The Traveler

Issue: December 2015

An informational bulletin on security, medical, and travel related issues






Regional Information

Africa - East Asia - Europe - Near East - South Asia - Western Hemisphere


Don't Let Scams Ruin Your Trip

Out of their element and carrying cash, vacationers, students, and business travelers are ideal targets for scam artists. While nobody knows how much scam artists steal each year, thousands of travelers report incidents in online forums. The scams range from highly sophisticated attempts to extort hundreds or thousands of dollars, to the most low-tech efforts to make a few bucks. And the scams are always changing. In 2011, Peter John, a travel writer, published an attempt to compile a comprehensive catalog of known traveler scams. The book, titled “Around the World in 80 Scams,” touched on almost every country, describing the most prevalent tactics locals used to rob foreign travelers, but despite running more than 326 pages, reviewers and readers almost immediately began reporting new scams and variations. Travel experts admit that there’s no way to keep up with the speed with which scam artists develop their ploys. However, the most pervasive scams generally fall into four general categories.  

1. Sorry, We’re Closed
These scams try to force travelers to deviate from their plans to stay at a hotel, visit a site, or shop or eat in a particular place. The general setup is consistent: someone tells the traveler that the original site is closed, and offers an alternative. Of course, everyone gets some kind of kickback at the alternative location. Travelers have reported this at many locations, including Egyptian antiquities sites, hotels in China, and shops in Istanbul, just to name a few.  

2. Help, Please!
Good Samaritan/Bad Samaritan scams are quick-turn, low-yield interactions, generally intended to separate the traveler from a few dollars. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the “let me take your picture” variation (where a kindly stranger offers to snap a photo and then loudly demands payment) is the most common variation, but some places have more elaborate versions. In Cuba, for example, travelers have repeatedly reported incidents in which locals kindly offer to help with punctured tires for an implied cost — and without mentioning how the tires, which were whole when the car was parked, came to be punctured. But perhaps the most archetypical Good Samaritan/Bad Samaritan scam is the “friendship bracelet” scam: a friendly local approaches a traveler and ties a bracelet on the traveler’s wrist, gesturing that it’s a measure of friendship, welcome, or respect for the traveler’s country. When the traveler tries to leave, the scam artist accuses them of trying to steal the bracelet, and demands payment. 

3. A Numbers Game
Numbers games are perhaps the most straightforward of any scam. In a numbers scam, the artist changes the charges for a service once the traveler has agreed to a price. Examples include extra hotel charges added to the bill, cashiers giving bad change (taking advantage of traveler confusion about foreign currency), taxi drivers with “broken” meters, and vendors listing prices in local currency but demanding dollars, British pounds, or euros. 

4. Problems with Authority
For some travelers, there isn’t anything scarier than having to deal with police in a foreign country —and scam artists know it. In “Problems with Authority” scams, scam artists fool travelers into paying a fee or bribe to a security officer, or someone they think is a security officer. The classic version of the scam involves someone posing as a parking enforcement officer and issuing fake tickets, which the traveler can conveniently pay in cash, but in the last few years reports have emerged of more elaborate scams. In 2015, travelers and government traveler security departments began warning of “tanim bala,” a scam in which airport security staff plant bullets in travelers’ bags and then demand a payment. According to CNN, at least 30 cases were reported to local authorities between January and November 2015.

Protecting Yourself
Scams are a nuisance, a hassle, and can derail a good trip—but while every major travel destination will have people ready to take advantage of the naïve, wary travelers can protect themselves by taking basic precautions:

• Research common scams before leaving. Knowing that an area is particularly targeted by Good Samaritan/Bad Samaritan scammers using the friendship bracelet technique may be enough to avoid the most common issues.
• Use a hotel to help set up trips. Most hotels depend on good reviews to keep customers, and they know that a scammed traveler is an unhappy traveler. They may also know what scams are the most prevalent—and they’ll be able to tell you if an attraction, restaurant, or store is actually closed. 
• Use a credit card to pay. Credit card companies can help you follow up and dispute charges from restaurants or hotels. 
• Be prepared to file a report. Many big traveler destinations have tourist police who will be versed in helping travelers deal with scammers. 

