Random list of important ideas before traveling to a high-risk area

This is the third blog in a series on international safety.

Myriads of books and thousands of articles have been written with tips for traveling and living abroad. A few blogs here on this subject will only scratch the surface. But the following will hopefully whet the readers appetite so that he or she will read and study more deeply before traveling to countries outside North America, particularly in the global south, Middle East and Asia.

Did you know?
To avoid becoming a victim by attack while traveling
1. Avoid routines by varying the times you leave your residence and vary the routes. Avoid choke points. I did security training in Haiti once and discovered that several expats were living in an area of the city on the hillside with only one road down to the city – not good!
2. Maintain a low profile. Dress like others, avoiding flashy and extravagant jewelry or culturally offensive items. An employee of mine was jogging with her walkman in a middle east country. She was jumped by two guys who fortunately did not have sexual assault in mind – they just wanted her electronics.
3. Harden yourself as a target using an alarm, whistle and some defensive item. I remember walking around Bogota, Colombia when it was called “the pickpocket capital of the world” carrying my long umbrella with its point easily visible.
4. Walk defensively; be aware of people around you and walk with confidence. Do not look at maps in public places. Rio de Janeiro has a reputation for thieves on the outlook for people who are obviously tourists as they look at their maps.
5. Women should walk with their purse in front of them with their hand on their bag. Men, keep your wallet so you can feel it and minimize what is in the wallet. Keep a record elsewhere of all documents in your wallet or bag.
6. Only use nondescript luggage with no “frequent flyer” indicators and keep name tags covered. I regularly see obvious name tags in airports with designations indicating the person is important – director, professor, scientist, manager – all of which are signals which attract thieves.
7. You pick the taxi driver; don’t let the driver pick you. Use licensed, reputable taxis only. Even Philadelphia in the USA has signs at the airport warning about bad taxi drivers.
8. Only fly on IATA ranked airlines. I used to remind our employees never to fly on many small airlines in Africa or Central Asia. Many have bad safety records.
9. If using an ATM, make sure the area is well-lit and count your money in a safe locked place.
10. Always walk with two or more companions and seek advice for areas to avoid.

In hotels, driving and airports:
11. Use recommended hotels which are not known for security or other issues. I once stayed at a hotel in Latin America which had one floor only and all the rooms had windows barred for security. But it was 212 steps from my room to the nearest door – a nightmare in the case of fire.
12. Floors 3-6 are the safest; know where the fire escape is. Fire emergency vehicles in the developing world may not be able to reach floors 7 and above. The two lowest floors are where most robberies take place.
13. Avoid rooms adjacent to stairways, elevators and exits.
14. Keep room access windows locked at all times.
15. Never leave the key on the counter at the front desk. Give directly to the clerk or keep it yourself.
16. Never use the “please make up the room” door hanger. Use “Do not disturb” instead.
17. Always secure locks when in the room and close the curtains after darkness.
18. At airports, arrive early and move directly to secure areas, away from the counters. Terrorist activity is always outside security.
19. If driving, never stop to help people signaling you for help. Call police instead.
20. If your car is bumped from behind, drive to the nearest public area and call police; blow the horn if someone suspicious approaches your vehicle.
21. Keep doors locked and windows up when driving; and have valuables out of sight.
22. Be aware of people stopping you to ask for information or directions or pretending to need assistance. I was once in a foreign airport with my wife and oldest son (a teenager at the time). I left the table in the cafeteria where the three of us were eating to check on the monitors when three men approached my wife and son asking for information. This took the attention away from the bags so that a criminal accomplice picked up a bag and quickly left the scene.

In general think about this:
23. Single women should consider wearing a wedding ring. This worked well for a woman I knew while traveling in the Balkans where men are known to bother women.
24. Women should take a course in safety for women. When my daughter was in college, she came home during a break and said, “Dad, want to see me break this 1×6 board with my hand?” I watched as she did so, having just taken a course on safety for women. She has lived safely in many high-risk countries since then.
25. Consultants traveling away from home much of the time need to consider caring for their soul and develop a strategy for precautions being alone with the opposite sex, eating a balanced diet, following guidelines for stress reduction such as exercise, and guarding against pornographic material.
26. Be sure to have your vaccinations up-to-date for the area you are traveling to. Do not drink the water unless bottled.

These thoughts are only representative of many other safety and security practices. Please read many sites or books. Some are listed here.







Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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