The World’s Easiest Counter Kidnapping Advice

The World’s Easiest Counter Kidnapping Advice 275 183 Greg Ellifritz

Reliable statistics about the number of Americans who are kidnapped abroad each year are difficult to acquire.  Our government intentionally downplays all incidents of international kidnapping so as not to inadvertently create more enthusiasm for the crime.

In my book, I talk a lot about physical kidnappings, virtual kidnappings, and express kidnappings.  If you want detailed advice, that is a good start.


Without discounting all the information in the book, tonight I realized we can dramatically simplify all the kidnapping advice ever written.

I’m leaving in a couple weeks to explore Turkey with a friend.  I just purchased my travel insurance policy for the trip and was reading the fine print on the policy documents.

In the kidnapping section, the documents made the following declarations:


1. Any kidnapping or express kidnapping first occurs in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, or any country for which we are prohibited from transaction due to sanctions by the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).


It struck me that with the exception of the occasional Mexican drug cartel kidnapping, I seldom see any American citizens kidnapped any place other than the countries listed above.

That might be a clue.  If kidnappings in those nations are so common that kidnapping insurance doesn’t apply there, maybe the best counter kidnapping advice might be to simply avoid traveling to those locations.


Thoughts on Kidnapping

Thoughts on Kidnapping 2000 1333 Greg Ellifritz

Recoil Offgrid has some good long form content on kidnappings in foreign countries.  You’ll want to check out both articles.

What If You Escaped from a Kidnapping?


What If Someone You Knew Was Kidnapped for Ransom?



Understanding the Kidnapping Business

Understanding the Kidnapping Business 300 200 Greg Ellifritz

When I teach travel safety classes, I always get lots of questions about kidnappings.  One must be alert to the possibility, but there are lots of tactics that you can employ to reduce your risk.  I have an entire chapter on the topic in Choose Adventure: Safe Travel in Dangerous Places.



In addition to the mitigation tactics I describe in my book, I also find it helpful to understand how kidnappers get paid and their general business structure.  The article linked below provides some fascinating insight.


Kidnapping for ransom works like a market. How it is organized is surprising.


Thoughts on Kidnapping

Thoughts on Kidnapping 500 253 Greg Ellifritz

This guy is a security specialist in Mexico. He has a very good perspective about the violence that occurs in third world countries and how travelers can better protect themselves. Here are some of his thoughts about kidnappings.

Mexican Street Attacks

Mexican Street Attacks 320 310 Greg Ellifritz

Borderland Beat is reporting a new trend that Mexican criminals are using to rob and kidnap motorists.  Read about it at the link below.


Puebla: Citizen Motorists Warn of Popular Assault Method


The criminals know they can’t do much to you when you are traveling 60mph in an automobile.  They have to make you get out of your car to victimize you.  Don’t play the game.

If someone throws anything on your windshield to obscure your vision, don’t stop.  Even if you have to drive with your head out of the window to navigate, do so.  Drive a few miles away.  Watch for anyone following you.  If you aren’t being followed, stop to clean your windshield in a busy public location.



Kidnapping Risks by Country

Kidnapping Risks by Country 620 350 Greg Ellifritz

A listing of the places where travelers are most likely to be kidnapped and the techniques used in each of those countries.  I don’t know what it says about my travel habits, but I’ve visited five of the eight countries he profiled (some multiple times) and never had any issues.



The Places You’re Most Likely to Get Kidnapped

Defeating Zip Ties

Defeating Zip Ties 900 713 Greg Ellifritz

An informative infographic about escaping zip tie restraints.  This is useful, but the best advice I can provide is to AVOID BEING RESTRAINED!  I don’t care if there are five guys with rifles pointed at my head, it’s time to fight.  Nothing good can happen after the restraints are applied.


3 Ways to Escape Zip Ties: An Illustrated Guide


Tips to Avoid Being Kidnapped

Tips to Avoid Being Kidnapped 800 1200 Greg Ellifritz

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.


How to Avoid and Survive a Kidnapping

Hostage Escape Tools and Techniques

Hostage Escape Tools and Techniques 535 608 Greg Ellifritz

When traveling in dangerous areas, I think it’s useful to carry some hidden escape tools.  This article covers some of the better options on the market.  I have all of the tools recommended and carry them regularly in hazardous situations.

Hostage Escape Tools and Techniques

Escaping Criminal Restraint

Escaping Criminal Restraint 150 150 Greg Ellifritz

Learning how to escape criminal restraints is an important skill for every traveler to have.  This video and their follow-up video on escaping zip ties are two of the best tutorials on the subject that are currently available.  Take the time to watch and learn.



And the guys from Sierra Whisky Co. sent me some of their “underwear for gun guys.”  It’s very comfortable and exceptionally light weight.  Highly recommended.  It’s should probably be called “underwear for travelers” because it’s roughly half the packed size and weight of the quick-drying Ex Officio underwear I usually pack for foreign travels.