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10 Travel Safety Tips You Can Learn from the CIA

Mathew Bradley spent more than 14 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, and now this former CIA agent is the Regional Security Director, Americas, for International SOS (a medical and travel security assistance company). I spoke to him via email to ask his top travel safety tips, both at home and abroad.

Travel Safety Tips from CIA Experts

Here are Mr. Bradley’s top travel safety tips based on his training and experience as a CIA agent.

What travel safety tips does the CIA give to its employees?

  1. Maintain a low profile. CIA employees don’t want to draw attention to themselves.
  2. Research your destination before you go. Part of keeping a low profile is knowing the local customs and blending in. Act like you have been there before.
  3. Plan your ground transportation and hotel arrangements in advance.  We never leave home without contact details for every stage of our itinerary.
  4. Stay aware of your surroundings. [Do] the research to know what fits in the location where you are.

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What should tourists do in case of an emergency while traveling?

  1. Have a plan before you go out. Know where you will meet if separated from your group following a terrorist attack, violent protest, or other incident.
  2. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you should be back. They should know who to call if you don’t check in.
  3. For natural disasters, plan ahead to avoid hurricanes and wildfires. If in an earthquake zone, have a plan for what to do in case of an earthquake.
  4. The CIA has a heavy influence on planning because in a crisis situation, you don’t have time to plan. You can execute what you have planned, but if you don’t plan ahead, you won’t know what to do.

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What does a CIA agent always pack for a trip?

A doorstop. When you lock yourself into your hotel room at night, slip the doorstop under the door to keep intruders from being able to force the door open.  The doorstop is effective even when the chain or other external locks give way.

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What is your number one travel safety tip?

Plan ahead! Travel is more enjoyable when it goes smoothly, and it goes smoother when you have a plan. Also, don’t take your passport out of your hotel. The number one way to ruin your trip is to lose your passport. You don’t need it on the street, and no one will steal it from your hotel safe. Plan for safety and security like you plan for fun and entertainment, and you, too, can travel like a CIA operative.

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Follow Caroline Morse Teel on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for wanderlust inspiration and more travel safety tips. 

By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at cmorse@smartertravel.com.

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