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Travel to Remote Destinations: How to Prepare 

Siberia. Remote Alaska. The Rockies. The Arctic. Patagonia. The Sahara. The remote places of the world attract and fascinate ambitious travelers, promising them the trips of a lifetime. But remote travel comes with complications. Remote locations can be beautiful and interesting, but conditions can be harsh. Travelers will want to prepare for all contingencies and plan to deal with emergencies without the assistance generally available in major cities. In this article, we’ve compiled general advice and guidelines for planning trips to remote locations—which, for the sake of consistency, we’ve defined as sparsely inhabited areas more than one hour by road away from a major population center, with limited access to basic necessities and infrastructure. This article is meant as a jumping-off point for those plans—but it’s not complete. The information we’ve included applies to remote destinations in general, and travelers will need to augment this information with specifics tailored to the challenges of the destination. 

Understanding the Local Environment 
The best way to prepare for a trip to a remote destination is to start with a full picture of the complications the environment presents. Specifically, this includes the following factors:

• Security Environment. Issues such as crime, civil unrest, terrorism, kidnapping, geopolitical instability, roadside banditry, carjacking, and inadequate security services.
• Climate. It’s not just packing the right clothes. The local climate may affect ground transportation, lodging requirements, and necessary supplies. Travelers should make note of seasonal weather conditions when they will be traveling, as well as potential environmental hazards: will the local population be burning off their crops, making the air quality extremely poor? Is it monsoon season? 
• Terrain and Infrastructure. The quality and reliability of local infrastructure and the complexity of the terrain may affect both travel and communication capabilities. Specifically, travelers will want to check out the general road conditions as well as the availability of cellular phone networks.
• Health and Safety Concerns. Would-be travelers should make note of local health threats (e.g., food and water safety, flora- and fauna-related hazards, etc.) and whether or not they’ll be able to get to a doctor if there’s an incident. If not, travelers should consider what kind of medical supplies they should bring. 

Gather Information  
With the help of other travelers, local contacts, and online research, a traveler to a remote destination should compile as much information as possible before going, and pass the information along to points of contact at home. 

Things worth knowing could include: 
• Name and phone number of drivers or local contacts
• The year, make, and model of the cars used in in-country travel
• The daily length of travel in time and distance
• The geo-coordinates (GPS) of the points of departure and arrival
• The names of the roads
• The conditions of the roads
• The availability and frequency of rest stops
• The proximity of the route to inhabited areas, police, and fire stations
• Mobile network availability along the route
• Protocol for a vehicle breakdown, a medical emergency, or a security incident
• Whether the car comes with additional fuel, oil, spare parts, tools, rope or cable, jumper cables, emergency flares, or communication devices, or if these supplies need to be acquired before departing
• Whether other necessities are required, such as food, water, and first-aid supplies 

Travelers may also want to use a local contact to figure out the amenities available at the different rest sites, hotels, or campgrounds. Amenities may include practical and protective elements, such as locking doors and windows, smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, emergency exits, safe deposit boxes, air conditioning, food and water, and on-site security personnel. 

Also, when connecting with a local source to figure out the information outlined above, a traveler will want to nail down the specifics, and the contingency plans, for connecting with in-country partners.  Travelers will need a name, contact phone number, physical description, and photo of the representative meeting the traveler at the airport, and travelers should know where in the airport the meeting is to take place.  

Handle the Bureaucracy
Remote destinations can require additional engagement with destination authorities. In some locations, national or local governments may require travelers to secure special permits. Travelers may need to provide additional documentation and information regarding their ability to travel safely without requiring additional assistance from local emergency services. Authorities may ask for specific information about the traveler’s supplies, clothing or other required gear, and they may ask for official assurances that a traveler’s at-home support will be able to assist in an emergency. Once the bureaucracy is satisfied, travelers will want to make a copy of all travel documents and the itinerary, and leave it with a trusted colleague, relative, or friend. In addition, the traveler will want to register the trip with the local embassy or consulate. 

