6 tips for travelling smart overseas

by Spencer Coursen, Coursen Security Group

International travel is all about using good common sense. Baghdad may not be the safest place in the world right now, but there are still a few good places to get a great ice-cream cone or some fresh hummus without putting yourself in any kind of extreme danger.

I was in Israel recently, traveling between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. To read the US News those days was to think I was working in a war zone, when in reality, it was just another day in the land of milk and honey. Which is to say, don’t believe everything you read, sometimes media rhetoric coincides with the narrative they have employed (Read: Hagel confirmation hearings)

Still, there is something to be said for traveling smart.

1. Leave the ballcap at home. Nothing says ‘I’m an American’ lounder than your baseball cap. We’ll all know you’re american as soon as you start talking…no need to make it any easier to pick you out of a crowd.

2. Trust your gut. If something feels “wrong” walk away. You’re unwillingness to offend should never be greater than your willingness to defend. You’ll never see any of these people ever again. Simply walk away.

3. If you’re traveling anywhere 3rd world…leave your passport locked away in your hotel and carry a laminated color-copy of your passport.

4. Don’t do anything to draw unwanted attention to yourself. Don’t show off your expensive jewelry or your wad of cash. Have money set aside for tips ($1 and $5 only) in another pocket. If you pull out a roll of $50’s and hand the guy $2, be prepared to do some haggling. Fair warning.

5. Most importantly, have the phone numbers of the US Embassy 24hr hotline pre-programmed into your phone and be sure to test the numbers – sometimes the international dialing codes can be tricky and you don’t want to be figuring out if you need the +1 before the number when you’re in the middle of a crisis.

6. Finally, use your resources. Talk to friends who have been there in the past. Use the hotel concierge as a reference. Read the Embassy home page. Google safety tips for the area you’re going to visit, and read up on the local news.

I’ve been blessed with the good fortune of having traveled to 164 of the world’s countries. I’ve experienced something beautiful and memorable in all of them.

Travel safe, travel smart, and don’t forget to take that photo…you’ll wish you had later

  • http://www.artinphoenix.com/gallery/grimm snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    Common sense – learn to exercise it and listen to your intuition; if overseas something about a situation does not feel right, be on guard.

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  • http://youtu.be/0iRCvDwF26Q Sam Fisher

    I say don’t go overseas. 

    • http://twitter.com/nutts2020 nutt

      Yeah. Stay indoors as well. In a locked room.

      • http://youtu.be/0iRCvDwF26Q Sam Fisher

        I see that you still think you are better than everyone else.

        • http://twitter.com/nutts2020 nutt

          So how do you arrive at that conclusion?

  • Anonymous

    I had a laminated color-copy of my passport (and visa) with me in West Africa; I was glad I did when faced with a soldier at a checkpoint with a machine
    gun who was “joking” about not giving it back to me unless I agreed to marry him!

  • http://twitter.com/nutts2020 nutt

    Try learning some basic phrases in the local language – even ‘do you speak English?’ or ‘I don’t speak xxx’, as well as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ open people up to you with very little effort on your part.  It doesn’t matter how poorly your pronunciation is, the attempt works wonders.

  • astds

    You can come to Israel we love American Tourists as we love to speak  English with them and you know what Israel is safe for tourists and for Israeli citizens as well.

  • Anonymous

    Israel is the safest place to be. Just got back and I recommend it highly. Learn to say, ‘”Bo ker tov” and you”ll be just fine. Shalom!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing those points!  The laminated copy of your passport and the phone numbers for emergencies are crucial, including for the police & ambulance.  
    In addition to courtesy phrases, I would also suggest learning the local currency so that you are not taken advantage of once you arrive in any country.  
    And always be on the alert for pickpockets in crowds at touristy events or monuments.  They often use a friend to distract you.  
    Also, beware of “friendly” people too willing to use your camera to take a photo of you then he/she runs off with it!  Met several people who trusted naively and lost.  Unfortunately, it is often difficult to distinguish between a genuinely ‘friendly’ person and a fake one, so we often choose on the side of caution.    
    Be quick to listen and slow to speak, especially in public, taxis, buses, hotel lobbies, etc.  Don’t call attention to yourself by being “loud Americans” and letting strangers hear your plans for the day, away from the hotel or home base.
    Don’t feel intimidated by vendors to go into their shops or to buy items you don’t really want to buy.  It is not rude.  Do not say “I’ll come back later” if you don’t really intend to.  They will remember your face and hold you to your promise!  
    Vendors like to barter in Israel so don’t pay the first price they quote.  I am told that they expect you to barter.  Some are offended if you don’t.
    Learn as much as you can regarding their customs.  They appreciate the effort you took to learn.
    We always start our day’s journey with a prayer, “Thy will be done today, Lord.  Use us to be a blessing to those you put in our path; and when You bless us through others may our hearts be grateful!  Open our eyes to see the needs of others and to see Your awesome beauty in nature and people all around us!  Amen.”  It makes for great and adventurous days!  We have met fantastic people and taken amazing photos around us!  :) 

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