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Personal Security Tips For International Travel

These tips are something to keep in mind if you are traveling anywhere, but they are really developed for "third world" travel or if you are traveling to Cleveland, OH.  If you go to Cleveland you need to be proficient in gunfighting.

While traveling in other countries you can become a target by virtue of being a Citizen of North America.  While traveling in Cleveland you can become a target by virtue of being a breathing life form with a little money in your pocket.

Some may think these tips come from an alarmist attitude.  I think it is just another way to increase your safety margin.  Those who have traveled extensively know what I am talking about.


1 - Personal Travel Tips
2 - Airport Terminal Security Tips
3 - Hotel Security Tips
4 - Automobile Travel Security Tips
5 - Security Tips To Practice All The Time
6 - Worse Case Scenario Tips
7 - Bomb Scare Security Tips

While traveling overseas during these ever increasing traumatic times there are some things you can do to enhance your safety margin.  Here are a few items to keep in mind.
    

PERSONAL TRAVEL TIPS

  • Travel Lite. The more you pack the more you will carry.
  • Take a small travel power converter. 110V to 220V with prong adapters.
  • Carryon baggage... Here again go lite. A small back pack with shoulder straps is perfect.
  • A pack on your back is easier to handle than one you carry in your hands.
  • Carry a bottle of water. It's easier to pull a water bottle from your bag than it is to get the attention of the flight attendant. Plus the water they bring comes in those little plastic glasses... wouldn't quench the thirst of an ant.
  • Aircraft humidity is set between 4 and 15 percent. This will dehydrate you quickly. Drink plenty of water prior to the flight.  Didn't know that did you?
  • Take a good book... or two. Magazines on the aircraft are designed to sell you things.
  • Expect and plan for an unexpected layover.
  • Carry "munchies"... especially if traveling with children.
  • Children... leave them at home.
  • Money... travelers checks are a must. Divide them between you and your travel partner. If part is stolen you still have money.
  • DO NOT, DO NOT pack your passport in your luggage. Carry it with you. I recommend you make a copy (or two) of the passport and store then in different locations. If you lose your passport it will be easier to get it replaced.
  • Know where the US Embassy is in the country you are traveling to. You might even go so far as to get in contact with them prior to your departure. In the event you need someone from the Embassy you will have a name to ask for.  Who knows, the Embassy operator might think you are somebody important.
  • It would be to your advantage to get an International Drivers License. These can be obtained from the Chicago Motor Club. Traffic signs in Europe are very different from ours.  Take the time to learn them BEFORE you get there.


AT AIRPORT TERMINAL

  • Use concealed baggage tags.
  • Spend as little time as possible in airports.
  • Pass through the airport security checks quickly. Do not remain in the vicinity of airport security, checkpoints, such as check-in counters, immigration, customs and physical search areas. Once through these areas, go to a lounge or other open area away from baggage lockers and find a seat that affords a good view of the area. If possible sit with your back to the wall.
  • Remain alert. Be a "people watcher". If there is an incident, you might have a warning that could permit you to take cover.
  • Do not get into a conversation with anyone. Whomever you talk to is interested in one of two things. They are either going to rip you off, or they are going to lie to you about who they are and where they are going. Don't waste your time with them. Read one of those books you brought or just watch the people. That in itself is very entertaining.


AT HOTELS

  • Do not give room number to strangers.
  • Choose an inside hotel room. Change rooms or hotels if extended stay.
  • Sleep away from street side (windows).
  • Pull curtains. Jam doors.
  • Arrange knock signals--no signal, no open.
  • Answer telephone, "Hello." Do not use name.
  • Turn out lights before opening door. Look before you exit.
  • Vary the use of stairs and elevators. Get on and off elevators at different floors.
  • I know what your thinkin'... "...Paranoid..!!!!" Ya never know... Look at it this way, if someone is out to get you - paranoia is just good thinkin'... Right?
  • If confronted, have a plan of ready action.
  • Never use the same route through lobby. Look!! Be observant.
  • Occasionally exit/enter through rear entrance.
  • Keep your room key in your possession at all times.
  • REMEMBER - Vast majority of assassinations and robberies occur departing hotels. Try to detect surveillance.


TRAVEL FROM HOTEL BY AUTO

  • Have a clear view of approaches to your hotel.
  • Alternate parking places. Drive different automobiles if available.
  • Lock car when unattended.
  • Look for tampering. Look under auto. Be alert when opening door. Look under seat. Be observant.
  • Keep gas tank at least 1/2 full at all times.
  • Alter routes, especially exiting hotel area and entering leisure area. Avoid choke points.
  • Plan "escape" routes as you drive. Watch mopeds/cycles. Try to use high speed routes more than others.
  • Know location of "safe havens" at hotel, leisure points and en route to and from.
  • Do not pick up hitchhikers... I don't care how cute they are, picking up hitchhikers is a really dumb thing to do in a foreign country.  It's a dumb thing to do here.
  • Drive with windows up and doors locked.
  • REMEMBER - Try to detect surveillance.