Nothing can end a trip faster than an illness or injury, and travelers will want to take all precautions in order to stay healthy before and during remote travel. Before leaving, a traveler should schedule a visit to a travel health clinic or health provider as early as possible to allow time for any necessary immunizations to take effect, and contact health insurance to check that coverage (including evacuation costs)* extends to the destination. Travelers should also check that the types and amounts of medications are allowed in the destination country, and prepare a list of the generic and local names of all medications in case more are needed while traveling. For prescriptions, it may be best to get a copy of the doctor’s script, as some countries require a prescription for each medication. 

And (Finally!) Pack the Bag
For remote travel, a suitcase needs to carry at least the following: travel documents (multiple copies), clothing and appropriate changes of clothing, communication technology, other appropriate technology, and medications (be sure to put these in your carry-on) and first-aid supplies. The intrepid traveler may also consider bringing a map of the region and local language translations for key phrases. Consider bringing a small first-aid kit, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, antibiotic ointment, and anti-diarrheal, antihistamine, and oral rehydration solutions. Also consider the mundane: Would the trip be better with some nonperishable food or snacks? Will there be places to buy water? (If not, consider purification tablets or a water bottle with a filter.) Toilet paper? Gum?

Heading off the beaten path takes a lot of work before the trip, but remote places offer travelers unique experiences. Once the prep work is done, contingencies planned for, papers and medication arranged, and the bag packed, travel to remote places stops being a challenge—and starts being an adventure. 

Remember: Assist America is there to help members with medical emergencies during travel, even in remote locales. This is especially important if there are no adequate facilities to treat your emergency at your travel location and you need to be evacuated to a more appropriate facility.  Assist America 24/7 if you require our help.   

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10 Ways to Prepare for Cold and Flu Season

There’s no doubt about it—cold and flu season is a sure thing and it’s coming whether you’re ready for it or not. Nothing will completely take away the risk of getting a cold or the flu but there are many things you can do to greatly reduce your chances of getting sick.

1. Stock your medicine cabinet.
Take time while you’re healthy to stock your medicine cabinet. Get rid of expired medicines and make a list of what you need to replace and replenish. Make sure to include fever and pain relief medicines, decongestants, antihistamines, and cough medicines. You may also want to buy nasal sprays (decongestant and saline), cough drops, and throat lozenges. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have a chronic medical condition or you’re stocking up for children or a baby.

2. Load up on other health supplies.
Along with medicines, think about the other supplies you’ll need. Make sure you have a good thermometer and fresh batteries if it needs them. A humidifier may also come in handy. Then focus on the basics, such as tissues, hand sanitizer, and anti-bacterial soaps. Have plenty on hand so you’re ready for the first sneeze.

3. Fill your pantry with drinks and comfort foods.
Your kitchen is another area to stock while you’re healthy. A run to the grocery store once you’re sick won’t be fun. So think through it now and get what you need. Fluids are important when you have a cold or flu—dehydration is the biggest reason you feel so lousy. Water is the best choice, but hot herbal teas can be soothing and fruit juices give you extra vitamin C. Pick up some favorite foods that are easy to make and eat. For example, ice pops can feel good on a sore throat and chicken soup can be just what the doctor ordered.

4. Practice proper hand washing.
Proper hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent colds and flu. And it’s easy—easy to do and easy to teach to children. Start with warm water and your anti-bacterial soap. Work the lather for 20 seconds, paying extra attention to fingernails and jewelry. Singing “Happy Birthday” twice is a good way to judge the time. Then rinse and dry your hands. Disposable towels are best so you can use them to turn off the water. This will protect you from putting germs from the faucet right back on your hands.

5. Keep your hands away from your face.
Another easy way to protect yourself is to keep your hands away from your face. Specifically, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These are the areas where cold viruses gain entry into your system. The same bug that gives you a cold can cause viral pink eye. Keeping your hands away will keep any cold germs on them away as well. If you need to touch these areas, wash your hands before and after.

6. Get a flu vaccine.
Getting a yearly flu vaccine is an important step in preventing the flu. The flu spreads differently than colds and is very contagious. People can spread the flu a day before symptoms even show up. And the vaccine can protect you against the most common strains of the flu. It changes each year based on predictions for the upcoming flu season. The vaccine is usually available by October, but you can get it any time during the flu season.

