Uncensored Safety Tips from a Nuclear Power Plant Operator
Enjoy today’s featured article from our guest blogger who is also a client:
In my 20 years’ travel with the IAEA and nuclear power clients, I’ve had my share of “experience”; even my semi-diplomatic status with the UN does little to help.
Keeping yourself safe from passive pilferage is hard enough. But, when traveling, whatever you do, don’t even consider accepting anything from, or doing anything involving, a stranger – wave-down taxi rides (not booked by the hotel), shell- and three-card monty games, “free” souvenirs, too-friendly locals (of either sex), shops with “deals of the century”, even thieves posing as police or government officials. These are primarily in the “tourist areas” but not limited to by any means. We Americans are friendly by nature and don’t want to be rude. Without sounding too cynical, these folks gave up “politeness” and shame long ago, and are trying to survive in some very cruel places. They are clever and motivated, and they understand your Western puppy-dog friendliness and how to use it against you.
If you are robbed, don’t expect much help from local police, they are long over worrying about it and may even be in on the deal. So, follow the multiple credit-card, hotel safe, hidden wallet, minimum cash, gypsy-averse and crowd-avoidance regimen and at least you mitigate the damage, if not the risk. EU countries are deteriorating from a security standpoint, ripoffs happen further and further North each year. Italy has proven particularly dangerous from a scamming standpoint, from autostrada gas stations that have 5 guys scurrying around your car (expect a cut wiper blade or tire) and “lose” your cash payment, to Venice gondoliers with short memories and 3-figure expectations, very creative (and attractive) pick-pockets, and police that stop foreign motorists for the “shakedown”, even escorting you to the nearest bank or ATM if you don’t have sufficient cash on your person. Many pick-pockets, particularly children, are in human slavery situations and must produce on pain of severe punishment. They work for organizations that take piles of purses and wallets and split up the cash, credit cards and official documents, each being passed or sold to a “specialist” for further “processing”.
Corrupt officials and police at airports and borders are more difficult, you may have to knuckle under and pay a bit of money to get on your way. The countries where this happens are generally well-known to travel agents and blogs, and the payola may disguise itself as a “fee” – or worse, the official just silently detains you until you finally figure it out. Taxi overcharging is another annoyance that, in spite of your precautions or even pre-negotiation of the fare, will happen. By the time you factor in odd city zoning, culture and language, they will always have a reason for the high fare that “you didn’t know about”. Or the meter is simply rigged, also very hard to prove. Either way, there is little you can do but pay and just view it as “tourist tax”. I have had this happen in countries that cover the range of civilization, even Northern Europe.
Finally, when you travel, take advantage of our internet age and check your bank and credit card activity daily. Card numbers and PIN’s can be lifted very easily from ATM’s and even hotels and restaurants; they are used quickly, often back in the USA; weekends are the favorite. I am amazed at how little identification most merchants in USA demand for large credit- or debit-card purchases. Inform your bank of your planned itinerary (it will at least help in your defense in fraud cases), request they contact you for suspicious card use, and even consider signing up for required PIN entry for all card purchases with your bank. Use credit (instead of debit) card where possible (slightly better fraud protection, and it’s the bank’s money not yours). “Smart” cards with the “chip” in them are best.
Maybe I should write a book!
Have a great day, Adam.