Long distance travel by train and by bus
The information on this page is for the curious only. Do not break the law in any country. If you do, then do not attempt to evade law enforcement procedures and turn yourself into the Police immediately and accept your trial and punishment as a responsible citizen.
When planning sensitive travel in theatre or in hostile environments, we at The PALADINS strongly prefer travel by train or by bus, rather than driving or by aeroplane. Here is everything you need to know.
The reason to travel by train or bus is to leave less of a trace. However you need to know the local rules and practices of the jurisdiction in which you are travelling.
So in the Russian Federation, every aeroplane flight and train ride is logged to your FSB file; but bus trips are not.
Presumably your goal is that your domestic and international journeys are not being logged by the authorities.
Of course every aeroplane flight worldwide is logged in this way. You cannot purchase a ticket for or travel on an aeroplane in any country without providing your passport or ID details, save for some unusual domestic flights, in e.g. Venezuela and Belize.
Even in many sophisticated western countries, by contrast, it is perfectly possible to travel by railway paying cash and showing no ID documents whatsoever. This may include international travel. German railways permit this. The Eurobus services are the same.
Of course do not ruin your journey by checking into a hotel in which your check-in details are automatically transmitted to the Police. These countries include France, Spain, Switzerland and Germany; but not Russia or Ukraine. Government surveillance of hotel guest identity details is a western European phenomenon (but it does not happen in the United Kingdom or Ireland on a routine basis).
If you have an international warrant against you, you must be particularly careful. Avoid all airports (where passport scans are virtually 100 per cent these days) and hotels in western Europe (excluding the British Isles). You can however exit both the British Isles and the United States without a passport swipe or indeed any official looking at your passport. Nevertheless the problem may arise at the country of your destination and with the authorities supervising your arrival.
International trains and buses are much more likely simply to involve a visual scan of your passport rather than the more dangerous computer scan. Even countries like Albania and Moldova will pick you up with a computer scan if you use an airport - or if you cross the border by car. Whereas on trains and buses, the guards may have 50 to 100 passports to go through and they may well not bother to scan any of them.
One intriguing experience we would like to test is to use the Eurostar railway service between London and Paris / Brussels with an international warrant against you. In London the border guards (who do scan your passport) are French; in Paris they are British; in Brussels they are Belgian. What does each set of border guards do if they discover a passenger with a warrant against them, given that in several variants of this situation they have no de facto legal authority to arrest you? We do not know. If anyone does, then please write and let us know. In the interim it is probably safest to cross the UK-France border by ferry if you fear a warrant against you. Nobody much seems to scan any documentation at the time of writing if you travel by ferry. The same is true of international bus if the bus takes the ferry (as virtually all of them do).
The sorts of international warrant you need to be aware of are: (a) INTERPOL Red Notices; (b) INTERPOL Diffusion Notices; (c) SIRENE Notices; and (d) GCC Arrest Warrants. There are others but these are the main ones.
INTERPOL Red Notices are requests for arrest issued by one country to INTERPOL, a somewhat corrupt and disorganised international organisation based in Lyon, France, and then transmitted to every INTERPOL member state with a request to arrest the individual. Some INTERPOL Red Notices are actually advertised on the INTERPOL website (so you can go look yourself up); but most of them are not.
Most countries' immigration computers are connected to the INTERPOL database, which means that if you have a passport scan (or hotel details passed to the Police) your INTERPOL status will be revealed.
This is likely to result in your immediate arrest; but it depends on the country. Some countries ignore INTERPOL requests issued by some other countries. (The Netherlands is particularly reasonable in this regard; we are aware of a case in which a Dutch border guard tipped off a person arriving at Schiphol airport that they had an INTERPOL notice against them and let them enter the country unhindered.) Kazakhstan is the most notorious INTERPOL offender; many countries take no notice of INTERPOL notices issued by them because they have a reputation for being complete nonsense.
Cyprus used to have a notorious reputation for issuing INTERPOL notices against anyone for a facilitation fee of some EUR25,000; we have not heard of any recent cases of this but remain wary of Cyprus-issued INTERPOL warrants.
INTERPOL Diffusion Notices are the same as Red Notices in every respect except that they are distributed only to a list of countries provided by the requesting state, rather than to all INTERPOL member states. They are never made public. The ostensible purpose behind Diffusion Notices is to prevent the law enforcement authorities of a country friendly to the criminal suspect from tipping the suspect off. Diffusion Notices are common in political cases.
There is a legal procedure for deleting your own INTERPOL Notice; but of course you have to know about it first. It is an obtuse and tricky procedure, and it takes about two years; but success rates are high with competent counsel.
SIRENE Notices are a EUROPOL invention and involve circulation of a wanted person's details to all of the European countries in the SIRENE system. The theory is that European countries trust the integrity of one another's law enforcement more than those of non-European states, and hence there are no grounds to ignore them and the suspect must be arrested.
However several countries do ignore them, e.g. Greece; the United Kingdom (on the way out of the country); Andorra; the Vatican City (although it is somewhat complicated, although not impossible, to stay in hotel accommodation there). Recent EU entrants or aspirants tend to enforce them most seriously, because doing so is rendered a condition of the EU accession process. Do not fly out of Belgrade, Tirana, Bratislava, Chisinau airports etcetera with a SIRENE notice against you. You will be arrested. The SIRENE database is officially private; you need Police or security force contacts in a jurisdiction in order to check it.
To exit the EUROPOL Zone with a SIRENE Notice against you, walk across the border from Spain to Gibraltar and then exit to Morocco via hydrofoil or similar seagoing vessel. Remember that all Spanish hotels are wired into SIRENE (although Gibraltar accommodation is not), so take care where you stay across Spain.
You should also be okay with direct ferries from Spain to Morocco (not those stopping in Spanish-occupied North Africa); but these are not as safe as the Gibraltar route.
GCC warrants work in the same way as SIRENE warrants but only within GCC countries. GCC countries tend to scan all land border passports as well as all airside travel passports, so to escape from the Gulf with one of these warrants you are looking at an unusual means of departure, e.g. UAE-Oman-Yemen desert informal roads followed by boat across the Bab Al-Mandab strait to Djibouti or Eritrea.
This route is for experienced professionals only but it is perfectly doable. Pay attention to visa requirements and work your way around them. You will likely need a visa for entry to Eritrea or Djibouti (check by country - Djibouti eVisas are only valid for arrival at the international airport) or your arrival in those countries will be extremely unpleasant to put it mildly.
There are also informal routes from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to Basrah, Iraq. However the problem you will then face is how to leave Iraq without an Iraqi entrance stamp.
We are told there are solutions to this in Iraqi Kurdistan, but we have not tested them. Exercise caution.
By all accounts Basrah is a lovely city to hang around.
Whatever your travel plans, good luck and undertake meticulous preparatory study. Remember the six P's: proper planning prevents piss poor performance.