7. Practice healthy living habits.
Healthy living habits can boost your immune system. On the other hand, getting run down and tired can make your immune system weak. So eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh foods and healthy proteins—lean meat, chicken and fish. Stay hydrated with water. Exercise regularly and get a good night’s sleep. For adults, that means getting 7 to 8 hours a day. Children need more. Gauge if you’re getting enough by paying attention to any daytime sleepiness or sleepiness while driving.

8. Clean household surfaces.
Cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces outside the human body; times range from seconds to a couple of days. They tend to live longer on hard, non-porous surfaces, such as metal, plastic and wood. Cleaning household surfaces with disinfectants will kill cold and flu germs. Look for products containing bleach, alcohol, pine oil, sodium hypochlorite, citric acid, hydrogen peroxide, or quaternary ammonium compounds. An EPA registration number on the label will tell you if the product meets specifications for disinfectants. You may have to look for it in the small print areas.

9. Make a plan for sick days.
If you work outside the home, make a plan for sick days. Even if you feel like you could work, your co-workers will appreciate you keeping your germs at home. Verify that you have several sick days available to use during the season. Or find out if you’ll need to take the time unpaid. And see about working from home if possible when you have a sick child. 

10. Stop the spread of germs.
If you’re healthy, stay away from sick people as much as possible. If you do get sick, know ahead of time how to keep your germs to yourself and teach these strategies to your kids. Cough and sneeze into a tissue. Then discard the tissue and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands. And don’t share items, such as utensils and cups. Do as much as you can to limit contact with others.
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From the Assist America Case Files

Lymes disease in Germany

Assist America member Lynn* was bitten by a bug. The bite swelled causing her discomfort, so she sought treatment and her symptoms improved.  Thinking that the situation had been resolved, she traveled to Germany with her husband and children for vacation. Once she arrived in Germany, Lynn began to experience extreme muscle aches, back pain and facial paralysis.  She was admitted to a local hospital and her husband contacted Assist America.

Assist America monitored Lynn’s care as she underwent testing to determine the root of the problem.  She was diagnosed with Lymes disease and given IV antibiotics that seemed to help alleviate some of her symptoms.

Lynn’s treatment took longer than expected and her husband and children needed to return home to Minnesota.  Once Lynn was ready to be released, Assist America stepped in and arranged and paid for Lynn to travel home via business class for her comfort. They arranged for a car service to transport her to and from the airport and even made sure she had wheelchair assistance in the airport so she could easily get around. Lynn was relieved to be reunited with her family back home, where she could receive continued treatment from her primary care physician thanks to Assist America’s help.

*name changed for privacy
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The 30 Worst Decisions You Can Make at an Airport

Air travel is stressful. You’ve shelled out big bucks for a trip, fretted about the details, and now travel day has finally arrived. The decisions you make at the airport can make or break not only your day of travel but possibly your entire trip. Here is Yahoo Travel’s list of the worst things you can do at the airport.

Shopping at the airport 
This falls into the same category as drinking from the mini bar at a hotel—it’s there to tempt you with convenience and combat boredom. Unless you really can’t make it through the flight without that purple neck pillow, keep your money in your wallet. That includes duty-free shops at international terminals. They may not come with import taxes, but the prices are not likely to be comparable to street prices to begin with. At least use your phone to do a quick search on Amazon for the going price before you buy. 

Thinking the ticket agent can get you a free upgrade from your cheap seat
Smile all you like. Complain. Show the agent your cute little puppy peeking out of the carrier. It’s not going to work. In today’s upgrade world, it’s pay up or shut up. Upgrades for money or points are offered by some carriers at the check-in counter or at self-serve kiosks but often only to full-fare passengers or those with mileage status on the airline. 

Losing your boarding pass
Not only is it your way through security and onto the plane, but it can be decoded to provide personal information about you that identity thieves can use. If you’re prone to misplacing it, downloading your boarding pass onto your phone can be a good way to go.  

