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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Australia: Labour Day
Ghana: Independence Day
Sierra Leone: presidential, parliamentary and local council elections
Worldwide: International Women’s Day
Albania: Summer Day
Russia: presidential elections first round
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
Iraq: Eid Nowruz
Japan: Vernal Equinox Day
Kazakhstan: Nauryz Meyrami
Namibia: Independence Day
South Africa: Human Rights Day
Pakistan: Pakistan Day
Argentina: Truth and Justice Memorial Day
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
Myanmar: Armed Forces Day
Palestinian Territories: Land Day (demonstrations commonly occur)
Malta: Freedom Day
We hope you have safe travels ahead!