Travel Safe in Turbulent Times

Know before you go Get educated about the various local cultures, their history and the reasons for their unrest, before you embark on your trip. Grab an up-to-date travel guide to learn about the country, its laws and its customs. There are always interesting facts to learn, and some of them might just help, if you do get into trouble. Bring the guide with you, for further study during downtime on your trip. Just make sure you aren't walking the streets with your nose in the travel book, looking like a hapless tourist. You will stick out really bad, and you won't be as aware of your surroundings. Both of these points make you an easier target for local troublemakers. Photo:Malias
Learn the lingo It's always a good idea to learn some key phrases of the primary language in a foreign country. "Can you point toward the American Embassy?" - "Where is the bathroom?" - "I do not understand you." - "One beer please" - "I only speak a little of your language." These are all great phrases to learn. Just make sure you are pronouncing them right, or you could be adding to your trouble, instead of helping yourself. Photo: Woodleywondeworks
Memorize the lay of the land You should know the streets like the back of your hand. Know the geographical features like waterways and mountain ranges. Know which way the big river flows, like south to north. Learn the features of the land, both natural and manmade, to give yourself a sense of direction and a sense of comfort. Do your best to have a photographic memory of your maps. If you can pull off the trick of knowing "you are here↓" on the map in your head at all times, you'll never be completely lost again. This kind of planning ahead also works for more than just getting in and out of a city overrun with an angry mob. This mental map with a "you are here" feature can be a great help in the wilderness, too. Photo: Wyscan
Don't Forget Your Map Like I mentioned with the travel book, don't walk around with your map flapping in the wind. You'll look too much like what you actually are… an outsider. Keep the map with you both in your head and in real life. Just keep the paper map out of view. Don't forget a compass either. If you can't read the street signs, or the roads are laid out crazy, your compass will be really useful. FYI - This will seem really obvious, but it's worth mentioning. If you have a poor quality map (or God forbid - some ink jet printer map) the rain or a spilled drink will ruin your map very quickly. I know someone who had the rain turn their ink jet map into a useless watercolor picture. Don't say I didn't warn you. Photo:UCFFool
Set up a phone call schedule Have a "check in" plan set up before your trip, or set a plan up at the first sign of unexpected trouble when you are already overseas. Have a friend, family member or coworker expecting a phone call from you at a certain time every day. This way, if you run into a problem, someone else knows that something is wrong. Photo: Oracio Alvarado
Don't forget your passport This one is very obvious. Lose your passport somewhere, and you may not get out of the country, at least not very easily. Your passport is your ticket home. Guard it as such. You may need it for ID here and there. It will make a BIG difference if you are stopping by the local US Embassy. Guarding your passport is a no-brainer. Photo: Damian613
Keep a copy of your passport Ok… let's say you had a problem, like robbery. Your passport is AWOL. You can plan ahead for this kind of problem by keeping a photocopy of the relevant passport pages. Keep this copy in a secure location, so you have it as a backup. Realistically, it's not worth much more than the paper it's printed on, but it's better than nothing. Photo: Beige Alert
Bring a driver's license Many places honor driver's licenses from other countries. I don't know why. They may not even drive on the same side of the road. But regardlessof any discrepancies, your license may be good enough for the rental carplace, or the local police. And it's also a great piece of secondary ID. Photo: courtneyBolton
Copy of important docs Keep a copy of your driver's license, birth certificate, medical insurance papers and any other important documents in a secure location. You will want to protect these copies as much as the originals, because the document copies would give identity thieves everything they need to take over your data. And while we are mentioning insurance, call your medical insurance company well before your trip to find out their policies about coverage of your treatment when you are traveling abroad. Don't just expect the dirt floor hospital of West B.F. Egypt to take your Blue Cross card. Photo: clevercupcakes
Bring a sat phone (and hide it like your life depends on it) My friend Tient is from Burma. He lives here in the US now, and was very proud to get a satellite phone as a gift for his parents back in Burma. That phone is worth roughly a year's wages in that part of the world. Now they can talk often, but this luxury causes them all some worry. Tient's parents must keep the phone a secret, because people kill for these phones in their part of Burma. This is not an isolated theme. A sat phone is a hot piece of gear to have in developing nations, and other places that are off the beaten path. If you needed it, it could be a lifesaver. But if it was discovered by the wrong people, it could be a serious liability. You might want to keep that thing on "vibrate" as you wander through the world. Photo:Jarvist Frost