Standing left
Moving walkways in U.S. airports serve two purposes: (1) transporting people unable (or unwilling) to walk long distances between gates or terminals and (2) speeding along people who are late for flights. If you are in the first group, your job on a moving walkway is to stand to the right so people in the second group can speed walk past you on the left. And keep your carry-on luggage on the right too, please. This process also works on escalators. 

Overdressing or underdressing
I am constantly amazed at the outfits people travel in. Wouldn’t your day be easier if you wore shoes that slip on and off easily? And maybe not wear so much metal jewelry? And then there are the flip-flop wearers. Bare feet in an airport security line? Not the greatest idea.

Taking stinky airport food onto the plane 
Just don’t. Your fellow passengers will thank you.

Waiting at the wrong gate 
No matter how tempting it may be to find a quiet place away from your crowded gate to become engrossed in your phone or have a nap, it’s a bad idea. If you’re at your own gate, there is at least some hope you will snap back to reality or wake up from your nap at the noise of the boarding process. 

Thinking you don’t qualify to get into a lounge 
A better way to escape the noise, expensive food, and chaotic atmosphere of the airport altogether is by spending your preflight interlude in a lounge. Lounges are not the exclusive territory of first-class passengers or serious frequent flyers. For $50 you can secure a day pass to a host of airport lounges operated by airlines without belonging to any frequent-flyer program. Sometimes just having the right credit card in your wallet is enough to get you a free meal and drink, free Wi-Fi, and maybe even a quick shower between long-haul flights. At American Express Centurion Lounges, all you need is a Platinum card to waive the $50 day-use fee and enjoy a bit of the good life before your takeoff.    

Assuming there will be affordable, tasty food
Better, tasty food usually comes with a hefty price. You’ll end up spending $10 to $12 for a fast food meal that would cost you $7.50 away from the terminal. You’ll pay even more for table service if it even exists near your particular gate, but a full-service restaurant often comes with the advantages of slightly more comfortable surroundings, drink refills, and possibly free Wi-Fi. When in doubt, BYO travel-friendly food.

Assuming you won’t get fed you on the flight
I recently watched as fellow American travelers scarfed down expensive airport sandwiches right before boarding a Lufthansa flight that served a very tasty lunch. We have become so used to the recent lack of no meal service on U.S. airlines that we assume it’s the standard. Check your flight details before you overpay for airport food thinking it’s your only option. 

Blaming the ticket agent for long lines or delays
You already know this, but it’s really not his or her fault that the computer system has a glitch or that a few hundred people need to check bags at the same time. It was probably that guy in front of you refusing to check his oversize carry-on that held up everything. 

Stowing your car keys inside your checked luggage 
It always seems logical at the time. You exit your car knowing that you won’t need those keys for the duration of your trip and you are trying to scale down the weight of your carry-on. Plus, there’s the hassle of taking them out of your pockets at security. And they fit so nicely in that outer zipper pocket of your big suitcase, where you can easily retrieve them on your return. In 2014, U.S. airlines reported roughly 2.1 million mishandled checked bags according to the Department of Transportation. Need we say more?

Putting anything you can’t replace in your checked luggage  
Let’s review—2.1 million mishandled bags! Three out of every 1,000 passengers experiences a “mishandling” of their luggage. The rule of thumb is that if it cannot be replaced at your destination and it is an integral part of your journey, carry it on.

Neglecting to put identification on the outside of your luggage
This includes not only a method of contacting you if your luggage becomes a mishandling statistic but also an easy way for you to identify it on the carousel or in the overhead bin. Ribbons, straps, handle wraps, stickers, etc. are among the arsenal of marking tools at your disposal. When it comes to luggage identification, bolder can be better.  

Forgetting to put identification inside your luggage
That 2.1 million statistic does not include the minor damage that happens to luggage on every trip— including mangling or accidental removal of your exterior identification tag. Never, ever travel without a contact phone number or email address placed prominently inside the bag.  

Leaving with the wrong luggage
If you failed to follow the rule of clearly marking your luggage, you are at risk of snagging the wrong bag. Check all luggage carefully before you walk away.

Thinking your luggage scale is the one that matters
How many times do you need to tell the ticket agent that your scale at home said 49.7 pounds? If the check-in scale your luggage is sitting on says it weighs 51.2 then redistribute between your bags or pay up.

