Bribery When Traveling

 

This is not an avocation for Bribery, How ever out side of developed western countries, What we call bribery is much more prevalent, and often deeply routed in the culture of the country.

This should be looked into when doing your destination research so that you are not caught off guard when you are in country.

Often times it is not nefarious and seen as a fee for service in a country that is poorly funded and in some cases is not that expensive due to the exchange rate. In other cases it is a official or employee that is not trying to get rich and is trying to support their families.

This is often a moral issue with western travelers because they are raised in an environment where it is illegal, and looked down upon so heavily they wouldn’t consider doing it and struggle when the situation occurs over seas.

You need to understand that depending on where you’re traveling especially in less developed countries a “fee” or “Gift” may be required to things done. Consider it an incidental in most cases and chalk it up to cost of travel and to experience fully the country you’re visiting.

That being said it should be avoided when possible and no matter what your research turns up NEVER offer up a bribe. You don’t know how the person will react and its not worth the risk of going to jail in a foreign country. If it’s going to happen let them bring it up.

The cost of a bribe is going to be very dynamic. Its going to depend on country, city, who’s bribing you, and how many people are waiting behind you. The more people there are the cheaper the the bribe is likely to be because they can get more by demanding small amounts from a lot of people than having people refuse large amounts or walking away or causing more of a hassle.

 

This might not always come in the form of cash. One tactic that can keep you out of trouble is if your traveling with anything that might bring attention, unique gear, special equipment, or any other cool toys, bring extra if you can that you can give as “gifts” if someone shows increased interest in your gear at a check point.

Avoid pairs or groups of military or law enforcement when traveling. You wont likely be extorted for a bribe by. A lone officer as they have no back up if something doesn’t go their way. They will be more likely to demand a bribe if they are in a group where they can over power you if you refuse.

If they bring up a fee or a fine, this is a clue. Feign ignorance of the rules/laws and offer to pay the fine on the spot. Often this will be sufficient and they will offer up an amount.

This a prime example of why it’s important to always have cash on you, you can pay a bribe with a credit card. ( have heard some stories of having to pay with crypto recently but this is still likely an oddity at this point. Cash is still king.

This is also a reason to keep your cash in smaller amounts in multiple locations on your person so that you’re not pulling out all your cash at once. This way you can try to pay less by saying its all you have and if they take by force your not loosing all your money at once…..hopefully.

 

 

 

 

Juice Jacking

You have to be careful using your electronic devices in public especially when it comes to charging. Your probably wondering what possible threat there could be charging my devices in public. Believe me the threat is there.

Device charging cables especially tablet and phone cords can transmit data not just electricity to charge the battery. This is a huge security risk as more and more people store their financial and personal information, itineraries, medical records/data and everything damn near everything else on their phone.

This ability to transfer data means that when you plug into a public charging station there is the possibility that a third party could be harvesting data from your device or installing malware on to them.

The best thing you can do when you charge your phone in public is to make sure you plug into an outlet with your charger not directly into a USB port. This should eliminate the threat of data transfer via the charging cable. This is especially important if you are in a profession that tends to be highly targeted by hackers and criminals, or if you in a privileged position of a company and have access to more sensitive business information.

Another option that is available these days is a buffer of shorts that you plug you USB cable into before plugging it into the charging station. These are made generally to break the connection of the data terminals in the USB plug as well as alert you if data can be transferred by the plug your plugging into. (usually by a small LED light.) These can serve as a back up option if the location your at doesn’t have plain electrical outlets available. However I have not tested any of these first hand but they are on my list for the future.

A third option and currently the back up that I tend to lean towards is simply to have a back up battery pack with you. These devices are increasing in efficiently almost daily and getting smaller and smaller cause very little if any inconvenience to throw one in your bag when you travel to charge your phone if need be. The one I have is about the size of my cell phone in its case but allows me to charge my phone an additional 3 times. There are even those out there that store enough power to charge a laptop and are only about the size of paper back book.

The other main threat to data theft and malware in public is the WIFI. If you connect your phone or computer to a public wifi source this connects you to every device that is also connected to that wifi. This means that any device or user that is on that wifi can possibly access your device steal data, install malware and/or eavesdrop on your data traffic.

