International business travel is a vital part of expanding your company’s presence around the world. To help travellers understand the potential risks they face and how to stay safe, we’ve asked our experts to share their top 10 essential international business travel tips.
When it comes to duty of care and the risks associated with business travel, it’s easy to jump to worst case scenarios such as being caught up in a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. However, while they may be headline-grabbing, these risks are often few and far between.
The risks business travellers should be concerned with are often much more mundane and include opportunistic theft, petty criminality and minor health incidents. They’re the sort of risks that are overlooked, which is why the travel safety tips below are so valuable for you.
The 10 international business travel tips below will help to minimise individual and operational risk, and ensure a successful business trip for travellers.
Top 10 International Business Travel Tips
1. Apply for travel documents in advance and have the appropriate travel insurance
The only thing worse than getting to the airport and discovering that your passport is expired or that you’ve got the wrong visa, is having an accident when travelling and paying out a lot of money to cover medical costs because you lack the right insurance.
Don’t leave these important checks until the last minute. Our first travel safety tip is: In the weeks leading up to your business trip communicate clearly with business travel managers in HR or in house risk teams to ensure all the necessary paperwork has been submitted and processed.
Knowing you’re covered if an accident occurs and that you have the correct travel papers to enter your country of destination helps to ensure a smooth trip. You’ll be able to travel worry-free, minimising potential stress and distractions that could otherwise be exploited by opportunists.
2. Learn some basic phrases, respect local customs, and be wary where you photograph
Nothing says ‘easy target’ to an opportunist than being an overly obvious tourist. By learning a few local phrases you’ll ingratiate yourself with locals and appear to be a much more wary and savvy traveller – a useful travel safety tip regardless of whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure!
It pays to be aware of local customs and locations of interest, as this will prevent you from making a faux pas and insulting someone, taking a photograph of something you shouldn’t, or even breaking a rule that may not have been aware of.
Your best bet is to research your destination before you travel.
To save you the trouble researching and compiling it yourself, Drum Cussac’s country profiles and risk alerts can help get you up to speed on local customs and risks quickly.
3. Maintain a low profile and always carry a mobile phone, pre-programmed with important numbers
One of the best international business travel tips we can give you is: keep a low profile! Especially if you’re travelling in more complex and high-risk regions such as the Middle East or countries such as Mexico and Colombia. Stick to your travel itinerary and you’ll minimise potential security threats.
Simple things such as not disembarking from a plane first and getting off with the economy passengers can also help you to blend in and improve business travel safety. Try to avoid any queues or services marked out for ‘express’ or ‘VIP’ passengers. If you do have to go out and sample the local nightlife (which we don’t recommend in unfamiliar areas), then don’t wear a suit or expensive looking accessories to avoid unwanted attention from petty criminals or worse.
Keep a cheap and charged travel phone on you at all times so you can stay in touch with your employers and call for help if you need to. Using a ‘travel only’ phone is also a great way of preventing your work phone from being stolen and secure information from potentially being compromised!
4. Plan journeys in advance and register in every city within 24 hours
Creating a fixed itinerary with your businesses travel security team is a good option if you have to travel a lot while in-country. This lets the team back home know where you should be and bench-mark this if they need to check in on you.
Booking business travel in advance is also a useful way of minimising in-country stress and distractions, but also prevents you from getting scammed by individuals looking to make some fast money and who offer to ‘arrange’ your travel for you. It’s nearly always too good to be true, so why take the risk?
In most cases, your best option is to let us take care of it for you.
We work with vetted local executive protection agents to manage the immediate safety of all travellers, while we track every movement from our central operations room. It’s the best way of minimising risks and ensuring travellers reach their destination safely.
5. Select hotels with good reviews and ask the concierge for areas to avoid
One of our more common sense international business travel tips is that if you’re heading to a new location or city on a business trip, it makes sense to research local hotels and see what kind of reputation they have. If you know a colleague who has travelled to the region before, ask them where they stayed. Make sure to also research the nearby area and local neighbourhoods, and if in doubt ask the hotel concierge or staff for advice on where you should and shouldn’t go.
Depending on the answers to your questions, it may be safer to avoid risk entirely and eat in the hotel restaurant or drink at the hotel bar. If you do venture out for a drink or two, then limit your number of drinks, stay aware of other patrons and be careful about who you invite to your room.
Try to avoid hotels near important buildings such as religious centres and government buildings, as these will be known by criminals as popular with potentially wealthier business travellers. This will further help you to maintain a low profile.
For maximum security avoid hotels without electronic room and elevator keycards, as these add an extra layer of security, especially if hotel staff have been paid off by organised criminals for information. You should also avoid rooms that have windows overlooking busy streets or are on the ground floor, which both make it easy to ascertain whether you are in or not, and that are more easily accessible.
