Business Travel – Part 2

by | Feb 6, 2018 | Proelium News

Barry ET Harris MBE is a consultant for Proelium Law LLP. He is a veteran of 23 years’ service in the British Army, and combines specialist operational experience with wisdom gained from extensive commercial consulting, executive, and management expertise in his specialities gained in complex environments and high-risk jurisdictions worldwide.

The following is intended as an aid to business travellers, to better understand and identify possible risks and expected behaviour before and during any overseas journey. It may not be relevant to all locations, but awareness is always advisable.

Before departure, always inform somebody of where you are going, how, why, where you will be staying, and when you will return home. If you are travelling on business, the company Security Manager should receive this information, and provide advice. If you are independent, or your company does not have a Security Manager, then there are some excellent companies available to provide cover and advice to you. Make sure that you have with you all the contact numbers that you need, including international dialling codes. Your nation’s embassy in the country you visit should be one of those phone numbers.

On arrival, contact the Security Manager of the company to report your arrival. Or, contact the company offices in the country that you are visiting. If your company is not represented in the country that you are visiting, contact your host. Always try and obtain a situational brief on current trends and security matters. A great source is:


When checking your car for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). The main concern of the terrorist is to get in quickly, place the IED, and escape. Make yourself familiar with the car, especially its underside. The preferred method is to attach an IED to the underside of a car, under the driver’s seat, usually using magnets. When searching your car be methodical, arm yourself with a torch and a small inspection mirror. Small portable inspection mirrors are available from many good security and search equipment companies.

IED’s are often disguised to blend in with the underside of a car, for example – painted matt black, possibly with a layer of grease covering, sometimes in a tubular container to blend in with the drive shaft or exhaust system of the car.

The best policy is to search – overcome any embarrassment of doing this in public view and if necessary get on your hands and knees. Use the torch and mirror to thoroughly check out the underside of the vehicle.

Start by a visual inspection, from a distance, of the car, look for loose wires, or any protuberance on the underside of the vehicle. Once you are happy, approach the car.

Carry out a close inspection of the underside of the vehicle, starting with the area beneath the driver’s seat. Be methodical, use the torch and mirror, work your way around the car:

  • Check all wheel arches carefully.
  • Do not touch any part of car.
  • Finish this search at the point where you started, the driver’s seat.
  • Visually inspect the interior of the car, if the car is kept tidy, anything unusual will stand out.
  • Open the driver’s door, do not touch the seats, pressure switches on the underside of the seat can be used to initiate an IED, inspect any storage areas in the driver’s door.
  • Check all other storage areas inside the passenger compartment, and underneath all other seats.
  • Be careful to cover all areas of the car interior that cannot be seen from outside of the car.
  • Check the interior of the boot and engine compartment.

During this search do not allow any other passengers to come near the car. When you are satisfied that the car is clear, the driver and passenger(s) may embark.

If you find something suspicious, do not touch it, move away from the car (at least 250 metres to a position of cover) and raise the alarm.


  • Visual inspection from a distance.
  • Look out for anything out of the ordinary.
  • Inspect the underside of the car with a torch and mirror.
  • Look closely at the interior before opening doors.
  • Look below seats before touching them.
  • Check all storage areas.

It is important when driving to recognise when you are most at risk. Drive normally, do not speed, drive defensively, use indicators, and apply normal driving courtesy to other road users. Do not attract attention to yourself. Before departing on a journey inform somebody (hotel reception, colleague, client, embassy/consulate) if a long journey to a potentially hazardous area, provide information like:

  • Vehicle details.
  • Your mobile phone number(s).
  • The destination and Estimated Time of Arrival.
  • Arrange to phone in and report your position if on a long journey.
  • Arrange to phone in and report your safe arrival.
  • If a long journey write these details down, and you can even give them with a marked map.

At any point when the vehicle draws to a halt you are at your most vulnerable. Be aware of motorcyclists who could pull alongside and attempt a shooting or place an IED on the roof of the car. A favoured method.

In built-up areas be aware of pedestrians around the car for the same reasons, and especially carjacking. Always keep the car doors locked, and windows up in built-up areas. It is easier to steal a car when occupied by the driver, than when parked and locked.

Try not to stop, anticipate traffic lights, other drivers, and pedestrian crossings, where possible keep the vehicle rolling.

If traffic forces a halt, leave at least a car’s space between your car and the car in front, this provides a useful manoeuvring/ramming area if a life-threatening incident occurs.

Keep car keys separate from work or home keys, try not to carry documents showing where you live or work, or who your client is, in – country. Keep your phone on you at all times.


