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Travel

Americans stranded abroad complain that other countries are evacuating their citizens way faster than the US government is



a man holding a sign posing for the camera

  • Americans stranded abroad expressed frustration that while other countries promptly evacuated their citizens, they were left with little guidance from the State Department.
  • The US State Department has evacuated more than 30,000 Americans since the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in January, but more than 24,000 Americans are still stuck abroad.
  • Germany has brought home about 42,000 nationals in the past two weeks alone.
  • Two US citizens Insider spoke to who were frustrated with the US government’s response finally secured flights home earlier this week.

Peter Barbot was traveling in India for yoga training when the country announced it would be grounding commercial flights to curb the spread of the coronavirus on March 22.

While the 29-year-old San Diego native struggled to even get in contact with the US embassy, friends from other countries were contacted by their governments and quickly flown back home.

“The embassy has provided no information and no resources for US citizens,” Barbot told Insider, adding that the State Department only gave him vague replies that it was working on a solution. “I’ve been staying here at my hostel with citizens of Germany and the Netherlands – their countries have set up repatriation programs and have been flown home.”

International border closures and travel restrictions over coronavirus fears have left thousands of travelers stranded in foreign countries across the world. Americans stuck in Peru and India told Insider that the State Department has left them in limbo while many of their foreign friends have already made it home.

Although the State Department told Insider it was “rising to meet the historic challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the American agency has been far outpaced by other countries in its repatriation efforts.

The agency has helped more than 30,000 Americans stuck in 60 countries get home on 375 flights, officials said Wednesday, according to NBC News. But more than 24,000 Americans are still stuck abroad.

By contrast, Germany brought home about 42,000 of its citizens from 60 countries on 160 charter flights over the past two weeks alone, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

Germany has led in repatriation efforts, evacuating about 187,000 German nationals from foreign countries in total.

Danke allen, die mithelfen, unsere gestrandeten Urlauberinnen und Urlauber zurückzuholen. Auch wenn der Flugverkehr weitgehend zum Erliegen kommt: Wir kämpfen weiter für jeden einzelnen Flug, den wir möglich machen können! #COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/ghnYrxrRcK

“The State has never before undertaken an evacuation effort of such geographic breadth, scale, and complexity in its more than 230-year history,” a State Department spokesperson told Insider.

Insider talked to four Americans stranded across the world from India to Peru. They expressed frustration that while other countries were evacuating their citizens, Americans were left behind with little guidance from the State Department.

US travelers stuck in Peru and India previously told Insider the US embassies have not been forthcoming, and the little information they have received was vague, outdated, or even wrong.

Curry, a Florida native, was vacationing in Peru with his entire family when the country abruptly shut its borders on March 16.

Both Curry and Barbot said they immediately called the US embassy but found it difficult to get in contact with State Department personnel. Curry said the US Embassy was “closed as far as I can tell. Nobody’s really answering at all.” Barbot was told to call the embassy back because it was “closed for the weekend.”

Jesse Curry, Oaklee Pendergast are posing for a picture

Despite having signed up for the US’s STEP program – a service the State Department offers to keep Americans informed of travel advisories when they’re in other countries – Curry and Barbot said they received little information on how to get home other than vague statements that the State Department was working on a solution.

“Whether its updates on the website, or on the phone – there’s zero communication,” Barbot told Insider. “We’re hearing about all of these updates from other sources: Twitter, Facebook, the Indian government – everywhere but the US Embassy.”

Left to their own devices, Americans resorted to organizing on their own via WhatsApp and Facebook. Barbot started a Facebook page called “Americans Stuck in India” for US citizens to share what little information they had, taking point from similar Facebook pages for Americans stranded in Ecuador and Peru.

Messages on these pages paint a picture of the confusion and fear felt by Americans stranded abroad who are desperate to get home to their loved ones.

“It would go along way to let us know that something is happening and we’re not forgotten,” Barbot told Insider. “I am trying to get home and I’d like to reach my family as this pandemic looms.” 

Germans say their foreign ministry was ‘responsive’ and ‘helpful’

On the same day that thousands of Americans were trapped in Peru, travelers in Costa Rica were also barred from leaving due to similar travel restrictions.

