TRAVEL ADVISORYMexican border caution
A new travel alert -- or, to be precise, an updated alert -- was issued a couple of weeks ago for Americans traveling to Mexico. The State Department bulletin was concerned primarily with criminal activity in border towns and warned of an increase in narcotics-related violence, including carjackings and armed robbery. But it stated: "Dozens of U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007."
UPDATE: COSTA MAYACruise port to reopen
Last August's Hurricane Dean left Cancun and Playa del Carmen unscathed, but did a number on the less developed parts of the Yucatan coast to the south. The cruise industry had been developing an area of coastline south of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve and had dubbed it the Costa Maya. The area offers shopping, a boardwalk, zipline park and other activities for the thousands of cruise passengers who'll stop by for a few hours daily in the winter months. Dean so damaged the port facility that it couldn't receive ships. In July an even bigger port capable of berthing the biggest liners in the Caribbean will be operational.
TREND SPOTTINGThey'll put in a word
Visiting China, but your Mandarin is flawed? No problem. Just dial up an interpreter. At least two new companies offer over-the-phone interpretation services. You speak with them in English and they explain your needs to Chinese-speaking locals. Beijing-based chinaONEcall offers packages starting at $79 for 60 minutes of talk time (1-877-660-2838, www.chinaonecall.com). Boston-based Fone-In Inc., which handles dozens of languages, charges $57.99 for a one-year membership plus $2.23 per minute (1-877-988-3556, www.fone-in.com). With both companies, you must pay your regular phone charges on top of these fees.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
ON DISPLAYEmbassy open house
Peek inside some of Washington's most exclusive residences in May when dozens of embassies and cultural centers open their doors during Passport DC, a showcase of Washington's diplomatic corps. The event will be held May 3-17 (1-202-661-7581, www.passportDC.org).
LOS ANGELES TIMES
BOOK BRIEFChristian travel guide
A guide to faith-based trips, "The Christian Travel Planner" by Kevin J. Wright, president of the World Religious Travel Association (Thomas Nelson, $16.99), includes information about missions and ministries; monastic stays; Christian cruises, camps and retreats, and Christian heritage sites around the world. Domestic attractions noted include the Holy Land Experience biblical park in Orlando, Fla., and "The Great Passion Play" performed in Eureka Springs, Ark.