How to keep your valuables safe when traveling

Safety is at the forefront of most people minds when it’s time to travel overseas. Whether heading to a city you are quite familiar with or venturing to a country you know little about, keeping yourself and your valuables safe is very important.

There are things that you can do to reduce the chance of your items being stolen. A little bit of planning and smart thinking can help stop you from being targeted. Most things are quite simple, logical actions or small changes in behaviour that will help keep you safe.

This article will cover my tips for keeping your valuable safe while traveling, how to prepare for what could happen and what to do if your valuables are stolen while overseas.

How to keep your valuables save when traveling. Travel advice article from Seeking the Spanish Sun blog

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We are all potential targets

Unfortunately, holiday-makers, tourists, travelers, whatever term you prefer to use, are all potential targets when travelling. There are people out there who hang out in the busy tourist areas, at the main attractions and famous sights to catch out unsuspecting visitors and will take whatever they can.

I have traveled around the world and stayed in some pretty dodgy places. Until just last year I had never been pick-pocked. I pride myself on being extra vigilante and aware of my surroundings. Never succumbing to scams or tourist traps.

Then one day in Madrid, where I currently live, I totally let my guard down. While showing my family around the city and all the tourist sights, we stopped at a food market for lunch. I took my 2 small nephews to choose from the stalls and we moved from stall to stall, selecting and paying for our snacks.

I soon realised that my purse was missing from my bag but the zip still closed. No amount of searching the area and re-tracing my steps would find it. My pick-pocket was quick, stealth and long gone.

I know what I did wrong. I was flashing my cash, repeatedly putting my purse back in the same place, for my pickpocket to see. Showing them my distraction at watching the children, while speaking to the stall holders and holding the food. I completely left my  bag vulnerable for a professional pick-pocket.

I’m sure that many people have similar stories to tell. I think the answer to this problem is not to avoid certain areas, countries or tourist attractions but to better prepare ourselves for thieves. Thieves and opportunists will always be out there but if we are prepared and make it much harder for them to steal from us, they will give up and move on.

The most common environments that thieves target

  • At popular tourist attractions
  • On busy public transport
  • At outdoor bars and cafes
  • Anywhere people are standing close together
  • Events where we are focused on something else
  • Somewhere they can easily distract us
  • Where they have an easy exit route

How to keep your valuables safe when traveling - backpack

My 11 tips for keeping your valuables safe when traveling 

Don’t let thieves spoil your trip. Here are my tips on how to keep your valuables safe while traveling and on holiday…

1. Wear a bag that is hard for thieves to put their hand into

Something small that hangs close to your body, with zips like this cross body bag Always keep the zips fully closed and use combination locks if you feel you need to. There are also many great anti theft backpacks out there that make it so much harder for a thief to get access to.

2. Don’t keep valuables in your back pockets

It’s easy and convenient to just stick your phone or wallet in your back pocket. But think about how easy it is for someone to walk up behind you and take it. When you bend down or sit, the pocket is likely to stretch or gape making it really easy to steal. Carry a secure bag or hidden money belt

3. Always keep an eye on your bags

No matter where you are don’t let your bags out of your sight. I often see people in train stations and airports sitting away from their bags looking at their phone. It’s so easy for someone to walk by and snatch your bag without you even noticing. Be vigilant, keep your eyes peeled for suspicious behaviour.

4. Keep coats and jackets nearby

If you tend you put valuables in your coat or jacket pockets don’t then throw it over the back of a chair or hang it somewhere out of sight. Always keep your valuables close.

5. Don’t leave your phone or purse on a table top

In a restaurant or café, it’s easy to place your phone on the table top after making a call. Or have your purse out ready to pay the bill. But what if you nip to the bathroom, or a thief creates a distraction and takes your phone or purse. It can happen so quickly.

6. Don’t have anything valuable on show

It’s a good idea to leave the expensive jewellery and watches at home. And keep your laptop and camera out of sight. Anything of value being displayed will just show thieves that you potentially have money or nice things to steal.

How to keep your valuables safe when traveling - phone

7. Carry very little cash

The less cash you have on you, the less they have to steal. It’s really easy to withdraw local currency from atm cash machines and pay for things on credit/debit card. So, don’t carry big wads of holiday spending money on you but carry a slim card holder This one is RFID blocking so also protects your cards from discreet contactless card theft.

