CIA tells how to travel like a spy

Staying in a high-rise hotel on vacation this summer? Ask for a room below the upper floors, but higher than the first. Check out the exits. And bring your own door stop.

The CIA is offering these tips and more to Americans, drawing on the best practices of CIA personnel based in world capitals, remote outposts and areas of active conflict as the summer travel season begins and coronavirus-related restrictions continue to ease.

“Call it a craft in tourism,” the agency said in a statement posting the new tip on its website. “Whether you’re heading to a bustling city or a solitary trip this summer, we hope these CIA ‘Travel Tips’ will help you travel with more confidence and safety.”

Some recommendations are standard practice for experienced travelers. The spy agency recommends arriving at the airport early, making a photocopy of your passport, and registering with the US embassy when traveling abroad.

But some of their advice is smarter.

“Don’t look like an easy target,” the instructions say. “Trust us, you don’t want to attract attention with your meek, lost or distracted appearance.”

Upon arrival at the place, the agency recommends asking the airport staff how much a taxi should cost to your hotel, not trusting the taxi driver and using a taxi only from the official airport queue.

They recommend learning some basic words in the local language, such as “hello”, “goodbye” and “police”.

And they suggest keeping the amount of drinks you drink to a minimum.

“Spies can drink martinis at the movies, but alcohol reduces alertness and judgment,” the guide says. “You need to be alert and stay situationally aware, especially in an unfamiliar country.”

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, the CIA suggests familiarizing yourself with your hotel’s emergency escape routes and avoiding stairs, where crime can happen more often than elevators, except in an emergency.

And they say you have to request a hotel room on the middle floor of a high-rise building. “Being on the ground floor can make you more vulnerable to break-ins, but in many countries, emergency responders do not have the ability to go higher than a few floors off the ground,” it says. “Consider asking for a number somewhere in between.”

Use deadbolts to lock your hotel room because, according to the manual, “automatic locks on hotel room doors can often be picked and chains can often be cut.”

Do not open the door if there is unexpected room service, cleaning or maintenance.

And add a cheap and simple safety device to your packing list. “You know what else can help keep the door closed? Door stop,” it says. “Consider getting a portable door lock or traveler alarm to add extra security to your hotel room.”

The new guide is part of the intelligence agency’s “Ask Molly” series, an online forum for the CIA to answer questions…

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