AT ALL TIMES

  • Vary eating places.
  • Alternate shopping locations.
  • Many shopping locations will ship your purchase home. If they provide this option I recommend you use it for several reasons.
        - You don't have to carry it.
        - If you don't have it with you no one can steal it.
        - Remember, every thing you purchase you will have to pack and take home.
        - By shipping it for you it is insured.
  • Do not establish any sort of pattern.
  • Avoid crowded areas, hotel lobbies, bars, theaters, restaurants, markets, etc.
  • Use a money belt. Place money in different compartments of belt this will eliminate the need to pull all your money out at once if you are silly enough to carry cash... did I say "...Silly Enough"...? I'm sorry I meant "...Stupid Enough…"
  • Refuse the first taxi offered. I bet you're wondering why, aren't you?
  • Be especially alert exiting bars, restaurants, etc.
  • Know how to use local phone system and carry "telephone change". Phone systems are not like ours. Some are quite complicated.
  • Know emergency phone numbers for police, ambulance, hospital and US Embassy.
  • Know the location of the US Embassy and other safe locations where you can find refuge or assistance.
  • REMEMBER - Always look before you close doors!
  • Personal awareness is best defense. Obvious awareness and care are significant deterrents.
  • The most important thing to remember as you travel abroad... just because you are an American does not mean you have to act like one. American arrogance can get you hurt in some countries... in other countries it can get you killed. Leave the hotel one morning for a day of site seeing and you may never be heard from again.


WORSE CASE
Regardless of the fact that the U.S. has the safest airlines in the world, we will have to admit U.S. aircraft fall from the sky from time to time for one reason or another.

  • Dress casual, no tight cloths, no skirts.
  • Wear natural fibers. Synthetic clothing (nylon, etc.) will burn itself into the skin in the event of a fire.
  • Do not wear hair spray... hair spray will increase the chances of your hair catching fire.
  • Do not wear nylons... if you have to slide down the emergency chute the friction will melt the nylon into your skin.
  • Wear bright colors to be seen easier.
  • Do not wear high-heels... they could puncture the emergency chute... makes the person behind you very unhappy.
  • Do not wear pierced ear rings. The safety vest inflates up around your neck. The ear ring posts could puncture the vest thereby losing 50 percent of it's buoyancy.
  • Wear laced shoes... slip-on shoes can easily come off during a hard landing.  Ensure you wear your shoes during take-off and landings.
  • Do not take medication that may slow your thinking or reaction time.
  • On medication... if you are taking a prescribed medication, ensure you take it according to the number of hours between doses... not by your watch. If you follow your watch while passing between time zones you could "overdose" or "underdose".
If you survive the initial crash you have a good chance of survival so long as you do not panic. I also recommend you stay as far away from the panic crowd as you can. This may not be possible considering the surroundings but try. If a panicked passenger is endangering the lives of other passengers due to actions or lack of actions then consider it your duty to hit them in the head and remove them from the situation. Believe me... this could very easily save lives. What you do in the first 60 seconds will determine your fate. Consider these points.
  • If you have to remove the escape window sit down first. If you stand and do it the crowd behind you could very easily keep you from accomplishing this by pushing against you. The window must first come in before it can go out. The airline safety card says, "Place the window on the seat next to you." This, I'm sure is easier said than done. However, you do not want to throw it out the hole you just created... this could puncture the escape chute. If you puncture the chute your can kiss that hero's medal goodbye.
  • If exiting via an escape window do not exit the aircraft head first. Try to go feet first. It is best to let the crazed man behind you go first.  This will not only increase your chances of that medal, it will also give you a chance to see if that escape chute thingie really works.
  • If the man falls to the ground because the escape chute did not deploy reach down and pull the manual control at the base of the door jamb... then let the next guy behind you go first. :-)
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Once out of the aircraft move as far away as you can. The aircraft might catch fire plus there are at least two men who are not real happy with you... you might want to stay away from them.
  • Assist those who may be hurt.
  • Do not go back into the aircraft.


BOMB INCIDENTS

  • Be suspicious of objects found around the hotel room, lobby or auto.
  • Have mail and packages delivered or picked up through hotel mail system. Do not have it delivered to your hotel room.
  • Be very suspicious of unexpected packages.
  • Check mail and packages for:
  • Unusual odors.
  • Too much wrapping.
  • Bulges, bumps, or odd shapes.
  • No return or unfamiliar return address.
  • Incorrect spelling or poor typing
  • Items sent "registered" or marked "personal".
  • Protruding wires or strings.
  • Unusually light or heavy packages.
  • Isolate suspect letters or packages. Do not immerse them in water. I have no idea where the water idea came from... who ever thought of it probably got blown up, so I am unsure as to why this course of action has perpetuated itself.
  • Clear the area immediately.
  • Notify the authorities.