  • Be extra vigilant when stopping or slowing down.
  • Be extra vigilant when in built-up areas.
  • Keep doors locked and windows up.
  • If you feel threatened use the car horn and lights to attract attention.

It is extremely difficult to establish if you are being followed or not, especially in heavy traffic. If it is suspected a drill that may confirm this is to “box” the route. Only do this if you are completely confident of your whereabouts and your ability to navigate. Turn off the route, left or right. Drive on a parallel road to your intended route. Turn back onto your intended route. If the suspect vehicle follows it is possible that you are being followed. If so continue to drive normally and:

  • Return to start point.
  • Or drive to the closest police station.
  • Or drive to closest embassy/consulate

If at any time you feel threatened, attract attention:

  • Put on lights.
  • Put on hazard warning lights.
  • Use your mobile to call for assistance.
  • Drive to the closest safe place (police station, embassy/consulate).


  • Confirm “box” route.
  • Continue to drive normally.
  • Obtain details of suspect vehicle.
  • Report using mobile phone.
  • Drive to closest safe place.

This means that the vehicle will be left unattended and will be highly vulnerable to attack. Drivers and passengers are extremely exposed when exiting and entering a parked vehicle. The risk can be minimised by:

  • Parking in manned, patrolled, and guarded parking areas.
  • Use valet parking at hotels to park cars for you, and bring them to you when needed.

If parking yourself, try to select a parking place that can be overseen by the security, or even yourself. Select a space that allows you to visually inspect the car from a distance on your return. If parking the car, yourself, always reverse into the parking space.

This makes driving away in a hurry easier. Do not leave anything in the car on display. Remove all documentation and laptops, and anything else of value. Leave the interior of the car tidy. Upon returning to the car carry out a full inspection before entering.


If during your business travel overseas you are required to travel in marked or unmarked police or military vehicles. it is likely that this personnel will have well-rehearsed drills and procedures for anti-hijack, anti-ambush, and anti-illegal vehicle checkpoints. If so ask to be briefed on what they expect you to do in such incidents. Understand where the vehicle radio is (if it has one) and how to use it. In the event of one of these incidents taking place, you may find yourself left on your own in the vehicle very quickly.


Airports are popular targets for terrorists and criminals alike. Despite many airports going to great lengths, due to the transitory nature of its users, airport security is poor. Airports are the gateways to nation states, and have strategic value. Therefore they are often selected by terrorists as targets.

Your aim should be to arrive in sufficient time to check in, and clear the security checks, and meet your flight when leaving. When arriving be prepared to pick up luggage and clear the airport quickly and efficiently.

Do not spend any more time at airports than is necessary.

At all times keep your luggage in view until it is checked in, ensure that it is locked, and not marked with your home address. It could carry the company address, but not the company name.

Do not – under any circumstances – look after other people’s luggage or hand baggage.

Do not accept anything from anyone.

Stay away from uniformed personnel, these can be targeted easily.

When checking in ask for a window seat – statistically hijackers choose people from aisle seats as hostages.

When checking in, do not allow yourself to be seated by exits. These will be used by security forces when storming an aircraft – injuries will be sustained when the doors are blown open, and on the initial entry into the aircraft cabin as gunfire is exchanged between hijackers and the assault team.


  • Move through airports quickly and efficiently.
  • Mark luggage.
  • Secure hand baggage, and do not accept anything from others.
  • Stay clear of security forces.
  • Check into a window seat away from an exit.

Your personal security starts at the doors of the hotel. When arriving do not lose sight of any luggage. When checking in always ask for a room above the 1st floor, and below the 7th floor.

Reserve a room which does not face or is far enough away from the main street.

The ground floor has the most security related problems. Rooms above the 7th floor cannot be reached by fire brigade ladders. Ask reception never to give out your name or room number, this is useful information for anybody trying to plan a kidnap, robbery, or attack. Ask to be informed of any visitors and deliveries. They should not be allowed to go to your room without reception contacting you first.

You are most vulnerable on arrival as you will not be aware of the hotel routine. The advantage is with the criminal/terrorist at this stage.

Refuse to be led on, unless it is a part of the hotel reception routine. Heighten your sense of awareness.

HOTEL LIFTS                                                                                                            

These can pose specific security risks, especially if in enclosed areas or around corners. Do not stand close to lift doors when waiting for a lift as it gives an attacker an advantage. Stand well back, visually check the occupants of the lift before entering. If you have any reservations immediately walk away.

When in a lift stand near the buttons to gain control, remain near the doors, do not allow yourself to be pushed to the back of a crowded lift.

Get off at the floor above or below your intended floor. Consider using stairs as opposed to the lift.


