I often travel internationally for business. I must go where my clients direct me. Responsibility for my own personal safety, or that of my family whenever they accompany me, falls on my shoulders. Taking the time to think a little bit about where and why you are traveling, and using a simple mental checklist, can help you stay safe when visiting abroad.
If you are traveling outside the United States, do your homework. Read the Crime and Safety Report for your destination country. Published annually by the Department of State, it will give you a great overview of the country and the risks to travelers from the U.S. who visit. Enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler’s Registration Program (STEP). You can register on-line at https://step.state.gov/step/. By providing your travel details, including travel dates, hotel, and passport number, if there is an emergency at home the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will have a better chance of finding you. In addition, if there is a natural or man-made disaster in the country you are visiting, registering with STEP ensures that your contact and identity details are on file in the event of any possible U.S. citizen evacuations for whatever reason.
Think about the details of the trip. Where are you going? Have you been there before? What sort of activity are you going to engage in and could that activity cause any safety or security risks to you or your traveling companions?
Prepare for the trip. Make sure you have a valid visa. Ensure that your passport has not expired. Call your credit card company and let them know where you are traveling to and for how long. If you need to rent a car, make sure you have an international driver’s license as well as your state-issued license. Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your wallet. It will make it easier to replace if it is lost or stolen.
If your pre-departure research indicates high crime rates or something else that may make it risky for you to travel there, take precautions before you travel. Your spouse or office should have your contact numbers, flight and hotel information. Arrange for someone to meet you at the airport rather than rely on taxis or public transportation in high-risk environments. This can usually be done through your destination hotel. Minimize the number of credit cards and other valuables you take with you. If there is a “meet and greet” service available at the airport, use it.
Even in safe destinations with very low risks of crime or terrorism there may be things that could affect you personally that are a risk. Do you have any health issues? If so, think about steps to mitigate this risk. Prior to travel, check on the availability and quality of the health care at your destination. Bring copies of your prescriptions for any medicines. Sometimes you can inadvertently violate a country’s drug laws by bringing pills or other sorts of medicines over the border without being able to prove they are required for your health.
Business may compel you to travel to certain destinations that are riskier than other ones. By going through the mental checklist above and preparing yourself, you can mitigate the risk of travel no matter where you may be going.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
As Vice President of a Security Fusion Center, Bill has provided risk management advice and direction to major Fortune 100 defense industry, ultra high net worth and other clients.
As Global Director for Security, Alem International, Bill planned and directed all facets of the security and risk mitigation strategies for the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay that took place in over 34 countries.
Bill was commissioned as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer in the US Army immediately after college.
Mr. Gaskill has a Bachelor of Science degree in Ancient History with a math minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.He has a current Top Secret/SCI clearance.He has professional fluency ratings in Spanish, Greek, Hebrew and French, and has a working knowledge of Russian.