When traveling there is, of course, always a risk of being robbed. While this can happen anywhere (even in your hometown), it’s often of most concern when on the road. Some of this information is pretty obvious, but it’s important and bears repeating. Keep reading to learn how to secure your valuables while traveling.
Places to be Extra Careful
The first step is being aware of your surroundings, and identifying when you are most at risk. The following places you should generally be on alert:
- Big Cities: No surprises here, some part of most any city in the world requires caution.
- Deserted Areas: It’s easier for someone to threaten or rob you if you’re on a deserted street than a busy area (there you can yell for help, others can intervene).
- Conversely, Very Busy Areas: Think main plazas, subways, crowded places. With tons of people around, a casual “bump” (aka robbery) will go unnoticed.
- When You’re Clearly Visiting: Even if you aren’t doing “touristy” things like snapping photos every 20 seconds in a souvenir tee, sometimes you’re clearly an outsider.
- Major Tourist Attractions: While these provide safety in numbers, they’re also a pickpocket’s playground with multitudes of potential victims in one place — and distracted ones at that.
How to Secure Your Valuables While Traveling
Bags (Backpacks + Purses)
If possible, don’t bring a bag: This is my #1 recommendation if you’re in an area of high concern. Leave most items behind secured in your hostel. If a would-be robber has a choice between someone with a purse or camera on their shoulder or maybe something in their pocket, who will they choose?
If you must bring a bag, do the following:
Bring a cross body purse, keeping the zipper towards your body. It’s harder to snatch and can be kept in front of you.
- Walk with your bag on the “inside,” in between you and your travel companion rather than towards the sidewalk/road. This prevents people walking by from easily grabbing it.
- Wear backpacks to the front, or move them to the front in risky/crowded areas (IE subway). This will prevent someone from grabbing items from your pack unbeknownst to you.
Slightly-Stalkerish Pro Tip: Observe Others
When I am unsure about an area’s safety or how cautious to be, I take a cue from others. What are the locals doing with their bags? Are they walking with them in back, in front? Are they holding smartphones on the street or no? Their behavior tells you everything you need to know; if locals are exercising caution you should absolutely do so as well. Mimic their behavior and stay alert if they are (especially if you stand our or are maybe wearing that tourist tee you couldn’t resist buying). If no one on the street is using their phone, do not pull yours out – you’ll be an instant target.
Hiding Items on Person: Sneaky Maneuvers
- For Girls – Use Your Sports Bra: Seriously, a lot can fit in there. Your passport, for example. Shove it in there. Cash can go in there, and even cell phones (no really – we tried it). This also works and is even more inconspicuous with shirts/dresses/bathing suits with removable padding.
- For All – Keep “Emergency Money” In Underwear: Gross? Weird? Unnecessary? Maybe. But if you’re in a risky area, keeping a small amount of cash in your underwear ensures you can still travel back to your hotel if something happens.
Hiding Items on Person: Helpful Gear
Still not sure how to secure your valuables while traveling? Here are a few unexpected gear items that help with stashing your stuff.
A what? I never heard of this before either, but a friend recommended it to me. I bought it embarrassingly because it was kind of cute and I like headbands, but it proved its utility by day 3. So what is it? It’s like a bandana, but made of a single piece of cloth. The packaging advertises myriad uses (18 of them), but I additionally found it wildly useful for carrying and hiding things.
- Example – Hiding Camera: In Rio, I put it on like a headband and stuck my camera (which is not that small – see photo) inside in the back part hidden under my hair. It looked as though I had nothing with me at all, I was able to bring my camera without stress, and it stayed absolutely secure all day.
- Example – Hiding Money/Credit Cards: Same concept; this can be done as a hairband, or also with the multiclava wrapped twice around your wrist.
- Example – Extreme Maneuver: Put it around your body and hide your passport or whatever in it. It will stay VERY tight on your body, won’t fall out, and can be worn under clothes without detection – kinda like a money belt but less bulky. It’s a bit constricting I will admit, but safety > comfort.
I discovered this one by accident, when my sister was taking too long in LL Bean. It’s a tiny wallet, nothing fancy, but this brand is super-durable, small, and comes in cool colors (obviously important…). I repeatedly put it in my bra and it was completely invisible, plus my money and cards stayed secure. It can also be stashed in pants pockets or anywhere else.
- Decoy Wallet: Carry a “decoy wallet” with a bit of cash and things you can part with. If you’re robbed, hand this guy over while keeping possession of the important stuff.
- Pocket Cash: Same concept as above. If robbed, hand this over rather than everything you have.
- Split Money Up: If you must carry a lot of cash or items, split it up – either on your person (some in pocket, some in bag) or among people if you’re not alone (each take some). If one person or bag is compromised, you won’t lose it all.
- Use Your Sock: Tried and true method of hiding things, verified by many a traveler, although nearly not as creative as my recommendations above.
Want more tips on how to secure your valuables while traveling? Stay tuned for part 2: Stashing Your Valuables, At Your Lodging!