One defense to this threat is to not store any data on your actual device and keep it stored on an encrypted cloud service or server you can access remotely, although this is not always an option for most people. An alternative and/or additional defense is to use a trusted VPN. This will drastically limit the data traffic that can be eavesdropped upon by other users or the owner of the wifi. (see our trusted resources for our recommendations)

When paired with not keeping any data/files on your device, this means that there is nothing on the device for them to access, and you have drastically limited what traffic they can see, (they probably will be able to see that you are connected to a VPN but not much if anything beyond that. This however doesn’t completely eliminate the threat of them installing malware or other programs on your device.

This is done by firewalls installed directly onto your device. They can limit or eliminate outside connections to your device without your say so and alert you to attempts to connect to your device. This however is beyond the scope of this article and is something that we will cover in the future on its own.

 

 

 

 

Travel Caching

Caching is the pre-placement of mission essential supplies in concealed locations throughout the area your operating in for resupply or emergency situations. Caches are usually in either a secure location or concealed in some manner, some times both.

This is done extensively by government agencies and the military. Usually consisting of ammunition, food, water, medical, and other mission essential supplies. This is one of the reason that the military and government agencies establish bases or offices in multiple location through out their jurisdictions, and sometimes our side of their jurisdictions. This allows them to respond to emergencies faster by using the resources closest to the incident.

Caching also allows operators or operatives working in an area, to have access to supplies should they run out or encounter an emergency situation without having to return to base or if they are cut off from their home base.

Caching is also frequently talked about in the prepper community but usually consists of burying supplies for a long term survival scenario which is not always practical or apply to most people.

Travel caching however is becoming popular with people who travel a lot, especially those who travel to the same areas pretty regularly, and those who like to travel as lite as possible.

Travel Caching is great for those items that are specific or only needed for that area or that you often break, loose, or forget. This could be Coats/glove in a winter region, chargers, items that you have to replenish like toiletries or items you may not want to fly with such as pocket knives or other TSA restricted items.

SETTING UP A TRAVEL CACHE

First step is get the items to where you want to cache them. This could mean that you either fly with them once to get them there, purchase once you arrive, or send them ahead of time.

Then you need to find a place to store them securing once you leave. This could be leaving them in a bag at a friend’s or families house or your own property if you traveling to a vacation home. If you travel for business and you have an office space where you are going you might be able to leave them there. If your dedicated enough you can rent a self storage unit or if you can still find them a long term locker at airports or train station. These will cost you money and I do not know how available Long term lockers are any more as I haven’t seen one in years.

Caching can save you time and hassle or could possibly save your life depending on the situation. Either way this is a skill/habit you might want to consider taking up to make your travels and life easier and safer.

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Blending in or Not Standing Out

 

When ever people first purposefully try to blend in they usual go over the top and end up standing out more than they did before. Not just with clothing but body language too when you try to hard at something you give off unconscious indicators that other people pick up on, body language starts to look unnatural.

This is because most posts and info I see on blending in or being the grayman seems to write it in a way that leads you to believe that dressing in this certain way makes you blend in everywhere. This is usually darker or natural colors, clothing without labels, and so on. We have all probably seen these people.

It all comes down to research and knowing your environment. As not every environment is the same one set of rules for dressing is not going to work. For example if your going to a football game dressed in a suit your likely to standout. Where as if you go dressed in a jersey your likely to blend in just fine provided its the correct jersey.

Now working within this understanding there is a place for clothing with out large logos or designs because it can make it harder for people to visually track you .

Blending in goes beyond just clothing, anything that could make you stand out form the baseline needs to be considered.

The Basics are

Jewelry

Most people wont think twice about wearing jewelry or even a nicer watch these days but when traveling it can make you a target for criminals. Depending on how nice the jewelry is this could get you pick pocket, mugged or make you a target for kidnapping if they think you are worth enough. Unless its absolutely necessary (it usually isn’t) I recommend leaving anything thats overly flashy at home or if you must take it with you don’t wear it when actually traveling.

Tattoos

In most of the USA tattoos are relatively common place. Not everyone has one but most wont think twice of seeing them provided they are not on your face. He rest of the world is a different story. They may not be common place and you could run the gambit from simply drawing minor attention from passers by from the novelty factor, to more harsh attention you don’t want to be on the receiving end of.

