You don’t need to cut the tags out of your clothes but before traveling abroad its important to think about things that you are carrying, either on your person, in your bags or electronically in your devices that may cause trouble for you with foreign authorities.  In the earlier post on being the gray man and blending in we discussed clothing.  This time we will focus more on the types of things that you might be carrying that may cause unnecessary problems.  I am not suggesting that you never carry these types of things when you travel – only that you give it some consideration in the context of your trip.

Here are some categories to consider:

  • Military or government ID.  If you are a reservist, a government contractor or otherwise have some type of government ID you may want to leave it at home if you are traveling on private sector business.  Obviously this doesn’t apply if you are going to need the ID on your trip.
  • Reading material, videos and other media that might be considered offensive in the country you are traveling to.  This is particularly true in some of the more conservative Islamic countries.
  • Military style clothing such as camouflage or 5.11 clothing.  In many developing nations police and military authorities tend to view military clothing negatively and may not understand that you are wearing for durability, comfort, etc.
  • Police or military paraphernalia such as body armor, handcuffs, batons, magazines, shell casings, etc.  Even countries like United Arab Emirates have issues with this and have detained travelers with this sort of gear in their luggage.
  • Political material and media that may be offensive to the host government or contrary to its policies.
  • Satellite phones and GPS units.  These are viewed with suspicion – and in some places outright illegal – particularly in countries with a history of coups, political instability or foreign intervention.
  • Computers and other devices with encryption software loaded on them.   In some countries this is illegal and in some others while legal it may draw unnecessary scrutiny.
  • Sensitive company information.  It goes without saying that you should limit the amount of proprietary information you carry with you when traveling abroad.  Foreign governments can and sometimes will gain access to this information if they choose to examine your computer and other devices as part of a security or customs check on arrival or departure.  In some cases they may also surreptitiously access it during your stay.
  • Sensitive personal information.  You want to be cautious about carrying sensitive personal information like banking and financial information, personal contact information and the like that may be compromised.
  • Medications.  Be aware of what medications can be legally carrier into your destination and any restrictions that may exist such as the need for a prescription, prior approval from the host country Ministry of Health, etc.
  • Passport Stamps and Visas.  The classic example if the presence of an Israeli stamp in your passport barring you from entry in some Arab and Muslim countries.  If you have passport entries that might be problematic at your destination country then consider getting a new passport in advance.  DO NOT tear pages or visas out of your passport.  This is a crime many places and will cause you serious problems if detected.

The above guidelines are very situationally dependent — they are going to vary widely from country-to-country and situation-to-situation.  I don’t want to appear to be saying you need to follow these for every trip.  They are however things to consider, especially if travel takes you to places where the government closely scrutinizes visitors.

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