Safety in Hostile Environments

We take the low profile, blend in approach while operating in hostile environments. Here are some tips from first hand experience. In some cases there is direct evidence that this strategy worked. In other cases, the fact that nothing dramatic happened is proof enough.

Choose small, medium size hotels. They are less monitored by bogies. Smaller staff size likely to be personally known by hotel owners. Less likely they be bogey plant/observer. Therefore less likely to report you, search your room, set you up for an ambush / kidnap.

Stay in rooms facing away from the front entrance of the hotel. Most blasts/attacks happen at the front.

Find alternative exits / back doors. Use them 50% of the time for entry/exit. Break routine. Take out trash and dump it on the way. Casual bogey will take you as a local employee.

Buy clothes locally. Even in countries where the majority dress in ‘western’ clothing (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon). Subtle nuances in your dress will attract attention of alert bogies. Buy clothes from large, cheap clothing outlets to blend in with majority of local population.

Get a local haircut, subtleties in hairstyle will alert and watchful bogey.
Consider dying light coloured hair.

A plastic shopping bag from a local supermarket is a good way to carry stuff around in a city. Put parsley on top. At a glance you’re dismissed as a local carrying groceries home.

Replace that cool G shock watch with a cheap digital. Same with shades. Buy local, cheap. With shades, buy quality (so that you get UV protection), but not flash. Wear them the way locals do. Same goes for phones, pens, shoes, writing pads.

Have a few days of beard before arriving. Have it trimmed locally to blend in. If needed, a week’s growth on a short beard will make it look like a full beard – therefore a product of indigenous population.

If you have to carry gear, buy a cheap bag locally. Use your clothes for padding for fragile equipment (cameras, laptops). Or use removable padding from your own pro bag.

For transport use local taxis in cities or a local driver with a small car. Hotel pickup and drop off at different locations around the hotel, and, if possible, around destination.

For long trips / inter city / try using local buses. You’re less likely to be spotted by bogey checkpoints. Have your driver drop you off at the intercity bus station and pick you up at the destination station if you need local transport.

Best vehicle to use yourself if your driving is a Toyota truck because they are popular and it will blend in. Smear with oil to make dust stick to it and make it look dirty and beat up. Especially license plates when visiting different cities. Car won’t stand out as out of town.

Try get a truck with two fuel tanks. Add octane to one and switch to it in case of a chase. It’ll give you speed bogeys chasing you will not likely have.

If you have to take high quality photos in public, use a mid level, mid size DSLR. Use some duct tape on it to make it look beat up. Use cheap local bag to carry it. A camera in public will always make you stand out. Better to stand out as a local journalist/photographer than as a flash western journalist.

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