Is it safe to visit China now?

Our expert offers info on Vietnam tours, Christmas condos in Hawaii and Puerto Rico's weather patterns.

Donald D. Groff
June 3, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

We are planning a trip to China and Tibet in the summer, crossing from Beijing to Chengdu via Xian, and then flying on to Lhasa if possible. In the wake of the recent bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and demonstrations in Beijing at the U.S. Embassy, as well as the current deterioration in Sino-U.S. relations, do you think it is now safe to travel in China?

-- J. & D.G.


The protests at the U.S. Embassy after the Belgrade bombing ended within days, and the U.S. State Department travel caution issued at that time was tempered a few days later. There was evidence that the Chinese government orchestrated those protests, but I've seen nothing since to suggest organized animosity toward individual travelers from the United States or other NATO countries.

As for how deteriorating relations might affect tourism, I would expect the Chinese government to encourage visitors while playing out its diplomatic protests on a separate plane. Indeed, even while the embassy demonstrations were still going on, the Chinese government issued an assurance that visitors would be safe.

While it's impossible to predict the future -- who could have foreseen the Belgrade-bombing twist? -- the record of the past decade is that China encourages tourism as long as visitors don't express their politics too outwardly or head for politically sensitive zones.


You should continue to monitor the State Department's statements about China. One announcement issued May 27 says, in part, "In view of the 10th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, as well as the lingering tension resulting from Chinese reaction to the mistaken May 7 NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, American citizens should exercise caution while living or traveling in China.

"While the U.S. government has no information regarding planned demonstrations or specific threats against American interests in China, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens throughout China to review their security practices, remain alert to the changing situation, be aware of Chinese sensitivities during the anniversary period, and avoid areas
where demonstrations are in progress ..."

The May 27 announcement is scheduled to expire on June 18. You can monitor developments through the State Department travel warnings or the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.


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The China National Tourism Administration has a site, but it avoids such sticky issues, as do the sites of most national tourism bureaus. For opposition sites that might provide coverage of suppression or other hazards, look to the International Campaign for Tibet and Human Rights Watch sites.

In addition to Salon's news coverage, a good site for tracking news stories and other developments in China can be found at The Washington Post.


The movie "Three Seasons," shot in Vietnam, has got me thinking about traveling there. Do you know of tour operators who offer packages?

-- J.L.

"Three Seasons," a movie that won three awards at the Sundance Film Festival this year, will no doubt inspire many viewers to consider heading for the verdant, often beautiful nation. Tour companies offering packages to Vietnam are multiplying quickly. Among those that have been around for a while are Geographic Expeditions in San Francisco, phone (800) 777-8183; Asian Pacific Adventures in Los Angeles, (800) 825-1680; and Absolute Asia in New York, (800) 736-8187.


An ace site for locating tour companies offering country-specific tours is Specialty Travel Index Online. Under its "cultural expeditions" in Vietnam heading, for instance, 15 companies were listed when I recently looked, with descriptions and contact information.

Another source with multiple listings is Adventurequest,
which can steer you toward several packages keyed to your interests -- cultural, sightseeing, biking and so forth.

A site with a Vietnam tourism section is Vietnam Online.


I'm looking for a two-bedroom condo in Hawaii for Christmas and New Year's. Any island other than Oahu. Any suggestions?

-- Phil

Turn your browser toward:

Hawaii Connection represents more than 140 properties, sortable by island.

Hawaiian Condo Resorts has properties in West Maui and Waikiki.


Homes and Villas in Paradise offers various kinds of rentals, including condos, on five islands.

Royal Hawaii Condos offers condos on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii as well as Oahu.

Lanier Travel Guides has a site listing more than 3,000 condos around the world, including dozens in Hawaii. Its search engine is quite refined -- it lets you narrow your search by city and island.

The Hawaii Convention and Visitors Bureau site
has information on other accommodation sources, too.


Is August-September a good time to travel to Puerto Rico? How is the weather during this time of year?

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Puerto Rico has a stable climate that varies little throughout the year, although August and September are usually among the rainiest months with more than 6 inches falling in San Juan over 18 or 20 days. The north coast, where San Juan is located, is usually wetter than the south coast and, naturally, the average temperature is cooler the higher you get.

Those months fall within hurricane season, and Puerto Rico is sometimes affected by such storms. For a discussion of hurricanes and Puerto Rico's weather, consult the book "Adventure Guide to Puerto Rico," by Harry S. Pariser (Hunter Publishing, 3d edition 1996).

During the winter, Puerto Rico is hot and humid, and that's even truer during the summer months. The trade winds, though, have a cooling effect.


You can find information on Puerto Rico through the Caribbean Tourism Organization site. There's also a weather link there.

Donald D. Groff

Donald D. Groff has been dispensing travel advice for a decade for such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star.

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