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Top tips for travelling in a post-Osama world

Osama Bin Laden's death has sparked security fears around the world. Here's your guide to staying safe

Osama Bin Laden Newspaper (Kolin Toney)

Since her first assignment in war-torn Basra, Rosie Garthwaite has been gathering practical advice on how to get by in war zones and other dangerous destinations from fellow journalists and operators, including John Simpson, Sebastian Junger, Jon Snow and Terry Waite.

Here she lists her top tips for staying safe in the wake of the killing of Osama Bin Laden and recent unrest in the Middle East.

1. Plan, research, call, check and double check

Know as much about the country you are going to as possible. Senior Al Jazeera cameraman Laith Mushtaq told me "read as much as you can when you can about the history, politics and culture of a place. You never know if something you read in the last paragraph might save your life the next day."

2. Never go into a riot without knowing how to get out

Riots seem to be springing up everywhere these days. Democracy is "in". Never trust a crowd and take a bag with enough water and kit to last you a day if you have to take refuge somewhere and can't get home. That includes your grab bag. Use antacid pills watered down in a bottle to dowse your eyes if you are hit with tear gas. And use a motorcycle helmet for protection

3. Make a grab bag

Have a small bag of essentials and keep it with you at all times. It should contain:


A phone Fully charged and ready to go, plus charger.

Pocket knife Make sure you take it out of your hand luggage at airports or security will take it off you. I have lost about 10 this way.

Airline tickets

Cash $1000 plus several hundred dollars-worth of local money

Credit cards

Water Enough for a day

Food Some dried food, such as granola bars and raisins, and some tinned food, in tins that don't need a tin opener

Torch I find head-torches the most useful for day-to-day use

Medical kit Including all your prescription medicines

Matches And/or a lighter

4. Learn a verse of the Koran

One anonymous contributor to my book from Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) told me it saved the life of a friend of hers when she was about to be shot dead in Chechnya. Many others had similar stories.

5. Don't carry a gun

But find out where the safety is on a weapon. Many countries in the Middle East and around the world keep weapons in the house.

6. Run Away

Run first as fast as you can before you ever try tackling anyone. And if they catch you use shock as your first weapon, shout, scream, hit, bite tear at their most vulnerable part - genitals and eyes. If they have a weapon and you think they might use it, comply to their wishes if there is no escape.

7. Know when to flirt

Flirting can be useful for getting what you want and particularly for getting around bureaucracy. But tread carefully. It will get you in much more trouble than you think if you cross the line.

8. Wear a false wedding ring

For the girls...wear a false wedding ring and refer to your husband often if you are travelling in a group of men.

9. Take local advice on checkpoints

Make sure they are all valid and how to get through them with as little hassle as possible.

10. Chose one passport

Where nationality is likely to be a sensitivity and you have multiple passports pick one and stick to it. More than one can lead people to think you are a spy.

11. Give your next of kin a heads up

Every time you go anywhere relatively dangerous. It's not morbid. They should know what to do if you are hurt or run out of money, or are imprisoned as much as if you are dead. Make sure they are not left flapping around trying to find keys and passwords. Give them a copy of your itinerary, contact details along the way and your passport and tickets.

Rosie Garthwaite is the author of How to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone published by Bloomsbury. Follow her on @Rosiepelican on Twitter.

Buy your copy of How to Avoid Being Killed a War Zone on Amazon now

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