8. Keep change and smaller notes separate

If you are carrying the equivalent of the few hundred euros in cash, it’s a good idea to keep a few smaller notes and some coins separate in small coin purse That way when you pay for something it doesn’t look like to have that much money to steal.

9. Only use official bank cash machines

Always avoid the dodgy looking atm’s that are not attached to a bank. If the cash machine is standalone in a convenience store, covered in grafitti or looks damaged in any way don’t use it. It could be rigged with a skim machine that records your card details and pin number or take your card.

10. Don’t carry your passport on you

Most hotels have safe’s in the room or available at reception that you can use to stash passports, i-pad, laptop etc while you walk around or go to the beach. Most countries do not expect tourists to present their id, so leave them somewhere safe.

11. Create a secret hiding place in your room

If you don’t have a safe, create a place to leave your small valuables in the room. Look around and pick somewhere less obvious to hide your things, such as under a cabinet, in your dirty washing bag, behind the TV. I’ve even heard of people hiding money inside tissue packets and empty toiletry bottles, now that’s stealth! If you want to get creative google “hiding money travel hacks”.

How to keep your valuables safe when traveling - camera

Be prepared for what could happen 

Worst case scenario is your bag gets stolen and it had all your valuables inside. It’s always good to be prepared for what could happen. Do these things in advance to traveling…

Take photocopies of important documents

Photocopy your passports, visas, driving licenses and anything else important. Keep the copies in a separate bag to the original’s just in case they are stolen.

Email yourself tickets, itineraries and hotel reservations

It’s easy to just print out tickets and off you go but email yourself any files you have of tickets, hotel reservations and your trip itinerary. That way you can access it from any computer even if your phone and paperwork are stolen.

Share the cash carrying

If you are traveling with a partner, friend or family member share the responsibility of carrying cash and other valuables. Do not rely on one person to carry everything valuable in one bag.

Be aware of your surroundings

Now I don’t want you to be paranoid at every turn during your trip but keep your eyes and ears open. Remove yourself from an environment that you suspect might not be safe.

How to keep your valuables safe when traveling- purse & money

What to do if your valuables are stolen while overseas 

If the worst does happen and your valuables are stolen while overseas, take the following action…

Report it to the police

Go to the local station and be prepared to spend some time filling out the necessary paperwork to file a police report. This will be annoying and eat into your holiday time but must be done if you want to claim back on insurance or provide proof of the theft.

Contact your bank

If your cards are stolen contact your back to get them cancelled and for replacements to be sent to you. Some banks will also arrange an emergency cash withdrawal for you, if you need it.

Contact your local embassy building

If your passport or important travel documents are stolen contact the embassy of your home country in the nearest city. They will advise you on what to do next. Be prepared to show proof of the theft (police report), provide photographs for a replacement document and spend time sorting out the paperwork.

Speak to your insurance company

As soon as you get home speak to your insurance company to see if they can cover the loss of the stolen item and any expenses you incurred as a result. They will want proof and details so keep a note of everything.

Replace all cards

Once home make sure you remember to replace all cards. Memberships cards, loyalty cards, store rewards cards can easily be replaced.

I hope to article has given you some ideas on how to keep your valuables safe when traveling next. Plan ahead, travel smart and follow these tips and I’m sure that you will avoid being a target for theft while traveling and keep your valuable safe.

It’s always a good idea to blend into your surroundings and dress as much like the locals as you can, that way you don’t stand out as a “tourist”. Check out my guest post on The Invisible Tourist travel blog to find out How to NOT look like a tourist in Madrid.

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Do you have any tips to share or things you always do to keep your valuable safe when you go overseas? Tell us all about it in the comments box below.

Other travel advice articles from Seeking the Spanish Sun that you might enjoy reading…

How to survive a low cost airline flight

Tips for packing only hand luggage

How to be a good tourist

How to save money when visiting Spain

Also check out our popular Spain travel guides…

A great family holiday in Mojacar

Madrid’s best food markets

What you need to know before visiting Valencia

A weekend in Granada

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  1. 13th April 2018 / 11:18 pm

    Excellent tips for sure! It is so easy once you’ve been traveling for a while to let your guard down a bit. I’m always telling the hubby not to flash his cash. It’s a bad habit of his! I’ll have to show him your post!

