The item EVERYONE should pack, why brewing tea could save your life if you’re lost and how to blend in while visiting dangerous countries: SAS hero Andy McNab’s top travel tips

Oh-so-useful article via Travel Mail – my thanks to hero Andy McNab           Ned

  • Andy McNab served with the legendary SAS unit for nine years
  • He was trained to make it out alive from every possible hostile environment
  • His next expedition is to the South Pole – to raise money for the #ReadingJourney Appeal 

Even the best-planned holidays can have their pitfalls.

Tourists can inadvertently find themselves lost in a wilderness, facing a dangerous animal or harassed by locals.

Here former SAS hero Andy McNab reveals his top tips for staying safe while abroad. And who better to give out advice? After all, Mr McNab served with the legendary covert special forces unit for nine years and has expert survival knowledge, having been trained to make it out alive from every possible hostile environment.

He reveals the handy item everyone should pack, what to do in the event of your plane being hijacked – and why making a cup of tea is the best move if you get lost.

Former SAS hero Andy McNab reveals his top tips for staying safe while abroad

Former SAS hero Andy McNab reveals his top tips for staying safe while abroad

The essential item everyone should pack

Everyone should pack an Uzi tactical pen – check online. It is a brilliant self-defence weapon, you can take it through security and you can use it to fill in the landing card.

The best way of dealing with angry immigration officers in the US

Smile and comply. They have the ultimate power. The only way for you to get what you want out of it is to behave and do what they want. Having said that, there’s a great flight to JFK out of London City which clears US immigration at Shannon, then you don’t have to worry about it.

Mr McNab recommends packing an Uzi pen when travelling - if only to fill out the landing card
What to do if your plane is hijacked

Whenever you have the opportunity you should fight. You have no control of what they are going to do or what will happen, so start from the perspective that you are dead anyway, so anything else is a bonus.

The essential position to take up if your plane nosedives

I’d curl up in a ball, facing the other way, with my back to the front of the aircraft. That is what you do on military flights. And in parachute terms, ‘accept the landing’.

You should always try and fight hijackers who take over your plane, says Mr McNab, if you have the opportunity

How to cope if your wanderlust drives you to visit a notorious dangerous country such as Somalia or Afghanistan

Why on earth are you going there? The only reason you should go there is for money, if you are working, or are going to profit from it. If you are going to get an experience, you might just get a bigger experience than you bargained for! If you do go, ensure that you are prepared for a pretty long stay, just in case. It isn’t adventurous to go, it’s stupid.

Iran is ‘opening up’ – but is it really advisable to visit?

Go skiing! Just outside of Tehran is the most amazing ski resort. If you are into art, the Persian stuff is incredible.

Slope style: Mr McNab recommends the skiing in Iran (pictured)

Why you should become the ‘grey man’ in a hostile atmosphere abroad

First of all, knowledge is essential in a hostile environment. Where are the dangerous areas? Know where to avoid. Never present yourself as a threat. Make sure you are always the humble one, the grey man. It is very aggressive to confront someone and get eye contact. Stay insignificant.

Wear what the locals are wearing. In the Western hemisphere, that’s jeans, trainers and so on, but perhaps not the Cartier Tank watch or your iPhone 6S dangling off your belt.

If you’re in a country where people haven’t got stuff, don’t show that you have got it. Bling doesn’t impress, bling attracts in all the wrong ways.

If you stand out because you are ethnically distinct somewhere, try to look like a traveller not a tourist, i.e more switched on, streetwise, with more knowledge of where you are.

Drinking in bars abroad can be fun – but can also be intimidating if they’re full of rowdy. Avoidance is the best solution

Don’t go there! And if you have to, avoid eye contact and smile. Have your beer and then leave!

The best way to disappear if you think you’re being followed

First of all confirm you are being followed. Anyone following you around three corners is clearly up to no good. It is an unnatural route for anyone. The best way to disappear is to go into a building that has multiple exits. Go into a department store, full of people and exits. You can go in and get out another side and get out of danger. Or, if you think you are being followed on public transport, as in the films, get on the Tube and then jump off again at the last minute. The downside of this though is that they will realize that you know you are being followed.

Why running is the best thing to do in the event of a terrorist attack at your resort

You pick up everything you love – i.e your family – and leave everything else, and run. What human beings do, which is weird, is freeze, like animals in the headlights. We find it very hard to believe something bad is happening as it’s alien, so we look, question what we are seeing and don’t want to appear stupid by overreacting. The instinct to get out quickly isn’t there, but if you think something bad is happening, get away from it.

