Updated: Dec 13, 2022
See the World, Travel Safety
The more I travel, the more I am aware of how quickly a trip can be thrown off track by the unexpected. The typical advice around travel safety tends to urge travelers to avoid "looking like a tourist" to deter unsafe or potentially dangerous situations that are often perpetrated on unknowing and unsuspecting tourist. I agree that some behaviors can definitely attract pick pockets and other types of theft, however, I also know fist-hand that even the most seasoned travelers can fall victim to professional criminals who choose targets for reasons that transcend merely publicly reading a map, asking for directions or speaking loudly in English. In fact, very often there is little one can do to prevent a determined thief who is dead set on choosing a random tourist to victimize. I have been robbed or have been with a companion who was robbed no less than five times. The more you travel the more you increase your chances of being a victim of a crime or having an unforeseen situation wreak havoc on your perfect vacation, even famed travel expert Rick Steves, was recently robbed in Europe.
There are many steps you can take to mitigate your loss while traveling abroad, here are a few of my best travel safety tips.
Before you travel
Obtain an ATM card from your bank, use this card instead of a debit card for cash withdrawals, if this card is lost it is not usable without your pin
Scan and make paper copies of your passport and all of your credit/debit cards, exchange this information with travel companions so that another copy is available in case documents or credit cards are lost or stolen
Consider travel insurance that includes theft insurance for electronics or cameras, if you must travel with a laptop, tablet or camera equipment, make sure your travel insurance covers loss or theft.
Back up photos and documents stored on your phone or laptop - Learn to use a cloud account to backup photos and stored documents each night to make sure you still have the photos from your trip, as they truly are irreplaceable
On your trip
Use a money belt A money belt is a small, zippered pouch on an elastic strap that fastens around your waist, under your pants or skirt.— it's where I put anything I really, really don't want to lose.
Leave valuables, including your passport in the hotel room while you are out exploring. Use the hotel safe or lock valuables in your suitcase, but do not tempt an on staff thief by leaving valuables in plain sight.
Carry your US driver’s license - Your driver’s license will suffice as identification anywhere in the world, if your license is lost or stolen, you can still leave the country, without a passport you will need to go through the process of obtaining a new passport, before you can get on a plane.
Don’t carry your room key in the slip with the room number on it. If lost anyone may show up in your room. And if you forget your room number just ask the front desk.
Avoid commotions and crowded public transportation – when I was pick-pocketed in Paris, I was with a Pack Light travel group and I was instructing my guests to be careful on the subway, when the overly crowded subway approached, I should have let it go for the next, instead I got on and as a lot of pushing started, a gentleman informed me that I was being robbed, he was a local and accustomed to this type of chaos created to throw a visitor off their vigilance. Now, when I lived in Paris, I was robbed once at a busy street fair, in both instances being distracted made me an easy target.
Always check “one more time” - Before you get off a plane, train or taxi take one last look to make sure you have everything. When checking out of a hotel, ask to go back into the room once again to make sure nothing has been left. I typically find I have left something, and this practice has saved me on many occasions.
Leave a clue for an honest or accidental thief. Always leave a note with you email or phone number inside your purse or wallet. Some thieves just need the money in your purse and are not interested in all of the contents of your bag, including credit cards as it is sometimes difficult to use cards abroad without a pin or identification. I received a lost wallet and a stolen wallet back because I had personal information, including my phone number in my wallet, my wallet was returned with the cash gone, but my cards and other documents were returned, after this experience, I now clean out my wallet before travel.
Do not let an instance of loss ruin your entire trip – Although it is frustrating to have someone take something from you or to lose something valuable while traveling, this should not ruin your vacation. File a police report, cut your loses and continue on with your trip, a thief can steal your camera, but they should not be able to steal your joy.