What to do if you’re kidnapped on holiday (and how to avoid it)

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So, you watched ‘Taken’ right before going on your big holiday abroad and now you’re all kinds of freaked out. You don’t have Liam Neeson as a father, so if you find yourself in trouble, no one with a particular set of skills is going to come rescue you (shy of the police, of course).

You may feel like watching the movie was a mistake, but if anything, it serves as a good reminder that you do need to be careful when visiting new places. The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website has a list detailing what countries might put you at risk for kidnapping. It’s a useful resource to review before you go away.

Today, we want to share some information on what you should do to avoid a kidnapping, as well as what to do if you do get nabbed.

Avoiding kidnapping: A clever way to steer clear of harm on holiday

Firstly, let’s discuss prevention. We’ve talked a lot about ways to avoid potentially dangerous situations when on holiday. Things like paying attention to your surroundings, being wary around strangers and steering clear of dark, lonely alleys – but we haven’t discussed this next tactic before now…

A recent story of a failed mugging on a train in California captured the attention of the world, and it’s a unique lesson in thwarting an attempted robbery or kidnapping. Julie Dragland was riding the train when a person from behind passed her note saying a gun was pointed at her and demanding she give her wallet if she wanted to live.

Julie had to think fast, but her subtle attempts to get the attention of other passengers wasn’t working, so she stopped being subtle and faked a seizure – and that’s not something people can ignore. With all the people asking if she was OK, the suspect fled the scene.

It was a pretty gutsy move by Julie, but it saved her life and did so in a clever way that didn’t endanger her life. The move was good, as it protected her from looking like she was disobeying the orders (in which case she risked getting shot) and made a scene that no mugger would want to deal with.

What to do if you are kidnapped on holiday

But let’s say you’ve been playing it safe and you still find yourself in sticky situation. We want to prepare you for this unthinkable scenario so you can be your own hero, or rather, your own Liam Neeson.

It’s hard not to panic in a situation such as this, but you have to try to stay calm so you can think clearly to protect yourself. If possible, you want to try to leave a trail of things that belong to you so police can track you. Try to get an idea of where you are going so if you can escape, you can get back to safety.

In the meantime, however, it will be important for you to get to know your kidnapper. That might sound a little crazy, but getting to understand them and learn their behaviours can help you make them happy, potentially making them likely to harm you. It’s even advantageous to try to befriend them, just be wary of Stockholm syndrome (a condition where the victims actually develop an emotional attachment to the kidnapper) – someone who is kidnapping you is not your friend.

Now, if you’re attempting to thwart a kidnapping, your main goal would to be to struggle as much as possible, but if you’re actually kidnapped, you want to cooperate as best you can.

For more tips on what to do if you’re kidnapped when you’re travelling on holiday, check out this corny yet informative video on how to escape.


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


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