Perpetual Traveller Overseas

Perpetual Traveller Political Security Watch - Week 20

Perpetual Traveller Political Security Watch - Week 20

The most dangerous place is where you are right now, so if Government and Political Turmoil conflicts with your travel plans you may be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. As such, Perpetual Traveller will review the Political landscape each week to give it's readers the heads up.

Here is Week 20:

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Expect heightened security, avoid vicinity of rally by Turkish president on 20 May
On 20 May expect heightened security and plan routes avoiding a rally led by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan is leading the rally as part of his overseas campaigning for the 4 June Turkish general elections. He will be speaking at a convention of the European Turkish Democrats at Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic Hall, where he will also address Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) groups. The event is expected to last until after Erdogan breaks fast for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at around 20.10 (local time).

Burundi: UPDATE Continue to exercise caution ahead of results of constitutional referendum
Essential travel to Burundi should continue to monitor developments and exercise caution following the 17 May referendum on controversial constitutional amendments. The vote passed off largely without incident; however, there remains a credible risk of unrest around the results, which are due to be announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) on 19 May. The opposition has rejected the amendments and numerous activists have been detained since the launch of an unofficial government mobilisation campaign in December 2017.

Côte d'Ivoire: Addition of information on political rallies ahead of local elections 

Local elections are scheduled to take place late in 2018. The dates have not been announced, but political rallies are likely to become more frequent during the course of the year. In the event of unrest, monitor local media and follow instructions given by local police and security personnel.

East Timor: UPDATE Heightened security following parliamentary elections
Expect heightened security following the release of the results of the 12 May parliamentary election. Voting took place without major incident. The Change for Progress Alliance (AMP) opposition coalition, led by former prime minister Xanana Gusmao (2007-15), won, securing 34 out of 65 parliamentary seats. Isolated incidents of unrest, which previously occurred during the campaign period, are still possible in the coming days. Members should confirm the status of routes prior to setting out and avoid all political gatherings.

Venezuela: Avoid all political gatherings in lead-up to, during and after elections on 20 May
Only consider essential travel to Venezuela in the coming weeks and avoid all political gatherings and the vicinity of polling stations ahead of and during nationwide presidential, legislative, and municipal elections on 20 May. The National Electoral Commission has said that voting will take place at 14,600 polling centres across the country on the day. Several planned demonstrations by the opposition are likely in the lead-up to and in the aftermath of the vote. However, impromptu, isolated disturbances are also possible, and heightened tensions during polls may result in sporadic incidents of localised unrest, particularly in the vicinity of government buildings and polling stations.

The thorny issue of Hotel Security

As an avid female business traveller who occasionally travels alone, I know all too well those nagging feelings of insecurity, especially when one checks into a Hotel for the first time. I place my personal (including possessions) security as a high priority and thankfully Hotels are now beginning to take this viewpoint more seriously these days, especially within the EU borders. I’m pleased to see that Hotels particularly in the EU are taking some positive measures to improve Hotel security and safety overall and the decision of the EU to hold all Hotels responsible for the contents has made a great difference.

For example in the UK, a Hotel is liable for damage or loss to guests’ property caused by negligence or breach of contract. In other circumstances, the Hotel may limit its liability to £50 per item and £100 per Guest (or if in Greater London, £750 per item and £1,500 per guest) so long as it has a correct and prominently displayed notice to this effect in its reception. Each EU country has their own specific take on the broader regulations, which can be viewed as inconsistent, however the key point is that steps have been taken in the right direction.

Nevertheless, Hotels dislike talking about security, as theft and other crimes still happen on their premises and watch. Precisely how much happens is impossible to pinpoint, because Hotels do not disclose numbers and all too often government statistics do not record crimes by property type. One misconception and the easier blame game answer falls on Maids concerning room thefts, but now we learn that criminals have found new ground to explore.