Do you know where your Embassy is? Seriously, do you know where the local US Embassy is? Do you know its position like a homing pigeon? Ok, then point to it right now. You should know which way to run, in case of mayhem. These folks are your best link to home in many cases. You need to know the nature of the local "outpost". It could be an Embassy, a Consulate or a Diplomatic Mission. As I mentioned earlier, learn the local primary language phrase "How do I get to the Embassy?." Photo:Dru Bloomfield - At Home in Scottsdale
Know someone at your Embassy When you are doing research to travel to a hot spot, or if one flares up around you, make a phone call to your local Embassy or US outreach. Speak with a fellow American if possible, and let them know your situation. Make sure they know your location and details. Find out any relevant information about the local conflict, too. The State Department's Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management (ACS) supports our overseas embassies and consulates in providing emergency services to Americans traveling or living abroad. They also assist in non-emergency matters of birth, identity, passport, citizenship, registration, judicial assistance and other matters. Photo:C.G.P. Grey
Blend in Remember the points I mentioned about not walking around with your travel book and tourist map out in the open? You need to blend in better than that. Dress and look more like a local, to a point that is reasonable. Observe the local customs of dress, and understand who needs to cover up what. Don't be too chatty or too loud either. Your different language or manner of speech will be a dead giveaway that you are not from around those parts. Photo: John Kroll
Be familiar with the local transportation What do the local taxi cabs look like? How do you spot a fake taxi that would drive you down a back alley and rob you? How do you catch the bus? What parasites would you catch if you rode that animal? There are many things to consider when learning the local transportation system. Learn them. It matters. Photo:David Mckelvey
Money makes the world go 'round You've heard the old adage about "All your eggs in one basket". Don't keep all your money in one spot. Also, find out the easiest and safest ways to get more money, if you run out or get robbed. Photo:Bradipo
**Hire a guide… or a body guard ** A reputable guide or body guard may be worth their weight in gold, if they can keep you out of trouble. Don't just hire anybody. Do your best to check them out with reputable people. Photo: Jauanpol
Safety in numbers Always travel in a group, or at least with one other person. It's just too easy for several criminals to get the better of you, especially when they have numbers and a "home court" advantage. Travel in a group to take advantage of Mother Nature's recipe for survival - strength in numbers. Photo:donjd2
Safe meds, food and water "I want a beer, in the bottle - I'll uncap it myself, thank you." Add that phrase to your linguistics studies before your travel. Be in charge of your food, water and medicines as much as possible. During mayhem, don't expect the food, water and wine to keep flowing like they always did. Have some back-ups in place, like a stash of food and drinks where you are staying. Select stuff that would be tamper evident, as a way for your stuff to guard itself while you are gone. Photo:Bernt Rostad
Smart Traveller Enrollment Program The State Department has a great program for travelers called STEP. This is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program which offers many safety benefits, and it is even free of charge. When you sign up, you will automatically receive the most current information about the country where you will be traveling or living. You will also receive Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts when appropriate. The State Department assisted U.S. citizens after the earthquake in Haiti, evacuating over 16,700 U.S. citizens. During the civil unrest in Lebanon in 2006, they assisted nearly 15,000 U.S. citizens. In 2004, they helped thousands after the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Photo:Wonderlane
Guard your plane ticket Guard that ticket. It's a tough call where you keep such a valuable. If you keep it on your person, it could be taken if you are robbed. If you leave it somewhere, it could disappear while you are gone. Today's technology can make up for ticket loss in some cases, but an airport that is behind the times may insist on that physical airplane ticket. Talk to your airline about ticket replacement and ticket requirements before you travel. Schedule direct flights whenever possible. Minimize your time hanging around in the airport if possible. Photo: alex-s
Each year, over 6,000 Americans die abroad. Most of these folks are living overseas and succumbing to the typical fates like accident, illness or age. But unfortunately, some are lost due to violence. Be vigilant as you travel. Be skeptical of new friends. Don't drink the water, and learn all you can before you have to travel overseas, especially to the world's "HotSpots." For more travel information and to sign up for the STEP, visit the StateDepartment's travel website Travel warily, Tim MacWelch OL Survival Expert Photo: Zboula

With daily news updates of Egyptian and Middle Eastern turmoil, the editors at OL Survival and I wanted to provide you with some travel advice for making your way in political hot spots. Pick a country, any country, and you will find places that you should not go. Add in political upheaval, and the best parts of town get as rough as the worst parts of town. In this photo gallery, I will give you some techniques for safer travels, wherever you go. Safe journeys.