronological list of key dates and events taking place in countries around the world over the course of December.
Portugal: Restoration Day
Romania: National Day
Worldwide: World AIDS Day
Myanmar: National Day
United Arab Emirates: National Day
Judaism: Hanukah (until 10 December)
Laos: National Day
Ecuador: Foundation of Quito Day
Finland: Independence Day
Laos: National Day
Spain: Constitution Day
Christianity: Immaculate Conception Day
Uzbekistan: Constitution Day
Armenia: general election
Tanzania: Independence Day
Libya: national elections (but likely to be cancelled)
Worldwide: Human Rights Day
Kenya: Jamhuri/Independence Day
Mexico: Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival
Turkmenistan: Neutrality Day
Malta: Republic Day
St. Lucia: National Day
Bahrain: National Day
Bangladesh: Victory Day
South Africa: Reconciliation Day
Bhutan: National Day
Kazakhstan: Independence Day
Niger: Republic Day
Qatar: National Day
Madagascar: run-off elections
Togo: national assembly election
Sri Lanka: Uduvap Full Moon Poya Day
Zimbabwe: Unity Day
DRC: controversial presidential and national assembly elections
Christianity: Christmas Eve
Japan: Emperor’s Birthday
Libya: Independence Day
Christianity: Christmas Day
Australia: Proclamation Day
Christianity: St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day
Ukraine: 30-day martial law due to end
Pakistan: Anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination
Bangladesh: possible parliamentary elections
Philippines: Rizal Day
Azerbaijan: International Solidarity Day
Mali: potential national assembly vote (but could be problematic)
Worldwide: New Year’s Eve
We hope you have safe travels ahead!