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Category: Security

Everything You Need To Know About Traveling To Baghdad

Although it might not seem like it, Baghdad, Iraq is a blossoming tourist destination welcoming casual groups interested in history, art, and a city that’s been off limits until recently. Adventurers are also making their way to this exciting new destination in the Middle East but you don’t have to be one to visit Baghdad, a remarkably modern and welcoming city.

Logistics And Accommodation

Flying into Baghdad is straightforward and there are direct flights from several destinations, including Istanbul. Iraq recently implemented an online e-visa program for a number of countries, removing some of the logistical barriers that once existed. Hotels are plentiful though they tend to range from dirt cheap or semi-luxurious, without many options – or prices – in between.

Getting to Baghdad is mostly normal. Flights land as they would anywhere else but upon arrival you’ll want to have your hotel pickup, Baghdad tour company, or other transportation arranged in advance. Unauthorized cars are not allowed up to the terminals at Baghdad International Airport for security reasons (more on that in a bit) so you won’t be able to just grab a cab once you step outside.

Security

Baghdad is a city that has been experiencing recent periods of normality in between waves of local instability, including recent clashes and curfews. It’s best to have local contacts (e.g. guides) who can advise you of the situation on the ground during such waves. Otherwise, as locals will tell you, traveling to Baghdad isn’t dangerous but it is risk(ier) than many other places. Occasionally there are random attacks, mainly on the outskirts of town and they rarely target foreigners. Everyone has a different risk tolerance but when you’re in Baghdad, a bustling, vibrant city of over 7 million, it doesn’t feel much unlike most other developed capital cities.

Baghdadis are by and large friendly, welcoming, and aside from the ruthless traffic, getting around town by car or on foot isn’t extraordinary.

Why You Should Visit

Baghdad is a modern city with its Starbucks, hip restaurants, and a young and open-minded population who will be deciding what they want their country to be. Being one of the oldest cities in the world, there’s history (Babylon anyone?), cultural events in public squares, and some of the best cuisine you’ll find not just in Iraq, but anywhere.

Perhaps the untold story of Baghdad is that its not only a crossroads of time and peoples, but with that comes the unique mix of foods you can find here. Dishes with a range of fresh ingredients you might not have expected from Iraq but remember, you’re in the heart of the Fertile Crescent. There’s masgouf, traditional carp that’s farmed in the nearby marshes or absolutely one of the best falafels in the world (and a nice vegetarian option).

You’ll be welcomed in Baghdad as a guest – the locals will make sure of that – and you’ll be getting a peak into the fragile state of tourism here. It may be the beginning or a temporary end. Only time will tell so if you’ve been considering a trip to Iraq’s capital, now may be the time.

How To Protect Your Backpack From Slash Attacks

Slash attacks on backpacks are brazen theft attempts where a thief uses a knife to cut through your bag and make a run for it. These are quick grab attacks where the crook doesn’t really care if you notice because by the time you react, they’re already running away at full speed.

Fortunately, there are a few tactics to avoiding slash attacks on backpacks, purses, and other handbags.

Prioritizing Prevention

There aren’t many statistics on specific ways people are pick-pocketed but anecdotally the slash and grab is most common against bags with one strap. That’s purses, belt packs.. things where the slash immediately detaches the bag from your person. With a backpack that’s a lot harder to do, so one piece of advice right off the bat is to always wear your backpack with two straps on. Also, don’t wear your backpack too loosely, so you can better feel if your bag is being tampered with.

Plan Of Action In Progress

A good backpack security strategy against slashing starts with the bag you choose. Fabrics like nylon with higher denier counts, sailcloth, and polyester tend to hold up well. The Aer Travel Pack 2, Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Bag, GORCUK GR2 and Pacsafe LS450 offer solid protection. No matter which backpack you go with, inspect where the backpack and supportive straps meet.

Not only will strong stitching and reinforced straps be more durable over time, strap meets the bag, is a part that tends to get a lot of use, movement, and wear over time. Also, the thicker the material used for the thinnest part of the backpack straps, the more resistant they’ll be to cutting.

Layering Strategy

Many slash attacks don’t go for your entire bag but rather vulnerable exterior pockets. So, pack your most valuable items in the interior, closest to your back. A lot of backpacks have multiple pockets so don’t use outside facing ones for your wallet, phone, or other important items like a passport. With your valuables deeper inside the bag, there’s more material between the knife and your stuff.

When you’re riding in a bus, metro, or train, don’t keep your bag by your feet which gives a thief a lot of time to attack your valuables without you noticing. Always keep your bag on your lap. It’s inconvenient but a lot more difficult for someone to tamper with.

Like most pick-pocketing security, you want to deter an attack from even happening and give a thief reason to look elsewhere. Being aware of your surroundings, having your gear secure, and using a strong backpack will all help. But if you do notice someone cutting through your backpack and turn around to see someone with a knife in your face – do the smart thing and give them what they want. That’s a mugging situation, don’t be a hero and risk injury or worse, for things that can be replaced.