A German citizen named Christine Kiefer was on the first leg of a three-month-long trip with her boyfriend in Costa Rica when the couple realized they would need to find their way home.

Kiefer, who was enrolled in “Elefand” – the German equivalent to STEP – told Insider she received a mass email from Germany’s foreign ministry within a day after the Costa Rican government announced its new travel restrictions.

The 24-year-old university student said she received the same email as other German citizens stranded in the country, and it contained detailed information about when and how to get flights home.

“We just got three alert emails with no reply, but they were really informative,” Kiefer told Insider.

Although Kiefer received no personalized correspondence via email from Germany’s foreign ministry, she said citizens could ask questions on their Facebook and Twitter accounts and get responses within an hour – a stark contrast to attempts many Americans made to get information from US embassies.

a group of people standing in front of a bus

The German foreign ministry eventually contacted Kiefer and her boyfriend on March 25 about an evacuation flight. The couple flew out of Costa Rica on a flight chartered by German airline Lufthansa dedicated to repatriating to citizens. They were home by March 27.

“I’m really satisfied – I think for Costa Rica, the German Embassy they worked really, really hard, and they did a good job,” Kiefer told Insider. 

Curry’s family and Barbot finally got flights back to the US

Kiefer’s high praise for the German government’s repatriation efforts were a far cry from Curry’s experience with the US federal government. He described the State Department’s evacuation response as “criminally incompetent.”

“The communication from them has been extremely limited and the information is often outdated if not just completely wrong,” Curry told Insider around March 24. “Without any context to make decisions, they’ve contributed to a lot of fear and anxiety.”

A spokesperson for the State Department told Insider: “The State Department has continued vigorously to prosecute its historic mission to bring Americans home from hard-to-reach areas and cities hardest-hit by the virus.”

Curry and his family were eventually put on a flight back home to Tampa, Florida, and arrived safely on March 29. Barbot was able to secure a flight back to the US for March 30. Even with a flight itinerary back home to California, the scuba diving instructor pledged to continue helping the Americans in India that were still left behind.

“To everyone still in India, I will still continue to help with what I can to make sure everyone gets home safe,” Barbot posted in the “Americans stuck in India” page.

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Cruises

Americans holding out hope for summer travel coronavirus

Americans are canceling travel at an unprecedented rate
because of Covid-19, but many are still holding onto plans for spring and summer
travel.

An Omnitrak poll of 2,505 adults who have traveled at least
once in the past year shows 29% have canceled leisure trips and 12% have canceled
business travel since January.

However, only 8% with plans to travel between March and
August said they have canceled leisure trips, while 6% said they have canceled
business trips because of the pandemic. 

Still, to maximize a rebound in travel as the pandemic
eases, the survey indicates consumers will need access to better and more
reliable information.

On a scale of 1 to10 — with 1 being not at all satisfied —
travelers rated the timeliness of pandemic information at a mean of 6.7 and
reliability at a mean of 6.5.

While 59% said the top factor in their decision-making is
advice from national health officials and scientists, just 29% said their
decisions would be based on advice from national political leaders.

“As the pandemic will clearly affect U.S. travel sentiment
for some time to come, it’s important that the travel industry help all
Americans to make sound decisions based on current science-based public health
information,” said Omnitrak CEO Patricia M. Loui.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Destinations

Americans Will Reportedly Have More Time to Secure ETIAS for European Travel

Americans traveling to European Union countries will have additional time to obtain a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) visa waiver after the new requirement takes effect on January 1, 2021.

“For a period of six months from the date on which ETIAS starts operations, the use of ETIAS will be optional and the requirement to be in possession of a valid travel authorization will not apply,” an unidentified official of the EU Commission recently told SchengenVisaInfo.com.

After the original six months, an additional six-month grace period will take effect.

“During the grace period the border authorities shall exceptionally allow third-country nationals subject to the travel authorization requirement who are not in possession of a travel authorization to cross the external borders where they fulfill all the remaining conditions, provided that they are crossing the external borders of the Member States for the first time since the end of the period,” the official added.

If that information holds true, ETIAS won’t become mandatory for Americans traveling to the Schengen Area—Europe’s passport-free zone comprising more than two dozen countries—until 2022.

