Surviving a revolution, tips from those who have been there

Fox News has an excellent story on surviving a revolution from the front lines. During the best of times, travel is a game of chance. You trust that your airline will get you there, you trust that your hotel will have your reservation and you really trust that you will have some Internet access. Wherever you may travel, all those things we take for granted and have planned for are off the table if a revolution occurs. Here’s what you need to know.

Engineer Scott Wallace recently landed about 75 miles south of Benghazi in eastern Libya. Very quickly the situation turned into a “day of rage” protesting Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and his regime and revolution-mode was the order of the day.

“The whole regime was very effective in shutting down cell phone access, Internet coverage, and data services,” Wallace told Fox News, noting that he has been in many overseas destinations “where connectivity was limited, but when you have a government that is actively trying to block you,” as the Gaddafi regime was doing from Tripoli, “sending a message becomes a cat and mouse game.”

Wallace found texting was the key to having any kind of communication with the outside world noting there was “always enough of a breakdown in the [regime’s] spam filters,” and while the text “might be delayed by six to twelve hours, it still got through.”

Electronic methods of communication may be the best bet but if everything is cut off, other strategies can work too.

Mike Bowers, senior director of health and safety at People to People Ambassador Programs, urges parents with kids overseas to “make sure you have online access to bank and credit card accounts they’ll be using. Not only can you monitor their spending and budget, but this will give you some clues as to their whereabouts and activities.”

Registering with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) can help too. Travel security expert Philip Farina suggests registering “could make the difference between your having to stay [in a dangerous situation] and your getting out”

A lot of surviving a revolution is hinged on being prepared too. Keeping your eyes open, being aware of your surroundings, staying off public transportation (big terrorist target) and having cash in case ATM’s and banks lock up without the Internet connection to process transactions is important too.

“I don’t go on a trip anywhere without a flashlight,” adding that it doesn’t have to be a huge one. “If there’s no electricity in your hotel or city you may need a flashlight desperately.”

Farina cautions travelers to remember the revolution is “not about you being a tourist, it is about something else. In some cases tourists can be harmed, in others not, [but] it stands to reason you may need to buy yourself through checkpoints, through neighborhoods, or through a particular zone.”

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Flickr photo by B.R.Q.