8 Creative Ways To Use Apple AirTags

Apple’s AirTags are small Bluetooth trackers than can be used to locate your luggage but also have a number of other good uses. Despite the bad press, AirTags can be a valuable asset in your personal security system both at home and during travel.

These are 8 creative ways you can use AirTags to recover your lost valuables.

1. Luggage

The most obvious use for an AirTag but the obvious place to put on – in the luggage tag – isn’t the best place. Rather, place the AirTag in your suitcase, preferably in an interior pocket so it can’t be easily swiped or lost.

airtag

2. Pet Tag

Using an AirTag keychain holster or a collar made with AirTags in mind, you can track your pets when they’re outdoors in case they get lost or just to find out what your cat has been up to all day.

3. Car

Hiding an AirTag in the trunk or between seat cushions (again, so it’s not easy to spot or locate for a potential crook) can give you some tracking information in case your car is stolen.

sony electric car

4. Keys

An obvious but useful one is using an AirTag key chain because your keys will get lost when you really need to find them.

airtag key chain

5. Backpack

We often think we wouldn’t just leave our bag somewhere until we actually do. The same principle applies here – keep the AirTag in an interior pocket away from any external zippers.

6. Mail

Sure, you can use FedEx or UPS to track your package but now you can theoretically get real-time updates on any piece of mail you send if you place an AirTag in the envelope.

7. Bicycle

There are specialized lights for bikes built to hide an AirTag out of sight of a potential thief. You can also use the lower tech method or duct taping one inside the seat, keeping it out of view.

amsterdam bikes

8. Purse And Some Wallets

Depending on the type of wallet or clutch you carry, an AirTag can fit and help you find it in case it gets lost. Unfortunately, since AirTags aren’t flat, they won’t easily fit in a folding wallet.

Remember This When Using AirTags

AirTags can be purchased individually but Apple does discount them if you get a 4 pack. Alternatively there’s the competing Tile which might work better for you. Still, there are a lot good ways to put multiple AirTags to use, just remember to keep them hidden because the longer their with your stuff, the more chance you have to recover your valuables if they get lost.

5 Pickpocket Tricks To Use Against Them When Traveling

aer travel pack 2

Part of any good security strategy is to learn from what the other side you’re trying to protect yourself from is doing. You can’t always avoid an elite pickpocket or completely prevent getting robbed at knife point – but what you can do though is minimize your losses by thinking like the criminal who wants to steal from you.

Your personal security plan needs to have many legs to stand on as well as distractions to keep your real valuables safe.

1. Distribute Your Money

Always distribute your valuables in several places when you travel. This include both on your person, in you bag, and your hostel or hotel room. Never keep all of your money in the same place. You can hide some emergency cash in deep in your socks, in the side of your underwear or in a bra and in your front pocket as well. While you may get robbed or pickpocketed you’ll have minimized your loses.

hotel room pakistan lahore falettis

For extreme circumstances do the same and have some money hidden in your hotel room too. Some in the safe if there is one and inside of a dirty sock in your laundry. Have kids? Their toys make great hiding spots.

2. Use A Decoy

Your wallet is the first target of any pickpocket so make it where you keep your least valuable stuff. Put in a small (but not tiny amount) of money along with some of those inactive (or expired) credit cards you get in the mail. If you don’t get any in the mail cancel your current card and request a new one from your bank – instant decoy. Include a student ID or some other photo identification with no personal information on it. A wallet without an ID might give you away.

trove wallet

Make sure your wallet doesn’t have sentimental value and never keep important things in a big purse – they are very easy targets.

3. Set a Trap

A decoy can be a way to potentially set a trap for a pickpocket. It won’t work in all places but if your bank offers a free checking account or credit card with no fees and is free open one up. Keep this card (with no money in the account) in your decoy wallet. If it’s stolen call the credit card company or bank right away to let them know.

ridge wallet

In most countries the companies will keep close track to see where and if that card is used. If there happens to be a camera at the first place the pickpocket tries to use the card you may be in luck.

4. Make Your Things Ugly

There are several techniques on how to make uglify your camera but the same premise goes for all of your valuable electronics. Get over the need to keep your things shiny since they won’t do you any good if they’re enticing and get stolen. Stickers, worn duct tape, and ugly carry bags work too.

red iphone 11

Oh, and that iPhone – be careful where you flash it. If you’re traveling in a place and worried about the area bring along the cheapest, oldest Nokia you can find and save the Twittering until you can get back to the hotel.

5. Set Up A Camera System

Hotel rooms can be vulnerable spots for your stuff and not all come with safes. You can though use an old smartphone as a security camera to monitor your things and get an alert if anything is disturbed. Also, while we’re at it, always use a “Do Not Disturb” sign and only have your room cleaned while you’re in it (and have packed away your valuables beforehand).

Be Creative and Add More Legs

There are plenty more ways to be shadier than thieves – be creative! Unique hiding spots, zipping your backpack like this, and other tricks are fun to come up with and there are almost an unlimited number of them. The important thing it to have more than one self-security plan and have your strategy stand on many legs so you always have a backup or two.

