In our May travel safety roundup we examine Sri Lanka which is still reeling from devastating attacks.
Sudan enters a new political era, millions of Muslims are preparing for the holy month of Ramadan while huge elections are taking place around the world as well.
European polls are due to be held, with uncertainty over whether or not the United Kingdom will participate.
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Violence in Sri Lanka
The devastating Easter bombings in Sri Lanka ended a decade of relative peace on the island.
Questions are now being asked over security procedures. The authorities are accused of failing to act on intelligence received surrounding the threat. The country’s leadership is also facing criticism over its responses to the violence.
The most critical issue now is to address inter-communal tensions in the country. This should be a time of co-operation and interfaith dialogue, not just a review of security measures.
The international community will also have to be reassured that safety has been restored. Otherwise, 2019 will be a dire year for the country’s significant tourist industry.
We have updated the security report on the country which you can read here.
Amid popular unrest, the military removed President Omar al-Bashir from power in April. The authoritarian leader had governed Sudan for three decades, but months of protests finally prompted the armed forces to step in and take control.
The unrest had been driven by a range of issues, including inflation, corruption, institutional mismanagement and economic decline, as well as longer-term grievances such as famine and civil war.
The country is now being governed by a transitional military body, but protests continue, with demands for a complete shift to civilian rule. There are also divisions within the military and among the country’s powerful state-sanctioned militia groups as to how to proceed. The coming months will likely see attempts to build a democratic framework, but the process will be fraught with difficulties. Competing sides could even resort to violence in order to press their demands.
In summary, the situation is tense, unstable and fluid with the real potential for a violent escalation and even some form of civil war.
Perhaps less violent but nonetheless controversial will be this year’s Eurovision song contest. The annual event will take place from 14th to 18th May in Tel Aviv, Israel.
There has already been some controversy over holding the event in Israel, particularly from anti-Israel campaigners critical of the country’s treatment of Palestinians.
Tensions are also likely to be high around this time because Palestinians mark Nakba day on the 15th May, right in the middle of the contest. This is when Palestinians normally lament the loss of their land following the creation of Israel. Emotions are usually high.
Eurovision will also take place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This can also be a time of heightened emotions, particularly for fasting Palestinians held up by security delays.
Current political developments could also fan the flames. After the success of Benjamin Netanyahu in April’s elections, Israel’s next electoral term is likely to be characterised by more hard-line policies on Palestinian issues. This will likely raise tensions amongst the Palestinian population even further.
The combination of media attention for the song contest, additional security measures, heightened emotions and escalated tensions means that there could be outbreaks of controversy and violence in Israel/Palestine, especially from 14th to 18th May.
Another European issue stoking tensions this month will of course be Britain’s now-delayed plan to leave the EU. An extension to 31st October has been granted.
This will cause frustration for those supporting the drive to leave the EU but will grant much-needed time to resolve ongoing issues related to the details of the departure (or even if it remains public will to depart at all).
The delay to Brexit also means that the UK will likely have to participate in European elections (scheduled to run from 23rd to 26th May).
A failure to participate would see the UK ejected from the EU without a deal by 1st June so the country is almost certain to take part.
British MEPs, already facing a completely uncertain future, will now have to campaign for a seat they may only hold for a few months.
Nonetheless, it could turn out to be the most hotly contested European parliamentary election in British history. The possibility of a leadership contest within the Conservative Party, as well as another general election, will also hang in the air.
South Africans are set to vote in their sixth general election since the end of apartheid on 8th May.
The election is being seen as a vote on the performance of President Cyril Ramaphosa. He has been in power for less than two years and has inherited a series of endemic problems.
Re-election would give him the chance to pursue sensible but difficult policies, needed to help modernise the country and improve transparency.
However, many South Africans are exasperated with unemployment as well as ongoing power cuts. These are mostly the result of long-term corruption and mismanagement of the state electricity utility Eskom, particularly under the leadership of Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma.
There are no quick fixes, but voters may be tempted to support the Economic Freedom Fighters and their radical, populist leader Julius Malema. This would severely compromise the economy, drive away investors, increase intercommunal and xenophobic tensions and harm the country’s slow but much-needed reform.
Having begun on 11th April voting in India’s general election will end on 19th May. The hundreds of millions of votes will then be counted on 23rd May.
