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TRAVEL

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LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH AUTHORITIES AND SCAMS

Many people who travel overseas for the first time often get caught out by foreign Immigration and Customs because they did not fully understand the legal requirements when entering other countries. This can cost travellers very dearly and even eventuate in them being arrested. Even seasoned travellers coming to Australia bring in items that are prohibited, or they are stupid enough to try and smuggle in drugs and other illegal goods. And it is staggering to see people, mainly from Asia and the Middle East, bringing in mountains of food that is mostly prohibited under Australian quarantine laws, as if such food is unavailable. In fact Australians can purchase literally any Asian or Arabic food in most supermarkets and Asian groceries.

Just as importantly, travellers need to realise these days that what they have on their electronic devices is also subject to Customs examination when entering foreign nations and also when coming to Australia. Citizens of Australia are not exempt from their devices being searched upon their return and many Australians have been caught with illegal pornography and other prohibited items on their computers and smartphones and some have been jailed.

GOING THROUGH FOREIGN CUSTOMS

Customs and immigration services in all countries have very formidable powers. They can demand that you unlock your smartphone or computer and trawl through its contents and you can be arrested and jailed if you refuse to do so. If they find anything untoward, like pornography, dog fighting or anything that may be illegal in their country, even if it is completely legal in your country, they can confiscate and destroy your smartphone or computer and hit you with a large fine or even arrest and jail you.

There is one very simple remedy that will keep you and your equipment safe. Before you embark on your trip with your notebook computer and your smartphone, check the entire contents and make sure that anything that could remotely be construed by any nation's Customs as being offensive, illegal or even obnoxious is removed. Not just deleted, but wiped from the computer's recycle bin, so that it cannot be recovered. Don't retain any content that could cause you the slightest problem.

This doesn't mean that you cannot access your sensitive files. All you need to do is to set up a Cloud storage account or a Network Addressed Storage (NAS) device that is connected to the Internet. Put your sensitive files on it and when you need them, download them to your computer and smartphone, once you have passed through Customs and are clear. Do not take any paper documents with you that could compromise you in any way. If you are going to look around for work in that foreign nation and you don't have a work visa, don't carry anything that could point to this activity. Make sure that your browser is in 'incognito' mode, so that it does not store any details of where you have browsed.

Of course you should never put a reference or the web address and log-on details for that remote storage on any of your equipment and never disclose this to foreign Customs or anybody else. You are not required to tell anybody about files, data or anything else that is not in your physical possession. If it is not written anywhere, then they would have to be clairvoyants to find out about it - and of course they are not. That way, no Customs officials will be any the wiser, even if they thoroughly examine your computer or smartphone.

But this is how crazy it is. With the Internet, there are no borders when it comes to data. Customs can arrest you for having illegal content on your smartphone or computer when entering a nation, yet if you wipe that content from your devices, all that content can still be instantly retrieved from your Internet Cloud storage or NAS device in an instant, once you have crossed the border. A savvy traveller can access literally anything whenever he can get onto the Internet. If Customs asks you whether you have data stored in the Cloud or on any remote storage, just tell them that you won't even answer that question, as this is totally outside their jurisdiction.

MEMORY CARDS

If you prefer to have your data at your disposal at all times and you feel confident, you can keep your sensitive files on a microSD card. These memory cards are very tiny, literally the size of a thumbnail and not much thicker. They can be concealed almost anywhere and would be highly unlikely to trigger a metal detector. For higher security, you should encrypt the entire contents of the microSD card or even make the contents invisible, which can be done under Windows.

Sandisk 1 Terabyte microSD Card
SanDisk 1 Terabyte microSD Card

As of 2020, these microSD cards are available with capacities up to 1 terabyte, literally the same capacity as the average computer hard disk or SSD drive. A well concealed microSD card would be extremely difficult to find. So if you want to keep your sensitive data handy at all times, especially if you know that you are going somewhere without Internet access, just find a really good hiding place for your data-laden microSD card and chances are that foreign Customs officers won't find it, even with a comprehensive frisk search. And just make sure that the microSD card is in a place where x-rays won't see it.

