Security Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Security

This Free App Is The Fastest Way To Get Through U.S. Immigration

dulles airport

After a long flight there’s nothing less fun than waiting in a long immigration line at passport control. There is however a way to speed up the entire process using an app provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Here’s how to use Mobile Passport Control (MPC) to skip the long lines.

How MPC Works

MPC is a free app available for iOS and Android created by the U.S. government. The MPC app lets you digitally fill out a customs declaration form, upload a picture of your passport, and your photo of yourself as you would with a passport agent. In this case though the MPC app lets you bypass the manual process of having your passport looked over by an agent.

MPC users have their own separate line and is available for use at over 33 airports and some seaports of entry. (A current total of 48 sites.)

Who Is Eligible?

The MPC app can be used by U.S. citizens, legal residents, Canadian B1/B2 citizen visitors and returning Visa Waiver Program travelers with approved ESTA. This includes most of the European Union citizens, Australian, and Japanese citizens, among several others who are eligible to use MPC after their initial U.S. visit.

Set Up Before You Fly

A lot of people realize there’s a faster way through immigration using the MPC app when the airline staff announce it’s an option. By that time though uploading everything and getting your account created might be too tight, assuming you have an Internet connection at the airport at all. Therefore it’s best to set up the MPC app before you take off on your trip and it only takes a few minutes to get everything ready.

Then once you land, find the MPC line, scan the QR code on your phone shown in the app, and enjoy waiting for your luggage. But hey, at least you didn’t spend any unnecessary time looking at people’s back in immigration lines.

Suriname Travel Advice: Your Questions Answered!

paramaribo suriname markets

Tucked away in South America’s northeast, Suriname is a unique travel destination not a lot of people know as a, well, know. The country doesn’t have much of a tourism industry but for those who know, you might be asking these questions. And for those who don’t know, these answers might just have you asking, should I visit Suriname?

Is Suriname Safe?

Personally, I like to ask the question “why would you want to visit” a place before considering security concerns because both a more related than it might seem. Most people though want to know if a place is safe first, so let’s start with that. Like any country or city, safety varies with geography. Paramaribo, the capital city and primary point of exploration for most visitors, is relatively safe. During the daylight hours many of the parts of Paramaribo you would want to visit are accessible by bike or on foot and generally the city is fairly calm.

suriname rain forest

Wandering around is relaxed and as a foreigner you’re not a spectacle or tend to draw any extra attention. After sunset, most of the streets become very quiet as offices and shops close, so walking is generally not advised. A taxi is your best option from point A to B and there are some local ride sharing apps that make arranging transportation easier.

Outside of Paramaribo, the same advice applies in many towns and other cities. Visits to the rain forest are a bit different – the concerns are more typical with being in a jungle environment. The highways that stretch across Suriname and link French Guyana and Guyana are considered risky, so be sure to put extra consideration into any potential car or bus rides toward the borders.

Why Would You Want To Visit Suriname?

Food. I mean, there are a lot of fun things to see and do in Suriname but it must be said and said again: Paramaribo is one of the best cities in the world to eat. The variety of cuisine which is hard to generalize but there are centuries of local east Asian and Pacific foods than have been imported to Suriname. Blending with the indigenous foods and ingredients that have slowly diverged into a unique culinary landscape, not entirely Asian or South American, but something all its own.

Not to mention the creole food or the countless Sunday markets that pop up with all kinds of street foods, snacks, and other treats. Really, Paramaribo is a foodie paradise. You can also head out to the nearby forests and see wildlife, including pink dolphins, monkeys, and caimans. There are local plantations and tours describing the history of Suriname, giving you more insight into the variation of people, food, and culture that exists here.

Two Questions In

Suriname might not be the top of your travel list if you’re not an adventurous traveler. That’s not to say Suriname is a difficult place but if you’re an experienced beginner or beyond, Suriname might be the next destination to put on your travel list. Though if you have any other questions, feel free to drop those in the comments below.

How To Expertly Reduce Risks When Faced With A Mugging Abroad

bogota colombia night

We’ve talked about protecting yourself from pickpockets when traveling but in cases where the thief is overt – like in a mugging – what should you do? Every situation is different and the first rule is to never put yourself in danger but if certain opportunities present themselves you may be able to reduce some of the riskier parts of the situation.

