Every year, hundreds of thousands of business travelers go to all points of the globe. A business traveler’s personal safety is always potentially at risk – even if their destination is just a short distance away.
Below are some basic safety tips that when followed, can help make you less vulnerable when on the road.
1. Don’t Go Solo – If possible don’t travel alone. If you do have to travel alone, set up scheduled times to check in with someone at home. If you don’t check in, they will immediately know that something is wrong.
2. Be Aware – Being aware of your surroundings is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself safe. If something seems unusual or out of place – it probably is. Trust your instincts.
3. Don’t Stand Out – Avoid behavior or dress that will make you stand out from the crowds – especially when traveling overseas.
4. Know the Area – It is important to be up to date on the area that you are traveling to. This includes any travel warnings and any regional/local issues, especially political. You should also be familiar with where you will be staying and the places you will need to visit while you are there.
Visit the State Department’s website (travel.state.gov) for information about the country you will be visiting. They will also post any travel warnings or alerts. For additional information, call the U.S. Department of Transportation Travel Advisory and Airport Safety Hotline (800-221-0673).
5. Have a Code Word – The number one way that people are kidnapped in foreign countries is by reading your name off of a sign that a driver is holding at the airport, duplicating the sign and standing in front of the real driver. To avoid this, have a code word that you can ask from the driver.
6. Your Hotel – Avoid hotels with rooms that open to the outside and rooms on the first floor. Be sure to use the extra lock on your door and to secure all valuables. Know where the emergency exits and stairwells are. In the event of an emergency, you want to know exactly where to go.
7. Meet in Public Areas – Never use your hotel room for meetings. Treat it as you would your bedroom at home – as a personal space for sleeping.
8. Know What You Have – Make photocopies of your driver license, credit cards (front and back) and passport. In case they are lost or stolen, you will know exactly what you had and for your credit cards, you can easily call the customer service numbers to cancel them. Keep the photocopies in a safe place or scan them and e-mail them to yourself. If you use a web-based e-mail service, you will be able to get to the documents anywhere you have internet access.
9. For Female Travelers – Female business travelers are at a greater risk when traveling, especially overseas. Wear a wedding ring – even if you are single. A cheap, fake ring can go a long way in deterring criminals. Also, wearing your hair down or in a pony tail should be avoided; this makes an easy way for someone to grab you.
10. Have a Plan – In case something does happen it is important to have a plan and a good support system. Discuss with your family/friends what to do in case of an emergency. The U.S. Department of State has a Citizen’s Emergency center that you can contact for assistance in case of an emergency situation abroad – 202-647-0900.