The violent clashes between Sudan’s military and its main paramilitary forces has repeatedly made headlines this week amid the American government’s efforts to evacuate embassy personnel from the East African nation.
About 70 U.S. embassy staff were transported out of the country this past weekend via helicopter and in lock step, the U.S. government issued a warning for thousands of private citizens stranded in the war-torn country: There would be no similar evacuation available for them.
Amid the chaos, security experts from Global Rescue, a security, medical evacuation, and travel risk management services company, stepped in to coordinate its own extraction of American travelers, who found themselves suddenly stranded in Sudan.
As street fighting in the country worsened and the airport remained under attack, former Navy SEALs and other special forces veterans employed by Global Rescue assisted with and coordinated the escape of several American travelers who were on a fishing trip in the Red Sea near the Port of Sudan. The group fled Sudan via a 600-mile route along the Red Sea and into Egypt.
“We successfully extracted multiple western tourists from the region, who were initially reluctant to leave,” Harding Bush, former Navy SEAL and the senior manager of security operations for Global Rescue, explained.
Both business and leisure travelers in the country were suddenly trapped when widespread fighting between the two warring factions in Sudan worsened and quickly spread to the country’s capital city and its airport, shutting down all flights.
In addition to the 600-mile Red Sea escape to Egypt that Global Rescue coordinated for a small group of travelers, Bush and his team are continuing to provide extensive logistic, rescue, extraction, and advisory services for other people who remain trapped in areas where fighting is taking place.
“The two rival Sudanese armies are driving the country toward a full-blown civil war. Sudan and adjacent regions are unpredictable and potentially more dangerous,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue and a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce. “While the U.S. and European embassies are evacuating staff, American and European business and leisure travelers are at tremendous risk of being left behind, if they do not have access to professional assistance.”
Sudan is merely the most recent example of a situation in which travelers find themselves suddenly in need of evacuation. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year is another instance where it was important for travelers to have emergency evacuation plans in place.
With these sorts of crisis situations making news, here are five tips from Global Rescue for travelers who may be planning trips to potentially unstable destinations or who find themselves on the ground amid local unrest.
Understand the destination you’re visiting
Bush’s first tip for those planning international travel is to adequately familiarize yourself with the place you’re considering visiting.
“These things don’t happen in the more conventional countries like France or Japan. They happen in the developing world,” says Bush. “You need to do pre-travel research. You may not just be going fishing in the Red Sea. You may be fishing off the coast of Sudan, where there may be a war going on. It’s important to know this kind of information in advance.”
Sudan has been characterized by the State Department as a Level 4 travel “do not travel country” for several years, added Bush. And when you travel to a country that’s the focus of this type of advisory, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into.
“The State Department advises Americans not to go to these places, not only because it’s dangerous, but also because they won’t be able to help, if there is a problem,” adds Bush.
Ask yourself why you’re going to a place that’s dangerous
If you’re planning a trip to a potentially unstable or dangerous country, think through your reasons for choosing that location. And then consider whether there might be alternative destinations that could satisfy your needs.
“Maybe you can’t go fly fishing in Sudan, but you can go and do that in Egypt, where it’s a little safer and has a stable government,” explains Bush.
The key point—research all of your potential options. Especially if you’re considering a risky destination. Find out whether you can achieve your same vacation goals in a more secure location.
Have a back-up plan in place
If you move forward with plans to visit a country that’s the subject of a State Department advisory, or is unstable for any reason, be sure you have a detailed answer to this particular question: What will you do if something goes wrong?
“Can you get out by land? Can you get out by boat?” asks Bush.
“If you have to go, will you be a stranger in the country who’s staying in a hotel?” continues Bush. “Will you be staying with family? Do you have a support network? And do you speak the language, which may allow you to have a better idea what’s going onion the country during an emergency.”
It’s also important to consider your financial resources and how they might hold up in the event of an emergency. In other words, can you afford to stay in a hotel for an extra week or two if you’re suddenly required to shelter in place? And will your place of employment allow you to be away for an extended period of time, if such an emergency arises?
Bring emergency supplies
In addition to having an adequate support network or financial resources to tide you through emergencies, you may also want to invest in key technology. Bush suggests a satellite phone, for instance.
“One of the things that happens in these countries, is the internet goes down, so mobile resources go down,” says Bush. “In that case, you would need satellite phone or a satellite messaging device, in order to still be able to communicate.”
There are many of these types of devices available on the market for sale, including from manufacturers like Garmin and Iridium.
Consider purchasing crisis management protection
Finally, if you’re considering travel to a destination that may be risky, be sure to have appropriate protections in place. Global Rescue is just one of the companies through which travelers can purchase a membership that provides medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. International SOS is another such company to consider.
“We’re not an insurance company,” Bush explains. “We’re like AAA for you—not for your car. We get you out, but the cost of the rescue is not paid by the company. It’s paid by you.”
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