The official also stated that Americans will be able to apply up to 120 days in advance of the expiration of their current ETIAS. However, some U.S. travelers may be required to submit additional documents or attend an interview in order to get their ETIAS.

For most Americans, the online application process should only take a few minutes and require a fee of about $8, with automatic approval expected in a vast majority of cases. Once authorized, the ETIAS will be valid for three years.

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Categories
Travel

People reveal what Americans 'don't understand' about the British

People reveal the things that Americans ‘don’t understand’ about the British, from paying for a TV licence to drinking ‘squash’

  • One Briton said Americans don’t seem to understand what salad cream is 
  • Another added that the British greeting ‘alright?’ appears to perplex Americans 
  • Americans are confused by Britons calling their evening meal ‘tea’, says another 

Drinking a glass of squash and paying for a TV licence are perfectly normal activities for British people.

But they are among the many things about Britons and their way of life that befuddle Americans.

That’s according to a new online discussion, where people from both sides of the Atlantic have been pondering what people in the U.S find odd about British life.

People have been revealing the things that Americans ‘don’t understand’ about the British in an online debate. One Briton explained to Americans the concept of squash  

The discussion started on U.S-based site Reddit after one user, ‘NuclearWinterGames’, posed the question: ‘What’s something Americans don’t understand about Brits?’

Geography was a topic that surfaced rapidly.

Briton ‘Lynx_Twi5t’ wrote: ‘I think the majority (sweeping generalisation I know) of Americans don’t realise how small Britain is, and vice versa.

‘I’ve heard it’s pretty common in the U.S to travel hours just to get food but in the UK three to four hours will take you practically halfway across the country.’

And ‘mrshighwvy’ added: ‘That there are different countries beyond England. It’s assumed [Great Britain] is just posh English people.’

Refreshments and meals were another big talking point, with Briton ‘B-e-a-utiful_day’ explaining the British drink of squash to American Redditors.

They said: ‘We have this drink supplement called squash. It’s not got anything to do with the vegetable, it’s concentrated fruit juice that you dilute in water and in most supermarkets we dedicate one aisle to it.’

Another commenter was ‘mybrainhurtzz’, who joked: ‘That putting water in the microwave to heat it up for tea is punishable by death in England.’

While ‘mahoujosei100’ simply answered with the words ‘salad cream’ and ‘caffeinecrave’ added ‘beans on toast’.

Food was another big talking point during the discussion with one Briton saying Americans don’t understand beans on toast 

The intricacies of language was another popular topic, with one British contributor ‘ghoest2727’ explaining how he found Americans get confused with using the word ‘tea’ to indicate an evening meal.

He said: ‘Met a guy from the U.S while playing Overwatch (a computer game) and said I had to go afk (away from keyboard) because my tea was ready.

‘He said “well you are British” but I meant tea as in dinner. Told him I meant the other tea and he got really confused.’

While ‘faoltiama’ told how they found Americans always trip up when they are greeted with the British phrase ‘alright?’

He said: ‘It will trip Americans up every time. It still trips me up and I am well aware of it.

‘To an American, asking “alright?” is a serious inquiry into their health, with the implication that you think they are not alright.

One Redditor told how they found Americans always trip up when they are greeted with the British phrase ‘alright?’

‘Brits expect the answer to be… “alright”.’

American ‘Beebrains’ questioned the British pronunciation of military ranks and asked: ‘Why is it pronounced leff-tenant and not lieutenant? Is it because it’s disrespectful to call the lieutenant the “loo tenant”?’

And ‘pjabrony’ queried: ‘Why did you take the s off the end of sports and put it at the end of math?’

Briton ‘I_am_Jester’ entered the debate with an observation about the two countries’ education systems.

He said: ‘ Basically our entire school system is just a pain to explain as is the way we get qualifications, especially since the U.S go by semesters.’

While American ‘puppehplicity’ admitted he was perplexed by the UK TV licence.

He asked: ‘Do you guys actually pay for a licence for the TV? Or is that kind of a Ned Flandersy thing you’re kinda supposed to do, but people usually don’t?

‘The whole concept seems so weird to me.’

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