Safe travel tips in time for spring break

United States Travel Blog

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The world is a dangerous place, especially for Americans abroad. Take time to learn about traveling safely to reduce your chances of becoming a target for crime.

Before living in Russia for six weeks, I participated in an Abduction Prevention and Hostage Survival seminar through the Safe Travel Institute. The seminar was a mix of lectures and simulation exercises, including a mock hostage situation, with the goal of teaching travelers to be aware of their surroundings and become a hard target for criminals.

The Safe Travel Institute was founded by former executives from the Department of Defense, FBI and the US Intelligence Community with experience in the fields of Safe Travel, Crisis Management, and Crisis Support. Their clients include international businesses, such as Boeing and Microsoft, US government agencies, including the State Department and FBI, as well as individual travelers.

Randy Spivey, the founder of the Safe Travel Institute, says that 3-5% of all travelers are victims of crime from pickpockets to abduction. This may seem low, but simple safety tips can prevent you from becoming a part of the statistic.

On February 20, 2009, the US State Department issued a warning to Americans traveling in Mexico, the most popular spring break destination, about increased violence in the country, noting that kidnapping incidents have increased greatly.

Whether you are traveling in an area considered safe like Western Europe or an area with increased risk like Southeast Asia, it is important to always take the highest safety measures for self-protection.

The following tips are useful not only abroad but in everyday life in the United States.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Look for people who could be following you. Periodically glance behind you, especially at night, to check for suspicious people who are not just coincidentally going the same direction. To do this in a subtle manner, use the reflective glass on store fronts as a way to see if anyone is behind you without having to turn your head. Ladies, we all look in the windows to check our hair, so use it as a safety tool at the same time.

Also be aware of people you see more than once. If you see the same person at the coffee shop and on the subway, there is a chance you are being followed.

Carry a “Throw Away” Wallet
When traveling, bring an extra wallet from home with an expired driver’s license, expired credit card, and twenty dollars. If accosted by someone demanding your wallet, it is easy to toss your “throw away” wallet and flee without having to worry that your credit cards will be charged recklessly.

If the aggressor does not specifically ask for your wallet, but threatens you physically, the “throw away” wallet can be used as a distraction creating an opportunity to escape.

Make Yourself a Hard Target
Tourists are targeted, because they usually stand out in the crowd. Most victims of pickpockets look lost and unaware of their surroundings. Have a plan for the day and know where you are going, so there is no risk of getting lost. Taking out a map is a red light signaling that you are a clueless tourist and therefore an easy target.

Blending with the local population will reduce the chances of being seen as a target and is crucial to personal safety abroad. Learn the local customs and follow them as close as possible. Blend in by wearing modest clothing absent of any American brand logos, exhibiting reserved behavior in public places, and not wearing a backpack, another red flag to pickpockets.

This information is not meant to cause paranoia. It is intended to inform tourists of the possible dangers of traveling abroad and how to avoid them.
bernard69 says:
I agree with oldschoolbill!
Posted on: Mar 13, 2009
oldschoolbill says:
Thanks great info for everyone!
Posted on: Mar 12, 2009
danny291 says:
I love that you say travelling is especially dangerous for Americans. They do tend to stick out a bit but I have very many American friends!
Posted on: Mar 12, 2009
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