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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Survival Strategies To Stay Safe While Traveling Abroad

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance: Be prepared, be aware, survive your trip  

THE 5TH ESTATE
By Mike Johnson
07/23/2017

You have just arrived at your foreign destination for the vacation of a lfietime. The sun rises lazily over a jagged and beautiful mountain range which awakens you gently as you survey your idyllic surroundings. 


Don't get bit: Be aware, prepared for your vacation
Being on vacation is exactly this picturesque scenario and much more. Surrounded by your loved ones or maybe you’re undertaking a solo expedition to a far away land, there is nothing but adventure and excitement lying ahead.

However what about the flip side to this coin? How do you keep yourself safe whilst being somewhere brand new and unfamiliar?  Do you have a backup plan if things go sideways?  

Are you packing antibiotics and basic medical equipment for emergencies?  Have you done the proper research on the laws, traditions and customs of the country you are visiting?  Have you obtained the requisite visa and travel documents?


You may not know all the answers, but thankfully Mike’s Gear Reviews does. The following infographic will guide you through all the ins and outs and key elements to staying safe on your travels abroad:


Full infographic here

The excitement and novelty of a new place and new sights lessens the tourist’s vigilance and observation. Enjoyment acts like a drug that clouds judgement, thinking everyone, just like them, is on vacation. While on vacation, security becomes physically and psychologically a secondary concern. Since tourists are only in a place for a short period of time, and as temporary population, the probability of the tourist reporting a crime and testifying for its credence is low.

TOP 5 CRIMINOGENIC LOCATIONS

Here are five countries where tourists and criminals converge:

Mexico

Mexico tops the list. The colorful culture of the Mexico is a blending of Aztec, Mayan, and Inca cultures. Mexico is full of fun, with tourists eyeing to bask in sun on their beautiful beaches. For the beach buddies, a trip to Cancun means all day fun in the sun and cultural trips Mayan archaeological sites.

There is also so much high when visiting Guadalajara, a city in western Mexico. Known for art, dancing and much savored tequila, Guadalajara is a city bouncing with adrenalin. Imagine combining good old tequila with dancing around a kaleidoscope of colors; definitely fun.

While Mexico is such a gloriously fun-under-the-sun place, it is the most dangerous place for American. Nearly a total of 598 American killed abroad between the year 2009 to 2016.

Philippines

Beaches lure the most tourist, and Philippines, being a tropical country, has miles and miles of pristine beaches for every tourist. The islands of Boracay and Palawan are much sought after in tourist’s Philippine itinerary.

Aside from the rich biodiversity that can be found in these islands as well as other parts of the Philippines, it also boasts of the heritage houses in Vigan and Chocolate Hills in Bohol.

However, these beauty does not come without danger. Second to Mexico, there has been 74 Americans killed between 2009 to 2016. Philippines has been issued twenty travel warnings of the danger tourists may encounter while visiting. The most recent danger news of 2017 for the Philippines is the declaration of martial law in the southern portion of the country and as of this writing, still being enforced.

Mali

When a country is under the control of Islamic rebels, danger is inevitable. Mali, an African country boasts of the annual festival in the desert, a mix of both traditional Tuareg and music of the world festival. This attracts a lot of tourists who want to let loose and groove to the music. Mali’s archeological attractions such as the Tomb of Askia and the cliffs of Bandiagara gives a chance to fill a historical daredevil’s desire. Home of the cliff of Bandiagara where you can actually stay and experience the escarpment, the locals welcomed the tourists until such time that it became uncontrollable. The same can be said to the tourists who wants to see the “ “Niagara falls of Mali” which is Gouina Falls. 

The way these attraction lure tourists in a conservative culture is amazing, however, Mali is under control of Islamic rebels and can impose their beliefs on their captives. Aside from their belief, rebels have ideals that may be radically different from the tourists which makes them all the more dangerous.

Pakistan

Another place seeped with a different culture is Pakistan. With twenty five travel warnings for Pakistan, it is not surprising that this place is ranking high, actually topping the ranks of Americans killed per capita between the years 2009 to 2016.

