March 2024 / News

Travelling to Hostile Environments: An Essential Guide

Planning a travel itinerary for destinations known for their hazards demands more than the typical foresight and preparation. The Hart team, with their deep expertise in risk management and providing security in volatile regions, share practical advice for travelling to hostile environments safely. 


Travel Safely: Before You Embark 

Government guidelines and local insights 

While it’s essential to consider your government’s guidance, gaining a nuanced and accurate understanding of the current situation, particularly in a hostile environment, must involve gathering insights from local organisations and individuals who are based in the area. Safe travel plans come from a diverse range of informed perspectives, preparing you to navigate and address challenges if they ever emerge. 

Gathering insights beyond official government advice gives a deeper understanding of your destination, leading to a safer journey.

Documentation and safety measures  

Secure physical and digital copies of your passport and travel or other relevant documentation, and take the following precautions for both formats:

Physical copies: When it comes to storing private and important hard copies, consider using a fireproof and waterproof safe, placed in a location known only to a few trusted individuals. Store the originals and copies separately to mitigate risk – if one set is compromised, the other remains secure. While you’re travelling, use a hotel safe for temporary safeguarding – but do consider the quality of security offered by the hotel first.  

Digital copies: Back up your digital versions in a secure cloud-based portal. While platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive are widely used for their accessibility and convenience, your security settings must be finely tuned. When you’re dealing with extremely sensitive information, select a cloud service with robust encryption and privacy policies.  

Travel health insurance is another necessity, whether you’re travelling to hostile environments or not. If you’re not already covered by your organisation, plan for high-risk insurance to ensure you’re protected in the event of needing urgent medical attention. Your insurance should cover you for medical assistance with a provider that is experienced in providing support in the region you are visiting, such as Assist360, who are specialist medical responders for complex environments. For high-risk insurance and more on preparedness, Hart’s Risk Management services offer detailed guidance, too. 

Staying connected and financial preparedness 

It’s a good idea to share your itinerary with someone outside the country, who can then periodically check in with you – and vice versa – when you arrive.  

Maintaining contact while you’re travelling abroad involves more than just a charged device. Here’s how to stay connected smartly so you’re always travelling safely: 

  • Dual SIM/International SIM: Use a dual SIM or an international SIM card for better coverage and local rates.
  • Chargers: Keep devices charged with portable or solar chargers.
  • Plug adapters: Carry the right plug adapters for your destination’s outlets.
  • Emergency numbers: Save local emergency services and your embassy’s contact information.
  • Offline resources: Download maps and translation apps for offline access.
  • Satellite communication: For remote areas and exceptional circumstances, consider a satellite messenger for critical communication.

To avoid any panic around your financial transactions, carry a mix of local currency and US dollars. We’d also advise you to familiarise yourself with the host country’s import laws to avoid bringing prohibited items into the country. In some places, the inclusion of a harmless protein shake, for example, could be problematic. These are small but important details that on-the-ground risk management companies such as Hart will know and advise on.  

Staying connected globally is crucial – it’s your main link to safety, deeper understanding, and smooth travel.

Health and travelling safety

As the global landscape evolves, you must stay informed about the latest health protocols and vaccination requirements related to your destination. This includes understanding any travel advisories related to new health threats, or vaccine mandates. Always consult a trusted medical professional or health authority for the most current advice tailored to the region. Your wellbeing must remain a top priority in an ever-changing environment. 

Navigating the Terrain in a Hostile Environment 

Daylight arrivals and nighttime safety: Always arrive in daylight and avoid going out after dark if you want to travel safely. Roadblocks and checkpoints are notorious opportunities for extortion and intimidation. Good security personnel will continually advise you but always remember to keep your hands visible and to remain polite and calm. It is usually best to stay in the vehicle; if not, stay in your group and never wander off alone.   

Arriving in daylight and exercising caution at night, along with mindful interaction in sensitive areas, are pillars of safety in unfamiliar territories.

Seven key points to remember with regards to your personal security:  

Tips for travelling to high risk locations

  1. Anonymity is your friend but be confident in your mannerisms 
  2. Be aware – of the details and your surroundings at all times  
  3. Be suspicious – don’t take things at face value  
  4. Be methodical – stay calm and logical  
  5. Avoid routine – if you are being watched, routine can be dangerous 
  6. Communications – stay in touch, share your route with contacts and when you expect to arrive  
  7. Initiative & common sense – don’t wear expensive jewellery or let your phone be visible, and take great care when deciding on taxis and airport pickups 

Photography and interaction caution: Never take photographs at military checkpoints, secure borders or other sensitive areas like airport buildings. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to stay out of the way of military forces who may be present in a region.  

Trusting the Professionals for Safe Travel 

Should you be travelling to a hostile environment, entrusting your safety to professionals like Hart is paramount. Discover how Hart ensures your protection with minimum intrusion through their specialised security protection and Hostile Environment Security Training (HEST).