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I've been once or twice to places like India and I have a fear about leaving. The fear is that I will place my suitcase for hold luggage on the belt and a little bit later my name will be called over the PA to go to the airport manager's office. There they will show me my suitcase with bags of white powder inside it and accuse me of drug smuggling. By that evening I will be in a hellish, roasting hell of a prison which stinks of excrement, surrounded by crazies and gang members, and forced to sleep with 20 others in a tiny cell. And that that will last for months and then years as the wheels of justice grind very very slowly.

Why should such drugs end up in my luggage? In Japan some customs guys once did this as a "readiness test". But they failed to tell security. But equally, supposing some network of smugglers infiltrating airside put drugs in the wrong suitcase... or planned to pinch my suitcase somehow at the arrival airport before it came on to the carousel?

Presumably this doesn't happen very often, or we'd know about it. But the anxiety actually ruins the last week or more of such trips to such countries for me!

Last time I left India I took only cabin luggage on the return flight... and the check-in staff were unhappy, saying that I could be fined (!) for having no hold luggage, the theory apparently being that if you have a suitcase this is proof you have bought some worthless trinkets in India, thereby helping their economy.

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Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has good results with all sorts of anxieties. Some of the same ideas are behind the seminars many airlines offer to people who are afraid of flying in general but since your fears are so specific, you would be better served by seeking a therapist who can define a tailored program with you. Like everything else, it's not a silver bullet but many people obtain results in a handful of sessions (it's not meant to last forever like an analysis but to reach specific targets in a reasonable time).

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I'm afraid that when it comes to psychological disturbs, there is no real cure but rather a set of skills and applied methods which can help managing them. One of my personal favourite is to take preventive action against those events that trigger the anxiety. So here it goes.

If you are afraid of someone tampering with your check-in bag, you can always wrap it in plastic. This will not only render your luggage harder to mess with, but also tamper-evident. You can also lock it with either locks or simpler methods such as wire ties. My assumption here is that tamper-evidence will allow you to rest a stronger case when explaining to airport security/police that these are not your drugs.

  • What's a “real” cure? – Relaxed Jan 17 '15 at 19:12
  • thanks for the suggestion... but I have to laugh. Trying to explain to some drug officer who has clearly notched up a "collar", and a prestigious Western drug-smuggler at that, that you couldn't be guilty because, indulging what you knew to be your own paranoia, which has now been realised, you chose to wrap something in plastic... The transcript would also no doubt be garbled and the various judges over the years would look on it as highly suspicious! – mike rodent Jan 17 '15 at 19:19
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    @mikerodent Read again: you check-in a wrapped luggage, if upon collection after landing you see that it has been tampered with then you immediately know that something happened and can warn the competent authorities. The only possibility left here is that someone hides drugs in your suitcase in the time it takes you to arrive at the airport and wrap it. Make sure you have full control over your luggage during this time and you should be safe. Anyhow, come to think of it paranoia is inherently irrational so there might be no point asking for rational advice here. – JoErNanO Jan 17 '15 at 21:31
  • but my point was about tampering airside at the departure airport... do you perhaps need to "read again" ? :-) – mike rodent Jan 18 '15 at 20:59
  • @mikerodent I see no difference. Do we agree that a wrapped bag is tamper evident? If so then it doesn't really matter where the tampering occurs as long as you can identify it, and prove you wrapped your bag. To this last purpose keep the payment receipt, which by the way you can sometimes use to claim insurance depending on the wrapping company. – JoErNanO Jan 19 '15 at 8:33

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