Practice And Acceptance

Practicing how you would handle a particular situation can help you remain calm in the worst case scenario. Know where your decoys are if you are carrying a fake wallet – is that your right or left pocket? Split your cash up and know where your smaller bills are. Maintain a routine so there’s less you have to think about and can rely on muscle memory. Whatever your particular setup keeping it consistent is important – even if you don’t carry any decoy cards.

Thieves want to commit their crimes as fast as possible and you fumbling around for your money in your purse if going to prolong the encounter and put yourself at additional risk.

ridge wallet

It’s a good idea to always keep the placement of your personal items in the same place each time. If that’s decoy left and card top, stick with it. That will make you less likely to fumble at the wrong time. Also, if you’re asked to hand over your purse or empty your pockets, be compliant and get the moment over as quickly as you can. Your stuff is not worth getting hurt or killed over.

Calm Visualization

Time can be an important factor in a mugging with both you and the mugger wanting the theft to be as quick as possible. You can though buy yourself some time prior to a mugging by recognizing the instances right before it occurs. That means avoid walking alone at night and if you plan to, check with your hotel or accommodation about the route you plan on taking. Keep your eyes off your phone when walking (especially at night when your eyes have to adjust to a bright screen) and don’t use headphones. You don’t want to be caught off guard and a few moments can help you put into action any handover plan you’ve been practicing.

Being calm, collected, and calculated can help save some of your things if you get stuck in a bad situation when traveling – whether it’s getting pick-pocketed or mugged but remember – no security is foolproof. You can’t protect all of your things all the time but if you get out of a nasty situation with your health, even if you are a little rattled, it’s a win every time.

Wallet Tricks To Protect Against Pickpockets And Muggers

Depending on where you are, you might not have to think much about getting mugged or pick-pocketed but in some places, it’s unfortunately a common reality. There are however some preparatory steps you can take to prevent being pick-pocketed by a predator and they begin before you leave home.

A Valuable Equation

First thing first: if someone pulls a gun, knife, or is violent with you in a robbery, give up your things. Your life shouldn’t be a valuable in this equation, but your belongings, those we can work with. When it comes to your valuables it’s a good idea to carry some decoys, depending where you’re traveling, and the general crime levels. Your wallet is a good place to start. To begin with, don’t carry all of your bank and credit cards and cash with you at all times.

travel cash

Also, never keep your wallet in your back pocket.

Only bring the amount of cash you’ll need during your time out. Going out to dinner? Bring what the cash you need for a meal out and some extra. If you’re going out for $5 tacos, you don’t need to have $500 on you. Have, say, $50 with you. Now, instead of one massive bill, break it into a some tens, fives, and ones. You can keep a little in one pocket, your sock, and some in a wallet. The idea is to have your money spread out so you have something to hand over to a potential crook but without losing all of your money.

Fast Action

A lot of times during a mugging just throwing a money clip or wallet on the ground is enough to quickly end the situation. This is where a decoy wallet comes into play. Another thing to add to your decoy wallet are old, expired credit cards just to be a bit more convincing. You can even order some decoy cards and expired ones work too but keep in mind they reveal your name. Your ID, you want to keep that separate if possible and not attached to your money in a clip or in your wallet. This way you can slip out your wallet or decoy without having to give up your ID as well.

decoy credit card

Passport Control

In most foreign countries, a photocopy of your passport or ID card will work just as well as the physical one and leave it less vulnerable to getting lost or stolen. It’s important to know the local rules but where possible, stick to the copy. Older phones you’ve long since replaced also make great decoys and in some places, I would even go so far as to have an old Nokia or burner as my daily driver and leave the more expensive smartphone behind.

This might all seem like a lot of effort but it’s pretty straightforward – keep your valuables distributed, some cash or cards here, some there, and have decoys which can help against pickpockets as a passive security measure that helps protect the majority of your most valuable items. Keep your decoys on the outside, the easiest places to access, both for you and a potential thief.

Is Guyana Safe?