Pakistan’s places of trade such as Khyber Pass, Peshawa and Rawalpindi is densely populated. The historical value of these places to the country adds to the drama along with the goods you may find in this place. But be warned, this place tends to favor Americans as targets.

Colombia

Another celebration loving tourist destination is Colombia. The danger in these much visited place is the existence of revolutionary armed forces who perpetuates kidnapping of tourists and locals alike seeking for monetary and material ransom, or to simply hold as an ace card in negotiations.

Other cultural tourist destinations have hostile scenario with or without tourists. There are even travel advisories for these countries from time to time, however, a warning sometimes deter but also intrigues the adventurer.

When preparing a vacation, a tourists usually secures necessary travel documents. Most tourists also check for common information on where to go, to eat, where to stay, the best places to see, checks the weather, what to bring, what to expect, and all those happy questions to make the trip very memorable and comfortable. A little information goes a long way. Here are a few ways to make your trip safer.

A smart traveller learns the basic information even before he lands. Nobody expects you to know everything but it is advisable to at least cover the basics. You can do almost all of these in one sitting,
Know what your government says about the place or the destination

Check country specific information, travel alerts, and travel warnings by checking the announcements and press releases in travel.state.gov. More often than not, you will be browsing through the internet, so why not add this to your search list, and for future ones as well.

Know Where Your Embassy Is

The embassy is there to act as representatives of your government. It is advised that you learn where your nearest embassy is and its contact number. In case of danger or an unfortunate event, your embassy will be your saving and rescue team.

Check Out Current Events, Local News, Media Reports

Knowing the current situation of the place you will be visiting would enable you to prepare properly. You would not be caught unaware of what just might welcome you. It would be better to know what the state of your host country is rather than be a victim..

STEP It Up

The Smart Traveller Enrollment Program or STEP sends out security updates from US Embassies around the world. This would be especially useful not only for a single destination travel, but more so for multi-city travel spree. This way, you will know what the US embassies are saying about their host countries; even if you will just be visiting an adjacent country, it is, as always, best to know.

Pack Important Documents


Never take your visa expiration date lightly - it could land you 
in jail
Your documents are your identification, insurance and assurance whenever you travel. It allows you certain privileges and conveniences which may cause extreme inconvenience without. 

Always pack necessary documents, just the important ones. 

Do not bring your whole archive, just travel identification, insurances, visas and the necessary papers. Provide your itinerary to a family member or friend.



One common suggestion whenever you will be travelling is to provide a copy of your itinerary to a family member or a friend. 

Should danger ensue and communication fails, they would know where you are supposed to be. Also, this allows for much needed information for worried family members, they will know where you were, where you are and where you will be until your return.

Get proper travel insurance and make sure it covers medical evacuation.

Protecting yourself is protecting your family. Travel insurances covers you from inconvenient travel changes to unfortunate incidents. Since you would never know when you will require medical attention, it is also advisable to check and have the option for medical evacuation coverage in your travel insurance policy.

One of the reasons why we travel is to soak up culture. Travelling internationally to a country with an opposite culture allows tourists to immerse themselves temporarily and experience what other cultures live by. But of course, like in all countries, cultural norms and taboos should be respected and observed. As the old saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Let us travel to some places where it is important to know how to survive your trip.

SURVIVING MIDDLE EAST

One of the tourist spot that has an ideally different culture from ours is the Middle East. A known conservative and strict culture, what may be seem normal in the western culture is frowned or considered illegal and forbidden in this culturally rich place.

Sexual relations between unmarried couples are generally forbidden;

Producing or distributing material deemed blasphemous or critical of Islam in punishable;

Female visitors should be aware of the risk of sexual assault and take appropriate precautions to avoid becoming a victim;

Locals who perceive that a foreigner is not being conservative have been known to harass, purse or assault that person;

Men and women are expected to remain sensitive to islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or “provocative manner.” for women, the arms, collarbone, waistband, ankles and hair should be covered up;

Avoid border areas: they are especially dangerous and not always clearly defined.

WHAT NOT TO WEAR WHEN VISITING MUSLIM COUNTRIES

(Iran, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Oman, Lebanon and Jordan)

In a highly conservative culture like Islam, tourists are expected to follow the same rules in dresswear in respect to their host country.

