Overlooked – the single most important factor in travel preparedness

Your vaccinations are up to date and your foreign currency is safely tucked away.

But you may be overlooking the single most important consideration when preparing to travel to a high-risk country.

An escape plan.

Travellers to remote or dangerous destinations often neglect to prepare for what will happen if large-scale civil unrest, terrorism or extreme weather events necessitate getting out at short notice 

When road networks become too dangerous, airports are shut down or communication infrastructure is damaged, moving safely from A to B poses a very real risk – and the potential to leave you stranded in country for days or weeks at a time.

Ian Ruggier, responsible for operations and plans at Tangiers International, knows this more than most. As part of the company’s security assistance service, he keeps a close eye on developing crises all over the globe, assessing levels of risk resulting from any number of unpredictable factors.

And when evacuation becomes necessary, he is on hand to ensure it goes smoothly.

Ian said: “The first step is collecting as much information on the ground as possible. This may be from official sources, local and national news, service providers – anyone who can provide an accurate assessment of what is happening and where.

“We then need to start understanding what the options are. Is it a party or a single person? Are there any medical issues tied to that person? Do those medical issues necessitate time constraints for the move?

“It may be that, at that time, travel is too dangerous. If you’re in a secure compound and there is no threat to life, then sheltering in place may temporarily be the best option.”

A recent case in Haiti – rocked by anti-government protests in recent months – illustrated the difficulties involved in getting foreign nationals out of a country beset with political strife, poor infrastructure and threats posed by criminal gangs.

“The group we were assisting was quite a distance from the capital, Port-au-Prince,” said Ian. “Flights were not coming in or out of the country so evacuation by air was not possible.

“The road to the Dominican Republic, meanwhile, was not advisable because it’s rife with hijackers and robbery.”

With air and land travel ruled out, Ian and his team reached out to a shipping company operating in the region to see whether evacuation by sea was feasible.

“One option was to divert a vessel to transport the 20-odd people to the Dominican Republic where they could then catch a flight out of the country,” explained Ian.

But as plans swiftly progressed, developments in Haiti suddenly opened a window for overland travel.

“As we were finalising the evacuation by boat, the situation on the ground suddenly died down and the group was able to be moved by bus to Port-au-Prince and fly home.”

Whether aid organisations, private industry or individuals, anyone travelling to high risk countries should understand that when the situation goes south, getting out is often the best course of action.

With the aid of Tangiers International’s security assistance team, it does not have to be left up to chance.