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The Traveler May 2012
The Traveler May 2012


The carjacking rate worldwide is increasing, particularly in Central and South America and Africa. Many tactics are used, and some regions experience more violent and fatal outcomes than others. Most incidents of carjacking occur in high crime, urban areas, but incidents can occur in suburban and rural areas as well. Travelers should use caution in all areas late in the afternoon and after dark, which is when most carjackings occur.

To further reduce the risk of becoming a victim, following are some common sense precautions travelers should always take in order to avoid a carjacking incident:

  • Keep doors locked and windows up at least three-fourths of the way
  • Wear your seatbelt
  • When stopping, leave adequate room between you and the car in front of you
  • When possible, drive in the center lane
  • Move quickly, but safely through intersections and stop signs
  • Be aware of persons approaching your car; if threatened, proceed through any lights or stop signs in a safe manner

Drivers should remember, however, that carjackings can occur in a number of different locations and under a number of different circumstances. The following areas, in particular, heighten the risks for foreigners traveling by car:
  • Intersections with stop lights or signs
  • Large parking garages and lots, such those found at shopping centers, airports, and rail stations
  • Gas stations, drive-through ATMs and on and off-ramps for highways
  • Residential parking areas and driveways
  • Checkpoints, as these may be established for the express purpose of robbing travelers

A carjacker may also pose as someone offering or needing assistance. In this way they are able to fool potential victims into dropping their guard. Be wary of strangers offering to help with a brokendown vehicle or flat tire. If you experience car trouble, stop in a well-lit, populated area. Immediately call the police or your embassy for assistance. Similarly, do not stop to help others who appear to be in trouble. Rather, notify the police of the person's whereabouts.

Another tactic typically employed by carjackers is to lightly bump a victim's car with another vehicle, in the hope that the intended victim will pull over. If you are involved in a minor accident of this sort, turn on your hazard lights and have the other person follow you to a police station or another safe location. If you get out of the car to deal with a situation, remove the keys from the ignition and take your wallet or purse and cellular phone.

High-end sedans and SUVs are the preferred choice of most carjackers, but lower-end cars are also targeted, particularly those driven by visitors to the country. Choose a lower-end model to lessen the risk, but make sure that the car is in good working order and has an automatic locking system and windows. Above all else, travelers should be focused on their personal safety in the case of a carjacking. Carjackings are usually perpetrated with the use of a weapon, most often a handgun. Travelers should always surrender a vehicle and its contents without hesitation to avoid harm.
Risks to female travelers have expanded over the last decade, as their rates of international travel have increased. While women travel for the same reasons as their male counterparts, the health and safety concerns - as well as social barriers - they face are distinct. As female travelers take off for foreign countries, it is important that they be aware of these unique challenges.

Awareness of cultural and religious differences is important for female travelers so as to mitigate safety risks while behaving in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. This may require changes in the way female travelers dress, interact with men, and behave in public. While abroad, travelers should be encouraged to take note of how local women act. Travel intelligence on standards of body language and business etiquette, such as the appropriate level of eye contact, greetings, and small talk, is also important. Learning some of the basics of body language and local culture before arriving can prevent awkward or misleading situations.

When traveling in religious and tribal societies, women should dress conservatively. Long skirts and loosely fitting tops with long sleeves and high neck lines are usually appropriate. Logo t-shirts and other markings on clothing can make it easier for criminals to identify a traveler as a foreigner and target them. Keep in mind that what may be appropriate in the US, could be considered inappropriate abroad. In general, female travelers should observe how local women dress and adapt their style somewhat to match the cultural norms.

Harassment, verbal or physical, is the most common threat to women traveling abroad. While harassment is seldom more than an annoyance, it can escalate into abuse and/or violence, and therefore should be handled appropriately. Furthermore, in some cultures it is considered improper for women to travel alone. Walking alone, especially at night, may put female travelers in particular jeopardy of harassment or assault. Women traveling in pairs or in groups often have an easier time warding off unwanted attention.

Being informed about current events and the customs of your destination country is imperative. Knowing the protocols, etiquette, and body language appropriate to your destination will help to ensure that you have a safe and successful trip.
Millions of people around the world suffer from chronic back issues - however, even those without a history of back problems can experience significant pain during the rigors of traveling. The backs of travelers are constantly under attack from cramped seats on airplanes, uncomfortable trains and hours spent behind the wheel. While eliminating all travel related back issues may not be possible there are certain steps you can take to make sure your trip isn't ruined by pain. Following are some tips:

Even though luggage has become lighter over the years many people still have a difficult time lifting and maneuvering their bags. Perhaps the greatest physical challenge to travelers is lifting their bags into the overhead bin on trains or planes. Experts recommend completing this task in more manageable stages. This can be accomplished by first lifting your bag onto the back of the seat, then slowly lifting it onto the ledge and into the overhead bin. Also, always be sure to lift with your knees rather than using your back muscles. Try not twisting your back when putting your bag in the overhead bin; instead pivot your feet to make the turn from aisle to bin.

When carrying heavy items, make sure they are close to your body. This will allow you to utilize the strength in your core rather than in your arms, shoulders and back. Also, balance out the weight evenly on either side of your body and remember to shift bags from side to side periodically so one side of your back isn't under constant stress.

Pack your own back support and neck pillow. All travelers know how uncomfortable airplane, train and bus seats can be, particularly for long trips. These supports will position you in a way that the seats are not designed to do. If you don't have a back support, experts recommend rolling up a jacket or sweatshirt and placing it behind your lower back to replicate the effect of a brace.