When entering your room go through these simple security checks:

  • If the room has a balcony or window or door, make sure it firmly closes and locks, but that you can get out in an emergency.
  • Make a clear mental note of the nearest fire escape.
  • If there is a door peephole make sure it works.
  • Check that the door frame is strong.
  • Check that the door lock operates, is not filed down, or an obstruction placed in the mechanism.
  • If the door has a safety chain or restraint, check that it works.
  • Check that there are smoke/fire detectors inside the room.
  • Check the room phone to reception, and remind them not to give out your room number to anybody.

If your room is close to a fire escape and people are seen to use it as a back entrance or gather there, ask to move rooms. If your room appears tampered with, and it is not the hotel staff, as to move rooms. Always leave signs of occupancy, leave lights on and the TV operating, and place the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, these actions can deter intruders.

Remember many hotel staff have keys. Keep the room tidy, and do not leave expensive items on display, this invites theft. A tidy room will give you a better idea of if your belongings have been disturbed.

Before going to bed carry out the following personal security checklist:

  • Lock all doors and windows.
  • Attach the door security chain.
  • Place a rubber stop in the door.
  • Place your own alarm/smoke detector high above the door.


  • Ensure room is above the 1st floor and below the 7th
  • Be vigilant when using elevators.
  • Do not give out your room number.
  • Check with reception before answering the door.
  • Use the peep hole to visually check callers.
  • Keep the room tidy.
  • When out, leave signs of occupancy.

When stepping into the street you must consciously upgrade your awareness. Being in a state of readiness will not guarantee your safety but will greatly decrease your chances of being attacked.

Remember a would-be attacker must first identify you as a target, so give them as little as possible. Out in the street body language, what you wear, and how you wear it can make a huge difference. Plain clothes without patterns allow you to blend in and not attract attention to you, your nationality, or your business. Ensure that the clothes worn allow free movement, and wear practical footwear.

Always appear confident, and give the impression that you know where you are.

If carrying a bag, wear it strapped across your body.

Do not be tempted to walk in the dark or on your own. Stay in pairs or more, this is an effective deterrent.

Do not overtly display expensive watches or jewellery, or other signs of wealth.

Read a map in private, consulting a map in a public place is a clear sign that you are lost, do not belong, or are vulnerable.

Before going out, store useful local numbers on your mobile phone, such as the hotel, embassy/consultant, police, airline, local office or agent.

Avoid wearing military-style clothing as is fashionable, these can be seen as a statement, or you can be mistakenly aligned with a force or grouping.

Stay away from political events, activities, demonstrations, protests, or meetings. Do not wear political badges or religious emblems.

Have a pre-planned and simple cover story if questioned, it should be simple, not identify you, your company, the client, your activities, or where you are staying. For example:

“I am visiting for a short while on business, I work for an electronics company, I am staying nearby in a hotel.”

Bland – no identifying information, do not offer information unless pressed to do so – if your life is threatened tell them everything they want to know.


  • Wear clothes that are plain coloured, blend in, are practical, and allow free movement.
  • Always appear confident and in control.
  • Avoid displaying wealth.
  • Never wear photo ID in the street.
  • Strap bags across the body and wear to the front where they can be seen.
  • Avoid using your phone in public, you will be heard and this will identify you as an outsider/target.
  • Do not allow yourself to be distracted, you will fall prey to pickpockets.
  • Carry only what you need to spend and can afford to lose, in a second (dummy) wallet.
  • At ATM’s be aware of your surroundings.
  • Memorise your PIN and have your card ready.
  • Immediately put the cash and card in a safe place.
  • Do not carry more cash than is needed.

Stay away from street incidents, do not allow yourself to be sucked in, especially in bars, clubs, and restaurants where fights can occur. Do not drink to excess.

Do not be tempted to drink in countries where it is not permitted. Avoid dangerous areas of cities, “downtown” areas, known areas or enclaves, seek reputable local advice from the in-country embassy/consulate. Trust your instincts, if you are uncomfortable, leave immediately.


Pre-journey preparation will ensure that all aspects of personal security are covered prior to a business trip. This preparation will also have the effect of improving your confidence as you move into an unfamiliar country. It is prudent to have certain equipment that will improve various aspects of your security, these are listed as follows:


A good pocket torch that uses readily available batteries, for example the “AA or AAA”, that is reliable, small yet powerful. Purchase a torch with an LED module, as well as making the torch substantially more powerful, the LED module is battery efficient, and will not suffer from bulb failure.


Choose a compact model that folds into a pocket-size device.


