(ARA) - With many Americans planning trips overseas, it is
important to be prepared for the unexpected. And with more
adventure and eco-travelers, Americans are going to more remote
areas of the world. At the same time, kidnappings, muggings,
hotel break-ins and other crimes are also on the increase.
Having a plan to handle medical and security problems before
leaving is one way to reduce the odds that problems will occur.
International SOS, the world's largest medical and security
assistance company, recently hosted a security roundtable
for a number of its members. One result of the conference
was a number of travel tips based on circumstances that most
travelers, no matter how experienced, don't consider until
it's too late. Among the tips:
When possible, avoid taxis. Ask your hotel's concierge
to recommend a driver or car service.
If you must take a taxi or limo, don't volunteer information
about your trip, its duration or its purpose to your driver.
It's nobody's business but your own.
Put your luggage into the trunk of a taxi or car by yourself
after the driver gets out and opens the trunk for you.
Request a room on a lower, but not the ground, floor
in your hotel. Ground floor rooms are less secure while
rooms above floor six are too high for most conventional
fire equipment to reach.
Most hotel locks are not secure. Purchase small, inexpensive
door and window locks and use them when traveling.
If you have arranged for transportation at the airport,
have a mutually agreed-upon object or password that is
known only to you and the driver/company picking you up
instead of having your name on a placard.
Bring a small flashlight with you on your trip. Having
a flashlight will make you feel more secure if the power
Always have the "do not disturb" sign on your
door, and don't let anyone who is unidentified into your
room (confirm through view-hole if possible).
If you are a woman traveling alone, bring a package of
men's boxer shorts with you. Before answering the door
to your hotel room put the package on your bed, turn on
the shower and close the bathroom door -- your visitor
will think you're not alone.
When leaving your hotel room, leave the "do not
disturb" sign on your door and turn your TV onto
the local language station. Any unwelcome guests will
assume you are in, and are a local.
Buy plastic connectors that you can place on your luggage
when leaving your room. It won't prevent someone from
opening your bags, but it will tell you if someone has
opened them and taken something or placed contraband items
such as drugs in them.
Never stay in a hotel with hard keys. Hotels with security
cards are safer. Keys have a way of being passed around.
Dress comfortably and try to fit in. Wearing clothes
that are the height of fashion tells potential muggers
or scam artists that you're foreign and well off.
Don't advertise your nationality. Wearing a "hip"
tee shirt that announces your nationality often attracts
the wrong kind of attention. Try to look like everyone
Don't use business cards as luggage tags, or any of the
prestigious credit card or designer tags that provide
more information than is absolutely necessary -- thieves
look for tags they recognize.
Don't allow yourself to be distracted when sightseeing.
Scams on unsuspecting travelers often begin with someone
trying to distract their attention. Be aware that scam
artists often work in pairs or groups and use distractions
to give them time to rip off tourists.
Consider purchasing a traveling insurance policy or join
a travel assistance program such as International SOS.
For as little as $55 for two weeks, you are never more
than a toll-free call away from medical, security or travel-related
EDITOR'S NOTE: SOS is the world's leading medical assistance
company, with a dedicated network of 24-hour Alarm Centers
on five continents, providing international travelers with
global resources. Every SOS Alarm Center has full-time SOS
doctors on duty around the clock to help with medical advice
and the coordination of care for SOS members. Last year, International
SOS handled more than 150,000 medical intervention cases and
more than 11,000 medical evacuation cases.
International SOS provides a variety of plans for individual
travelers as well as couples, families and students. You can
enroll or get further information about International SOS
by visiting their Web site at http://www.internationalsos.com,
phoning (800) 523-8662, or writing them at International SOS,
Eight Neshaminy Interplex, Ste. 207, Trevose, PA 19053-6956.