How to Leave Your Host Country If War Breaks Out: American Expat Survival Tips

By Jerry Andrew Nelson, Freelance Writer

When President Joe Biden began urging US citizens to leave Ukraine as tensions with Russia over its military buildup on the border intensified, the US Embassy in Kyiv had already been urging citizens to look at leaving. Some American expats took to heart the advice, others did not.

As over two million Ukrainians flee war in their motherland, a much narrower, quieter exodus took place from Russia. There is no data tracking foreigners fleeing Russia, and their journeys are mostly less painful than those faced by the historic wave of war refugees flowing across and out of Ukraine. But since the war started, many non-Russians with the measures have pushed to leave the country — some forever, others for awhile. Reasons include the financial, logistical and moral.

Concerned about the possibility of sealed borders, a Chilean academic made a split-second call to leave his belongings and catch a cab to Estonia. A British teacher left for Istanbul in part because she didn’t want her daughter growing up somewhere that condoned such a war. The Anglo-American School, a Moscow haven of Pop-Tart deliveries and softball games that worked throughout the worst of the Cold War, moved classes online because so many foreign teachers fled.

For American expats, the thought of war breaking out in their host country is a terrifying one. What would happen if they were stuck there when it happened? How could they leave?

Here are six tips for American expats who want to leave their host country in the event of a war. We will cover everything from planning to what to do if you can’t get out. So read on and learn how you can protect yourself and your family during times of conflict!

  • Plan. If you know that war is looming, start forming your exit strategy as soon as possible. Have a substitute plan in case the first falls through.
  • Make sure you have all of your paperwork in order. This includes passports, visas, and other identification documents.
  • Know where you’re going. Have a list of safe countries to flee to and make sure you have the visas and documents in order.
  • Have enough money saved up to sustain you for at least a few months. You will need to live abroad until the conflict is over.
  • Pack light. You’ll want to travel quickly and easily.
  • Stay safe. Once you’re out, stay away from the conflict zone and don’t go back until it’s over.

In Conclusion

Following these tips will help you be prepared if war breaks out in your host country. While it’s impossible to predict what will happen, being prepared will give you a better chance of making it through. So don’t wait — start planning now!

Jerry Nelson is an American writer living the expat life in Argentina and winner of the Revi 2021 Reader Award. You can find him at any of hundreds of sidewalk cafes and hire him through Fiverr, join the quarter-million who follow him on Twitter or contact him at jandrewnelson2@gmail.com.

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