(From 'Q' Newsletter, Q6.8)

According to Sans Frontiers over sixty-five journalists a year die reporting overseas news.

In 1997 fifty-six tourists died in Luxor of which six were British.

More recently in Yemen, tribesmen kidnapped a group of tourists and some were killed during the rescue operation.

In Hong Kong and Mexico business people need 24-hour security to prevent kidnapping. A person can get stabbed in London, New York or Rome and it probably won't even make the papers. A contract killer in Moscow will carry out a hit for as little as a $100 or even for free if they want to please their Godfather or Boss. In parts of Africa a hit can cost as little as 15 with the tool of choice being a bicycle wheel or spoke, which is sharpened to a point.

So are you scared yet? Well don't be scared - BE AWARE!

If you ask any Special Forces personnel what separates them from regular forces or civilians, its not their military training or the ability to see in the dark and hear the grass (although that helps). It's their awareness of their surroundings and the ability to forecast and gain control of the outcome of a situation. By applying the knowledge they have been taught in a swift and correct manner.

It is possible for you the traveller to control your environment by learning some very basic techniques and self-awareness. Awareness comes from knowing what goes on around you.

Now we can't teach you everything you need to know in one short article. But we should be able to bring some useful points to your attention, which hopefully will put you into an awareness mode.

  1. Before you travel to a strange country, pick up a guide, like one of the economist guides. These guides give you lots of useful information on local customs, laws, transport, hotels, and places to avoid.

  2. Get yourself some good medical advice on jabs, etc. One of the best places for this type of information in the UK is the London School of Tropical Medicine, or try the internet at ( The American Armed Forces use this site.

  3. Travel documents. The most useful item you can carry is spare passport photos. These always come in useful for extra ID documents. It may also be possible to get your photos stamped and signed by somebody in your foreign office. If you can, this means you now have a possible emergency form of identification document. Only to be used in extreme cases.

  4. Now you have arrived at the airport and have passed immigration, you are in an area that is targeted by well organised criminals and in some countries by terrorists. So don't delay. Get out of there quickly!

  5. Taxi Ranks. Most, if not all, taxi ranks at airports in Russia and other eastern block countries are controlled by Mafia groups. So before you take the first taxi off the rank, stop and take its details like taxi name, number and plate. A registered company is always best. In some countries the tourist police will call a taxi for you. Don't go jumping queues if this service is there as its there for your safety.

  6. Conversations with the driver. Please don't tell him or her your life story. Use a cover story like a funeral or reunion. Let the driver see you reading a street map and show an interest in your route and ask questions like "Where are we now?" Then check it with your map. At least this way you will know that you have passed somewhere before and this makes it harder to cheat on the fare. It's all about taking control and awareness.

  7. The Hotel. A simple checklist.

  8. Credit Cards. Only ever carry one card at a time. When you first arrive it's wise not to carry any cards when you first go out, at least for the first day or so. Certain countries (for example Cuba) refuse to trade with American Express and other cards because of the links with the USA and the sanctions placed on them by this country. These sanctions make it difficult for the Cuba-based businesses to collect on monies owed, so check it out first.

  9. Credit Card Receipts. Make sure you take both carbons and destroy them because it is possible to make credit cards from these carbons in under an hour. This practice is widespread in some parts of the east and Far East.

  10. The wrong place at the wrong time. Well that's what the criminals hope for. Here's an example of a bad situation about to get even worse unless you're aware of it:
    You have just arrived in a new country on business. You leave your hotel and go into the city for some shopping and sightseeing before your business starts. You see a coin box pay phone and decide to phone home.

    Question: What's the first thing you should check for?

    "Pick up the handset", I hear you say. Wrong!

    The first thing you should do is check the refund change slot, to see if it's blocked up with paper etc. This stops your money returning. If it's blocked get out now.


    Well, if it's blocked then it's been blocked by a criminal or criminals who are trying to mine the change from the phone by removing the paper blockage and collecting the build up. This type of scam can net up to a 1000 a day in a large city.

    So where do you fit in? Well for a gang to do this they have to monitor the phone. That means YOU! Now the criminal may not be into mugging tourists but I am sure he or she will know someone who is. So if you're in the phone for say five minutes making a call that's plenty of time to come up with a plan to work you over.

  11. Public toilets / Washrooms facilities on the streets of most countries are magnets for criminals, perverts etc. so stay clear. Having said that, there are some countries that rely so much on tourism that public facilities are staffed by security/cleaners and are very safe. Be prepared to pay!

  12. The UV Light... In some washrooms in bars, pubs etc. you may see a UV light system inside. This means that at one time they had a problem with drug addicts shooting up in their toilets, so they installed a UV lighting system to stop the addicts from seeing the veins in their arms. (If they can't see their veins you can't inject and they go elsewhere.)

    That's where you're at risk. Where did they go? Find out, because where ever they are locally they're going to be in-groups. Be aware.

  13. Weapons. You can't carry a Firearm under your coat when your going out sightseeing etc. But there is very little anyone can do if your carrying a rolled up newspaper or magazine with an elastic band wrapped around it. This can be used as a baton and carried in your coat pocket. A soft cap with a couple of fishing weights attached to the back and some flies attached make an excellent kosh. Best of all is an umbrella. Mind you it will stand out a bit in the wrong environment.