FEMALE:

For females, basically, cover up. It would be your protection from the sun and other elements, and ultimately a sign of respect to the culture of your host country;

Arms should not be left bare;

Not too tight or revealing clothing;

Swimsuits and shorts should be confined to beach resorts.

MALE:

Men generally have generic clothing, but int these countries, there are dress codes for men as well. No shorts whatsoever; but t-shirts are acceptable.

Swimsuits and shorts should be confined to beach resorts.

Islamic codes of behavior and dress code are strictly enforced. While foreigners may wear their regular comfortable and fashion-forward clothes, this is highly offensive and reduces the chances of meeting locals and getting the most out of your visit. Some may even approach you and request kindly that you cover up.

SURVIVING CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Sun! Sun! Sun! Central And South American countries are known for their tropical sun. Just imagine how marvelously tanned you may get after a trip to this colorfully cultural country. A few suggestions on what to be wary of while in a trip
  • Avoid demonstrations, they occur frequently and may turn violent. There is a thin line between being adventurous and outright crazy. While it may look exciting to join demonstration and “ be one of them,” it is advised that you rather walk away from these since most of these may turn violent quickly and you would not want to spend precious vacation time behind bars.
  • Avoid leaving food and drinks unattended. Criminals may use drugs to temporarily incapacitate victims. This is a place where criminals prey on tourists, and one way is drugging the prey.
  • Avoid remote or isolated locations. The road less travelled is less travelled for a reason. Since there is less people, there will also be less security patrol.
  • Avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark. They say evil lurks in darkness, best not to test this quote, you’re on vacation, not on a ghost hunting dare.
  • Avoid displaying or carrying valuable in public places, this may just make you the next victim.
  • Do not leave passports and other important documents in private vehicles, this may easily be stolen and used in illegal activities.
  • Do not let your credit card out of your sight; cloning and similar frauds are common.
  • Drive with your doors locked and windows raised.
SURVIVING ASIA

By now, we know that safety is first and foremost your own responsibility. Even the mild mannered smiles of Asia may hide tricks.

“Tourist tea” scam: little tea with hospitality =  bill. A friendly Chinese invites tourist to a seemingly innocent tea, either racks bill up and make tourist pay or tourist pays exorbitant price for tea. 


Do NOT drink local or bootleg liquor 

Avoid unlicensed taxis or “black cabs.” insist that the driver use the meter and get a receipt. Highway robbery, tourists are easy to spot with the obvious difference in appearance, they have money so the driver will try to get as much as he can by striking a “bargain.” 

Counterfeit currency is a significant concern, use only ATMs at trusted financial institutions.

Business disputes can sometimes result in physical confrontation or kidnapping. Be careful of whom you talk to.

If you get suspicious calls, contact the local public security bureau to verify the caller’s identity.

There are large amounts of unexploded ordnance in South Asia. Never pick up unknown metal objects or bring one home as a souvenir. Avoid travelling off the well-used paths.

Be cautious of rental arrangement and never use your passport as collateral, this may lead to identity theft.

Be aware of common scams involving card games, although these may seem amazingly innocent, it hides a lot of tricks, scams, even hypnotic styles to rob you.

SURVIVING AFRICA

Another nature and culture rich continent that attracts the tourists and adventure seeking families is Africa. Known for their excellent biodiversity and home of the wild, Africa is known to be a jungle. Going there requires you to secure a permit to travel because of sensitive mining areas.

You also need to carry a copy of your passport at all times, while ensuring that the original is safe.

Like all countries, Africa has its share of criminals, if confronted by criminals, do not resist, try to remain calm and clearly display your hands, do not make any sudden moves that could be interpreted as resistance.

Although Africa is open to tourists, security remains unstable due to the activities of rebel and other armed groups and ongoing military operations.

Because of this, it is advised that anyone planning a trip to Africa monitor consular messages and local and international news from reliable sources.