Joking with security
We love it when an agent is jovial rather than grumpy, but don’t take that as an invitation to joke around about a bomb. Agents have a job to do—and that includes taking people seriously.

Arguing with security
Airport security has rules. There are procedures. Do you really think agents are going to break them because you are late for your flight? If flyers would just pay attention while standing in line instead of reading Facebook posts, they’d know what goes in bins, what goes on the conveyor, and whether or not to take off the belt around their sweater. That way there’s no argument needed when security tells you one electronic device per bin.    

Getting drunk 
This is a no-brainer. If you want to fly, don’t drink to the point of inebriation. Everybody hates that guy —even the flight attendants. Don’t let it be you. 

Leaving anything unattended 
Another decision that should not require any thought but is something I see all the time—don’t walk away from your stuff for any reason.

Sitting for two hours while you wait for a flight 
You’re about to be trapped in an uncomfortable seat for hours. Why would you spend your entire preflight time sitting? Use the time to walk and stretch. Even standing is better than sitting.

Avoiding water because it will make you have to use the airplane bathroom 
Air travel dehydrates you. The air circulating inside a plane at 30,000 feet is desert dry at less than 20 percent humidity. We understand the desire to avoid the high-elevation Porta-Potty. But consuming water before a flight helps prepare your body for the drier environment, warding off a host of things like dry sinuses (which allow germs in), thicker blood (that clots in your veins), and—nobody’s friend— constipation. 

Not visiting the airport facilities before your flight
Not only will this potentially help you avoid the plane bathroom, but it gives you the opportunity to wash your hands. You rode in airport transfer buses. You have touched security bins. You have held handrails on moving walkways and escalators. You probably touched at least one armrest somewhere in the airport. All of these things are loaded with pathogens. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and wash your hands before you board.

Ignoring advice from airport workers 
If you happen to be on a shuttle from a car rental, a hotel, or another terminal, when the driver speaks, you should listen. Something as simple as “watch your step” could make your day a bit smoother. They’re there every day. They know the deal better than you. I recently watched a bunch of impatient fellow travelers ignore a Turkish bus driver’s advice to use his cart for transport through the first round of security. They demanded to handle their own luggage. Guess what? The rest of us and our luggage were sped through via an express lane. If someone who knows has advice, take it.  

Forgetting to have easy-to-access small bills in the right currency 
If you use the services of a shuttle-bus driver, a taxi driver, or curbside baggage porters be prepared to tip them for the assistance. Use the appropriate currency and have small bills handy so that you don’t need to expose your entire wallet to retrieve them. It will save you embarrassment, aggravation, and, potentially, trouble. 

Acting like you’re the only person in the gate area 
Nobody else wants to listen to your favorite sitcom being streamed to your iPad, hear your phone conversations, or listen to your music. 

Forgetting that asking a person for directions can be better than an app 
No matter how many maps or apps you download, there will always be that moment when you stand in an unfamiliar airport with confusing signs wondering exactly where you need to go to catch the tram to Terminal 2. That’s the time to go old-school and just ask somebody. Kudos to airports that intuitively know where their points of confusion are and employ greeters to cheerfully point the way.

Joking with the passport-control people 
You are tired. The end of your journey is in sight. There is only one thing blocking your path out of terminal hell—passport control. Mess this up and you may get an unexpected behind-the-scenes tour of the airport’s immigration offices. Shake off the flight fog and pay attention. Read the signs. Listen to the instructions. Have your passport and visas ready to hand over. Remove your hat and sunglasses and look the person behind the counter in the eye and you’ll get through much quicker than if you’re unprepared.  

Forgetting where you left your car 
You have been in travel brain for days now. Things like where you left the car and the keys that operate it may take a bit to recall. Was it in the north lot or the south lot? Take a moment at the beginning of your trip to make a note of where you parked so that you don’t spend all night searching for your vehicle. 