The type of tattoo is also something to consider, Among the top of the list for tattoos you should consider covering when traveling are military, religious, and patriotic tattoos. Depending on your country of origin and your destination this could easily get you either further questions at the airport, get you arrested for suspicion of being a spy, or targeted by criminals due to your religious affiliation.

If you need or want to cover them up

There are multiple ways to conceal tattoos. The method would depend on certain factors such as how closely you’ll be to the people your concealing them from, how long you’ll be that close, if you have to conceal them your whole trip or just for certain parts among others. So think it over before your on the plane.

The quickest method is wearing clothes that cover them, Depending on the tattoos location and your destination this may be adequate or completely uncomfortable (Long sleeves or pants in the tropics can be no fun).

Religious items

For the same reasons religious tattoos should be covered and jewelry should be left at home, religious items/and jewelry should be left at home as well. Unless from your research you know that its either accepted or not discriminated agains by majority of the population or government of your destination.

Hair and skin color

Skin color is pretty self explanatory as far as how it can make you stand out or blend in. So I am not going to go into to that because there is not a whole lot you can do about it anyway. Its one of the few factors that you cannot change and you will just have to roll with it and accept that some destinations you may stand out more.

Now just like skin color. Hair color can make you stand out, however with hair color there is a little more wiggle room as you can change it if you have to. When doing your research you will likely discover if your destination as a predominate hair color.

Cleanliness

Now I am not talking about letting your hygiene slide because you are traveling, but cleanliness when traveling in certain parts of the world can make you stand out. Traveling in areas that are less developed, or when adventure traveling and your out in more rural areas, cleanliness will quickly stand you out. Luckily this can easily be rectified.

Speech, accents, manners and behaviors

If your traveling to a country that speaks a different language I highly recommend learning the language or at least learning the basics. There are times that you want to play dumb and act like you don’t speak the language but we will cover that another time. Learning the language wont make you blend in necessarily but it sure will make you stand out less.

You probably were told as a kid to mind your manners……well looking around maybe not every one was. Either way, what your parents might not have know is that manners change depending on where you are.

For example if you are eating in Europe and pick of the for with your right hand, This is sign to every one you are probably from out of town and specifically American.

Do Your Research

As you can probably tell there is a lot to know when trying to blend in or rather not stand out while traveling and you should be doing a lot of research before you go especially when traveling abroad.

The more you can research the more you’ll know going in and less that will surprise you. The surprised look is a dead giveaway that your new to what ever your experiencing. Do your research, see what you can do to blend in and act like you’ve been there before.

Eat and Drink Safely When Traveling

Eat and Drink safely

Food/water safety are important factors to personal health wherever you are. When traveling and at home unclean food and water can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases. Reduce your risk by sticking to safe food and water habits as much as you can. Depending on your destination this may not always be possible and in that case you need to make sure that you are very well researched in the area you are traveling to and know what is safe and what is not. Also if you can, prepping your body for the kind of food that will be available to you is a good idea. Whether you are going to a restaurant or making it yourself make sure that the food is authentic to the region you will be traveling. This can cause less shock to your body if the food is drastically different in the area you are traveling.

Hydration

Everyone knows that staying hydrated is important, especially if your travels are physically demanding but make sure you research where you’r traveling to know if the tap water is safe to drink or not. Tap water is not drinkable in all countries, even in major cities you body many not be able to handle it. Stick to sealed bottled water unless you are 100% sure the water can be trusted. Also be wary of ICE. Most people don’t think about it but drinking bottled water or a carbonated beverage with ice that’s made from the local tap water will be just as bad for you if the water cannot be trusted. If you are traveling to a region that you know the water cannot be drank it is a smart idea to take some water treatment tablets and/or a water filter with you. If you cannot find bottled water and whether or not you have treated the water in another manner, Boiling the water to disinfect it is a smart idea. The rule of thumb for boiling is water is one minute at a rolling boil (large bubbles) is safe to drink. If you want to be extra sure 3 minutes total at a rolling boil will do the trick. Anything beyond that is unnecessary.  Hot coffee or tea is also an alternative that may be safe depending on the temperature of the beverage.

Eating

Not all countries refrigerate their food, the less developed the country is the less likely they are to refrigerate their food or the less reliable the refrigeration may be. In these cases making sure that the food is cooked by a competent cook and that it is completely cooked is very important. Make sure that your food is cooked and served hot and has not been sitting out for along period of time before making it to your table. Avoid rare or raw Meat and fish, soft cooked eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products. Make sure that if you eat fruit or vegetables that its washed with safe water, and that you can either see it peeled or peel it your self if need be.

