Woman with a laptop on her lap sleeps on a train
Here are some important tips to remember so that you can keep your important things secure.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Kasto80

How to Keep Your Belongings Safe & Prevent Theft While Traveling

Using Caution and Common Sense

Losing your stuff or having it stolen while you are traveling can turn a fun adventure into a nightmare. Regardless of whether you are in an area you perceive to be safe or a city that has an unsavory reputation, you should always have your guard up and take steps to reduce your risk and keep your belongings safe.

Here are some important tips to remember to prevent travel theft no matter where you go on your adventures.

Staying in a Hostel? Bring a Padlock

Staying in a shared dorm in a hostel can be great way to save money while you travel, as well as meet interesting new people. However, it’s important to think about how to secure your stuff.

You can leave your main backpack with your clothes in it simply tucked under your bed — no one is going to steal your smelly socks. Your valuables, such as your passport, phone, wallet, laptop and other high ticket items, should always be kept in a locker.

Most hotels will have lockers in the dorm room, but they don’t always supply you with a lock. That’s why it is handy to travel with your own padlock. Lock up your stuff and you will be able to go exploring all day without wondering whether your belongings will be there when you come back.

Leaving the Vicinity? Have a Look Around

When you are in transit, whether on a plane, train or bus, there is a lot of sitting down, getting up, sitting down again and moving around. Any time that happens, there is the chance your wallet could fall out of your pocket or you could leave your passport sitting on the seat next to you.

It happens, especially if you are tired, jet lagged or distracted. You’ll want to avoid having to go through the process of replacing your passport if at all possible.

Get yourself in the habit of always touching your pockets to check that you have your valuables whenever you get up out of a seat, then taking a glance around to spot anything you may have left behind. This habit only takes two seconds, but it has saved me many times from accidentally leaving behind something of importance.

No Matter Where You Go, Google the Common Pickpocket Scams

When I was in Buenos Aires, a lovely young American backpacker returned to the hostel one afternoon in tears. She had just been robbed of her camera, smartphone and wallet, all in a matter of seconds.

She had been walking down the street when someone pointed out that she had bird poo on her shoulder. Seemingly friendly and helpful, they had approached her with tissues to try to clean it off.

While she was distracted by the cleaning of the bird poo, someone else swooped in and grabbed the bag that she had set down on the sidewalk. They disappeared into the crowd almost instantly and she didn’t even know in which direction to chase them down.

The sad thing about this story is that the “bird poo” wasn’t even real — it was a carefully orchestrated distraction designed to make her take her attention away from her purse. The gooey white substance had been squirted on her shoulder earlier by another accomplice and the helpful stranger with the tissues was also in on the scam.

Pickpockets can be quite clever and they have many tricks they can use to distract their targets so they can more easily relieve them of their possessions, so even using a money belt may not be enough to safeguard against theft.

The good news is that the common pickpocket scams have been written about online, so if you do a quick Google search before you leave you will know how to avoid pickpockets and will be aware of what travels scams to be on the lookout for. So, if someone tells you that you have bird poo on your shoulder, you can just shrug and keep on walking.

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Sleeping on a Bus? Cuddle with Your Stuff

Sometimes on your travels you may have to take an overnight bus or train. This can be a great way to get from point A to point B without wasting a day in transit.

However, it poses the potentially risky situation of falling asleep on the bus or train and leaving your belongings vulnerable to theft.

Whatever you do, make sure you do not fall asleep with your valuables simply lying on the seat next to you or in the overhead compartment of the bus. When you do that, you make it too easy for someone to simply pick up your wallet and phone while you are snoring.

The best thing to do is to keep all your belongings in a small bag or backpack, then cuddle that bag close to your body while you sleep like it is the love of your life. Put the zippers in towards your body, wrap the straps of the bag around your arm and even rest your head on it.

If you make it so no thief would be able to get into the bag without waking you up, you’ll leave the overnight bus or train with everything you had when you embarked.

Think Ahead and Be Aware

Keeping your belongings safe while you travel is simply a matter of thinking ahead to anticipate common scams and being aware of your surroundings. With a little bit of precaution, you can keep your valuables safe and secure so you can enjoy your trip without any stress.

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