I probably get more questions about kidnapping than almost any other travel related topic.
Did you know that the American government won’t publicly reveal how many Americans are being held hostage overseas? The government won’t release he numbers out of “privacy concerns” and fear that the knowledge of the true number of Americans being held hostage might increase the risk for other citizens who travel overseas. If hostage takers recognize that there are benefits, financial or otherwise, to taking hostages, more Americans will become prisoners of rebel groups and foreign regimes around the world. The government wants to keep information about covert negotiations and ransom payments quiet, to avoid encouraging more hostage taking worldwide.
With that said, most estimates place the number of American hostages being held long term in foreign countries to be somewhere between five and twenty at any given time. Some sources estimate that approximately 25 American business travelers are kidnapped worldwide every year. Neither is really a large number.
Almost all long term hostages are either journalists or members of the armed forces. Most are being held in war zones where there is little tourism. The recreational traveler’s risk of being held as a long-term hostage is extremely small. As is true with many subjects, what people worry about tends not to be the most likely risk. Rest assured that you are not likely become a political prisoner if you travel to South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia.
Low risk does not mean “no risk.” You should probably know some things about kidnapping and how to respond to a kidnapping attempt should you travel overseas. The article below provides some sound guidance.