Summer has arrived, and for many young Aussies, that means packing up our suitcases and heading overseas. For those wanting a ‘different’ holiday experience, we present the AcNow Summer Travel Special. These five destinations may be amongst the most contentious in the world, but for us, political turmoil and life-threatening situations only make the travel experience more worthwhile.
1. Fabulous Fiji
Military coups are a common feature of the Fijian landscape, but so is the sun. On December 5, after months of tension, Fijian military commander Frank Bainimarama led a coup in the capital, Suva, deposing the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. Though Bainimarama says the coup is in response to widespread government corruption, the international community has rejected claims to its legitimacy. Australia and New Zealand, in particular, have strongly condemned the coup, and the USA has suspended $2.5 million in aid to Fiji. But political troubles aside, Fiji remains the same tropical paradise it’s always been; a haven for lovers of mild weather, sunny beaches, ancient sites and picturesque mountain scenery.
2. Temporarily-unstable Thailand
Deposed Premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s been told not to come back until legitimate elections next year, but that’s not to say intrepid tourists are no longer welcome in ‘tantalising’ Thailand. Since the September coup by the Royal Thai Army, staged while Premier Shinawatra was in New York for a meeting at the UN, the Thai constitution has been abolished, media restrictions have been brought into force, and violence has raged in the mostly-Muslim south. Thailand is still, however, an irresistible destination for travellers, particularly those on a budget. Its closeness to the rest of Asia, cheap shopping and chances to rub shoulders with the many military stationed in Bangkok make Thailand the taste of Asia.
3. Sunny Somalia
Somalia, on the eastern coast of Africa is a hugely entertaining travel destination, so long as you avoid, ‘hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, marketplaces, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas’, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, and its current ‘official’ government controls only the eastern parts of the country. Australians bothered by those pesky terrorists will need to travel to Kenya for consular assistance.
4. Revolutionary Russia
Despite international concerns that we really are ‘back in the USSR’, for the esteemed foreign traveller (Chechens excluded), travel to Russia should pose no serious threats. Be aware, however, that President Vladimir Putin has been accused of ‘rolling back’ the democratic advances made after the collapse of the Soviet Union by 1) retaking control of television and newspapers 2) dissolving the parliament of a potential-rival Prime Minister and 3) detaining hundreds of people ahead of a peaceful anti-government protest led by former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in Moscow last weekend. But if you’re a fan of extreme cold, stunning architecture and vodka-based drinks, places like St Petersburg, Moscow and Siberia should come high on your list of places to visit in 2007.
5. Unreal UK
The United Kingdom has long been a favourite destination for Australian travellers, especially those wanting to live for a while at the other extreme of weather. And for over 200,000 Australians, London is their home away from home. The Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, and the British Museum—all these and more can be enjoyed at cheap prices during the English low season. One recommendation: London’s new ‘fusion food’, where expatriate Russian chefs sneak radioactive isotopes into sushi, is a taste sensation that can earn you a free trip to the hospital.
For our intrepid traveller, there are all sorts of horizon-expanding, mind-blowing, journeys to be had, and at this time of year, securing cheap flights and accommodation (important for us cash-strapped kids) is easy. For more information, see websites like STA Travel
, Student Flights
and Lonely Planet.com
, where you’ll find destinations suited even to those wary of bombs, budgets and foreign accents. All Australians travelling overseas are also advised to check at http://smartraveller.gov.au
for current travel warnings, and to register their details with the DFAT.
Call to action
Travel just for pleasure’s great, but travel that helps others is awesome. Check out the great volunteer programmes, all over the world, at STA Travel
How do I know this?
Baker, P and Glasser, S.B. 2006, The Rollback of Democracy in Vladimir Putin's Russia, Washington Post, 6 June, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/06/AR2005060601723.html
BBC News 2006, Q & A—‘Thailand’s coup impact’, BBC News, 20 September, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5362878.stm
BBC News 2006, ‘Background to Fiji’s four coups’, BBC News, 8 December, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6209486.stm
BBC News 2006, ‘Country profile: Somalia’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1072592.stm
Cobain, I, Vasagar, J & Glendinning, L 2006, ‘Poisoned former KGB man dies in hospital’, Guardian Unlimited, http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,1955864,00.html