Summarizing the security situation of an entire country is a broad question that requires a nuanced answer and Guyana is no different. It is however true that Guyana has a bad safety reputation and for a long time didn’t see many tourists. With the current boom in oil, discovered just a few years ago, Guyana is seeing many more visitors than ever, perhaps including you.

Here’s a look at how safe Guyana is and what it’s like traveling there from a security perspective.

Let’s Talk Cities

Most tourists to Guyana are going to be flying in through the capital city Georgetown. A sleepy city that can be tough to navigate if you’re on your own. The strong year round sun makes wandering an obstacle not to mention the few touristic sites that are in the city aren’t very close to one another. A car is going to be your primary mode of transportation but the taxis (most of which don’t have meters) are their own type of adventure.

georgetown guyana

It’s much easier to get transportation as well as spend a few days in Guyana being shown around by a local guide when you are in Georgetown. The capital is a 1 to 3 day stop that will satiate most travelers and a guide (roughly $60 a day but you will have to negotiate) will be able to maximize your time there.

Georgetown has a fairly high crime rate but using a guide helps reduce your chances of being a target. You’ll be able to visit some of the markets, popular food places, and use your phone and camera with an extra set of eyes who knows the territory.

Jungle And Beyond

Leaving Georgetown and the other larger cities in Guyana, which is mostly rain forest, is another but calmer story. In places like Kaieteur Falls, which is just a 45 minute small plan ride toward the interior, there’s fewer people and much less crime. In the Amazon, the sun, heat, and dehydration are your biggest dangers but nothing a prepared traveler can’t handle.

kaieteur falls guyana

In the jungle the common dangers of the city, robbery, mugging, and pick-pocketing, are not considered major threats.

Adjusting Your Style

Back to the cities, some solid advice is not to wear jewelry, flash any valuables (a good guide will let you when you can break out the fancy camera), and know where you’re going. Avoid wandering down streets or areas you are not familiar with and always check with your plans and route with your hotel or accommodation.

There is a lot of see in Guyana – especially in the Amazon – but seeing parts of Georgetown with a bit of help is not as daunting as the statistics might suggest.

The Best VPNs For Travel (Updated: 2023)

Virtual private networks (VPNs) have become essential software, especially for travelers. It’s estimated that in 2022, the VPN market was worth 44 billion dollars, and with the money poured into advertising it can be tricky to decide on the best on for you.

Fortunately, I, someone with a background in cybersecurity and is traveling to every country in the world have used and tested a lot of VPNs. These are some of the best VPNs I can recommend to you based on how fast, secure, versatile, and privacy conscious they are. None of these solutions are perfect and as companies do, they are bound to change. But, you know what to look out for, now, going forward.

1. ExpressVPN

expressvpn

ExpressVPN is a good blend of privacy – they are very clear on the logs they do not keep and do not store connection logs. Independent audits are conducted and published to this effect and in 2017 when Turkish authorities seized ExpressVPN servers, there were no logs, and this includes metadata logs.

ExpressVPN also has the fastest connection speeds I’ve found during my use and works especially well in China.

2. NordVPN

nordvpn

Where ExpressVPN has speed, it is more expensive. NordVPN keeps minimal logs, only maintaining your encrypted login credentials and billing information. Both NordVPN’s desktop and mobile apps are very simple to set up and forget, and if you don’t get the added cloud storage or password manager, is about half the price of ExpressVPN.

NordVPN, in my opinion, is the most user friendly – good for people who are new to VPNs or aren’t going to muck around in the settings.

3. ProtonVPN

protonvpn

Finally, there’s ProtonVPN. It’s a Swiss-based VPN that has a large number of servers, blocks trackers, and has a secure core feature which passes your internet traffic from a VPN server through servers in privacy-friendly countries. ProtonVPN is also a no-logs VPN, confirmed by independent audits they’ve published but it’s not the most user friendly or the fastest and connections can be inconsistent. For tech-inclined people it’s great but ProtonVPN might not be the best for everyone.

Narrowing It Down

I think when given the choice between these three, if you are tech-inclined, you’re probably going to really like ExpressVPN or ProtonVPN. ProtonVPN has additional features for enhanced privacy, if that’s your primary concern. NordVPN is a good choice if you just want the VPN to run, work, then you forget about it.

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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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