This is an updated version of a post I originally shared for a now-defunct travel blog in 2009.

Why The World Needs Tourism Back But Better This Time

seward alaska

Look, traveling won’t make you an enlightened person or justify long drawn out soliloquies on Instagram under a photo of your butt sticking out. Traveling in many ways is a narcissistic clout grab phenomena. But underneath it, tourism is a crusty glue between the table legs of international relations barely keeping it from completely tipping over.

Here’s why the world needs tourism, improved.

Pandemic Experiment

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many things. We’re destroying the natural world. Teleworking is feasible, preferable, and office life should die a quick death. We also got to see a year without travel. No, I don’t care about your tone deaf selfies in front of war memorials but rather want you to look at the globe. Take all those borders around the countries and you might as well make them walls.

Some have actually become walls. It turns out an interconnected planet might be keeping humanity from totally annihilating itself.

Civil Unrest On The Rise

According to the Global Peace Index, 2021 has been a year of civil unrest. Part of that is the stress the pandemic has put on governments. Yes, many of them suck at governing. Free flowing capital from tourism and commerce has highlighted why a social safety net paid with your taxes (but not these guys for some reason) is a good idea.

The pandemic has been a catalyst to some major problems. A world slowly cooking itself thanks to climate change, populist leaders helping themselves, refugees being used as human ammunition, the world is now in desperate need of tourism and the interaction understanding and connection is creates.

However small personally, economically, and ethically, the world needs tourism back in a new way.

Dictating Currencies

An economic crunch might be harming corrupt governments but it’s people who are feeling the pain. Aide to refugees and people in conflict zones has been severely hampered by the pandemic according to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). This, in a year that’s seen refugee numbers increase by 4% and conflict in half or the world’s countries. Poaching of elephants in places like Sumatra has increased too as locals desperate for money are hunting the species into extinction. (They say trophy hunting brings in a lot of cash to Africa. In South Africa, it’s less than half of one percent. Let’s do away with it.)

empty national mall

Many travelers would be willing to pay to see these and other animals in their natural environment. Perhaps, in between selfies, a fraction of understanding is gained too. One that can be shared to others, even if by osmosis or inspiration. Maybe there is a better way to run this planet and see all its wonders.

It’s Humanizing

Speaking from experience when you’ve been to places like Yemen or Ukraine or anywhere for that matter they becomes less “they” and more that child who shyly asked to take a selfie with me. Whatever happened to them? Those people being pushed into barbed wire fences are people like me and you because you’ve met them.

The world gets smaller the more you travel. This should be the purpose of tourism. Not shopping in another country because it’s so much cheaper than home. That’s just dumping your money in another nation without having to live there and face whatever the government does or doesn’t do with it.

Traveling should facilitate understanding otherwise you’re just being the same old idiot somewhere else. But as governments open up for tourism, tourists should be more cognizant of where they’re going. Why it may be so cheap. And who the people are that live there. We’ve seen what a world without tourism is like and it’s certainly worse off but we don’t have to go back to the old way of doing things. We can, and should, travel smarter.

Use This Backpack Zipper Trick To Stop Pickpockets

Being out of your direct line of sight backpacks are often your most vulnerable accessory while typically are carrying our most valuable stuff. Fortunately there’s a simple zipper trick that relies on alignment that can seriously hamper the plans of most pickpockets.

Zip Up Top

The simple way to deter pickpockets from your backpack is to zip the zippers up at the top, not on the sides. Zipping up top helps deter pickpockets since access to the interior becomes much more awkward as someone would have to go up and over with their hands to get in… not exactly the most stealthy approach.

Why This Works

Pickpockets don’t want to be noticed either by your or the people around you. All it takes is one person sounding the alarm and that’s the end of a theft. Empty handed or not it could lead to them getting caught so typically pickpockets go to the easiest target in a group. (Think of a lion hunting the slowest wildebeest around.) Your backpack security system doesn’t have to be the best, just better that everyone who’s near you.

backpack zipper trick

Another reason having your zippers up top is ideal placement is because any movement of the zippers in this area will lead to movement of the shoulder straps. As you can see in the video here, your shoulders and lower back are the most sensitive places a backpack makes contact with your body. Because of this you’re much more likely to feel movement in those areas if a crook is fiddling with your bag.

Heavy On The Bottom

To further improve your backpack security structure place your more valuable items as low and close to your back as possible. It’s tempting to put your most frequently used items toward the top of your backpack for easy access (especially if you’re are zipping up top) but there are two reasons not to. First, assuming your zipped up top, if some daring thief does make an attempt they’ll could be hitting something expensive right away.

Second (as you may have guessed) your lower back is more sensitive to movement than the middle. Put in a few layers of bag pockets in between and now your camera, computer, dirty passports and everything else is a lot more secure.

Of course a backpack with durable YKK zippers like the Aer Travel Pack 2 or even stronger military grade GORUCK will further protect your bag from attacks on the zippers themselves.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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