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.
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
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 secure zips like a cross body bag. 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. Use a hidden money belt instead.
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.
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. Keep it 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.
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 card. So, don’t carry big wads of holiday spending money on you but carry a slim card holder.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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