6. Only use licensed and regulated mini-cab companies
It is definitely best practice to avoid using unregulated cabs when travelling as they offer a number of threats to business travel safety. You not only lack the central accountability of a licensed cab operator, but also open yourself up to potentially higher fares, unreliable journey times and unreliable drivers.
With unlicensed cabs, you have no idea who is driving and in certain regions of the world this is the sort of risk that can lead to kidnapping situations and financial extortion. Even using popular apps such as Uber are risky in areas you’re unfamiliar with.
It’s best to always ask the hotel concierge to book your cab for you and ensure that when their preferred, licensed supplier arrives that the driver has an official license clearly displayed in the vehicle. When moving, don’t share a taxi unless it’s with someone you know, keep your windows up, doors locked and agree fares up front.
7. Know where you are, avoiding confrontations and demonstrations
Depending on where your business operates, travellers may be required to travel to politically unstable areas, or travel during a period of social unrest. This may be necessary for business opportunities but isn’t ideal for business travel safety.
It’s best to keep a low profile in situations of unrest as tensions can quickly – and inadvertently – escalate, leading to potential confrontations with protestors or even police. If there are any demonstrations in the area then they should be avoided entirely.
Travel managers should brief travellers pre-trip on whether there are any scheduled events taking place that may pose a security risk. If an event is scheduled or predicted to occur, then travellers should also follow local news news outlets for additional updates.
Having access to reliable intelligence to keep travellers aware of such risks should be an essential part of travel risk management programme.
8. Only drink at respected establishments, limit alcohol consumption and never accept drinks from strangers
In our list of top international business travel tips so far, we’ve repeatedly stressed that it’s wise to maintain a low profile when travelling to an unfamiliar region – and this goes double if you choose to go out drinking. Drinking too much alcohol can leave you more vulnerable to opportunistic criminals, especially thieves. Likewise, never accept drinks from strangers as you don’t know whether they have an agenda, just politely decline and maintain a low profile.
Criminals aside, drinking to excess may also inhibit your ability to remember exactly where your hotel is located and lead to getting lost, leaving you vulnerable not just to opportunists but, depending on the location, the elements too, especially in colder climates.
This is also goes for eating out too. Either eat in your hotel or at establishments popular with locals. Ask your concierge for recommendations if you are unsure. Food poisoning and allergic reactions are some of the most common risks of international business travel, with food hygiene standards and quality of healthcare facilities massively varying around the globe. You know what you are allergic too and what sort food your body can cope with, so it’s best to minimise the risk and play it safe.
If you are set on going out, ask your concierge for respected establishments to visit, update your employer contacts of your plans and make sure the trip is signed off by your travel risk management company.
9. Be alert to possible threats, especially in tourist areas, and have access to security alerts
If you’re in an unfamiliar area when on a business trip, it is always best to try and stay as aware as possible. This should include having access to real-time security alerts for the region your visiting. Maintaining a situational awareness of your surroundings and potential threats means that you’ll be able to take more informed decisions to ensure your safety if something does go wrong.
This isn’t to say that you should expect a terror attack around every corner, but be aware of where you are and what is happening around you. Tourist areas are ripe for opportunistic attacks, whether petty or more substantial, so if an area feels off or if you receive alerts about an incident nearby then it’s best to immediately leave via a licensed taxi if possible.
The best way to stay alert to threats and up-to-date on breaking and developing situations when travelling is by subscribing to a real-time risk alerts service. Having access to these alerts essentially provides 24-hour international business travel tips and advice directly to travellers.
10. Be alert to the cyber-threat and enable basic IT security on phones, tablets and laptops
Travellers – and especially business travellers – are living in an increasingly digital world and carrying more mobile devices than ever. When travelling for business, travellers may need to take a work phone and a work laptop at a minimum, and beyond this tablets, data storage devices, personal mobile devices and more. This raises the risk of being compromised by potential cyber attacks.
Cybercrime is among the most potentially damaging threats that confront the modern business as it puts operational resilience and continuity at risk. If sensitive information is obtained or hacked by criminal parties, this may seriously impact your business operationally, reputationally and financially.
For this reason, it’s best to talk with your businesses I.T. team before travelling in order to establish best practices for using digital devices overseas. The international business travel tips you’ll be given should include avoiding public WiFi, taking a travel-only mobile phone, enabling security measures on devices and, in extreme cases, using digital sheaths to add a further layer of protection.
How To Minimise International Business Travel Risks
International business travel can be unpredictable and if travellers aren’t aware of the potential risks they face, then this can have wide-ranging and serious impacts on both personal safety and business continuity.
The international business travel tips above are a good place to start when looking to minimise travel risk. However, the best thing your business can do is work with a professional travel risk management consultancy like Drum Cussac.
Our years of experience and team of global experts help us to stay ahead of the travel risk curve and keep business travellers safe. We can keep you abreast of developing risk situations, track travellers, manage journeys and step in to assist if the worst should happen.