DELETING FILES FROM SSD

If your computer has a mechanical hard disk drive, even though you delete sensitive files from the Recycle Bin and you think that they are gone, the files still leave their traces in the magnetic residue on the hard disk platters. If authorities use the right equipment such as a Spinstand Tester, some parts of those files that might be very incriminating could possibly be recovered. So if you really want to ensure that sensitive files are well and truly gone forever, you need to delete them with a military grade eraser program and there are plenty of such free apps available.

But none of this applies to solid state drives (SSD). These days, just about every modern notebook computer uses SSD for storage, so the idea is to delete anything sensitive from the SSD and delete the contents of the Recycle Bin before going through foreign or Australian Customs, making sure that those files are first backed up in your remote Cloud or NAS storage. Once files are deleted from the Recycle Bin, they are gone forever. That way, you won't get caught with your pants down, figuratively speaking. One of the best computer upgrades is to replace the old mechanical hard disk drive with a SSD. It's a hell of a lot faster and far more secure.

DELETE ALL COMMUNICATIONS

It is amazing how many people have incriminating or illegal information on their smartphones and computers. For example, people try to enter a country on a tourist visa that does not allow them to work, yet they have messages and files on their computers and smartphones indicating that they have arranged jobs in that country. Some even carry paper documents indicating work chances and appointments with potential employers. This is height of stupidity and carelessness. Many people are caught out by immigration officers who find such messages and files on their devices and in almost every case, those people are instantly deported.

So when travelling, the safest thing to do is this:

It's one thing to use encrypted message apps and know that you can't be eavesdropped, but it's very foolish to be forced to unlock your smartphone and give border authorities access to the communications that would have been totally confidential. If you need documents, but you do not want Customs or Immigration officers to get their hands on them, merely store them in your remote Cloud or NAS facility or maybe on your very well-hidden microSD card.

Once you get through Customs and Immigration, you can just download those documents and go to an Internet café or library and print them up if you need hard copies. Or merely get that microSD card out of its hiding place and copy the files to your devices. Borders do not exist when you use these techniques. And once you are well on your way and away from Customs, then you can restore that data onto your devices.

FLUSHING THE MEMORY

Most people who have a modern notebook computer do not realise that when they press the OFF button, it does not actually switch the computer off. The computer essentially goes into a standby sleep mode. Customs could demand that you switch on your notebook and see what is sitting in the memory. So before you arrive at Customs and Immigration, the trick is to actually switch off your notebook completely by holding down the OFF button for about 10 seconds. This will actually switch it right off, also flushing the memory completely. The same applies to a smartphone. Hitting the OFF button only puts it on standby, so the idea is to hold the OFF button down for about 5 to 10 seconds until the phone switches right off. Then you can feel confident when you enter the Customs and Immigration hall that nothing incriminating can be recovered from your devices.

DEALING WITH AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS

Even when I am re-entering Australia from an overseas trip, I make sure that there is nothing sensitive on my SSD-equipped ultrabook computer or iPhone. If I am pulled aside by Customs for an inspection, I immediately state that there is absolutely nothing of any interest or anything remotely illegal on my devices. I state that I have deleted everything except essential software and innocent files and have flushed the contents of the Recycle Bin, so that nothing that was deleted can be recovered. Therefore Customs can look all they like and they will find nothing incriminating. But I can reload all those missing files from my backup as soon as I am back home or anywhere else in transit from a Cloud-type account or my NAS via the Internet. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

It is amazing how people entering Australia answer literally every question that Customs and Immigration officers put to them. Apart from making the Inbound Declaration and stating whether you are carrying any items that need inspection, you are not required to answer any questions and you should not do so. Always remember that it is an offence to lie to a Customs and Immigration officer, so obviously if you don't say anything, they cannot accuse you of lying. And it is amazing how easy it is to blurt out something damaging in the stress of the moment.

You should always keep in mind that anything you say can be used against you, so the best thing is - shut the hell up and just refuse to answer any questions that are not directly pertinent to the information on that Inbound Declaration card. If you are asked what you were doing overseas, don't say anything - it is none of their business to know this. They can ask if you have been on a farm, obviously for quarantine purposes, but if they ask you if you are carrying narcotics, refer them to your Inbound Declaration, but don't answer the question. If they ask if you use or used narcotics, refuse to answer. You are not required to do so and the safest method is to never give them any ammunition by making any admissions whatsoever.

