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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to Michaelbman2002@netzero.com
Safety Overseas

Before I get started, I would like to thank Hal Eisner and the contributors for some terrific articles in the wake of those cowardly acts of terrorism committed against our fellow citizens. Your valuable insight has been second to none.

Another benefit to HalEisner.com is the chance to communicate with fellow journalists and renew old acquaintances. A dear friend of mine, with whom I had lost contact three years ago, found me through [his website] HalEisner.com. We reminisced for a few minutes about our days at KCOP and vowed to stay in touch.

Then she popped the question, no not that question. Sheís planning an October trip to Europe and wanted to know if it was safe to fly, and would she be safe once she arrived?

If we can take anything positive from the horrific acts of September 11, 2001, air travel is probably the safest itís ever been. International air travel has, for the most part, always been safer than domestic flights. Having said that, most, if not all nations have stepped up their already tight security on flights to and from the United States.

I urged my dear friend to take the trip, but prepare for the unexpected. First and foremost, when traveling overseas you and you alone are responsible for your safety. Your initial reaction when the unexpected happens could mean life or death. To make those quick decisions, youíll need information about your destination. Hereís a quick list of what youíll need.
The location and local phone number of the US Embassy
The location and phone number of the Canadian, British and Australian Embassies (Iíll explain in a moment)
The latest information on any unrest in your host country, especially as it pertains to attacks on Americans.
Have your travel agents phone number and any local contacts they can provide at your destination
Learn as much as possible about the country you plan to visit. ˇ Learn the language
Read the US State Department Travel Advisories and Warnings
There is a huge difference between State Department warnings and the less restrictive advisory. If an advisory is issued, read it carefully and include it as part of your overall fact gathering about your destination. An advisory could be about anything from a health scare to minor forms of political unrest. Advisoriesí do not prohibit you from travel theyíre meant to keep you informed. The more serious travel warning is usually associated with imminent danger to Americans with a high probability of attacks on U.S. interests.
In most cases the U.S. Embassy in those countries will be closed and unable to help should the need arise. All travel to the Middle East should be avoided for the foreseeable future. The United States has many good friends in the Middle East, but fanatics have been know to rear their ugly heads in the safest of countries in that part of the world. Ok, so now youíve arrived at your destination. What precautions should you take to insure your safety?
Do not show your U.S. passport unless an airport, airline or customs official demands to see it. Your identity is yours and yours alone.
Become familiar with your surroundings and pay attention
If youíre fortunate enough to have a local guide, have them point out safety zones where you can hide in the event the unforeseen happens ˇ If you plan on going to a highly traveled tourist attraction find escape. routes in case something happens. Terrorists look for places like these to plant bombs or plan other nefarious acts of terrorism.
If youíre with a large crowd try to separate yourself a little to make it harder to be a target.
By all means stop acting like arrogant Americans. I donít mean that as a condemnation of our way of life, but no country on the planet enjoys the freedoms and consumer resources at our disposal. One sure fire way to insult the people of foreign lands is to flaunt our comparative wealth. Unless youíre going to Monaco or some equally ritzy destination, leave the expensive jewelry, furs and other high-priced items at home.
How you dress is also very important. Donít advertise yourself as an American. Donít wear clothing plastered with American flags, or wear distasteful t-shirts with logos advertising drugs, sex or violence. Respect the customs of the locals and dress conservatively.
When it comes to handling money, have smaller bills of local currency readily available and hide the rest of your money. When you tip the locals, you arenít pulling out big wads of money that could make you a target for crime later. What should you do if violence breaks out? ˇ Get away from the violence as quickly as possible.
Try to blend in with the locals
Earlier I mentioned Canadian, British and Australian Embassies. If violence does occur often times the U.S. Embassy comes under attack. These other embassies will help protect you
Avoid your hotel if itís a known haven for American tourists Remember your safety is your responsibility. Do not depend on local officials to protect you, especially if youíre headed to countries with less than stable governments. Understand the country youíre in and exercise some degree of common sense. That common sense could be your best friend.
 



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