Many recommend avoiding street vendors or wild game, I don’t completely subscribe to that. Depending on where or how you are traveling game meat may be your only option. Street vendors are also becoming more popular world wide, and some of the best meals that I have had has come from street vendors or were made with game meat. You just have to make sure that it is safe to the best of your ability. You can tell a dirty kitchen or food prep area when you see one. Game meat its important to make sure that the meat is cooked thoroughly.
If you have a bad feeling about the vendor, meal, or water source don’t brush it off. Trust your gut. But don’t write off something just because its from a street vendor, or that it is made with meat that isn’t farmed. Many cultures have different protein sources than yours and if you write off all the food that isn’t beef or chicken you will miss out on large portion of the culture you are visiting.

When it goes wrong

You can follow all the precautions above and still get sick. Some time its just an unlucky roll of the dice. When this happens there are many medications both over the counter and prescription that be taken when you misjudged a meal or drink. I recommend once you’ve done your research and planned out your trip I recommend visiting your doctor and discussing any medications they would recommend you bring along. You may be there any way depending on any required or recommended vaccines for the area you are traveling to.

Health Hygiene and Infectious Disease

I am going to start this by say that I am not a doctor, I have had a lot of medical training over the years from different jobs and courses. Most health and hygiene is common sense (washing your hands) but I know most of society seems to be lacking common sense these days which is why I have to write this article. The key concepts are washing your hands, don’t touch your face, use hand sanitizer (if you cant wash your hands) and if you are going to a region that has insect borne illnesses its important to take precautions.

 

Hand Sanitizers and Washing Your Hands

This is something you should all be doing anyway but since the soap shortage at the beginning of the Corona virus outbreak I am now more skeptical on how many people are actually doing this. There is rinsing your hands and there is washing your hands, HERE is a link how how to do the ladder. Hand sanitizer is a good alternative only if you cant wash your hands. There have been studies that show that hand sanitizer can actually attract some bacteria after it dries and that it is less effective than washing your hands. Not to mention the high amounts of chemical exposure your subjecting your self to if you have to use it regularly. So if you have clean water available and can wash your hands don’t go crazy with the hand sanitizer and just wash your hands.

 

Don’t Touch Your Face

You’ve been told this since you started getting acne as a kid and never paid any attention after it started to clear up. Then the recent outbreak happened and you started hearing it again. Then once you started paying attention you started to realize how often you actually do touch your face. Unless your skin is broken by a wound or some other opening it actually functions as a great barrier for most bacteria and toxins. Bacteria needs an entrance into your body to actually infect you. This is why you wash your hands before your eat or routinely clean wounds with disinfectant. Touching your face transfers the bacteria and possibly SOME, (I emphasize that word specifically) viruses from surfaces you have touched onto your face where they have greater access to pathways into the human body. These areas like your eyes, nose and mouth are where the bacteria and viruses can actually enter and start to do damage. Most viruses cannot survive on surfaces for very long, that’s why when working an ambulance we were not overly concerned about viruses unless they were air born. The notable exception being Hep C which can live out side the human body on any surface for approximately 6 weeks give or take.

 

Distance

When you’re traveling to and from your destination, whether in the airport or bus stations or just out on the town, avoid cramped and crowded areas whenever possible to lower the chances of getting sick while traveling. This is the basis for the social distancing that we have seen since the corona virus outbreak started. Crowed areas are also targeted by a wide range of criminals and terrorist so its wise to avoid them when you can anyway. The distance keeps any particulates that are coughed into the air from reaching you in a way where they can be inhaled. This is especially effective in large areas or out doors because the particulates are diluted by the larger quantity of air moving around. This wont be as effective indoors especially if a virus is truly airborne.

