Safety Tips: How to Avoid Theft While Traveling

There’s no greater buzz kill than being robbed while on a relaxing vacation. In 15+ years of global traveling, I have been lucky enough to avoid theft in even the shadiest of places.

Here are 6 steps you can take to keep your property safe & avoid theft abroad

How to avoid theft abroad.

1. Be Aware of your surroundings

The most important rule — yet very few people follow it. Be aware of your surroundings. Yes, I know that beautiful view of the mountains at sunset is photo worthy, but don’t forget about your bag while trying to get the perfect shot.

Observe the people around you and make sure you are alert when traveling alone. Your peripheral vision is a blessing, so USE IT.  If you feel like something isn’t right, then don’t continue on.

  • When I think someone might be following me or observing my every move, I choose alternate routes & sometimes even stop abruptly.

Usually they'll realize you are suspicious and move on to their next target. I recommend going into a café or store where there are more people around; this lessens the chance of anyone bothering you.

2. Learn to pack Light

The best target for theft is a stressed and overwhelmed target. When you overpack you increase your chances of losing track of your belongings.

Carrying more baggage than you can bear, distracted by both the tote slipping off of your shoulder and your backpack hanging off of your other arm, your disarray is a perfect opportunity for sticky fingers to quickly swipe your valuables.

3. Keep your important documents separate

Contrary to the advice of many, I don’t believe it is best to keep your important items together while traveling. In fact, I am a passionate advocate for separating all valuables, period.

  • Here’s why: With most thefts, usually one bag is taken quickly, so by dividing your property you increase your chances of saving valuables if you end up in an unavoidable situation.

I store my money in three different places: often my backpack, purse, and pockets. My passport is always in a different bag than its paper copy, and I always keep a back up credit card separate from my primary wallet. Lastly, I keep my phone in its own dedicated spot, out of my bags, so if anything is stolen I can call and replace it easily.

Organized disorganization will lessen the amount of items taken if you are ever in a pickle.

4. Find A Unique Hiding Spot

Now, I am not going to tell you ALL of my hiding places (or else they wouldn't be so hidden), but I will tell you what's worked for me in the past. I used to always forget a lock and there was rarely a safe provided in hostels, so this is important!

One of my favorite hiding spots is the mattress top. I often place my passport on my mattress, under my fitted sheet so that I am sleeping on top of it (note: you must take the sheets off and remake the bed; avoid the popular hiding spot under the mattress). I usually place emergency money with it, as well. 

My second favorite spot is — wait for it — a tampon box. Because no one wants to dig through a box of tampons looking for your money. Please note: these are unused tampons. 

  • Other unique hiding spots include: under your shoe’s insole, in the wheel of your luggage (or a hidden compartment), inside a book, or inside an old bag of chips.

5. Have a Back Up Plan

Now if someone really wants to rob you, you might not be able to avoid it — and that's the truth. However, there are plenty of amateurs out there looking for fast swipes, and busy tourists make it way too easy. If, unfortunately, this ever happens to you, make sure you have a back up plan:

  1. Carry a paper photocopy of your passport and email one to yourself.

  2. Back up your laptop and phone before traveling in case it is ever stolen.

  3. Turn on your "Find My iPhone" feature or any tracking devices your electronics might have.

  4. Upload your vacation photos daily to a dropbox or back up in case of theft or loss. Here’s an extra 500MB if you sign up for a free Dropbox account with this link.

  5. Let your bank know you are traveling and try to only use credit cards instead of debit. Fraudulent charges can easily be refunded with credit.

  6. Only travel with clothing/jewelry that you are okay with losing.

6. Avoid being too flashy

Social platforms like Instagram have made it all too easy to get caught up flashing our valuables. Whether a photoshoot with the latest camera or an expensive outfit guaranteed to get you “likes”, the louder your presence the easier it is to target you.

While your vacation shouldn’t suffer (nor your great vacation photos), consider how your actions may impact the community and grab the attention of sticky fingers.

COMMENT BELOW: Share your recommendations or travel story

I hope you found these tips useful. Have an amazing - and safe - vacation! As always, mind your surroundings and enjoy exploring the world.

xx, O.