The leader of the weakened Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, has led a spirited fight against the incumbent BJP, led by Narendra Modi.
Rahul is the grandson of Indira Gandhi, and the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
He is now the most prominent politician from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and is seen as the strongest contender in the face of the still-dominant BJP.
However, there will be a long way to go if he is to rekindle support for Congress in the face of heavy decline in recent years.
Elsewhere in Asia, the Philippines will hold a general election on 13th May.
While Filipinos will not vote on the presidency, the polls will be somewhat of a referendum on the performance of controversial president Rodrigo Duterte. He remains very popular but the vote will determine whether he can secure a supermajority in both legislative houses. Doing so would allow him to start the process of changing the constitution and implementing some of his more radical reforms.
The election could see assassination attempts against journalists and local politicians. There may also be an uptick in political violence in the country’s already volatile south.
However, such violence is not likely to affect travellers or areas important to the tourist industry.
Chad is set to hold much-delayed elections on 27th May. Postponed since 2015 amid a raft of electoral challenges, the vote could be delayed again. If it does actually go ahead, it could be fraught with difficulties.
Whoever governs the country beyond May will face long-standing issues such as widespread poverty, sluggish economic growth and poor infrastructure.
Insecurity will also pose an ongoing concern, especially in the north of the country.
Elsewhere in Africa, Malawi will hold elections on 21st May. Whoever wins will face issues such as underdevelopment, poverty, poor infrastructure and a vulnerability to disruptive weather.
The latter has become a critical issue over the past two months following the widespread damage caused by Cyclone Idai.
Thankfully, the country’s rainy season normally comes to an end in the month of May. The African Development Bank has also pledged additional support to help the country rebuild from the disaster.
Panamanians will vote in a general election on 5th May. The polls are likely to be closely contested, although at present one of the opposition parties looks set to win.
It could be the centrist PRD or the more conservative CD. From an economic perspective all of the main parties maintain largely pro-business policies.
Corruption will be one of the biggest electoral issues. Like many parts of Latin America, the country has been caught up in the infamous Odebrecht scandal.
However, none of the main parties appear to offer any strong moves to improve transparency.
As a result, expect greater voter apathy, particularly amongst the youth. There may also be allegations of electoral irregularities once the votes have been counted.
Last month Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for a general election. The event will be held on the 18th May. Key campaign issues currently include the economy, wages and the cost of living.
The vote will be close. Current polls put the opposition Labor Party, led by Bill Shorten, slightly ahead. However, Morrison is considered a preferable prime minister.
The country has cycled through a number of leaders in recent years. Morrison ousted Malcolm Turnbull in August last year to become the fifth prime minister since 2013.
Voting is also mandatory in Australia. The authorities can fine those who don’t participate. Turnout is therefore going to be high.
Politicians will also campaign on the issue of migration. However, some of the more xenophobic public statements on the subject are likely to be tempered following the mosque attack in New Zealand in March.
Climate change and the environment will also feature highly with politicians trying to strike a balance between curbing emissions and protecting agriculture without harming growth and jobs.
When it comes to climate and weather, May can be a lovely month in several parts of the world.
However, conditions can start to get very hot in parts of the Middle East. Several rainy seasons also begin and end at this time of year in different parts of the world.
Where to go
Popular travel destinations at this time include Cape Verde (shown above), the Caribbean, Europe and the wider Mediterranean region. Southeast Asia as well as the United States and Canada are also popular.
If you’re thinking of travel in the Middle East but have reservations about rising temperatures, consider Oman. A localised monsoon (called the khareef) normally takes place in the south of the country from May. It can bring wonderful greenery and blissfully cool temperatures until September. A visit to Dhofar governorate can provide a surprisingly refreshing break in the region during this time of year.
However, note that Ramadan is also due to begin around 5th, 6th or 7th May (depending on lunar sightings and geographical location). This bears consideration as regards cultural practices in majority Muslim countries. The holy month will end around the 4th June.
Travellers should also note that the end of May will see a large number of worshippers travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage. This can be an extremely busy time for local infrastructure, transport and accommodation.
Standard Weather Changes
The following countries and territories also mark notable weather changes this month:
Belize: the rainy season begins and normally lasts until November.
Burundi: the first rainy season of the year normally ends this month (the next one begins in September).
Cambodia: the monsoon season normally begins this month and lasts until mid-to-late November.
