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Visa Wait Times & Passport Backlogs Get a Boost from Congress
Visa Wait Times & Passport Backlogs Get a Boost from Congress

Good news for visitors hoping to come to the United States. Over the weekend, the U.S. Congress approved a bill that sets aside $50 Million to “to reduce passport backlogs and reduce visa wait times.”

According to the U.S. Travel Association, current visitor visa interview wait times in “top source markets” (e.g., India, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia) currently exceeds 400 days, meaning in some cases you have to plan well over a year in advance to travel to the U.S. if you are a first time visitor. Now that this new law has passed, it’s up to the U.S. State Department to act quickly to deploy resources to lower the wait times.

There hasn't been any word yet on what exactly will be done, and the State Department has discretion in how the funds are used to help, but all in all good news for travelers — especially first-time visitors — to the US.

Related: Inbound to USA Travel Insurance

Venice Italy Entry Fee & Registration
Venice Entry Fee: Be Prepared for Your Next Italian Holiday!

Heading to Venice, Italy this spring or summer? Don't forget to register!

From April 25 to July 14, day visitors to Venice, Italy, must register online and pay a minimal fee of €5 (around USD 5.40) to access the historic heart of the city between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on certain days.

This program, described as an attempt to safeguard Venice as an "open-air museum," addresses concerns raised by UNESCO about overtourism and the preservation of Venice's cultural heritage. It will be piloted throughout 2024 with charges applicable on 29 days, including Italy's Liberation Day and subsequent weekends up to July 14.

Once you pay the small fee and register, you will receive a QR code that you must present at checkpoint clearance in order to access Venice's historic core during the designated times.

The fee is exempt for individuals under 14, residents or natives of the Municipality of Venice, holders of the European Disability Card, and their caregivers. Additionally, guests staying overnight in accommodations within the municipality are exempt, but they must still pay the accommodation tax. See a list of all exemptions.

The city emphasizes that the initiative is experimental for the year and subject to potential adjustments in the future. For more information, visit the Venice Access Fee online platform.

Heading to Italy? Take us with you. Get a Quote on travel insurance for Italy. Buon Viaggio!

Total Solar Eclipse is coming and so are airport disruptions.
Total Solar Eclipse Brings Airport Disruptions

As we discussed in last month’s Trending Travel News, anticipation is high for April 8’s total solar eclipse. As you prepare to witness the rare event (through eclipse glasses, of course), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a warning that the event could impact air travel at airports located in the path of totality.

Airports along the eclipse's path – those in Texas, Vermont, Maine, Canada, New Hampshire, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri – are likely to experience operational changes and increased traffic volume. The path of totality, where the eclipse will be fully visible, spans several states, affecting approximately 31.6 million people. NASA has provided a map outlining the trajectory of the eclipse, which will pass through various states before exiting over the North Atlantic.

The FAA has advised pilots to expect potential delays, reroutes, and airborne holding, as well as limited parking, particularly at smaller, uncontrolled airports. Peak traffic is anticipated at airports along the eclipse's path, needing special security measures such as temporary flight restrictions and enhanced two-way radio communications.

Another concern being addressed by the FAA is the possibility of bad weather in the impacted areas, which would result in significant delays. The federal agency said it would issue special restrictions three-to-five days before the event.

Will travel insurance help if your travel plans are affected by the eclipse?
It depends. If you experience a travel delay due to the eclipse, travel insurance will likely cover you, based on the amount of time delayed and the terms of the plan you purchased. However, because the eclipse is a known (i.e., foreseen) event, it would not be a covered reason for trip cancellation or interruption unless you have optional Cancel for Any Reason or Interruption for Any Reason coverage.

So, if you are an eclipse enthusiast and are planning to fly to one of the areas of totality, a comprehensive trip cancellation plan with Trip Delay and the added optional benefits of Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) and Interruption for Any Reason (IFAR) is the way to go, like our Safe Travels Voyager plan. CFAR allows you to cancel your trip up to 48 hours before you depart and IFAR allows you to leave your trip after being there for at least 48 hours for any reason and receive partial reimbursement for prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs.

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Transport Strikes 2024
Transportation Worker Strike Season

If you are going to Europe soon, make sure you know how upcoming strikes may affect your trip.

Across Europe, strikes in the air travel and transportation sectors have become a persistent challenge as workers advocate for better pay and conditions. From carefully planned actions to sudden announcements, the unpredictability of these strikes emphasizes the need for travelers to stay vigilant and well-informed before embarking on their journeys. Recent disruptions at Spain's Palma and Valencia airports due to security screening worker strikes, alongside upcoming Border Force strikes in the UK post-Easter, highlight the potential for significant travel disruptions in the region.

With looming train strikes affecting various railway companies in the UK and a prolonged strike notice in France, concerns over public transportation disruptions are on the rise, particularly with major events like the Paris 2024 Olympics on the horizon. Strikes are planned by UK railways Avanti West Coast and East Midlands Railway, and London Tube drivers, complicating travel plans and adding to the chaos in the UK's transport network. As travelers brace for potential delays and cancellations, staying informed about strike developments remains crucial to navigating the ever-changing landscape of European travel.

It’s important to remember that while the European Union’s consumer protection regulation, known as Regulation EC No 261/2004, provides compensation to passengers flying to, from, and within Europe for canceled and delayed flights, worker strikes are considered “extraordinary circumstances” that do not require the airlines to provide compensation.

If a strike affects your trip, travel insurance may be able to help depending on the policy and the details of the strike. Travel delay, interruption, or cancellation coverage can help by reimbursing you for pre-paid travel expenses you lost due to a covered reason.
Just be sure to understand your policy wording, or contact our helpful 24/7 customer service team to help understand what may and may not be covered. Contact us to learn more.

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