So Ladies and the Gentlemen, here are some top tips on the thorny topic of Hotel security to counter the threat.
  1. Check-in Online: This is a relatively new Hotel service. There is nothing worse than standing at the front desk waiting to be served after a long journey to the back of beyond, only to wait further until the Receptionist takes a copy of your passport, then of your Credit card (make sure there are no extra copies floating around) and requests that you fill in a record card asking for your personal data in a Public space. Then you have to start negotiating your room preference and get briefed on the general Hotel information. After this long process (certainly so for some Hotels) you are finally handed the all important key and the front desk staff shouts out your room number for everyone else to hear! If you are travelling alone as a women you don’t want the world to know your room No. or become familiar with your private data, nor do you want an undesirable to observe it on a temporary luggage label, which is whisked away (often without permission) by the Bell Boy hungry for a tip. Checking in online and dealing with the Bell Boy assertively avoids much of this danger.
  2. Floor: If you're a woman traveling alone, request a room on the second or third floor, as close as possible to the front desk without being on the ground floor or first floor, which are too close for comfort to the exit or entrance. Statistically upper floors are safer from crime threats, however not ideal for fire rescue, where your chances of escape are best from the 5th floor down. In the light of this information a balance of half way up, could provide the safest results, all things considered.
  3. Locks: Check what the locking facilities are in your room such as the Deadbolt, Electronic lock or sliding bar. Use them!
  4. Door: Keep the door locked at all times when in your room. When you arrive to your room for the first time, check that the sliding glass doors, windows and connecting room doors are firmly locked.
  5. Do-Not-Disturb: Put the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the doorknob even when you are away, this naturally deters room burglars.
  6. TV: Turn on the TV or radio just loud enough to hear through the door to give the appearance that the room is occupied.
  7. Light: Leave one light on inside the room. This gives the appearance that someone is in from the outside.
  8. Inspection: Always go through the same room inspection routine every time you re-enter.
  9. Female advice: Women traveling alone should be careful when using the breakfast order card. This card has your name and the room No. boldly displayed; criminals can knock on the door posing as room service and use your name to gain entry. Alternatively, they could use the information later to gain access to your room. Here they will likely call the room first and if there is no answer, force entry.
  10. Spy hole: If there is a spy hole, check it first before you answer the door.
  11. Safety kit: Bring your own Hotel safety kit with you, which most importantly should feature a smoke hood, torch and personal alarm.
  12. Finding things: Place your key, torch and Mobile phone in your shoes, by the side of your bed, so that you can find them quickly in the event of an emergency or loss of light.
  13. Emergency numbers: Remember that if you are visiting a foreign country, you do not have to know the local emergency numbers. Most GSM mobile phones can dial emergency calls even when the phone keyboard is locked, the phone is without a SIM card, or an emergency number is entered instead of the PIN. Most GSM mobile phones have 112 and 911 as pre-programmed emergency numbers that are always available. The SIM card issued by operator can contain additional country-specific emergency numbers that can be used even when roaming abroad. Using an emergency number recognized by a GSM phone like 112 instead of another emergency number is advantageous, since GSM phones and networks give special priority to emergency calls.
We hope that you feel a little safer on your next trip, knowing that you can at least take some precautions to protect yourself.

Sharon Holmes
Perpetual Traveller

How to travel and lose weight in synergy while reversing the tide of age; now that’s NEAT!

As I passed the 50 year old mark and the kilo count started to gradually rise, I resorted to all manner of excuses such as “I have heavy bones”, “my metabolic rate is extremely low” or my recent favorite (somewhat justified until now) “I just don’t have time to workout due my business schedule”. If I travel overseas every week, how can I possibly join a Gym for example or follow any regular fitness schedule? Now I have found the answer and it appears to be rather compelling, so I would like to share!

The fact is that science is moving fast in the field of weight regulation. The latest “Buzz Word” that has gained traction and worthy attention is a phenomenon called "NEAT" (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). For purposes of simplicity, this involves the energy expended in everything we physically do that does not involve eating, sleeping or sport-related activities. Examples of such every day physical activity are merely walking to work or to a meeting, typing, fidgeting around, walking whilst on the phone, merely talking (many Ladies are good at that) or performing other necessary daily tasks, such as active Shopping, Gardening or Cleaning.

