One of the first steps to ensure a memorable trip is to keep you and your items safeguarded. Nothing can ruin your trip like being the victim of a crime. The great news is that it’s easy to take measures to mitigate your risk. A few simple steps can mean the difference between unhappy memories and a great journey.
1. Leave Your Valuables at Home
Don’t draw attention to yourself and your belongings by flaunting expensive electronics, jewelry or designer gear. Bring what you need and leave the rest at home. Avoiding unnecessary attention is your first defense in safeguarding you and your belongings.
2. Conceal & Divert
Conceal cash, credit cards, identification and important papers in a money belt, concealment vest, lanyard or leg safe. Keep a minor amount of cash in a dummy wallet or purse.
Muggers are usually looking for quick cash and most likely will not search you if they get something. Pickpockets are opportunistic, so take their opportunity away by keeping the bulk of your valuables out of reach. For women, keep your purse on the opposite side of traffic. It is common in some regions to snatch purses from motorcycles.
3. Have Backup Copies Handy
Have copies of passport, credit cards, and tickets in a separate and secure location on your person and/or electronically available
In the unfortunate circumstance where belongings are stolen, being able to quickly access information, like passport and credit card numbers with their respective expiration dates along with tickets/itinerary numbers, can save you major headaches and precious time.
It’s a good idea to keep scanned copies in a Google document or draft email so you have private access from literally anywhere in the world.
4. Transportation Safety
When traveling by air, stow carry-on items close to your seat. Try to stand close to the luggage entrance point on the conveyor belt when waiting for your checked bags.
If traveling by train or bus, try to pack light enough so that you can keep your belongings with you. If your luggage must be checked, keep valuables in a daypack. Also, it’s good to have a seat where you can view people as they exit the train or bus and collect their luggage. If you tend to sleep, affix your bags around your seat with cable and lock.
When using taxis, keep your luggage in the seat next to you. Sometimes taxi drivers extort money from customers because they are holding their bags hostage in the trunk.
Most importantly, handle your own luggage. Many people who want to help you with your bag will expect payment (at best) or run off with your bag (at worse).
5. Accommodation Safety
Use hotel or room safe for passports, electronics and valuables when available. Bringing an inexpensive rubber wedge and even a small bell for the door to provide an extra layer of security.
Look for hostels or guesthouses that have lockers available. Always bring your own lock and cable. Lock your valuables in the locker anytime they are not on your person. If a locker is not available, keep cash, passports, and important items on your person at all times (even in the toilet).
It’s best to sleep with your money belt on or put your purse or wallet under your pillow or close to your head. You can also secure your backpack to the bedpost with a cable and lock to ensure it says at the hostel. Also, consider bringing an extra lock if you have fancy clothing or hiking boots, to secure your items in your backpack or luggage.
6. Stay Confidential
It’s nice to meet new people. But keep quiet about concealment methods, where you bank, where you store your valuables or the amount of money you have allocated to travel. Protect your privacy.
7. Blend in
Try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Dress similar to the locals. Obey cultural norms and behaviors. If you are in a conservative region, dress and act conservatively. This goes along with not drawing attention to yourself and inciting disdain by the locals. Be a good guest of your host country.
8. Protect Yourself in Crowds, Festivals & Events
Wear daypacks in the front of your body. You may think you look like a dork, but we’ve seen many slashed backpacks that were undetected for hours.
Keep drinking to a minimum, but if you are going to indulge, keep a minor amount of items and cash on you.
Also, beware of distraction scams. Arguments, attractive women (or men) and even begging children can distract you, making you susceptible to pickpocketing or putting your bag down. It’s always a good time to stay aware of your surroundings, but even more so when chaos arises.
9. Trust Your Gut
If you have a feeling that something isn’t right, be on your guard. This is probably the best travel advice for ensuring your security. It is better to error on the side of caution if your gut tells you that something is wrong. Don’t feel silly. It’s your life and safety.