Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tip of the Day: How to Avoid Foreign Embassies and Consulates. Period.

For Today's Tip of the Day, I've decided to take a different tactic. Of course it does require a bit more work on your part, but in the end you'll hopefully avoid any physical trip to your Embassy or Consulate.

As most of you know, I retired from the US Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security in 2006, after spending most of my career as both a special agent and a Senior Regional Security Officer (SRSO), largely at a number of embassies abroad.

While contemplating what I was going to say in today's Tip, it dawned on me  that as the number of years since I retired from the State Department continue to pass by so much more quickly than I'd prefer them to, it strikes me that perspectives also change dramatically the longer that one is disassociated from an organization they once called "home."

I know you're all busy, so I will cut to the chase and get to the point which is:

"The more people that organizations employ and the more bureaucratic any organization is and has become, the more ineffective, unproductive and dysfunctional they prove to be."

The corollary, then, is that efficient, decentralized and solution-oriented governmental units prevail and gain the trust of all citizens."

One final thought for contemplation: Since I retired from the Department, my observations suggest that the number of unsolved homicides, armed robberies, rapes, sexual assaults, cases of disappeared US citizens and other felonies is rising DRAMATICALLY, not declining:

To wrap up this posting for all readers, I would like to offer a focused list of tips that hopefully will reduce the need for all travelers to visit their embassies or consulates:

1. Regardless of your gender or nationality, face the fact that thousands of people wake up every morning wondering how they can relieve tourists of their cash, credit cards, valuables, laptops, smartphones, cameras, etc.;

2. If you are planning to DRIVE abroad, ask yourself three critical questions:

a. Do I really want the hassle of always looking for a place to park?;

b. Have you considered the ramifications of what happens if you hit a pedestrian or are involved in an accident that is YOUR fault?; and

c. Driving abroad makes you eligible for encountering two problems you really don't need: corrupt cops and carjackers?

3. Face the fact that planning a safe and successful trip abroad takes time and effort. Before you depart on your trip, ensure that you have every answer to every question you might conceivably have BEFORE you leave;

4. Fully understand the currency and coins in use at your destinations by going to:

5. If you are transporting expensive laptops and/or electronics, I strongly urge that you insure such devices through:;

6. Before you travel alone, ask yourself ONE question? Can I neutralize any problem that comes by way, including physical threats?

7. If you're response to Question 4 is an honest "no," DO  three things before you depart abroad:

a. Know how to save a life using CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation);

b. Take an advanced first aid course geared to traveling abroad; and

c. Take a self-defense class from an active duty law enforcement officer so you can protect yourself if you're attacked or assaulted. This training should include both defensive and offensive tactics;

8. Even if you do a-c above, please consider that if you're traveling alone EVERYTHING is YOUR responsibility;

9. If you're a woman and traveling solo, please focus on the fact that there is a high likelihood that you will be targeted often by predators and opportunists;

10. Before DEPARTURE, subscribe to international medical treatment and medical evacuation insurance that includes the repatriation of your remains if you die while abroad. If you don't believe me, please note that 6,000 US citizens die abroad every YEAR;

11. If the service is available, register your international itinerary through your appropriate foreign affairs agency;

12. To ensure compatibility, purchase an UNLOCKED, QUAD-BAND GSM mobile phone that will function inexpensively and dependably in virtually any country. For guidance see the link below:

13. NEVER use an ATM or cash machine that is installed on the STREET, otherwise you're asking to be victimized. Also, use safe, indoor cash machines during daylight hours ONLY in a banking institution;

14. Whether you are planning to drive abroad or not, apply for and obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is particularly useful as a second form of photo ID;

15. Use only hotel properties that have a two-key lobby safe deposit box system where you can safeguard your money, credit cards, passport, etc.;

16. Related to #13, NEVER use an in-room combination safe as such devices almost invariably have "back-doors" for hotel staff; and

17. Don't forget to pack your PERSONAL SECURITY AWARENESS!