Being careful is the best travel theft security
Famous travel host and writer, Rick Steves, revealed a while back that he was a pickpocket victim while traveling in Paris. Steves didn’t detail what happened during this travel theft, but did say that after years of recommending travelers wear a money belt, he wasn’t wearing his. His driver’s license, credit cards and some cash were stolen.
Theft can happen anywhere during our journeys. Travelers need to take a commonsense approach to protect their valuables and prevent potential disruption of their journeys.
Leave non-essential valuables at home —
If you don’t take it with you, it can’t be stolen while you’re traveling. Go through your wallet and remove anything you don’t need while away from home. Leave jewelry and other valuables at home, unless they’re essential for your trip.
Get the phone numbers —
When traveling internationally, in case of the theft of your credit/debit cards or other documents, be aware that your home country toll-free phone numbers generally won’t work. Get phone numbers that you can use while out of the country. For emergencies and to report crimes in the country you’re visiting, be aware that international toll-free numbers generally don’t work on cellphones from your home country. Get local numbers. Know the local emergency services/police contact number for your destination. Here’s an emergency contact number guide from the U.S. Department of State.
Scan your wallet contents, passport, and travel documents —
Scan the contents of your wallet (front and back), including all credit/debit cards, identification, etc., plus your important travel documents, and save them in a password-protected pdf file. Do the same for the critical pages of your passport, if traveling internationally. If you travel with your smartphone, store the files there, or use an encrypted USB key. You can also put the files in the cloud using any of the free services. Each of these methods will give you quick access to your protected information if the originals are stolen or lost.
Use a money belt, neck pouch, or hidden zipper pockets —
Thieves target tourists. They know many tourists’ wallets and pockets are filled with cash, cards, and IDs. When out and about, carry your cash, cards, driver’s license, passport, etc. in a money belt, neck pouch (my favorite) or hidden zippered pockets in your clothing. Some tout hats with key and card pockets. I don’t recommend hats. They’re too easy for thieves to knock off tourists’ heads and steal them.
Use your room safe — always a good travel theft prevention tip.
Keep your valuables safe when you don’t need them.
Don’t carry lots of cash or all your credit/debit cards at any time —
When at your destination, take only the cash with you that you need each day. Keep the rest in your room safe, so that if you’re pickpocketed you won’t lose all your cash. Likewise, don’t carry all your credit/debit cards at one time. I typically take two different credit cards when traveling. I carry one and keep the other in the safe. If one is stolen, I still have the other card to pay my bills while I wait for the other to be replaced after canceling it. I suggest only carrying your ATM card with you when you plan to obtain cash. Otherwise, leave it in your room safe.
Use ATMs at banks or inside hotel lobbies —
Follow these ATM security tips. ATMs at banks and inside hotel lobbies are generally safer from thieves and less likely to have skimming devices installed. ATM security in gas stations, malls, and remote locations is not monitored regularly and are therefore more likely to have skimming devices installed. Be alert before using an ATM. If the card slot doesn’t look right or is sticky, don’t use the ATM. Cover the keypad when inserting your pin number to prevent a thief or camera from seeing and recording the number.
Watch out for unlicensed cabs —
Taxis have licenses for a reason. Taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers get background checks. They are monitored by their companies. Don’t be tempted to ride in an unlicensed cab. They may be cheap, but you have no idea who’s driving you or what they’ll do.
Another travel theft prevention tip — Don’t leave belongings unattended
It may seem obvious, but many travelers are so happy to be away in new, exciting places that they drop their guard. Don’t put your bag down to take a photo, or leave it on a chair in a cafe to go to the bathroom. It likely won’t be there when you try to retrieve it.
Beware of crowds, particularly in the tight quarters of mass transit —
Petty criminals and particularly pickpockets are street smart and know it’s easier to steal from you in crowded areas. Avoid crowds when you can and be especially careful when you can’t. In crowded areas you should definitely utilize a money belt or neck pouch to keep your cards, cash and identification safe.
Theft of your valuables and personal belongings can really put a damper on your journey. Use these ten tips along with your commonsense and street smarts to help you prevent yourself from being a victim of crime and to help you quickly recover if the worst happens.
After many years working in corporate America as a chemical engineer, executive and eventually CFO of a multinational manufacturer, Ned founded a tech consulting company and later restarted NSL Photography, his photography business. Before entering the corporate world, Ned worked as a Public Health Engineer for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a well known corporate, travel and wildlife photographer, Ned travels the world writing about travel and photography, as well as running photography workshops, seminars and photowalks. Visit Ned’s Photography Blog and Galleries.