In a study of sedentary lean and overweight people, they were fitted with special underwear that monitored every single movement of their bodies. These subjects were specifically fed 1000 calories above their weight maintenance levels. The results were remarkable, whereby those who engaged in a NEAT program did not gain fat despite being overfed. Conversely, those who did not switch to a NEAT program gained literally 10 times more fat!

More precisely, those who were obese moved around 2½ hours less than lean people, which equates to about 350 fewer calories a day. The results show that ambulation movement seemed to make a notable difference. For clarity this did not come in the form of pre-planned power walking, but instead by constantly taking every potential opportunity to move. It is also worth noting too, that most of the subjects had desk jobs.

Just think about the scenarios; there is no reason why people cannot potentially talk on the phone and walk around at the same time or hold one-on-one meetings while walking, or move around whilst cooking or even heaven forbid selecting different activities at the weekend that are perhaps not so screen-related.

The facts speak for themselves
About 30% of a person's daily expenditure comes from NEAT (the other portions are from basal metabolism and the thermic effect of eating). Those who are active have higher percentages of NEAT. Moreover, this is a factor we can assume control over. Put simple, NEAT burns more calories than exercise in most non-athletes.

It will come as no surprise to you to when thinking logically, that in the last 100 years, we have imposed an almighty environmental kibosh on our ancient biology. To illustrate 150 years ago, 90% of the world's population were agriculturists.

NEAT is certainly part of the solution to combat poor health and weight for Perpetual Travellers, however it does not mean we can eat what we like! A balanced protein rich controlled calorie diet when travelling combined with an optimized NEAT program will certainly make a difference to your health, weight and well-being.

I designed this article to motivate those of you who need it the most to shape your own movement-oriented habits when travelling or at home, that will help you reverse the tide of age and the challenges that come with frequent travel.

Here are some top suggestions to help you travel NEAT
  • Use the stairs always at Airports, Train Stations, Cruise Ships, Hotels or Shopping Malls and not the lift or Escalator.
  • Refrain from using the moving walkway at Airports, go on your own steam.
  • If you are just a little late, run or brisk walk to your gate.
  • Every so often physically carry your bag and avoid the wheels.
  • Help old Ladies or people that are struggling to take off their luggage from the Baggage reclaim. That goes for loading luggage too at check-ins and over hanging Luggage cabin spaces on planes, trains and even on a Ferry.
  • When the Bell Boy offers to take your Luggage to your room, politely refuse. Do it yourself! By the way once my partner left the Bell Boy to take the luggage to the room and when we returned from lunch we found her bag and shirt on a hanger still in Reception for all to see. So with travel NEAT you can always keep an eye on your possessions too.
  • Window Shop and walk the length and breadth of the Airport, as you wait for your flight.
  • When embarking the train walk to the very last carriage. Take a walk on the train too. Keeping your balance, also keep you fit.
  • When on the phone walk around, it’s good for you!
  • When going to a Business Meeting get dropped off close to the venue or Hotel and walk the rest.
  • When staying at a Hotel for Business, use the Pool and swim, even if only for fun.
  • When on the plane do your leg exercises.
  • When unpacking do it in a rush and move around the room.
  • Take a walk around the Hotel to see all the facilities, meet the staff and check the fire route.
There are of course numerous other ways that one can enhance NEAT activity and we welcome readers comments and suggestions.

Stay slim and travel NEAT!

Grant Holmes
Editor Perpetual Traveller

10 Tips for Staying Safe in International Cities

Most of what I know about being streetwise came from living in New York in the late ‘70s and ‘80s in the period following the bankruptcy of the city in the mid-70s.

The infrastructure was a mess with cracks and potholes in city streets. Mental patients were released from hospitals and wandering the streets. A reduction in law enforcement capacity engendered a climate of lawlessness. It was a heyday for thieves and criminals on the city streets.

It seemed that nearly every time I went out on the street I witnessed some sort of incident, a disturbed person throwing karate chops at passersby, a fight that stopped traffic, a crying victim. It took many years for the city to get its house in order again and to become the relatively safe city it is today. But I did learn some things about how to stay safe in a big city. It was a concentrated test tube environment in which to view the dynamics of street crime.

