Travel Tips

Going to Italy?

Going to Italy? 800 246 Greg Ellifritz

I’ve mentioned the Fluent in Three Months website on this page before.  I think it’s one of the best foreign language sites on the internet today.


They recently published a very useful guide for those of you who may want to learn some of the Italian language.


500 Core Italian Words for Everyday Conversations (Top 500 Most Used Italian Words)


I find list like these incredibly valuable when traveling to a country where I don’t speak the language.



Motor Cycle Helmets are a Danger Cue

Motor Cycle Helmets are a Danger Cue 150 150 Greg Ellifritz

I was reading this article about an assassination that occurred in Peru last year.  The assassin walked into a barbershop and shot his victim in the head three times, killing him.  There was surveillance footage of the incident.  Take a look at the screen capture below.  What do you notice?


Who wears a motorcycle helmet inside a barbershop?


Here is a safety tip for any of you who plan on traveling in Latin America or Southeast Asia…..


Most criminals in these regions use small motorcycles to both to get to the crime scene and to escape. Motorcycles are easy to drive off road and through bottle necked traffic. The thieves escaping on a motorcycle can easily get away from cops pursuing in police cars.


The criminals wear motorcycle helmets both to conceal their identity and to protect their heads from any resistance from the victim or his friends. You need to be especially alert when you see either of these things:


1) Two dudes on the same motorbike, both wearing helmets, and both looking at you. This is how lots of robberies and purse snatchings go down in South America. The driver will drive up right next to you on the sidewalk, stop, and then stay on the bike. The passenger will hop off, jack you, and hop right back on. The driver will zip away and they will be gone before you know what happened.

Major street in Bangkok

Carjackings happen in the same fashion.  The driver of the bike will cut you off in traffic, causing you to stop.  The passenger will run up to you, pull you out of the car at gunpoint and then jump into the driver’s seat.  Both will flee the scene, one riding the bike and the other driving the car he stole from you.  Active Self Protection recently posted a narrated video analysis of this type of car jacking.  The short video demonstrates who the motorcycle carjackers get into position and stop the vehicle.  Fortunately, in this case, the victim turned the tables on the carjackers.


You’ll often see more than one person on a motorbike in third world countries. It’s usually a guy and his girlfriend/wife or a father and his kids.  You’ll rarely see two adult males riding together. Even more rare is two males riding together when both are wearing helmets. Be alert any time you see that.


2) A person wearing a motorcycle helmet while walking around on foot. Look at the photo again. If you rode your bike to the barbershop, would you keep your helmet on after you parked the bike? The answer is “no.” You’d get rid of that hot and heavy helmet as soon as possible.


There are very few legitimate reasons someone would wear a motorcycle helmet when walking around and not on a motorcycle. It’s a huge danger sign if you pay attention.


Criminals will occasionally utilize this tactic in the United States, but it’s far less common than in other countries where there are more motorbikes than cars on the road.  Have you thought about how you might physically fight a person wearing a helmet?  All those “knockout” punches you’ve been practicing won’t work very well.  You’ll have to target the attacker’s groin or use kicks and stomps to blow out his knee or ankle.


The helmet does serve one useful purpose…it’s easy to grab.  Once you grab the helmet with both hands, you will essentially have control over the attacker.  Where the head goes, the body will follow.  A head twist takedown works very easily on a helmeted attacker.  If you can manipulate his body via control over his head; you can also take his back, setting you up for a good choke.  You do know how to choke someone out, right?  If not, it’s a skill you should master.  You aren’t going to punch your way to victory against a guy wearing a helmet.


Pay attention when you see people wearing motorcycle helmets.  Protecting their cranium from impact with the road may not be the primary reason they are wearing the helmet.




Martial Arts Vacation?

Martial Arts Vacation? 2560 1912 Greg Ellifritz

Have you ever considered traveling for the sole purpose of learning or practicing a martial art?

I haven’t.  I did take a couple of Capoeira lessons on a trip to Brazil once, but the trip’s purpose wasn’t to do just that.

Capoeira sparring in the street in Paraty, Brazil. The agile capoeira guy is about to eat a roundhouse kick from the bulky, non-agile American.


If I did travel for training, it would be to Thailand to train Muay Thai at the world famous place where the kickboxing art was developed.


I’ve been to Thailand twice now.  On both occasions, I watched the local Muay Thai fights.  It was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone.


World famous Bangkok Thai boxing stadium


Did you know that you can go to Thailand just to train in Thai kickboxing once or twice a day?  Check out the article linked below to find out how to do that.  I may try it after I retire.


Everything You Need to Know About a Muay Thai Holiday in Thailand


Unsure about Muay Thai?  Check out the article History of Muay Thai – Thailand’s 600 Year Old Sport for more details.


I hope this inspires some of you to do some training in Thailand!

How Mexican Drug Cartels Target Tourist Vehicles

How Mexican Drug Cartels Target Tourist Vehicles 696 464 Greg Ellifritz

Contrary to popular belief, driving through many parts of Mexico is not especially dangerous for foreign travelers.


Some areas of high drug trafficking are risky.  The cartels like large American pickup trucks to build “technicals” and those vehicles are at risk of being car jacked.  Most experts will advise that you should not drive late at night through rural areas.  Besides these concerns, the average tourist should be able to drive most places in Mexico safely.


But not always…

The link below provides information about a new way that the cartels (in conjunction with the police) are targeting foreign vehicles for theft or bribery attempts.


Cartel assaults increase on foreign plated vehicles on Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey highway


Take note that these robbers are operating during the day time.  Vehicles are being targeted by spotters (hawks) who are observing police inspection roadblocks.  Also note that there is a second blocking vehicle further down the road if the victim is able to avoid the first batch of robbers.

Even if you don’t drive in Mexico, it’s useful to take note of these tactics.  We are already seeing areas of the USA with “no-go” zones.  There have been several “autonomous zones” declared by occupying citizens.  I think in the future, both will increase.  I also believe they will use tactics like these to “tax” people driving through the areas they control.



International Travel for Preppers

International Travel for Preppers 150 150 Greg Ellifritz

I thought this article had a lot of useful information.

A Prepper’s Guide to International Travel


It’s a good look at some basic international travel precautions.  I honestly don’t pay too much attention to the US government travel advisory levels.  I would guess that 90% of my travel destinations are in category two (exercise increased caution).  I’ve visited a few level three countries (reconsider travel) and never had a hint of a problem there.  In fact, two of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever taken were in Nicaragua and El Salvador.


I also never register with the STEP program.  While it may help in a few cases, I’ve generally found it useless.   Read the stated mission of the US State Department:


“The U.S. Department of State leads America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance by advancing the interests of the American people, their safety and economic prosperity.”


Note that assisting American travelers isn’t one of those listed priorities.  The embassy may be able to help in some situations, but in many crises, you are on your own.  With that said, I still program the address and phone number of the local embassy into my phone when I travel.