Guides

Ride Across Dangerous Countries and Survive

When the call of adventure draws you somewhere you shouldn’t go, a war-torn Arab state perhaps, don’t worry. It’s never as bad as you think

Regardless of where you are, places are never as dangerous as people will tell you they are. Just because the police carry AK-47s and there was a bombing once doesn’t necessarily mean you’re about to be beheaded on video with a rusty spoon. Outside Europe guns are everywhere and while you might be somewhere hot and dusty where the indigenous people don’t wear jeans, that’s not to say it’s any more hazardous than, say, Toxteth.

Approach border crossings with an open mind and accept that it will take all day. African countries are the worst. Only consider greasing your documents with a small bribe if you know your shit’s not in order. Russians respond well to money but most border guards will just ask for more cash and then report you to their boss. Who will want more. Always travel with the original documents and carry an international driving licence (£11 from the Post Office) as these look like old-fashioned travel documents, which officIals like.

Across large swathes of the middle of the planet (Middle East, anything ending in -stan) it’s entirely commonplace to have military checkpoints every 40 miles or so. These are manned by bored soldiers and you’re the most interesting thing they’ve seen all week. Roll into each one with a huge grin and shouts of “inshallah” and they’ll love you for it. In Mexico the same roadblocks control the flow of cocaine from Columbia into the USA. Ask to take their picture and they’ll strike a pose with their AR15s. Ironically, you can buy 90% pure 10g bags of coke from roadside watermelon vendors three miles up the road for $20.

Don’t use a tent if you’re not feeling comfortable about security. Local hotels are cheap and do afford you some basic safekeeping. Text a mate at home and make a plan, asking them to call Interpol if they haven’t heard from you by a specified time.

Most of the world eats chicken, rice and vegetables and it’s always delicious. Getting the shits is just life. Chat at petrol stations and bone up on local knowledge, taking warnings with a pinch of salt.

Keep packs of Marlboro Lights on you for emergencies. Phillip Morris saved my skin in Basra in 2003 when, cornered in a hangar of Silkworm missiles by a bunch of angry-looking Fedayeen I thought fast, tore open a 20-carton and threw them into the air, making my escape as the Iraqis dropped their weapons and lunged for the smokes.

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