If a dangerous animal comes looking for a fight, why fighting back might be your best option

'If you come up against a bear with the hump, you are done for anyway, so you might as well have a crack and see what happens,' says Mr McNab

It is all about fight or flight. At a moment like that, there is no right or wrong way. You are working against something you have no control of, i.e the animal. It’s down to you to decide whether or not to fight it and see what happens, or run, and see what happens! Only you know what you are capable of, and possibly what the animal you are facing is capable of. If you come up against a bear with the hump, you are done for anyway, so you might as well have a crack and see what happens. It’s only the end when you’re not breathing!

How to stay toasty in the coldest of environments

If you get stranded you can do without food, it’s avoiding being wet and cold that is important. It’s all about kit. I’m about to leave on a South Pole trip, and the technical kit is amazing. Having said that, the disposable handwarmers that you can get on the high street are brilliant. I’ll be taking loads of them! They are also good for warming up batteries in phones and GPS devices when they stop working.

Keeping cool in the hottest of climates

People don’t drink enough. If you come from a temperate climate you don’t realize that by the time you feel thirsty, it’s usually too late. You need to be drinking litres of water, until your urine is clear, then you know you’ve got enough water in you. Then keep on going. Keep out of the sun and cover your head, obviously.

Why brewing up and calming down is key to surviving if you get lost far from civilisation

Taking stock: Calming down and having a cup of tea might just save your life if you get lost far from civilisation

The first thing if you are lost, anywhere, is to stop. Stop where you are, take a breath and don’t panic. If you listen to stories of people who are lost, you hear that they have been running from one point to another, trying to remember their route, and in their desperation, getting more confused.

If you stop, you calm down and sort yourself out. In the jungle in the SAS, if you were lost, you stopped, made a brew, worked out where you were and worked out where you needed to go. It’s desperate panic that gets people into really big trouble.

Conscious thought on where you’ve been, how you might be able to get back there is the only thing you need. If you are in those environments, you need the basic knowledge of knowing the compass points and navigating by the sun. You may well have a GPS with you, but what about when the battery goes dead? Ultimately, if you have an idea where the coast is, and it is east, then if you head east by the sun, eventually you’ll get there!

The other advice is if you find a watercourse, follow it downstream. Eventually where there is water there will be irrigation, vegetation and habitation.

What if an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane strikes while you’re on holiday?

We all know when they are about to happen. Don’t go to wherever they are forecast. And if you find yourself there, get somewhere that isn’t going to get blown away. Get underground if it’s a hurricane. In an earthquake stay where you are. And in a tsunami, get to high ground. One thing that happens before a tsunami is that all the wildlife disappears. If the cats and dogs have gone and the birds have stopped singing, follow them.

The most important next-steps if a cruise ship leaves you behind on a desert island

Finding water, food and shelter, in that order. Then you can worry about making your distress signals.

Touring jungles are great experiences – but the insects can nip enjoyment in the bud. Here’s how to cope

Make sure you cover up when visiting jungles, says Mr McNab

I did lots of jungle time in the SAS, without a doubt it is the best environment to be in because you’ve got lots of water, lots of shelter and lots of food, and it’s hot! The best way to take advantage of that is always to be covered up. The less skin that is exposed for the insects to bite, the less chance of disease and discomfort.

If you have got a mosquito repellent, the higher the percentage of Deet the better. The army stuff basically melts plastic it’s so strong, and that is great. Not great if you’re wearing a plastic watch though.

What to do if you find yourself all at sea

Ultimately, if you are lost at sea you need to know the cardinal points. You need to know how to sail, you need to have an idea of where you are, you need to be able to navigate. You have got food, you have got rehydration because you’ve got fluid from the fish and birds you are eating. It’s just a matter of knowing which way to go. Again if you know landfall is west, then you need to know which way is west, obviously!


Andy McNab has lived an extraordinary life. As a young soldier he waged war against the IRA in the streets and fields of South Armagh. As a member of 22 SAS he was at the centre of covert operations for nine years – on five continents.

During the Gulf War he commanded Bravo Two Zero, a patrol that, in the words of his commanding officer, ‘will remain in regimental history for ever’. Awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and Military Medal (MM) during his military career, McNab was the British Army’s most highly decorated serving soldier when he finally left the SAS.


  • Detonator by Andy McNab is out now



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