Place your feet on something stable, either the floor or a foot rest. Allowing them to dangle can put strain on your spine. Also, make sure your posture is strong for the duration of your trip. This means keeping your knees at a 90 degree angle with the headrest supporting the middle of your head and keeping your shoulders straight and not hunched over.

Pack light for short trips and consider shipping items to your destination for longer ones. Even though most passengers now have rolling luggage, there will always be some strain from lifting your bag upstairs, into trunks or overhead bins. By packing light the strain on your back will be reduced.

Move around every 20-30 minutes if possible during your trip. The spine is not designed for long periods of stress. Moving it will loosen your back muscles and prevent soft tissues from stiffening.

While visiting family in Tel Aviv, Israel, Ari* began to experience back pain and was unable to stand. When the pain got even worse, his sister, Janice drove him to the local hospital. After he was admitted, he called Assist America, the added benefit he receives through his association. Their medically-trained professionals contacted the hospital to obtain his medical records and started to medically-monitor his care. Ari was diagnosed with sciatica due to a spinal disc protrusion. He knew he would need assistance coming home, and was concerned about his comfort.

After being treated and discharged, Assist America arranged and paid for his flight home in first-class seating so he could recline. They also arranged and paid for his sister, Janice, to sit next to him on the plane as a non-medical escort and assist with any challenges he faced.

*name changed for privacy
Member Comment:
"I was very satisfied with everything the coordinators did for me. They were attentive, courteous, prompt and very professional. Thank God I don't use these services often, but my experience with you has been, perhaps, the best ever! Since everything has been so perfect, there is nothing else to add. Practically everything exceeded my expectations. Everyone I dealt with was great, and delivered fully and rapidly to all my needs and concerns. I expect to write about the wonderful experience I had with Assist America. God bless you all."
Over the years, airport hotels have developed a reputation for being sketchy places with few amenities. However, many airports and hotel chains are now beginning to team up to provide travelers with a great experience to accompany the convenience of staying at an airport hotel. The rigors of traveling can be very taxing, especially for road warriors constantly on the move for their job. With this in mind, more and more airport hotels are providing travelers with access to spa services, workout facilities and swimming pools even if they don't stay the night. Between these improved services and the stress free walk to the terminal, travelers are choosing to stay at these once undesirable places more than ever. The following airport hotels in particular have set themselves apart from the stigma they once had:

- Hilton Copenhagen Airport - Copenhagen Airport, the busiest hub in Scandinavia, is constantly abuzz with business travelers in need of some much needed relaxation. Their solution lays only a two minute walk away at the Hilton. The Hilton has created a Thai style spa with full amenities including a pool, sauna and a unique relaxation 'egg'. The 'egg' contains a special bed that helps travelers alleviate their jet lag. For only $40 travelers can access the spa without staying in the hotel - not a bad way to spend a layover.

- Crown Plaza Hotel Singapore - The convenience of this newly renovated hotel cannot be beaten in many places around the world. Connected to Terminal 3 by a walkway, the Crown Plaza offers guests a wide range of amenities - however, with the quality of services provided by the airport itself, even the extremely close location may deemed too far of a trip - the Changi airport already boasts a rooftop pool, free movie theater and public gardens.

- Hilton Chicago O'Hare - Just being at one of the world's busiest airports can be a stressful experience. Luckily for travelers the Hilton is only steps away from the airport and loaded with stress relieving services. Travelers can gain full access to the hotel's pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna for just $15. They also offer yearly memberships for those regularly flying in and out of this busy hub.

-Dubai International Hotels - With Dubai's recently earned status as one of the world's most luxurious places, the high quality of this airport hotel should come as no surprise. Located directly in Terminals 1 and 3 it is the ultimate in convenience. Travelers don't even need to leave security to check in and there is no better place in the world to work off jet lag with their hourly and day rates for a luxurious nap. Guests also gain access to all their spa services in case a good night's rest just wasn't enough.

For many travelers the development of online travel websites was a blessing. However, for one group of people this technological development had a profound effect on their well-being: travel agents. Over the past 15+ years the number of travel agencies has decreased by 20,000. However, new waves of technologically savvy agents are finding a niche for themselves in the marketplace. For two straight years this renaissance in the industry has lead to growth. Bookings through agencies now account for a third of the $284 billion travel market in the U.S.

Experts believe one of the major reasons for this growth is there are now too many online travel booking options out there. People now spend hours upon hours surfing different sites looking for the best deal possible. In a recent survey of 2,000 worldwide travelers 20% responded that it took more than 5 hours to search and book travel online. Even though booking travel online has become more convenient, it is not necessarily a time saver. As a result, travel agencies are being employed to take this hassle away from the user.

Not only are travel agents saving travelers time, but they are also saving them a significant amount of money as well. Their connections to certain hotels and vacation spots give some travel agents access to experiences and prices that wouldn't be available to the average consumer. Also, travel agents often become experts on certain destinations through their own travel experiences. These experiences allow them to give clients a firsthand recommendation, as well as tips for their vacation or business trip. This new wave of travel agents aren't just booking the trip for consumers, in fact, they have become more of a travel advisor than simply an agent. Travelers have so much information available to them they are looking for someone to help them sort it out and introduce cheaper options that fit into their plans. This new model comes with fees that usually range from $25 dollars to book a flight to $12,000 annual retainers.

The next time you're frustrated after hours of travel research on your computer, remember your best option might be to book the old fashioned way.
Regional Information


  • For the latest, up-to-date information regarding key regions, click on the links below:
  • Sources for this document include, but are not limited to: iJet, travel.nytimes.com, spine-health.com.

For pre-trip information:Assist America members may directly access travel information via the Assist America website, www.assistamerica.com. Log in using your Assist America ID/Reference number.

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