Driving in a Foreign Country

We are often asked about best practices for driving in a foreign country related to expatriate security. McKinley International provides high quality international kidnap insurance programs for expatriate families and international business travelers. The focus here is driving security from the security threats we deal with as experts in this area, not driving safety. The former is applicable to Mexico City or Manila and the latter to London for example, where you have little need for international kidnap insurance, but you stand an increased chance of an accident if you are unfamiliar with the driving conditions.

If one is driving in a foreign country labeled as a moderate to high international kidnap risk, take the following recommendations very seriously. These tips are listed in order from easiest to most difficult.

  • Lock the doors at all times. While this may be obvious, it is rarely practiced 100 percent of the time.
  • Unless the area is very safe, keep the windows rolled up. Use the air conditioning instead.
  • Keep a cell phone charged and have the number for the local equivalent of 911 and the local police programmed into the phonebook. When driving in a foreign country, you may only have time to reach for the cell and hit one number if something happens quickly.
  • Know where the police stations are along your route, or just off your route. You should be able to drive to the nearest 3 precincts in your city. Trying to figure out where to go in a panic is difficult.
  • When driving in a foreign country, be aware of the cars around you and behind you. If you are the target of a kidnapping, you could be followed several times before and leading up to an incident.
  • Do not box yourself in on side streets. Leave enough room between your car and the car in front of you. If you are on the bumper of the car in front of you and someone comes in close behind you, you have nowhere to escape.
  • Vary routes, schedules, and the time you leave whenever possible. Do not do the same thing day after day. A regular routine is bad in this case.
  • Keep a digital camera in the car. Even most modern cell phone cameras have at least 30 minutes of video recording function. If you see anyone or anything suspicious, take pictures and videotape them. This also acts as a tremendous deterrent. Whether these individuals are amateurs or highly sophisticated kidnappers, they are less likely to prey on someone who may be onto them.

Although these are simple tips for driving in a foreign country are simple, few practice more than three or four of the above. The more you practice safety tips, the less likely you are to become a victim.