 

Masks

Masks are a huge topic right now, Should we wear them? Do they really work on viruses? There is some data to support it and some data that doesn’t. A great video that just puts out all the facts with no political bias one way or the other can be found HERE. Its a long video but it is very thorough. Now if masks are mandated by the local government or your employer you have to decide for your self based on your situations. Now here is the rub, Nothing taken to the extreme will ever be good for you. Whether its Drinking Eating sweets, smoking, wearing a mask, using hand sanitizers or neurotically washing your hands. If we try to live in a sterile environment and never come into contact with bacteria and viruses our immune systems break down and become less effective or in some cases completely ineffective. Like a muscle that’s not getting exercised eventually it will atrophy and when you need to use it you wont be able to. We are all adults and can make out own decisions. If you want to wear one wear one if you don’t then don’t. But don’t get in fights with, insult, or assault people who don’t agree with you and be ready to face any consequences that there may be for your choice.

 

Insects

Bugs can spread a number of diseases around the world. Malaria, Zika, West Nile are a few from recent history. Many of these diseases cannot be prevented with a vaccine or medications but you can reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites. The obvious option is bug spray but there is some things that you should know about bug sprays to make sure that you are using the correct kind for your situation. Also this is only one option and I always recommend a multi layer approach when it comes to security whether its from burglars or bugs.

Starting with bug spray make sure that the main ingredient is deet. Some sprays made only for mosquitoes may use other ingredients. Deet however works on both mosquitoes and ticks. Also make sure that the concentrations is at least 20%. You can even find 100% deet sprays. The higher the concentrations the stronger it is and the longer it lasts. There may be some health concern with higher concentrations of deet which is why its harder to find these days but you can still find it and like everything else moderation is key. As long as your relatively healthy, not drinking it and not using it everyday for the rest of your life your body should be able to detox it out with our issues when your back home.

Mosquito nets are another popular option, they are a super fine mesh that lets air in and keeps bugs out. Made to go around your head or around your whole bed. I personally don’t like the ones that go around your head but I will use them with tents or ones that go around your bed. That’s just me.

Covering as much skin as you can is probably the easiest preventative measure. This is not 100 percent as some mosquitoes and other bugs can bite through clothing, just ask an Alaskan about their mosquitoes. But paired with Bug spray this can help a lot. They also make anti bug clothing that is worn as a base layer specifically to stop biting insects. I don’t have a lot of experience with them but I will be testing some in the near future and Ill keep you updated.

We will be covering what to do with with bug bites in a future series on first aide so I wont cover it here. But Ill just say this don’t scratch them!

In Closing

Do wash your hands and don’t touch your face and avoid crowded areas especially when you’re traveling in a region that has illnesses that your immune system is not used to fighting off. If your destination has the risk of bug borne illnesses be sure to bring bug spray and take precautions to avoid bites.

Using the Garmin Fenix 6 Solar for Travel Safety

 

 

     I love the Garmin Fenix 6 Solar, there are plenty of reviews out there that deep dive into the watch and its specs and features so I am going to focus on the watch from its travel and safety aspects and benefits.

 

     The obvious benefit is having a GPS attached to you in case of emergency. The GPS doesn’t require cell service from your phone should you become separated from it. The battery life is great for a smart watch and I get about 20 days on a charge on average.

 

     The big aspect for safety is a feature called Assistance. Assistance is going to be one of the few “safety apps” that I will recommend but only for a specific situation. Assistance works by having a hotkey set on the watch that when you press and hold it, will notify your emergency contact(s) that you designate in the Garmin app via SMS text that you are in trouble. When they are notified it will send them your GPS location as soon as your watch acquires the satellite connection.

 

     This will not help you in the moment and does not substitute the need for getting training in self defense, but should for instance you get taken it will give your contact the information needed for the authorities in the area that you are traveling in start the search. It will also allow them to track you as long as you can keep the watch on you.

 

     As you can probably tell this is going to require that you turn on the GPS access to your watch so that others can see it. This is called LiveTrack  in the Garmin platform. Now provided you set up your phone securely which will be covered in depth at a later date, you can set this up in a relatively private manner

that I will cover at the end to mitigate and data collection that Garmin may

do, though to this point from dealings with them and their policies I have seen no evidence of data collection done in a way that releases personal information. That being said I still make it a point to anonymize my data my self as much as possible.

 

     For this to work it does require that your phone have cell service as it needs to connect to the app to notify it to send the text message. The text message is sent from a third party number (not your own) This means that you should talk to your emergency contact ahead of time which you should be doing anyway.

 

     Setting it up requires that you opt in to the LiveTrack. This allows Garmin to send your GPS location to your emergency contact.

