The US State Department issued a Venezuela travel warning on November 22, 2013. I rarely comment about these, but this one caught my attention since Venezuela is a short flight from CONUS and served by major US airlines including American, Delta and United. The US State Department offers a thorough description about the current risks to travelers in Venezuela – security managers and travel professionals should be familiar with it (Venezuela Travel Warning). The State Department requirement to use an armored car for travel in certain parts of the country or at night is what triggered this note.

Armored vehicles offer flexibility and options for travelers that conventional vehicles do not. Operational experience suggests business travelers employ low-profile vehicles – not up-armored Chevy Suburbans that Darth Vader would look comfortable in. Unfortunately the US State Department warning doesn’t direct readers to a source for these vehicles or provide advice about what you should look for when renting an armored car.

Corporate travelers need to blend in – and sophisticated executive protection companies with local knowledge and know-how can help you avoid trouble. Armored vehicles weigh much more than their stock peers so a professional driver is recommended. Local drivers are extremely valuable for their area knowledge and experience in different situations. They’re more likely to identify threats well before a traveler would, and they can use alternate routes with information your GPS doesn’t have. Finally, a driver provides a layer of indemnification and protectection from liability in case your vehicle is in an accident.

Traditional armored car manufacturers use steel plating and bullet-resistant glass to protect the people inside, while contemporarty construction replaces steel with polyethelene-based materials (Spectra and Dyneema are the most common – and are superior to Kevlar). A Spectra-enhanced vehicle is frequently 1,000 pounds lighter than the same vehicle protected from steel, so handling, acceleration and braking performance are much better. Unfortunately, duties and taxes on imported vehicles drive costs up and favor local manufactures who apply hardened steel. A $200,000 vehicle from industry-leader Texas Armoring would cost almost $400,000 in certain markets. You can check out http://www.texasarmoring.com/ for more information about their products and Spectra. Although Spectra vehicles are lighter, a trained driver is still a good idea; they can get the most out of any car through evasive driving techniques and features unavailable to the average driver.

A quick search and a phone call turned up diplomat armored rental as a source for vehicles in Caracas. See diplomatarmored.com to find cars available in many countries. They offer Chevy Suburbans, Ford Explorers and Toyota Prados (the Lexus GX460 platform) in Venezuela. Prices start from $1,500 per day and include an armed, high-security driver, trained to provide high-risk protection and drive a heavy, steel-plated vehicle. Diplomat Armored Rentals provide significant value to their customers. Plan ahead and be alert when you travel, don’t allow signs with your name on them at the airport, and insist on details about the car, the armor, the driver’s training, credentials, and a photograph before your introduction on arrival.

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