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Surviving a Hostage Situation

Posted on December 15 2020

Becoming a hostage is likely to be the last thing that crosses your mind when you travel the world but should you be taken hostage, this quick guide could save your life!

Recently, an American tourist and a safari guide were kidnapped and held hostage in exchange for $500,000 ransom in Uganda. Thankfully, the tourist and guide were rescued safely without incident or injury. 

While the chances of you becoming a kidnapping victim are very slim, there is still the possibility. Therefore, it is wise to learn some critical techniques in order to escape a hostage situation unscathed. 

Before we dive into how to handle a hostage situation, please understand this guide not the final authority on hostage situations. You are highly encouraged to conduct further research and make yourself more knowledgeable on the subject. It’s also prudent to understand some background information. 

Terrorists and criminals alike favor taking foreign tourists as hostages for many reasons. Mainly because they are visitors to the location, are unfamiliar with the area, and may not know many, if anyone to assist them. Secondly, because they believe the victim may have the financial resources in which to secure their release and therefore enrich themselves.  

How to avoid becoming a hostage: 

The best way to avoid a hostage situation is to obviously avoid becoming a hostage in the first place. You can do this simply by being acutely aware of your surroundings and the people in them. 

  • Look for anyone who seems to be taking a keen interest in your movements or activities.  
  • Be random in your routine as criminals may follow you at a distance to learn your habits. Take different routes when venturing out for a day of sightseeing.  
  • Avoid troubled areas or neighborhoods. Check with local law enforcement and the State Department website about hot spots you should avoid. 
  • Travel in groups of two or more. This may thwart would-be kidnappers attempt simply because they’re outnumbered.  
  • Always have some form of communication device ready to signal for help. Keep your cell phone fully charged to contact authorities. You can also carry a loud whistle to attract attention.  
  • Leave identifying clothing such as U.S. flag apparel or sports jerseys at home. Dress conservatively and try not to draw attention to yourself. 


Surviving a hostage situation: 

Even if you take all precautions, the unthinkable may happen and you or your family are taken hostage. This was the case with the tourist, she was with a local guide, far from any city on a safari when four armed men ambushed their vehicle and kidnapped the pair for ransom. Here are some techniques to survive and come out of the situation alive. 

  • It is crucially important not to lose hope for rescue. Most kidnappers do not wish to kill you as they would lose the possibility for their demands to be met. So remain calm, maintain your dignity, and control your fear. Do not give the criminals any reason to become excited or anxious. The situation is already stressful enough for everyone involved, so don’t elevate the tension of your ordeal.  
  • Follow all instructions given by your captors. Becoming insolent or disobedient may anger them and they may take that rage out on you. Just do as they say and remain calm.  
  • Avoid any sudden movements. Move slowly and calmly. Sudden movements could startle your captors and may be viewed as hostile. 
  • Engage in conversation with your kidnappers, but remember to speak with respect and try to avoid controversial topics such as religion or politics. Talking to your captors can be a way of deescalating tensions. Leave out your emotions and ego when talking to them. Be honest with them, but if lying is necessary, keep it simple, consistent, and easy to recall.  


During your time in captivity: 

Most hostage situations are resolved quickly, within a matter of a few hours to days. Here are techniques to maintain your mental and physical health during the ordeal.  

  • Maintain your daily routine and stay active but not hostile. Try to do some simple exercises such as push-ups or sit-ups. If you shave and shower in the morning, continue to do so if able. If you like to read after a meal, see if there is any reading material available. This serves several purposes. You will distract your mind from the situation but continue to be aware of any new developments. Do not become oblivious to your situation or surroundings.  
  • Simple exercises are recommended for physical and mental health. Exercising provides a brief yet welcome reprieve. Your body will also be primed should a fight or flight circumstance arise.  
  • Eat any food that is provided to you. You may not have an appetite but your body requires nourishment, even more so in a stressful situation. 
  • Finally, as difficult or impossible as it may seem, it is important to try to get some sleep. Rest is required to maintain your health and it is even more critical during a hostage situation. Even if you’re only able to rest for a short period of time, a little rest is better than none at all.  


A hostage situation will inevitably come to an end. Follow these tips during the rescue to escape with your life.  

  • When the authorities arrive, quickly drop to the floor or dive behind some type of cover. Should a firefight occur, you do not want to be caught in the crossfire. 
  • After taking cover, avoid any sudden movements. You may be mistaken for one of the assailants and your actions may be viewed as hostile.  
  • Do not attempt to assist the authorities in any way. Don’t shout or try to point out your captors. This may also be viewed as a threat. 
  • Follow all instructions given by your rescuers. It is not uncommon for hostages to be handcuffed and detained until all the details have been sorted out and everyone involved is positively identified.  
  • Finally, remain calm and keep your composure. Your rescue will arrive soon and you do not want to jeopardize your safety by trying to accelerate the process.  

Final thoughts: 

Enduring a hostage situation is likely to be the single most stressful situation you will face in your life. It is critical to maintain a calm demeanor, control your fear, keep your body and mind healthy, and finally avoid any actions that may be viewed as a threat. By following the preceding tips, you will greatly increase your chances of survival and return to your loved ones.  

Finally, this post is in no way the be-all, end-all of hostage survival. You are encouraged to seek out additional information, and specialized training such as first aid or self-defense to further increase your chances of survival. 


Safe Journey,

Wayward Voyager