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Overseas Travel

Advice: Tourists should try to fit in  Jan 23, 2009

Leave your khaki shorts at home: If you're traveling overseas, you should avoid dressing like a tourist—and not just because it embarrasses your kids. With kidnappings on the rise, looking like a local could be one of the most important precautions you can take during your vacation.

Greg Bangs, vice president and product manager for kidnap, ransom and extortion at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, gives these tips to avoid becoming a victim:

— Don't be flashy. Drive a generic vehicle and avoid wearing fancy clothing, logos, baseball caps or anything that makes it clear you are from outside the country. Stick with wearing something neutral.

— Stay at a local hotel rather than an American chain. Kidnappers are more likely to stake out places popular with tourists. Avoid accommodations with women-only areas, Bangs said. "Female travelers on their own could be viewed as more vulnerable, and kidnappers may be able to bribe room service to give them access to these areas," he said.

— Be wary of gypsy cabs. A car that looks like a professional cab could just be a ruse to take you to a dangerous place. Have the restaurant or hotel call for a licensed taxi instead.

Bangs estimates that kidnappings for ransom have jumped to about 8,000 to 10,000 reported cases in the past few years. Robberies have also become more violent.

"It's gone from an annoyance or inconvenience to something pretty scary," Bangs said.

The top five countries for kidnapping are Mexico, Iraq, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, according to Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

Advice: Tourists should try to fit in
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