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Security Tips for Americans Traveling Abroad

Planning A Trip Overseas? 
(ARA) - With many Americans planning trips overseas, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. And with more adventure and eco-travelers, Americans are going to more remote areas of the world. At the same time, kidnappings, muggings, hotel break-ins and other crimes are also on the increase. Having a plan to handle medical and security problems before leaving is one way to reduce the odds that problems will occur. 

International SOS, the world's largest medical and security assistance company, recently hosted a security roundtable for a number of its members. One result of the conference was a number of travel tips based on circumstances that most travelers, no matter how experienced, don't consider until it's too late. Among the tips: 

- When possible, avoid taxis. Ask your hotel's concierge to recommend a driver or car service. 

- If you must take a taxi or limo, don't volunteer information about your trip, its duration or its purpose to your driver. It's nobody's business but your own. 

- Put your luggage into the trunk of a taxi or car by yourself after the driver gets out and opens the trunk for you. 

- Request a room on a lower, but not the ground, floor in your hotel. Ground floor rooms are less secure while rooms above floor six are too high for most conventional fire equipment to reach. 

- Most hotel locks are not secure. Purchase small, inexpensive door and window locks and use them when traveling. 

- If you have arranged for transportation at the airport, have a mutually agreed-upon object or password that is known only to you and the driver/company picking you up instead of having your name on a placard. 

- Bring a small flashlight with you on your trip. Having a flashlight will make you feel more secure if the power goes off. 

- Always have the "do not disturb" sign on your door, and don't let anyone who is unidentified into your room (confirm through view-hole if possible). 

- If you are a woman traveling alone, bring a package of men's boxer shorts with you. Before answering the door to your hotel room put the package on your bed, turn on the shower and close the bathroom door -- your visitor will think you're not alone. 

- When leaving your hotel room, leave the "do not disturb" sign on your door and turn your TV onto the local language station. Any unwelcome guests will assume you are in, and are a local. 

- Buy plastic connectors that you can place on your luggage when leaving your room. It won't prevent someone from opening your bags, but it will tell you if someone has opened them and taken something or placed contraband items such as drugs in them. 

- Never stay in a hotel with hard keys. Hotels with security cards are safer. Keys have a way of being passed around. 

- Dress comfortably and try to fit in. Wearing clothes that are the height of fashion tells potential muggers or scam artists that you're foreign and well off. 

- Don't advertise your nationality. Wearing a "hip" tee shirt that announces your nationality often attracts the wrong kind of attention. Try to look like everyone else. 

- Don't use business cards as luggage tags, or any of the prestigious credit card or designer tags that provide more information than is absolutely necessary -- thieves look for tags they recognize. 

- Don't allow yourself to be distracted when sightseeing. Scams on unsuspecting travelers often begin with someone trying to distract their attention. Be aware that scam artists often work in pairs or groups and use distractions to give them time to rip off tourists. 

- Consider purchasing a traveling insurance policy or join a travel assistance program such as International SOS. For as little as $55 for two weeks, you are never more than a toll-free call away from medical, security or travel-related assistance. 

Courtesy of ARA Content,  e-mail: 

EDITOR'S NOTE: SOS is the world's leading medical assistance company, with a dedicated network of 24-hour Alarm Centers on five continents, providing international travelers with global resources. Every SOS Alarm Center has full-time SOS doctors on duty around the clock to help with medical advice and the coordination of care for SOS members. Last year, International SOS handled more than 150,000 medical intervention cases and more than 11,000 medical evacuation cases. 

International SOS provides a variety of plans for individual travelers as well as couples, families and students. You can enroll or get further information about International SOS by visiting their Web site at  phoning (800) 523-8662, or writing them at International SOS, Eight Neshaminy Interplex, Ste. 207, Trevose, PA 19053-6956. 

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