Conde Nast Traveler Features Global Rescue – How to Stay Safe Abroad

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September 13, 2013

Categories: In The News,

Against the backdrop of a possible U.S. military strike against Syria and rising tensions worldwide, Conde Nast Traveler’s Wendy Perrin spoke with Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards about ways in which travelers can stay safe abroad. Many travelers are worried about their trips to travel to countries such as Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and western Africa, in particular, given the potential for anti-American sentiment.

With insights from Richards, Perrin highlights these tips for staying safe in places where there could be anti-Western sentiment:

Don’t advertise your Americanness.
Forgo bold colors in favor of earth tones. Wear nothing that could identify you as American: No Nikes, jeans, baseball caps, or logos. And no religious jewelry—such as a Christian cross or a Star of David.

Dress conservatively.
Don’t display more skin or wear more revealing clothing than is the accepted norm. Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth, such as big jewelry, that could make you a target.

Try not to look like a tourist.
Don’t walk around with a guidebook under your arm or a camera around your neck. Don’t study your map on the street or in a parked car. Go into a safe, busy store or restaurant before pulling out a map or guidebook.

Monitor the news.
This means staying at a hotel with reliable Internet access and with CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera. Check local English-language news Web sites morning and evening. Consider carrying a pocket world band radio so you can listen to the BBC and Voice of America anywhere, even if you’re without Internet access.

Avoid public gatherings in large public squares.
Don’t get caught in a political demonstration or rally that might expose you to an angry mob. Often the gatherings happen in the same symbolic square each time (e.g., Taksim Square in Istanbul).

Bypass discos, nightclubs, or bars where westerners or Americans typically gather.
A place that is popular with the expat community or foreigners represents a possible target. Skip the Hard Rock Café this trip.

Be careful what you photograph.
Don’t shoot airports, train stations, government buildings, or people who don’t want their photo taken. Always ask someone before taking his or her photograph. When you don’t speak the local language, “ask” by motioning with your camera and motioning to them, smiling throughout, showing via hand signals that you’d like to take their photo and you’re asking if it’s okay. See what reaction you get. (This is good procedure in any country—not just Muslim ones.) If you want to photograph a person who’s selling something—say, fruit or spices—buy some and snap a photo of the transaction. (This makes the act feel like an exchange rather than an exploitation.)

Use hotel-arranged taxis.
Avoid taking the bus or other public transportation. “Don’t put yourself in a confined space where you’re potentially a victim,” says Richards. “On the other hand, don’t travel around in an armored black Mercedes limousine either because you’ll be immediately identified as someone who is worth targeting. Taxis can be risky but are also a good way to stay under the radar. Best bet is to have a vetted driver or, at a minimum, one you use from a well-known location who has proper credentials.” Have your hotel call you a taxi. Arrange to have cars pick you up at the airport and drive you to and from restaurants at night.

Make sure your hotel has a great concierge.
You want a concierge who will make smart transportation arrangements and can detail the safety do’s and don’ts of the area.

Don’t travel with a tour group.
Tour groups are targets, says Richards, because they represent a concentration of foreigners in one place. “The tour company may be able to bring some security to the group, but the countermeasures are not outweighed by the ability of the attackers to do some real harm,” he says.

Hire a private English-speaking “guide”–more fixer/expediter/strategist than guide, actually—who will keep you safe.
You can find a first-rate fixer through an excellent travel firm specializing in that destination. For Turkey I recommend Earl Starkey of Sophisticated-Travel in Istanbul. For Israel I recommend Joe Yudin of Touring Israel. For the U.A.E. I recommend Lindsey Wallace of Linara Travel. They have excellent guides who will keep you safe. Don’t want a guide? Plan your walks or routes with the concierge’s input.

In European cities, consider avoiding Muslim suburbs.
Richards advises avoiding neighborhoods where emigrants from Syria live or where there is a track record of civil unrest or violence against foreigners.

Say you’re Canadian.
If you’re suddenly put on the spot by an angry-sounding local asking if you’re American, don’t be ashamed to pretend you’re Canadian. In fact, sometimes I carry a small Canadian-flag pin inside my handbag, just in case.

And here are a few things to carry as you sightsee:
• A cell phone programmed with emergency numbers—for police, medical emergencies, and your hotel.
• A neck pouch for keeping large bills and credit cards hidden under your clothing.
• Your hotel’s business card, in the local language, so you can show it to taxi drivers and get back to safety quickly.
• A mini-flashlight in case you’re caught in the dark.
• A color photocopy of your passport (the cover and first two pages) to serve as an ID while the real thing sits in your hotel-room safe.

Read the full article here.


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