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The Top 10 Adventure Travel Trends for 2016

People travel for many different reasons: to conduct business, to visit family, or to relax. An increasingly popular travel motivation, however, is adventure—partaking in new and unusual experiences designed to thrill and inspire. For that type of travel, consider Exodus Travels' list of the "Top 10 Adventure Travel Trends and Tips for 2016":

10. Winter Travel
As mercury levels drop and the snow starts falling, travelers are opting out of fly and flop beach vacations and, instead, taking advantage of the smaller crowds, cheaper rates, and unique thrill-seeking activities, like snowshoeing, northern lights, ski touring, and dog sledding, that the winter season offers.

9. Self-Guided Tours
With so much to absorb while seeing the world, it's sometimes best to take it all at your own pace. Independent travelers can now have it all: the seamlessness of an organized tour combined with the privacy, freedom, and flexibility of a self-guided trip. Set your own agenda while someone else worries about the bag transfers, where to sleep, and the always important 24/7 support. Exodus has seen a spike in bookings that combine the carefree ease of guided group travel with the independence of going it alone.

8. Female Solo Travel
Women travelers have tipped the tourism scales in the last couple years and Exodus saw a huge 40 percent increase in their number of female solo travelers in 2015, a trend that is gaining momentum in 2016 because of social media and the added safety provided by experiential group travel.

7. Eastern Europe
Europe buffs are moving further east to uncover a welcome refuge from the well-trodden paths of Italy, France, Croatia, and Switzerland and to immerse themselves in a collision of 'East meets West' cultures. Cycle through Romania's rolling hills, gaze wide-eyed at Bosnian architecture, or test the waters in Slovenia with a week of whitewater rafting, canyoning, and mountain biking on the banks of the Soca River.

6. Cuba
In 1961, the U.S. severed its relationship with Cuba and pursued a covert operation to overthrow the Castro regime. Fast forward 54 years later and the two nations have agreed to normalize ties. Remember there's more to this Caribbean archipelago than palm fringed beaches, colonial architecture, classic cars, Che Guevara, and mojitos.

5. Vacation ROI
Workaholics, listen up—studies show that employees who regularly take overseas vacations are more energized, creative, and ultimately more productive in the workplace. Some companies, like LinkedIn, are even offering unlimited vacation policies as a way of encouraging its passport-ready staff to seek new challenges, find inspiration, and reduce burnout.

4. Extreme Wellness Holidays
Forget about yoga, spa, and wellness retreats—2016's travelers are asking for rigorous, physically demanding, and mentally challenging adventures that focus on extreme biking and trekking. Exodus has seen a huge spike in bookings that take the 'wellness concept' to a whole new level with full force adrenaline expeditions, such as biking in remote Madagascar and the Alpine Cols of the Tour de France or climbing volcanoes' in Indonesia and the Three Peaks of Ladakh.

3. Iran
With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad out of the political picture and travel sanctions lifted in 2015, Iran has recaptured the attention of globetrotters who've been waiting to tick it off their bucket list. The world's finest Persian architecture and historic sites, bustling bazaars, artistic masterpieces, mind-blowing cuisine, and hospitality steeped in ancient traditions promise an extraordinary adventure.

2. 'The Jungle Book' Trips
From 'Indiana Jones' to 'The Hobbit,' the biggest Hollywood hits always motivate travelers to set-jet to exotic new locales. India's jungles and animals will steal the show in 2016 with the release of a new adaption of Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book.' With a star-studded cast of Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, and Lupita Nyong'o, India's tiger and safari parks are destined to be one of the year's travel blockbusters.

1. African Conservation Safaris
Last year's global outcry over the killing of Cecil the lion has put the fate of wildlife tourism under the microscope. Exodus anticipates Botswana will see a rise in bookings, with safari-seekers choosing to spend their tourism dollars in this southern African country, which has made a serious commitment to wildlife and environmental preservation. If a chance to spot the Big 5 wasn't reason enough to go, Botswana celebrates 50 years of Independence in 2016.

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Regional Information

For the latest, up-to-date information regarding key regions, click on the links below:



East Asia




Near East


South Asia


Western Hemisphere

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The content of this edition of AssistAlert is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace further investigation or personal observations. If you are planning travel, or are traveling in or proximate to the locations identified in this newsletter, you are encouraged to contact SecurAssist for additional information.

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