    At night ask your concierge / doorman to provide you with a flashlight. This will provide light and a baton in an emergency. Finally a can of hairspray or deodorant is a useful defensive weapon if sprayed into an attackers eyes.

  14. The Hotel at Night. Outside most luxury hotels in cities around the world you will see some well-dressed women. Chances are these are prostitutes waiting for business. If the women are there then their pimps aren't far away so avoid going for moonlight walks at 2 in the morning. Unless you...!

  15. No-go Areas... Most cities have their own no-go areas. Some are classed as red light districts, others are Quarters like a Spanish or French Quarter. These are great tourist areas in the daytime but at night it's a very different place. So go and check it out first.

  16. First Aid Kits...This one really annoys me. I am sick of so called experts showing me their First Aid Kits which look like something from a James Bond Film full of smart equipment and materials and most of it useless for their purpose. A perfect example of this is cotton wool which has no use as a First Aid Material. What should be used is a sterile or medical swab.

    My next point concerns attacks with Acids or Alkalis.

    These attacks are becoming more common in the former eastern block and are very common in the Caribbean/West Indies, especially Jamaica where the Yardies use it because its cheap, available and causes the same terror as a machine gun.

    So make sure you include a neutralising agent for ACID/ALKALIS like CAP Solution.

    A more worrying side of this type of attack is the use of Hydrofluoric Acid by animal rights groups on property etc. If you touch this stuff it will eat right into the bone causing terrible casualties. There is a neutralising agent that works very well and should be included in your kit.

    (Note) From attacking your property to actually targeting you is a very short step. It's just a matter of time.

  17. Car Hire. Some simple tips:

  18. More on Cars. A favourite trick that's used by thieves and is spreading around the world, is to throw a live RAT into a car parked with its window opened at traffic lights. This will cause the driver to jump out giving the thieves a chance to drive off. Another trick and a painful one is to walk up to a car parked in traffic with its driver's window opened and grasp the driver's ear with pliers and force them to hand over their cash etc. Both of these attacks are common in South America like Columbia etc. But it can happen anywhere.

  19. Borders, checkpoints and passports. Certain countries will refuse you entry on your appearance or because of the entry/exit visa stamps that you have on your passport. An example of this would be a stamp from South Africa or Israel.

    A classic example is Syria. Its immigration do not accept any passport with an Israeli Stamp or any passport with only an exit stamp from Jordan or Egypt. This implies that entry was made via Israel. Some people use two passports to travel between countries as well as having camouflage passports plus back up identification. Useful in wartorn areas or unstable areas.

  20. Conducting business from your hotel. You should be aware that in some countries in Asia there is a total examination of your rubbish, notes and faxes while you're staying at the hotel. Your faxes are copied, notes are put into bags and sent for examination.

  21. Out and about. Please try and blend in when you're out on the street. That means get rid of the flashy jewellery. Dress down and casual. If necessary get yourself a fake tan out of the bottle. It's not for the beach. Its for the street, a sort of camouflage because nothing stands out more than a white guy in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt, Bermuda shorts base ball cap and a Nikon around his neck.

  22. Mugging. Don't be a hero because chances are you will be a dead one. So have a throwaway wallet which contains some cash in small notes and one or two larger notes in front. With a total value of about fifty or sixty dollars. Throw in some useless cheques and you have a throw away. It may also be useful to have a camouflage ID like a drivers licence and a passport, as muggers will attack you just for your ID documents.

Alternative IDs

What are they and why do you need one?

Alternative or Camouflage identity documents can be a very useful privacy tool to carry when you are travelling. As The Listener says, it makes sense to have an alternative wallet that you can give away in the case of an attack by muggers. Camouflage documents give you just this.

We can help provide you with full camouflage kits, including a life-like passport from a country that no longer exists (usually somewhere that was a colony but is now independent), a driver's licence and two back up forms of ID-card. We spent some time tracing the best quality camouflage documents, and can assure you that these are the best quality!

Case History 1: We know of Oil-rig workers from the Netherlands who got caught up in the Kuwait war several years ago, who managed to escape problems by presenting their camouflage documents to border guards instead of their real ones.

Case History 2: We know one gentleman who was staying at a hotel in Europe. During the night, whilst fast asleep, someone broke into his room and stole his passport. Luckily for him, he had kept his real passport in a much safer place than the dummy wallet left in plain sight on the chest of drawers (dresser). The unhappy thief would later discover he had a camouflage passport, a dummy drivers licence and a few thousand Italian Lira (worth only a few dollars) - so not only did the gentleman save himself hours of red tape waiting until a replacement passport was issued, but he also avoided being woken and confronted by the thief searching more thoroughly for his documents.

Case History 3: We had a client telephone the office to thank us for the opportunity to get his camouflage kit and to arrange for a replacement set of ID. When he was approached by two men wanting his passport in Marseilles, he had handed over his wallet with its full alternative id, including a few dollar bills. He kept his real documents in a safety belt tucked away from view. The result? All he lost was the cost of the camouflage kit and a few old bills.

For Q-readers we can give you a special deal:- The first 50 applicants who reply using the enclosed Camouflage Order form can get TWO (2) complete Camouflage Kits for just 315 / US$499 (two complete kits would normally cost 390 / US$598.) Ideal for couples or those individuals who require two sets - just in case.

Contact us at Quester Press for more details.

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