Five travel risk tips

Lucien Chetty

Adventurer, philosopher, and major player on the Police Special Task Force selection course, specialising in Hostage Rescue and Counter Terrorism, LUCIEN CHETTY has also freelanced as a close protective operative in Africa, executing assignments for the Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation, and local banks. So, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about security on the move

The good news is that he’s written a book brimming with tips for travellers encompassing everything from hotel security, kidnapping and ransom (K&R) to recreational drugs and how to avoid becoming a mule.  Surviving Africa, the Dark Continent: Travel Security, (Reach Publishers, R249.00) is a must read for NGOS, corporates, executives, and individuals travelling in Africa. Most of the continent’s 54 countries are among the poorest, most underdeveloped and dangerous in the world, and Chetty covers medical, cultural, and security infrastructures and how to identify potential threats.

Here are a few of his tips:

Everything you need to know about travel security
  • Stop, look, listen: When it comes to personal security, be aware of your surroundings. This gives you the opportunity to remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t overdo it, though. ‘The key is to look relaxed and comfortable rather than paranoid, in this way, appearing streetwise.’
  • Plan ahead: Prepare for the worst in a sane way that anticipates places or times you may be exposed and choose safer options. Focus on prevention rather than disaster.
  • Download a security assistance travel app: Two suggestions include  TripLingo and  !Emergency! 
  • Familiarise yourself with local customs and laws: Take care not to offend local cultural or religious beliefs by doing additional research before you travel.
  • Employ discretion: When checking into a hotel, be discreet when disclosing information about yourself or your travel plans. Selecting a room on the third to fifth floor should keep you out of reach of criminal activity on the street.
  • Create boundaries: This is especially important for women traveling on their own, which Chetty does not advise in Africa. If you must, though, then lose the flashy jewellery, dress modestly – what goes in South Africa is not always acceptable in other African countries – and always pre-arrange to be met at the airport by a trusted contact. It may seem rude, but if you have to be unfriendly to a stranger to create boundary, do so. Be firm in your voice and use strong body language to do this.