Founder and CEO, Nomad SOS
Danny is an ex-soldier, having served with the British military on operations around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the forces, he became a security advisor with an extensive tenure in the Middle East providing close protection, kidnap and ransom support and training services. Prior to founding Nomad SOS, Danny held positions with the US Department of State, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Control Risks and Aegis Response.
Business Travel Will Likely Never Be Safer Than Right Now
Around the world there is famine, political instability, gang warfare, and statistic show an increase in violent crimes, kidnappings, and acts of war and terrorism. Year after year, some would say since the late 70s or early 80s, and certainly in the past decade, the frequency of these incidents has surged.
So should this stop you from travelling? Not at all. In fact there will likely never be a safer time to travel than today, tomorrow, and each day thereafter.
If you travel frequently, whether for business or pleasure, you are at a statistically higher risk of an incident occurring.
The first – it is a numbers game. The more often you do something, the greater your exposure to something bad happening.
The second reason is complacency, which is again linked to repeating trips and journeys. You may have travelled hundreds of times without a single untoward incident occurring, and so psychologically you may become less aware of your surroundings. Or perhaps because you have travelled to a certain place several times before, you do not feel you need to prepare for your upcoming trip. In addition, sometimes standard business travel procedures can be harmful. Travelling with company logos on your clothing, and using business cards on your luggage tags makes you a target, and both should be avoided.
While you cannot protect yourself against the uncertainty of a terrorist attack, you can reduce your safety and security risks considerably. By following this pre-planning travel safety guide, you will help to reduce the chances of anything happening to you, and be better prepared if it does.
Research your destination. There are many ways you can do this, although I advise searching online for travel blogs of people who have actually been there, and ideally within the past 12- months, so that the information is still relevant. Avoid websites that give reviews on hotels, while you can find positive feedback, you typically need to sift through a lot of negative, and irrelevant information that mostly just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Do you need to apply for a Visa before travelling to the country? If so, how long does it take? If the Visa is issued upon entry, how long is it issued for? Do you have a plan in place for your next destination? You can find out this information quickly on TRAVISA.
What is the official language? Do you speak it? Do you have time to learn the basics? You would be surprised by how the local people’s attitude toward you will change for the positive if you just show some willing in trying to speak their language. I highly recommend DUOLINGO – it is free and easy to use.
What is the healthcare system like where you are going? In most countries, even some third-world countries, the healthcare system is reliable and affordable. Medications that you may normally need a prescription for are often available over the counter in pharmacies.
A personal rule I have that has served me well – drink only bottled water and ask for no ice with your drinks at bars and restaurants. Consult a travel clinic before you depart, make sure your inoculations are up to date. The GOV.UK website has a comprehensive guide here, FOREIGN TRAVEL ADVICE.
Research and obey the local customs and laws of the country you’re visiting. An arrest or accident during a trip abroad can result in a difficult and expensive legal situation. Your citizenship does not make you exempt from full prosecution under another country’s criminal justice system and your country of residency cannot bail you out. Visit the embassy website of the country you are visiting to learn more. Here is a complete list of FOREIGN EMBASSIES in the UK, many with links to the website relevant website.
What is the security situation? Is there a high-rate of kidnappings or crimes against tourists? What is the political situation? Is your passport welcome?
You should ask yourself these questions for each country you travel to, and then research the answers. Each country’s embassy typically issues up-to-date travel advisories, however they are often generic so it is better to do your own research. Here is the website for UK issued TRAVEL ADVISORIES by country. In addition, you can monitor similar warnings for free, via RISK MAP.
METHODS OF PAYMENT
What are the accepted currencies? Can you readily access funds through an ATM? Many countries only allow four digit PIN codes for ATMss. If you are from a country that allows six, or even eight digits, go to your bank and change it to four digits, otherwise you will not be able to withdraw money.
Are there any major events scheduled during your trip that might affect your plans? Pay specific attention to elections in unstable countries and try to avoid if possible. Also, if you plan to attend a religious festival, it should go without saying that you should be respectful.
MAPS & DIRECTIONS
Take local street-maps with you. Print them out from online if you need to. Mark police departments, hospitals and other places of interest. Take note of large landmarks that can be seen from many directions. You may need that to navigate. Taxi drivers are typically good sources of local information – find a good one and keep his card.
Know the local phone numbers of police, fire, ambulance and veterinarians if applicable. Always be aware of your surroundings. You may not know the exact location you are calling them to, but you might be able to direct them to a recognisable landmark close-by.
Before you go, speak to your mobile phone service provider about unlocking your phone. There will likely be a small fee, but this will mean you can either make international calls from your destination, or you will be able to buy a local SIM card to make calls. It is also nice that loved ones can still call you for peace of mind. If you are taking a laptop, take an internet cable with you – some hotels still have cabled connections, and some even still have dial-up.
DO NOT travel without travel insurance. Imagine all of those weeks, months, and even years spent planning your perfect trip being brought to an earth-shattering halt by one single incident. Travel insurance is an essential item that should be on your packing list. Make sure you pick covereage that means you will be covered for overseas medical expenses, trip cancellation, lost or stolen baggage and other expenses that you may not have even thought about. I recommend WORLD NOMADS.
Travel ID by Nomad SOS is an emergency medical photo ID card for travellers. It includes 14 pieces of information including your name, date of birth, nationality, languages spoken, blood type, allergies, health concerns, medications, impairments, identifying features, donor information, emergency contact details, and of course your photograph. It also includes a phone number of the Travel Assistance Centre that members can call 24/7 to get advice and support, including access to Doctors, Veterinarians and Lawyers over the phone, and security and medical rescue from anywhere in the world. Go to NOMAD SOS to find out more.
Go to your local copy centre, pay a couple of pounds or dollars and colour photocopy your passport, drivers license, medical documents, inoculation records, travel insurance documents and both sides of your bank cards. Also copy your flight itinerary and hotel bookings. Keep one copy in an envelope in your carry-on bag, give the other copy to someone you trust at home. Believe me – if you lose any of your documents when travelling, having copies of them will make it easier to replace them.
PREPARE AND RELAX
Remember, it is very important that you do all of this prior to travelling anywhere. By doing so, there is a mental process that happens where you start to feel less anxious and more prepared for your travels. That is because if you follow this travel safety checklist, you will be more prepared, and therefore you will have reduced your risks significantly. A majority of situations that happen can be avoided by pre-planning your trip.
While frequent travel will expose you to greater risks than staying at home, it will also bring you much greater rewards. Solid preparation work means you can relax and enjoy the adventures ahead.