All cities have their dangerous elements. For visitors who don’t know their way around, there are always those who will try to take advantage. Some cities are worse than others and some parts of cities are worse than others. It’s important to learn from trustworthy locals which parts of the city to avoid.

Here are some principles for staying safe when you are in an unfamiliar city.

Be alert. This is the primary axiom of street security. Try to always be aware of what is around you, especially anyone who seems to be focusing intently on you and getting into your personal space for no legitimate reason that you know of. The very fact that you are aware will cause most who may wish to do you harm to search for an easier target.

Be focused and directed. If you are headed somewhere and doing something with the momentum of determination, you will elude most trouble. You will pass before most criminally inclined people have time to focus on you and prepare an approach.

Look as if you know what you are doing. If you are lost, it is better not to be too obvious about it. You may be able to seek help from a well-meaning local, but you must also be wary of those who may wish to take advantage of you. If you are lost, try slipping into a safe and secluded area to study your map, make a phone call or if possible you may want to hail a taxi.

Present a moving target. If you appear to be headed to a destination and you are moving, you will probably pass through any area before a thief or thug has a chance to focus in on you and prepare an approach. If someone starts trying to engage you, just moving on can usually shake them. There are times and places to stop and take it easy, but always remain aware of what is around you, and if you are approached by something that feels strange, move.

The playwright August Strindberg believed at one point that he could make himself invisible in crowds. You may not be able to make yourself invisible, but you can get into a flow with the movement around you that helps you to avoid any head-on collisions with trouble.

Suspend your conditioning. Most of the time in life you want to be polite and courteous, but when dealing with a thief or confidence man, you just want to end any conversation as quickly as possible. In instances when you are dealing with a person with ill intentions, you may have to shake your conditioning about being polite. You may have to ignore them and get away, even if they are in the middle of a sentence, even if it feels rude to do so.

Confidence men and tricksters are skilled at turning your best character traits, such as kindness and politeness, against you. Stay kind, but be ready to suspend your conditioning in cases of encountering people will bad intentions.

Gravitate toward populated areas. Every city has gathering places where people congregate. In general those are the safer places. It’s in those little side streets and dark corners where no one is watching where danger may lurk. There is danger for thieves and criminals too: the danger of being apprehended and incarcerated. In areas where many people congregate there is too much risk of being identified or apprehended.

Don’t appear vulnerable. There’s a grim joke that illustrates this. Two men suddenly see a bear and one starts rapidly tying his shoes. The other says, “Why are you tying your shoes? You can’t outrun a bear.” The answer, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.” The fact is, criminals are looking for an easy target. If you look like you might present too many problems, they’ll pass by you and look for an easier target. In self defense, you don’t have to be stronger than your adversary, just be more trouble than it’s worth.

Be inscrutable. When being approached by someone with a con, someone presenting a proposition that seems illegitimate, sometimes it’s effective to give the silent treatment. By not responding in the expected manner, you may throw them off. If you don’t answer, if you register no sign of understanding, they will have to draw their own conclusions about why. You may be deaf. You may not speak the language. Or you may be crazy. Muhammad Ali used this tactic when he stalked Sonny Liston and created public scenes in the run-up to his first heavyweight championship fight. He did it mostly for publicity, but also to unnerve Liston and make him think he might actually be crazy. “Any sane man fears a crazy man,” said Ali. If you find yourself becoming a target, you may wish to appear inscrutable to your adversary. Even a criminal does not want to fool around with a crazy person.

Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, if someone’s approach seems strange, if an area has a strange vibe, avoid it. You are endowed with good survival instincts. Pay attention to them. If you feel strange about someone or something, take steps to avoid it or go a different way immediately.

Use destination management services. The tour operators and destination management companies that work in any destination are the best way to ensure your safety, as well as to guide you to what you want and help you make the most of your trip. With a professional ally at the destination, you will not be vulnerable and won’t have to worry about the dangerous elements in any city.

Also avail yourself of the services of the hotel concierge and front desk services to get good information on where to go and where not to go.

But even when you are completely on your own, you can stay safe and elude people with bad intentions by observing simple principles. If you do, then no city is really dangerous and you can make the most of all a great city has to offer.

Source: Travel Pulse, Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

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