Like most tourist destinations, Africa beefs up their security measures to protect its locals as well as their tourists. Since Africa have many unfriendly groups, security forces increase its visibility by setting up roadblocks to conduct vehicle searches and check passengers for identity papers. Should you encounter these roadblocks of checkpoints, here are some tips to to protect yourself:

They may try to bribe you in exchange for your protection;

If faced with this, do not permit soldiers or police officers to enter your vehicle;
Do not get into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official as well. Vigilance is still key. 

You are advised to maintain protection by remaining inside your vehicle with doors locked and window slightly open to communicate.

Lastly, remain calm, and if you feel threatened do not resist.

SURVIVING EUROPE

Many travel goals has Europe in their dreamboards, with the air of sophistication and its royal charm. However, Europe attracts both elements of the spectrum.

Europe has been headlining the news and not because of it’s charm, sadly, unwanted elements targeted Europe for their mass attacks with explosions and mass shooting. All European countries remain potentially vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations. Events like this does not distinguish between tourist and local, victims are seen in general. However, tourists, being only a temporary person in that place, may not have the resources and family connection as that of a local, so, here are some tips to survive an explosion or shooting rampage in Europe:

Exit the building immediately, do not stop to retrieve possessions, save yourself;

Check for fire and other hazards like weakened floors and falling debris;

Do not light a match, it may cause another explosion;

Cover your mouth to prevent inhaling dust;

Whistle or tap to get the attention of rescuers;

RUN, if you can’t then hide, and if you can’t, then fight.

Wherever you are, there is an element of danger. This should not come as a surprise, even in our comfort places and hometowns are not immune to danger. Being ready would help a tourist immensely.

Here are some survival gear that every traveller should carry:

Fire starter, preferably waterproof – source of heat and light;

Customized first aid kit – fit to your needs, regular first aid plus personal medicines and necessities;

Personal water filter – potable water for survival;

Dry bag – protect your things from being ruined by water, can also be used as floatation marker if brightly colored;

Emergency blankets – from sleeping to dressing up wounds and shelter;

Contact information card – for proper identification;

Snack bars – replacement of proper food;

Tactical bracelet with compass – rope and compass as travel guide and tools;

Headlamp – provides light and allows your hands free movement;

Multi-purpose shoes – protects your feet from being cut or scraped;

Money belt – can contain little things including money, small survival kit among others.

Even if you follow every tip in the book, it will only lessen the probability of danger happening, it cannot eliminate the possibility entirely. In case you find yourself in the most unfortunate situation where a dream travel turned into a nightmare, here are some suggestion on what you can do.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU UNFORTUNATELY BECOME A VICTIM OF A CRIME

Contact your closest embassy.

As stated earlier, your embassy is your guardian whenever you are out of your homeland. If you find yourself a victim of theft or similar acts, or you need to be rescued, contact your embassy for guidance and proper assistance

Find appropriate medical care. If hurt, injured or ailing, seek proper and appropriate medical attention. A lot of countries believe and patronize traditional or alternative medicine. If you find yourself in need of medical assistance, best to seek professional medical help and ask for medical evacuation if necessary.

Report a crime to police. One of the reasons why criminals target tourists is because many of the crimes go unresolved or ultimately unreported. Even though your stay in a place is only for a short period of time, it is advisable that you file a report for any crime, however petty it may be. This will not only help in beefing up security measures of the place, it may also lead to resolution of crime.

Arrange flights home if necessary. Whenever you feel threatened, scared, or victimized, it is a normal response of a person to seek the comfort of their homes immediately. Should you be a victim of a crime, try to extract yourself from the place of danger, if needed, contact your embassy for assistance.

Country security forces usually have emergency numbers which you may call for emergency assistance. Usually a very easy combination of 3 numbers, it would be good to know your that your 911 travels along with you. Here are some:

Asia – Japan 110 USA 911

Asia – Thailand 191 Jamaica 119

Asia – Philippines 911 Colombia 123

Europe 112 Brazil 190

Moscow 051 Canada 911

Australia 000 New Zealand 111




Add these to the number and location of the nearest embassy and your contact number and increase your protection preparation.

Always remember that herever you are, it is your responsibility to keep yourself safe, sane and in control.


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