 

 

You will then need input a name and city/location inside the

assistance settings in the Garmin app. As you can see from my pictures, That can be an initial and just about anything for location.

The name is used in the text message to Identify you in the message to your contact and I have not been able to pinpoint what the location input is used for.

 

 

     You will then enter your emergency contacts, which can be a maximum of three who will all receive the emergency text should you press the button. As you can see you can also put as little as an initial to keep your Contacts privacy as protected as possible as well.

 

     The picture below is an example of what the text message will look like. In this case my watch didn’t have GPS on at the time but is activated when you press the button so when the GPS is acquired it will then send follow up text with your location information. You can see the text justs says “may need help” because of this you should talk to your contacts ahead of time and decide what it means if they get the message ad what they should do.

 

 

     You can opt out of LiveTrack at any time and it will shut off the assistance functionality.

My set up

 

     I always err on the side of privacy when I set up anything so I personally keep the LiveTrack functionality turned off 90 percent of time in my day to day life.

     I will turn on the LiveTrack and set up the assistance each time I am headed on a trip to an area that concerns me enough that I feel the functionality is warranted. I have ahead of time let my emergency contact(s) know that I am setting them up in the app.

     We then cover what it means if they get the message and what they should do. In my case I let them know that If I am going to activate the watch its most likely that I see something coming or that an incident has already happened. This is because if I don’t have time to activate the watch before something goes down I’m not going to waste time trying to activate it. I tell them they should wait 5 minutes and if I havn’t shut it off or contacted them directly to notify the authorities in the area I’m in or a specific number if I want them to contact someone specific.

     Then once I am back from the trip or feel it is no longer needed I will shut off the LiveTrack access to keep any unnecessary access to my GPS location to a minimum.

Bugs

 

     Through out my testing I ran into no bugs or miss hap with activating the assistance, the only bug I encountered early on was One time I activated it I couldn’t get it to shut off and had to re set the watch and app. Not going to be a big deal if your wanting the assistance activated.

 

General Review

 

 

     If you are looking for a good review of the Garmin Fenix 6 Solar to look into its other features suck as activity tracking, Compass, and its other outdoor feature I personally used this review from DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/08/garmin-fenix6-pro-solar-series-review.html to make my decision.

Sweeping a room for Cameras

 

Some of you may have seen the headlines about Airbnbs many safety concerns, among them is a hiden camera problem. However this is not a problem that is exclusive to Airbnb, this is a world wide problem that happens in major hotel chains as well.

 

The people that are installing these hidden cameras do so for a variety of reason. Some for…….. personal……. enjoyment we will say, others for blackmail purposes and for an example, one that is mostly overseas, there is reportedly a dark-web site that you can log on to and pick a hidden camera, like a tv channel, and stream live hidden video from all over the world.

 

Booking your accommodations anonymously is the best route to take because even if you are recorded then they cant really black mail you cause they don’t know who you truly are. We will cover this topic in depth at a later date as it could take multiple articles and still not cover all the possibilities.

 

For today we are going to stick with how to sweep your hotel room/ Airbnb as this can and should be done whether you renting anonymously or not.

 

You should start before you even book the reservation. Do your research into the property or hotel. Read reviews and search the address on search engines. 5 basic issues to check for can be found here.

 

You can also check sites like trip advisor however there has been some controversy surrounding Trip Advisor and Airbnb as of late. They have been accused of deleting negative reviews of properties even when they bring up possible safety concerns. So trust your gut and if something doesn’t feel right find a different place to stay.

 

If you read that article from the Atlantic linked above you will see that Airbnb allows hosts to place cameras in their listings as long as they are following some rules.

 

Airbnb’s rules allow cameras outdoors and in living rooms and common areas, but never in bathrooms or anywhere guests plan to sleep, including rooms with foldout beds. Starting in early 2018, Airbnb added another layer of disclosure: If hosts indicate they have cameras anywhere on their property, guests receive a pop-up informing them where the cameras are located and where they are aimed. To book the property, the guests must click agree,indicating that theyre aware of the cameras and consent to being filmed.

 

So during your booking process you should have been made aware if there are cameras in the house in the common areas…..if the host decided to enlighten Airbnb to their presence. I personally would not be staying anywhere that posted that they had cameras on the property but that is just me, you will have to make your own decision on that.