Typhoon season begins
China: the typhoon season, which primarily affects the south and east coasts (including Hong Kong and Macau) normally begins this month and lasts until November.
Comoros: the rainy season normally ends this month.
Costa Rica: the rainy season normally begins this month and lasts until November.
Cuba: the rainy season normally begins this month, lasting until October. There is also a risk of hurricanes during this time.
El Salvador: the rainy season normally begins this month and lasts until October.
End of the Harmattan
Guinea: the last of the Harmattan winds normally end this month.
Guinea-Bissau: the last of the Harmattan winds normally end this month.
Guyana: the rainy season normally begins this month and lasts until August (a second rainy season also occurs from November to January).
Kenya: a rainy season which began in April normally ends this month. Another brief rainy period will likely occur again in November.
Laos: the rainy season normally begins this month and lasts until November.
Marshal Islands: the rainy season normally begins this month and lasts until November.
Mauritius: cyclones are infrequent but the cyclone season normally ends this month. It will resume again in November.
Mayotte: the rainy season normally ends this month.
Palau: the rainy season normally begins and lasts until November.
Panama: the rainy season normally begin and lasts until January.
Sao Tome and Principe: the rainy season normally ends this month.
Senegal: the rainy season normally begins this month and lasts until November.
Sierra Leone: the rainy season normally begins this month and lasts until December.
Solomon Islands: the cyclone season normally ends this month and will not resume again until November.
The khareef affects Somalia and Yemen as well as Oman
Somalia: the south-west monsoon in the Gulf of Aden can make sea-going conditions challenging, but it also reduces the risk of opportunist pirate attacks. The season lasts until August.
South Sudan: the rainy season normally begins in the south of the country and lasts until October.
Tanzania: the rainy season normally ends this month.
Thailand: the southwest monsoon normally begins in mid-May and lasts until September.
Vanuatu: the cyclone season normally ends this month and will not resume again until November.
Vietnam: the rainy season normally begins this month and lasts until September.
Yemen: a localised monsoon brings rain and cooler temperatures to the eastern province of Mahra.
Japan: Accession of the New Emperor Day (subsequent holiday for 10 days)
Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan People’s Solidarity Day
Worldwide: May Day / International Labour Day
Japan: Constitution Memorial Day
Poland: Constitution Day
China: Youth Day
Japan: Greenery Day
Latvia: Declaration of Independence Day
Namibia: Cassinga Day
Netherlands: National Remembrance Day
Possible beginning of Ramadan
Ethiopia: Patriots’ Victory Day
Japan: Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi)
Mexico: Cinco de Mayo
Netherlands: Liberation Day
Panama: general election
South Korea: Children’s Day
Worldwide: possible start of Ramadan (depending on lunar sightings)
Bulgaria: St. George’s Day/Army Day
Thailand: HM the King’s Coronation
Worldwide: possible start of Ramadan (depending on lunar sightings)
Worldwide: possible start of Ramadan (depending on lunar sightings)
Czech Republic: Liberation Day
South Africa: national assembly elections
Worldwide: Anniversary of Victory in Europe in WWII
Russia: Victory Day (observed in most former Soviet countries)
Mexico: Mothers’ Day
Eurovision in Tel Aviv
Israel: Eurovision (until 18 May)
Palestinian Territories: Nakba day
Norway: Constitution Day
Haiti: Flag Day
Turkmenistan: Constitution and Flag Day
Uruguay: Battle of Las Piedras
Buddhism: Vesak Poya Day
Turkey: Commemoration and Ataturk Youth and Sports Day
Cameroon: National Day
Timor-Leste: Independence Day
Chile: Navy Day
Malawi: general election
Montenegro: Independence Day
Bulgaria: Culture and Literacy Day
Eritrea: Independence Day
Macedonia: St. Cyril and St. Methodius Day
Argentina: May Day Revolution Anniversary
Jordan: Independence Day
Lebanon: Resistance and Liberation Day
Africa: Africa Day (marked in several countries)
Georgia: Independence Day
Guyana: Independence Day
Elections in Chad
Chad: general election
Armenia: Day of the First Republic
Azerbaijan: Republic Day
Ethiopia: Downfall of the Derg Day
Nigeria: Democracy Day
Ukraine: Constitution Day
Nicaragua: Mothers’ Day
Brunei: Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day
We hope you have safe travels ahead!