SAFETY & SECURITY
We’d like to address the 10,000 pound elephant in the room— that being safety and security while on Outliers programs. It’s no secret all Outliers programs are hosted in countries with government issued travel warnings. From Afghanistan to North Korea, travel to each of these countries comes with a unique set of risks and therefore safety and security procedures.
We place safety and security above everything else. We will cancel a program or change an itinerary at any hint of insecurity. Many itineraries are not made fully available online for this reason, as we do not want any unsavoury individuals tracking our movements and knowing where we sleep. We take every precaution with these programs to create meaningful, safe journeys to some of the world’s most difficult travel destinations. Our team does this work out of a genuine thirst for learning and connection.
This page is meant to address security issues both in a general overview, as well as provide specific country-by-country policies.
General Security in Outlier Destinations
Fixers and Local Teams
Each one of our fixers, guides and drivers have all been pre-vetted by our Canadian and American team, they all have been selected due to their in depth knowledge, experience and connections in their home countries, and all have rich experience working with foreigners in their home countries.
We require that all operational partners have specific security and evacuation procedures in place, keep a very close ear to the ground to assess the situation in the regions we’re scheduled to travel, and maintain strong connections with local political and police forces in case of any emergency. Even our drivers are preselected and vetted before the start of any program.
We trust our local teams and work hard to build professional and social relations with them. They are our family on the ground in these countries and the level of mutual respect we have between each other is extremely high. We trust them to not only guide us, but also send advance teams to check security, coordinate with police and military authorities when necessary, and provide security.
In some Outlier destinations, namely mainland Yemen and Afghanistan, we enforce an after dark curfew. This means no travelling or driving at night, no walking around the streets, and essentially no activities outside the confines of secure accommodation. This is for safety and security purposes and is at the requirement of our local teams in these countries. Independent travel is not permitted on the vast majority of Outliers programs.
Dress and Appearance
In many Outliers countries, we provide local dress for you to wear. This is to help you fit in, not stick out, and respect the local customs and culture— a key part of staying safe.
For conservative Islamic countries like Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq for example, this kind of dress is a requirement— meaning women can expect to wear headscarfs, chadors, chadri and or black dresses depending on the situation and region. Men can expect to dress locally and conservatively as well, including head coverings. This is for your safety first and foremost, and will allow you to connect with locals more comfortably.
If you are unwilling to dress as locals do, please do not join a program that has a dress code, as failure to comply to local customs may put our team and fellow travellers at risk. A full packing list is provided before each program and a section on cultural dress is included in that section. For certain destinations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Yemen, a set of local clothes will be provided to you, arranged in advance by our local team.
Local Laws and Cultural Sensitivities
It’s important to be aware of the laws and culture in every place you travel, and even more so in outlying countries, where conflict is or has recently been present. Before each journey, you’ll be fully briefed on these issues by the trip leader, and in the pre-departure information packets, we include a guide to cultural sensitivities, basic rules in the destination country, and a list of do’s and don’ts. A list of banned items is also provided pre-departure.
Throughout the trip, don’t be shy to ask your trip coordinator or local trip leader about issues related to this topic, they’ll be more than happy to help explain things to you.
Medical, Evacuation and Insurance
Each participant on an Outliers program is required to have insurance that will cover them for the trip. Many insurance providers do not provide comprehensive coverage for countries on travel warning lists; therefore it’s important to get insurance that will cover you fully in these countries. Our team will suggest providers for you that offer a wide range of coverage for “high risk” destinations that are popular amongst the NGO and diplomatic community.
In case of a medical emergency, we work with our local partners to establish exit routes and protocols, as well as have a good survey of local hospitals and medical facilities should an evacuation not be immediately possible. Each participant is required to have medical evacuation insurance before the start of any Outliers program.
Security, Armed Escorts & Police
By and large, we do not use armed protection during Outliers programs, as in many cases this may attract unwanted attention to the group and make us seem like a target. There are exceptions to this case, as we may travel with armed escorts provided by the police, tourist police, or military in certain countries including Egypt, Yemen (mainland), and Afghanistan. We only use armed protection when deemed necessary for safety by the local authorities and it has been vetted by our local partner.
Our local team is fully responsible for liaising with police, security and military personnel on the ground and they maintain contacts with these departments.
Depending on the trip, we do sometimes use a scout vehicle to travel ahead of the group to assess the security situation and report back to our team just to make sure no incidents have happened. This practice is especially common in Afghanistan and Yemen.
Our local teams as well as trip leaders carry local SIM cards throughout the trip, enabling easy communications everywhere there is signal— which is quite widespread even in places like Yemen and Afghanistan. Additionally, trip leaders carry Garmin inReach+ devices which use satellite technology to send messages, including emergency notifications from absolutely anywhere. We do not carry these devices in North Korea as they are not allowed into the country, but international SIM cards are available in Pyongyang.