TAKE ALL THESE ACTIVE MEASURES NOW

Finally, the other main thing you should do before going into a situation where police or other authorities might try and access your phone is to make sure that your device is charged up and has lots of available storage. Almost every phone nowadays has a way to access its camera without fully unlocking the phone, so you can capture photos or videos more securely. Furthermore, the built-in voice recorders on most phones will continue to record audio even when locked, so if anything goes down, you'll want to make sure you have room to record everything you can. Nothing beats hard indisputable evidence in court.

It is abundantly clear that the public can't trust the police or other authorities, so it's important for anyone who values their security and privacy to do everything they can to protect themselves and their devices and data. Passcodes and encryption will keep snoops at bay, but only if you employ these measures and never ever divulge those passcodes or decryption keys to anybody.

BEWARE OF THESE NATIONS

The world is a dangerous place and even in democratic nations, travellers can find themselves in all sorts of troubles by not knowing local laws and inadvertently breaking them. But going to certain nations is sheer stupidity and they should be avoided at all costs.

NORTH KOREA

This is beyond obvious. You would have to be crazy to go to this repressive communist Stalinist dictatorship that is ruled by a fat megalomaniac, whose only aim is to cling to power while executing anybody who even appears to oppose him and his regime. Tourists to North Korea have been arbitrarily arrested on trumped-up charges and held as bargaining chips in what is known as 'Hostage Diplomacy'. whenever the North Koreans want to obtain some sort of political or financial advantage from other nations.

Apart from the fact that it is difficult to obtain a visa for North Korea, you'd have to be crazy to even want to go there as a tourist. You will only get to see what those communist bastards want you to see, which is not very exciting in the least and you will run the very real risk of being stitched up and jailed on some pretext. Just don't even think about going to North Korea under any circumstances.

ALL MIDDLE EASTERN ISLAMIC NATIONS

The first thing to understand about Muslims is that they dance to a totally different tune than normal people. They have been indoctrinated by a vile and despicable death cult called Islam that calls for genocide and hatred and they worship a mass-murdering paedophile they call the 'prophet' Mohammed. Muslims revere this monster as an example of the 'Perfect Man', whom they emulate with their litany of child molestation, female genital mutilation and other atrocities that they consider to be normal.

Muslims have spent the past 1,400 years marrying or raping their closest relatives and sometimes their siblings, resulting in massive incidences of inbreeding and genetic defects and a drastic lowering of their collective intelligence. This completely explains why 1.4 BILLION Muslims have not achieved anything or invented anything worthwhile in all those centuries, while their hated enemies, the tiny number of 16 million Jews, have provided the human race with far more advances, inventions and innovations per capita than any other group in the world.

So going to any Islamic nation is fraught with danger, because visitors are in the clutches of raving inbred lunatics who have been warped by their insane death cult, so anything can happen. For instance, Iran happily engages in 'Hostage Diplomacy', where the Iranians will just grab tourists and accuse them of espionage, merely to cut deals with western nations for some political or financial advantage. But if those deals are not successful, the poor victims who did nothing wrong except to travel to Iran will invariably face show trials in the best traditions of Stalinist USSR and be jailed for a long time in some hell-hole prison.

Some of the Gulf nations also play this despicable game of 'Hostage Diplomacy' or even just arrest and jail people on the most ridiculously unfair and bogus charges. For instance, there was one tourist who was jailed for a few years for merely accidentally being bumped into by a Middle Eastern Sheik. It was stated that it was the tourist's fault because if he had not been visiting that nation, the sheik would not have bumped into him. In those nations, it's always the fault of foreigners in car and other accidents, even when it is obviously not their fault.

Then there was the case of the tourist who flew into Qatar and was flogged and jailed for bringing alcohol into that nation. But she did not bring any bottles of booze with her. She had been offered alcoholic drinks while flying into Qatar on Qatar's national airline Qatar Airways, so she was punished for having alcohol inside her, despite the fact that she was given that alcohol on a Qatari airliner operated by the Qatari government. There are many other reports like this. The safest thing for anybody to do is to refrain from going anywhere near Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, any of the Gulf Emirates and indeed any other Islamic nation. Those Muslims are insane.