A good “Swiss Army” pen knife, or “Leatherman” tool can be extremely useful. Remember to pack this into your hold luggage when travelling by air, for security reasons such items are not allowed in the aircraft cabin.


Do not carry sensitive commercial or personal information on the hard drive of your laptop computer. All documents should be kept in an off-board, portable hard drive. This can be stored separately from the laptop, such as in the hotel safe, or when on the move in your pocket. Laptop computers identify you as a target, and are targets themselves for thieves. If the laptop is stolen the information remains safe, that information could be sensitive to both the company and the client who may well be a government. Portable hard drives can have very large storage capabilities, 250 GB to 1 TB which should suffice. If possible, purchase SSD storage as opposed to a standard hard drive. SSD drives are solid state, no mechanical parts, and are more reliable.


Powerful PGP encryption is widely available either as download or on a CD. The contents of the portable hard drive can be encrypted to provide even greater security.


This can be used as a chock under the hotel or office door, and will prevent the door from being forced open from the outside.


A portable, battery operated alarm, can be carried overseas. Before going to bed, it can be set up pointing at the hotel room door. Any attempt to enter will activate a 90dB alarm which will alert you and others, and may well deter an intruder.


An essential item, and has already been mentioned in the scenarios covered in this document as a method of reporting. Your mobile phone should work in the country you are visiting. If it does not, then upon arrival purchase a local SIM card for the phone, and make the UK office, your client, the local office, the hotel, and the embassy/consulate aware of the phone number, and that their numbers are programmed into your phone with the appropriate access codes. A blue tooth enabled phone is suitable, as it allows hands-free operation when driving, if equipped with a suitable earpiece.


The following checklist should be followed to ensure that you have the correct documentation for your visit:

  • Passport – valid and in date. Use a passport cover, this removes the national identity on your passport, and makes you harder to target.
  • Visa – Should be valid, some countries allow visas to be purchased on entry. Prior to travel ensure that your nationality qualifies for entry. Always have sufficient local currency to purchase a visa on arrival if necessary.
  • Driving License – especially if you intend to drive, ensure that it is valid for the country that you are visiting. It can be used as alternate identification, when it may not be appropriate to use your company ID.
  • International Driver’s License – Some countries will not allow hire cars to be used without one, it also acts as a suitable form of alternate ID. International Drivers licenses can be obtained from most main Post Offices.
  • Return Flight Tickets, and a printed itinerary.
  • Insurance Document – Should be issued by the company, covering health and travel insurance.
  • Photocopies – At least 4 photocopies of the above Documents should be made and stored in a sealed envelope should you become separated or lose your passport and wallet.
  • Documents Envelope – This is made up of the photocopies of the other documents, together with a cover sheet contain the following information:
    • Full Name.
    • Home Postal address.
    • Personal Email address.
    • Home Phone number.
    • Company Postal address.
    • Company Email address.
    • Company Phone number.
    • Hotel Address.
    • Hotel Phone number.
    • Hotel Email address.
    • Blood Group.
    • Details of Allergies.

Next of kin details:

  • Phone number.
  • Mobile phone number.
  • Relationship (i.e. wife of).

The contents of such kits are always a source of disagreement. A suitable self-help kit should be able to cover the standard Breathing, Bleeding, Breaks, and Burns injuries. However, when overseas upset stomachs, water purification, and insect bites need to be considered. A suitable kit might contain the following:

  • Water Purification Tablets.
  • Oral Re-Hydration Salts.
  • Diarrhea Medication.
  • Advanced Wound Management.
  • Basic Blister Materials.
  • Basic Burn Materials.
  • Advanced Trauma Materials.
  • Advanced Infectious Control.
  • Advanced Medical Instruments.
  • Pain killer such as aspirin.
  • Insect Repellent.

In today’s climate of international terrorism, particularly as western nations are target states for extremists, working overseas for governments or other western high-profile interests raises your profile as a potential target for terrorists and criminal elements; often the two go together.

Some of the practices identified in this document may seem melodramatic, but they are simple, and common sense and can save lives. Obviously, not all countries visited will call for heightened security practices. But in the main a traveller overseas is easy game, and one should enhance one’s own security awareness when in a foreign country.

If you are travelling to a country where there is a security advisory in place by the Foreign Office –; your first act of security is to ask yourself: Do I need to go there? If the answer is yes, then ensure that all insurance is valid under the conditions pertaining to the region.

If it is anticipated that specialist procedures, such as vehicle search, or others as described in this document will be needed, seek professional training and advice prior to the journey, to ensure that you are fully prepared and aware of the most current threats and techniques.

Constant vigilance are the watchwords to be applied, travel safely and act defensively.

Need advice?

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