Do you know how to keep valuables safe while travelling?
You arrive in the beautiful city of Amsterdam, ready to experience the thrills and frills of a fantastic European holiday. After a quick change of clothes, you leave the hotel for a short visit to the tourist center to get you started. You search your pockets for your passport and suddenly you realize your passport is missing, and so is your wallet! What do you do?
Your well-planned trip in the most beautiful destination all goes down the drain when you lose your money and valuables. Game over.
Don’t let this dreadful thing happen to you. Know how to keep valuables safe while traveling. Below are some of the best tips and hacks:
1. Know your destination well
Nowadays, researching about a country you’ve never been to before is super easy. Thanks to the internet, learning about your destination is literally at your fingertips. You can “travel” halfway around the world without ever leaving your bedroom. So, take advantage of this technology to know more about the possible dangers that lurk in your destination.
Search for “Tourist scams in (your destination)”, “Pickpockets in (your destination), or “tourist safety in (your destination).”
You can also get important telephone numbers and addresses online (police, tourist center, embassy, etc.). Read reviews and comments from travelers who have gone before you.
2. Blend in
One of the worst mistakes you can make when traveling is looking exactly like a tourist. Nothing attracts thieves and pickpockets more than people with a camera, looking at Google Maps on their phone, and asking for directions, and maybe speaking in a different accent. You instantly place a big bullseye on your back.
Tourists are often targets of crooks because pickpockets and thieves know they are a little scared, unfamiliar with the surroundings, easily distracted, and potentially carrying a lot of money. Also, common sense dictates not to wear expensive jewelry. Doing so may attract some unwanted attention and make you a more tempting target for thieves.
Keep your valuables safe by blending in and staying away from the mischievous eyes of thieves. Here are some tips:
- Do not wear expensive clothes or shirts that say, “I love this city.” Avoid wearing anything that screams, “I’m not from around here!”
- Don’t bring new and expensive bags. Carry something that’s a little beaten up or worn to tell people there’s nothing expensive inside. When shopping for new luggage for your trip, choose something that looks unassuming.
- Sew some ugly patches on your backpack and scuff it up a little bit.
- Learn the local language, even a few greetings or common phrases, like “Good morning,” “Thank you,” and “Goodbye.”
Don’t put your cash and valuables in one place
It’s never a good idea to put all your cash, passport, and valuables in one bag or purse. If that bag goes missing, you lose everything (including your sanity).
The wise thing to do is spread out your valuables and cash in your suitcase, backpack, and other bags if you have more. Don’t keep your money in one place.
Carry some cash in your bag, in your pocket, and even leave some at your hotel room safe. Also, make copies of your passport, credit cards, and identity cards, and place a copy in all your bags just to be sure. You can get money from the ATM or credit card in case your cash goes missing, but when you lose your passport, you will find yourself in a lot of trouble that could easily ruin your trip.
Get creative in how you stash away your valuables. When packing, hide some money in rolled-up socks and then keep those socks at the bottom of your bag. Hide some valuables where people would most unlikely look inside, such as underwear or a tampon box.
Store cash, cards, or keys inside an empty deodorant case or perfume bottle. Sew some backup money behind a patch on your backpack.
- Spread out your valuables but never in your checked baggage. Plane or train employees could easily reach into your bags without you knowing it. At airports, other passengers could mistakenly (or intentionally) pick up your luggage, thinking it was theirs and walk off with it. In fact, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reported 30,621 missing valuables disappearing from their checked luggage or at airports’ security checkpoints from 2010 to 2014.
- When waiting for your bus or flight, keep your carry-on bag on the seat with you. Wrap the sling or strap around your arm or leg.
- Carry your backpack in front. Backpacks were designed for easy lifting, which is why they are carried from behind. However, this is risky in crowded places as you never know what’s going on behind you. If you have valuables (money, documents, laptop, equipment) in your backpack, make sure to carry them in front.
4. Carry a decoy wallet
Your wallet is what thieves are always on the lookout for, among other things. Keep a small amount of money in your wallet, especially when you regularly need to take it out.
The best hack when it comes to using your wallet is to carry a decoy wallet. Amsterdam is one of the safest cities in the world, but it is not without pickpockets.
- To convince pickpockets, place some expired credit cards, an old ID, and a small amount of cash in your decoy wallet. You can insert some play money, too just for fun.
- In addition to having a fake wallet, you can also use a money belt to keep some money secretly. It’s a bit dorky, but no one would know you’re using one anyway. This is one of the safest ways to hide your valuables. A money belt is lightweight, hidden, unisex in design, and just perfect for travel. They come with a zippered pouch to hide your money and other (small, flat) valuables.
5. Take care of your cards
Valuables don’t always mean money. In some cases, misplacing your cards is more dreadful than losing some cash.
Always keep your credit cards in sight. As you hand your card over to a cashier, store attendant, or restaurant staff, don’t let them take it out of your sight. Cards can be copied very quickly, and this could put you in a lot of trouble. This is worse than losing money because you could get entangled in fraud and lose all your money in the bank.
Better yet, leave your credit cards at home and consider taking a prepaid card on your holiday instead. Top up your prepaid card with a small amount of money from your bank account. If this card gets stolen, you know that this amount is the most you can lose.
Also, keep a copy of your credit card, or at least the cancellation numbers, separately from your cards. That way, if you do lose your cards, you can call up your bank and cancel them before any money is stolen.
6. Be always self-aware
When in crowded places, don’t feel too safe because there is a good chance you are not. Pickpockets don’t look like crooks. They are experts in their trade, so they know how to look pleasant and ‘normal’. Be aware of anyone getting too close to you or eyeballing you. Also, never walk alone on a dark street at night.
Hold your shoulder bag tightly when on the streets. It’s been observed that thieves often operate on mopeds or motorbikes around the world, allowing them to drive up onto the pavement very close to people so they could grab purses and shoulder bags and drive away with it.
Always be aware of your surroundings and try walking against the flow of traffic inside the sidewalk.
Be careful at ATMs. Make sure no one is standing too close behind you or peering over your shoulder. Avoid using outdoor or public ATMs. It is much safer to do it inside the banks.
7. Bring your own padlock
When staying in a hostel or B&B, it’s wise to use your own padlock with your own key. This way, you know that the padlock has not been tampered with or the key not duplicated. Look for a cute, handy padlock to bring along during your trip, not the heavy metal types.
As they say, better safe than sorry. This can’t be more true than when traveling and away from the comfort of your own home. Being safe is not rocket science. You only need a little creativity and a lot of commonsense. Losing valuables means spoiling the best holiday you have been planning for a long time. Learn how to keep valuables safe while traveling.
Are you looking for more travel tips? Check out our blog posts here at Ask the Dutch Guy!