Pakistan is a very dangerous nation, where Pakistanis are notorious for accusing non-Muslims of blasphemy against Islam and that paedophile monster they call the 'prophet' Mohammed who was no prophet, but just a murderous lunatic. Pakistani courts invariably issue death sentences or life sentences to people accused of this 'crime' on the unsubstantiated word of Muslim accusers. It is simply not worth going to that third-world shit-hole that is populated by inbred nutbags, so keep safe and keep out of there.

Even Malaysia, although slightly more benign, can be a very dangerous place for non-Muslims, who are arbitrarily arrested on the flimsiest of pretexts. And we know about Indonesia, the most populous Islamic nation, where visitors to Bali are often scammed by cops extorting money as bribes from tourists by accusing them of offences and in the worst cases, planting narcotics on them and arresting them. A number of Australians have been jailed for life in this manner. So don't go to Bali - there are far better and safer places to vacation without that sort of risk.

CHINA

Here is a nation that has become very prosperous on the back of a massive population of people who worked for slave labour wages and sometimes as actual slaves, whic some still do to this day. By stealing inventions from the west, copying products and selling those knock-offs for peanuts, China eventually has grown into a powerhouse. Unfortunately, the wealth has been used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to develop a massive military capability and threaten nations in its vicinity, especially Taiwan that has been a fully independent country since 1949.

The Chinese communists have discovered that they can play the 'Hostage Diplomacy' game by arresting foreigners and charging them with various serious crimes that have no basis in fact. For instance, when Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei who has very close connections to the CCP, the Chinese immediately arrested two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on trumped-up espionage charges. The same happened to Chinese-born Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who was tried on charges of espionage in a closed Chinese court and deprived of all normal judicial procedures. This stitch-up was in retaliation for Australia opposing China's invasion and annexation of South China Sea territories belonging to other nations and in more recent times, Australia calling for a thorough investigation into the Wuhan coronavirus release.

China might have become prosperous on the back of its slave labour and it certainly does have some historical sites that are interesting. But it is certainly not worth the risk of travelling to this nation that engages in literally stitching up foreigners on bogus charges and using them as pawns in some political maneuvrings. Foreigners are even arrested when they enter China if they have criticise the Chinese communist regime, such as on the Internet in their home countries. The communists consider that they have authority over everybody, even foreigners not in China. The best advice is to avoid going to China for any reason, or you might regret it.

OTHER COMMUNIST NATIONS

Communist nations are repressive simply by virtue of their ideology. No communist nation can survive except by holding a gun to the heads of its citizens. This also translates to arresting and jailing tourists on bogus charges for many totally invalid reasons, but that is how communism works. Even since Cuba opened itself up for tourism, it is still a dangerous place for foreigners. Say the wrong word or criticise the communist regime and you will quickly find yourself hauled away by the secret police. The same goes for Burma (Myanmar) and some of the former USSR nations - Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgysztan and Chechnya. These are dangerous nations that should always be avoided.

SOME AFRICAN NATIONS

Many parts of Africa are relatively safe for tourists, but some African nations are extremely dangerous, even for their own citizens. The following nations should be avoided at all costs, especially those with an Islamic majority:

Many of the above nations have nasty reputations for terrorism, extortion, kidnapping and scams. One has to wonder why anybody would even want to go to these places, but I can only advise you to never go near them if you want to remain safe. It is just not worth the risk.

CONCLUSIONS

There are many wonderful places on this planet where tourists are made welcome and are relatively safe. There are plenty of interesting things to do in those nations without running much risk of being killed, kidnapped, stitched up on bogus criminal charges or used as pawns in 'Hostage Diplomacy'. In other words, just make sure that when you do decide to travel overseas, that you totally avoid any nations that could pose a risk to your well-being, such as repressive communist or Islamic nations and countries that are known to foment terrorism, kidnapping and other existential dangers. Even better, stay in Australia, the best nation by far in the world. We have the best sights, the best beaches, a first-world advanced lifestyle and the sort of freedom that other nationalities dream about.