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Tips for Solo Travelers on How to Survive Being Kidnapped and How to Escape

By Danny Kaine

Being kidnapped is either for financial or political reasons when traveling.

Being kidnapped is either for financial or political reasons when traveling.

The most likely scenario for being kidnapped is either for financial or political reasons when traveling. A majority of the time, kidnappings can be avoided if the individual avoids the places they should not be in the first place. It is critical that when you travel, whether for business or pleasure, that you remain vigilant at all times. Visit your embassy website, read the travel advisories, watch the news. If technology is not available to you, ask a local of places where to avoid. Typically taxi drivers and hotel concierge are excellent sources of information.

If a kidnapping takes place, the most important thing to remember is, do not appear to be a threat to your captors. If you are tall, adjust your stance. If you are stocky, slouch your shoulders. If you have muscular arms, try to cover them if possible. If you have a deep voice, speak softly. If you are a woman in a Muslim country, keep your head and face covered where possible. Be respectful at all times. I understand that this will be tough considering that they kidnapped you, but it is essential to reduce the abuse that happens to you and to ultimately stay alive.

It is paramount that you remain calm, even in the face of chaos. It is ok to cry. In fact, the more submissive you are, and the more control your captors believe they have over you, the better it will be for you. If you are given the chance to eat or drink, take it. Remain alert. At this point, you do not know how long they plan to keep you hostage. Prepare for the long haul. Start to memorize their routine. Chances are they will not be well disciplined, but there will be some routine. If you have daylight coming in from a window, pick points on the wall where shadows are, this will give you some idea of times.

Over time, you will start to establish a rapport with your captors. They might not like you, and you will not like them but building that rapport is essential. Some hostages have even sympathized with their captors; they call this Stockholm Syndrome. During times when you are alone, keep your mind active. Some hostages report building their dream home in their head, brick by brick, or traveling to far away lands, walking through the streets, smelling the fresh aroma of pastries and coffee. Whatever it takes, because the time may come that escape may be your only chance of survival and you will need to be ready, mentally and physically.

In the event you do manage to escape, then will be the time to use the intelligence you have gained over your time as a hostage to put as much distance as possible between you and your captors, and make it to safety. This should be collated and analyzed in your head in two sections, (1) When you were first taken hostage. (2) While you were being held hostage.

When you were taken hostage:

How did you get to where they were holding you?
In a vehicle? How long were you in the vehicle?
What could you hear on your journey? What could you smell?
Do you remember driving uphill (or downhill) for an extended period of time?
Did you take more lefts than rights?

While you were being held hostage:

What could you hear outside where you were being held?
Vehicles? One or two, or quite a few? Was it a quiet road or a highway?
Did you hear a train? How far away? How often? Which direction do the tracks run?
Could you hear planes or helicopters? Is there an airport close by? How far?
Did you hear many sirens? Is there a hospital, fire department or police department close by?
Could you hear children playing? Is there a school near by?
Did you hear church bells? If so, this will give you a great indication of time. How far away?
Did you hear a call to prayers at a mosque? If so, what times approximately?
What time do your captors eat?
Do they change shifts? What time?
What are your captor’s strengths and weaknesses? Does one always carry a gun or knife? Does one leave his weapon somewhere else? Does one fall asleep? Does one play video games?
Do they go to prayers? If so, what time? Do they take their weapons?
What is the weakest point of the room/building you are being held in? Can you escape it even if it is locked, or do you need to escape when it is unlocked meaning one of your captors will likely be in the room? In this case, which of your captors is the weakest target?

There is no ‘How to Guide’ that works every time in how to survive, or escape a hostage taking. These suggestions will give you something to think about, and hopefully provide you with enough information to help you survive long enough to be rescued, or to give you some ideas of how to successfully escape.

Danny is a true nomad and founder of NomadSOS. Originally from the UK, he has visited 36 different countries. He is a former soldier, security advisor and business traveler with 20-years of international experience, including operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict and post-conflict regions around the world.

What other travel safety tips do you have? Comment below so we can Go! See! Learn!

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Michelle Rae

Michelle Rae

Michelle Rae is the creator of The Traveling Vixen, which captures her adventures around the world. Her passion is to inspire others to grow by experiencing and learning new things in the world.