Traveling to ABACE: Safety Tips & Best Practices

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Traveling to ABACE: Safety Tips & Best Practices

Recently, we met with National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) team members, attending the Asian Business Aviation Conference Exhibition 2019 (ABACE), to review international safety best practices and answer their questions about traveling to China.

If you plan on attending ABACE, April 16-18 in Shanghai, here are some safety tips and best practices to keep in mind:

1. Be informed before you go with current security assessments

It’s normal to feel apprehensive when traveling to a foreign country, especially one that’s vastly different culturally and politically than your own. Whether you plan to visit China, Russia, or somewhere in the Middle East or Africa, the best thing you can do is prepare yourself with current information. Always visit the United States State Department website for current advisories and alerts.

We recommend working with a trusted security provider with the resources to give you an up-to-date assessment of the current geopolitical landscape at your destination. To help prepare NBAA’s ABACE attendees, we reviewed a current security threat city assessment for Shanghai prepared by our security partner, FAM International.

These security assessments provide a ranking on threat levels such as the risk of terrorism, attacks on foreigners, petty and violent crime, areas to avoid, and overall tips and recommendations to help stay safe.

2. Avoid complacency

Maybe you’ve been to every single ABACE and visited Shanghai more times than you can remember. That’s all the more reason to reassess your security profile. It’s only human nature to become complacent, especially when it’s someplace you’re familiar with. Always review your own behaviors and review best traveling practices to ensure you’re not letting your guard down.

3. Consider getting a hotel security assessment

It’s never a bad idea to know more about where you’ll be staying. What’s the neighborhood like (are you near the city center or a local governtment building)? What type of onsite security does the hotel have? Is there a hospital nearby? What are evacuation routes in case of emergency?

A hotel threat assessment, provided by a company like FAM International, will answer these questions for your specific hotel.

4. So what’s the current assessment of Shanghai?

Shanghai is currently considered a threat level 2 (out of 5) by FAM International, which is low level risk for terrorism and for crime. As with any large international city, petty crime, such as pickpocketing is common, but there are no major reports of crime targeting foreign visitors.

To put things into perspective, Washington D.C., the home base of NBAA, is also rated a threat level 2. In fact, D.C. ranked as more of a threat for crime in most categories than Shanghai.

So the bottom line is that Shanghai is generally a safe city for foreign visitors who adhere to common sense and best traveling practices.

5. What about the China exit ban blocking people from leaving the country?

The China exit ban, whereby the Chinese government has blocked some U.S. citizens from leaving the country has made a lot of recent headlines and caused considerable concern for U.S. citizens visiting the country.

As of the time of this article, China has blocked the exit of approximately 24 U.S. citizens. In all instances, those individuals were either involved in a business dispute with the Chinese government or had high-profile Chinese relatives in the U.S. that the Chinese government is attempting to lure back to China.

While being detained in a foreign country is certainly a frightening prospect, the reality is that 1.6 million U.S. citizens visited China in 2017 and only 24 people have been detained. So unless you’re involved in a business dispute or have a high-profile Chinese relative that China wants back, you’re likely not going to be impacted.

It’s recommended before any international trip to enroll in the State Department’s Safe Travel Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP has great resources for travelers and will ensure you receive communications and alerts about your destination.

6. Cyber security – protect your devices

Cyber crime, rather than violent crime, is more of a threat in China. Make sure that you’re not accessing public WiFi and that your devices have appropriate security measures. Recommendations are to reach out to your company’s IT Security team before a trip to China to ensure proper safeguards are installed.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has a helpful website and printable PDF with tips for international travelers.

Some FCC tips include:

  • Back up your electronic files.
  • Remove sensitive data.
  • Install strong passwords.
  • Ensure antivirus software is up-to-date.
  • Don’t use the same passwords or PIN numbers abroad that you use in the United States.
  • Do not use the public Wi-Fi to make online purchases or access bank accounts.
  • When logging into any public network, shut off your phone’s auto-join function.
  • While using a pubic Wi-Fi network, periodically adjust your phone settings to forget the network, then log back in again.
  • Try purposely logging onto the public Wi-Fi using the wrong password. If you can get on anyway, that’s a sign that the network is not secure.
  • Update your security software and change your passwords on all devices on your return home.

In our experience, many business aviation China travelers leave their personal devices at home and use “burner” phones with limited information stored. It may also be worth considering using wallets and bags specifically designed to prevent your credit cards from being scanned by malicious devices.

7. Transportation

Be cautious when using taxi services, especially at airports. Avoid unlicensed “black cabs,” insist that the driver use the meter, and get a receipt. Have the name of your destination and the address written in Chinese characters and ask the driver to remove the bags from the trunk before you get out of the taxi and before you pay.

Whenever possible, do not travel alone and have your hotel arrange all taxis for you.

There are local ridesharing apps available in China. Information on how drivers are vetted is limited however, so proceed with caution.

8. Be mindful of local criminal schemes

Some common scams to look out for include:

  • “Tourist Tea” Scams: Young Chinese invite visitors out to tea and leave them with an exorbitant bill.
  • Phone Scams: We have received reports that some individuals within China have received telephone calls where the callers pose as police officers and request a funds transfer to resolve an identity theft or money laundering investigation. In these cases, DO NOT WIRE any money. If you receive any suspicious calls or requests, contact the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) to verify the caller’s identity.

9. General security tips and best practices

Whether you’re going to Shanghai or Chicago, it’s always important to not become complacent and remain aware of your surroundings. Below are some general common sense tips to consider when traveling.

  • Secure your valuables in the hotel safe
  • Don’t wear flashy clothes or draw extra attention to yourself
  • Avoid areas notorious for crime
  • Be wary of pickpockets in touristy areas
  • Call “110,” the local equivalent to the 911 in the United States
  • Boil water or drink only bottled water to avoid potential illness
  • Don’t share personal information or your itinerary
  • Avoid discussing controversial subjects like politics or religion with strangers or taxi drivers
  • Keep a low profile and don’t wear clothing with corporate logo, or other logos that identify you as western business traveler

10. Save emergency and helpful numbers and addresses in your phone

To save time in case of an emergency, consider having your hotel’s information pre-saved as well as other numbers and addresses such as:

  • U.S. State Departments’ 24-hour Consular Security Line: 1.202.501.4444

  • U.S Consulate
    1469 Huai Hai Zhong Road
    (Near Wulumuqi Nan Lu)
    Shanghai, China, 200031
    Phone: 86-21 8011-2200

  • Local Shanghai Emergency Numbers
    Police: 110
    First-aid Ambulance: 120
    Fire: 119

  • Shanghai Red Cross
    Located in: National Building
    Address: 1465 Beijing W Rd, Jingan Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200040
    Phone: +86 21 5535 9999

Conclusion

Shanghai is a low-level threat for terrorism and violent crime against foreigners. However, it is important to not become complacent and always follow security best practices. Be prepared for the unlikely by having emergency contacts saved in your phone and avoiding unnecessary and risky situations. IT security it likely more of a threat than actual physical crime. Although China’s exit ban has made international headlines, it is not a risk for the vast majority of U.S. visitors.


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