 

Now lets say you’ve booked your stay, you made the trip, you’ve checked in and your walking up to the door. Hotel doors all look pretty much the same with key card or keyed locks. Many Airbnbs, like many home owners, have started installing camera/intercom door bells. There are some privacy issues with these door bells, not from the Airbnb host who is only going to be able to watch you as you come and go, but from the company producing the product. Nothing criminal or unethical on the homeowners part just something to be aware of.

 

Now your inside the Airbnb or your hotel room. Which ever one your in will dictate how long this process will take, but either way the process is the same. Pick a starting point. I like to start from the door and just work my way in. Others do the opposite and like to start in the bathroom and work their way out. From there its entirely up to you. Just pick a way that you are not going to skip or forget to check somewhere.

 

Now start by checking any objects that are out in the open. This can include clocks, pictures, tissue boxes/ decorative covers, are hanging on the wall etc. Look them over, check behind/underneath them, check for memory card slots, extra wires, visible camera lenses, antennas that don’t make sense and anything that just doesn’t feel right.

 

Next check anything plugged into outlets. Cameras are often disguised as air fresheners, plug in smoke or CO detectors, chargers, basically anything the average person might not think twice about. Look them over for the same things you checked for with things that were out in the open. Now check things attached to the walls and the outlets themselves.

 

Now Im not saying start taking things off the wall and messing with wiring! Just like looking for a card skimmer at a public ATM give them a wiggle plug in a charger or something to make sure the outlet actually has power. Same goes for cable outlets in the walls smoke detectors, wifi routers etc.

 

The cameras that the average person might come in contact with will likely be found by this method. The people putting these cameras in place are not professionals and they are counting on the general obliviousness that the general public walks around with these days to hide the cameras for them. So if you haven’t found anything suspicious or obvious cameras, you are probably good to go and enjoy your stay.

 

You can also buy a scanner and scan for wireless frequencies, though one that will actually do the job will run you a minimum of $200 and a good one closer to $300-500. I have no personal experience with theses devices but have heard mixed reviews from sources that I trust.

 

Scanners in this price range will not find high end cameras that would be implemented by your typical government agencies or used in corporate espionage. Equipment to detect those devices would run in the thousands and with a few exceptions not the most likely threat you will face as an average citizen.

 

If this is your concern your department, agency, or company likely has an in house team or someone that they work with to sweep for bugs and cameras.

 

 

Now lets say that you swept your room/Airbnb and found one or more cameras. When you checked in there was no warning about the cameras and they are/or they are not within Airbnb’s policy. Or your in a hotel room where there should be no cameras anyway.

 

Step one is to make sure you are safe, if you do not think that you are safe collect your belongings and get some where that is safe. Do not hand over the cameras or memory card to anyone from the hotel or

Airbnb because you then loose any and all evidence that it occurred.

 

At this point if you are stateside contact law enforcement and file a report as they are the only person I would turn over the cameras to.

 

If you are abroad contact your consulate and do what they recommend. In most countries that will involve calling the local law enforcement.

 

For Airbnb contact them as soon as you can and they may help you find new accommodations. (disclaimer I have yet to find a contact phone number on their site so you will have to contact them through their online form/process and it may take them some time to get back to you. Mentioning you are in contact with law enforcement may speed up that process).

 

For hotels contact the front desk and demand to talk to the manager.

 

The likelihood that you will be in a room that has hidden cameras in it generally is quite low. However this is still a threat that you should take quite seriously, just because the chance is low doesn’t mean it cant happen to you.

 

Think about it, how many people that have been struck by lighting thought it would happen to them? Probably not that many. Now the more you travel, the higher that chance becomes simply because you staying in more places. The more times you roll the dice at some point your gonna get snake eyes.

 

 

Introduction to travel safety precautions

These are going to be the posts on the tactics. The bread and butter of how you should act and what to do, when to do it and what to look out for while traveling. Much of what I present will apply to everyday life. In order for these things to become habit you have to practice them and there is no better place to practice then at home!


Look for posts on…

  • Hotel security, selection and while staying there

  • Everyday applications

  • Traveling domestic vs abroad

  • Airport safety

  • Transportation safety

  • Situational awareness

  • Escape and evasion

  • Surveillance detection

  • Scenario posts

  • Tech security

  • and more