  2. 13th April 2018 / 7:22 pm

    Great tips! Whenever we travel to a new place, we always stay alert and never let our belongings leave our sight. I find that it is also worth investing in an anti-theft bag/backpack to keep your belongings secure. My husband and I also use RFID blocking wallet so our cards can’t be scanned.

    • 14th April 2018 / 11:53 am

      Yes, staying alert is the best thing to do. Those anti theft backpacks and RFID blocking wallets are brilliant. It’s a shame we need them but worth investing in 🙂

  3. 12th April 2018 / 6:13 pm

    Great tips on keeping our valuable safe during traveling. Distribution of cash equally in all luggage is definitely a good idea. Even sometimes credit cards are compromised, once I had this experience in Paris. After that, I take extra care of my valuables. Showing off expensive jewelry is big no for me.

    • 12th April 2018 / 11:25 pm

      It’s becoming more common that cards are are copied or scanned and thieves get access to peoples accounts. Those wallets and purses that block the scanners are great and you’re absolutely right distributing cash across bags is good planning for emergencies.

  4. 12th April 2018 / 9:34 am

    Love that this post covers ways to prevent it as well as what to do when it happens. I am a well-seasoned traveler that usually follows all of these things to a T, but I had one jetlagged day I set my bag down, by my feet and against a well in a corner and someone managed to get it out from under me AND MY PARTNER who was facing the way the person would have come in. We were shocked, but having a backup plan and knowing where the closest embassy was made things so much easier. The hardest part was being a U.S. citizen with German residence and dealing with double the paperwork to get my passport back and then a new residency card. It also helped that we had photos of everything! Great tips.

    • 12th April 2018 / 10:35 am

      Wow that is crazy that they managed to take your bag from under you like that! It seems that some thieves will stop at nothing! So glad to hear that having photos of everything helped to speed up the paperwork to get your replacement passports and residency card. Thanks for sharing your experience, that’s really helpful 🙂

  5. 12th April 2018 / 8:34 am

    I had once been almost robbed of my bag, when at a train station in Italy, someone distracted me by asking for directions while another grabbed my bags. I held on fast though, and since it was a busy place, the would be thief quickly ran off into the crowds. Since then I’ve always been extra careful while travelling. Your tips certainly make sense.

    • 12th April 2018 / 10:28 am

      Oh my, what a horrible encounter. Lucky you noticed and held on to your bag tight!

  6. 12th April 2018 / 5:24 am

    Thanks for your tips. Am actually in the process of purchasing new body bag for my Paris trip, as recommended by my Parisian friend. Funny coz he is also aware of many pickpockets in Paris. Safety is a must.

  7. Lisa
    11th April 2018 / 11:46 am

    These are excellent tips, and I follow most of them when travelling, and at home too! I never leave anything in my back pocket, but my partner always does, and it makes me so nervous! I also take copies of my passport with me, you just never know do you!

    • 11th April 2018 / 1:37 pm

      It makes me really nervous when I see people with their phone or wallet in their back pocket! Taking copies of your passport is such a good idea, having the info to hand will make it so much easier to replace. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  8. Abhinav Singh
    11th April 2018 / 10:46 am

    Since I travel so much, I always make sure that all my valuables are secure whether I carry them or keep them in the hotel. For example, if I am carrying my passport while doing a city tour, I always carry it on my chest and not back. I have heard Italy and some other countries in Europe are infamous for pickpocketing and wallet snatchers. Like you said, I refrain from flashing my valuables, especially when I am in a remote area.

    • 11th April 2018 / 11:14 am

      It’s something you just get used to when you travel a lot isn’t it. Small changes in your behaviour can make all the difference. Carrying your bag on your chest is a great tip!

  9. 11th April 2018 / 9:17 am

    All of these are really good tips. I’ve also been extremely lucky while traveling, I have yet to have any major losses, but I also had someone with me showing me how not to be too ‘American’ while out in public (also known as taking ordinary precautions). I hope this saves someone the headache of having to replace their possessions.

    • 11th April 2018 / 9:44 am

      Thanks Lauren! Trying to blend in with your surroundings is such a great way to not draw attention to yourself as a potential “tourist” target. It made me laugh that your friend called it “not being too American” but it sounds like it worked for you 😁

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