DON'T BE SCARED BE AWARE!
(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.
- 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.
- 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 (www.tripprep.com). The American Armed
Forces use this site.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- The Hotel. A simple checklist.
- Always place your valuable items in the hotel safe.
- Check out the fire exits by walking them.
- Always retain control of your key, you will sometimes have to
remove the key number or block of plastic from the key. If so,
then do it.
- Get to know the doorman. These guys have a wealth of information
on the area and are very useful to know and very helpful.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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
- 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...!
- 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.
- 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
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
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
(Note) From attacking your property to actually targeting you is
a very short step. It's just a matter of time.
- Car Hire. Some simple tips:
- Take time to check your fuel, oil, water and spare wheel.
- Remove or cover any stickers, which give away that it's a hire
- Ask advice from the Hire Company about your route.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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Contact us at Quester Press for more details.
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