Tips to Keep Your Luggage, Money, and Passport Secure
Tourists are sometimes considered easy targets by thieves. Even if they are not targets for violence, their bags, pockets and valuables are often being eyed by petty criminals. There is little use ruining a trip by worrying excessively about the security of your belongings. Paranoia isn’t going to increase your security. But, by taking a few simple steps, it is possible to lower the odds of becoming a robbery victim.
Putting locks on your luggage can be the first step. But sometimes locks are more of a hindrance than an asset. Customs officials and airport security personnel may have to break them in order to do the required searches on checked baggage. If you forget a code or lose a key, you may have to break the lock yourself. Since breaking the lock or cutting through a suitcase is a possibility, these devices offer little real protection. That said, even a basic lock can cause thieves searching for a quick score to overlook your bag and search of something easier to grab.
Money belts, pouches in various shaped and sizes, can be worn inside clothing and can be used to hold money and important travel documents. These are good for traveling from place to place, but not for using while shopping or sightseeing. They can be difficult to access. You would probably draw too much attention to yourself by unzipping your pants or pulling up your shirt to get at your cash. It would be more secure to simply carrying the money in a pocket. Some money pouches, worn around the neck inside the shirt, can be useful if you wear a button-down shirt and can reach through the front of the shirt, between buttons, to get at the cash. It is better to carry small amounts of cash in your front pocket, perhaps keeping more money in a money belt and taking it out in private (in your room or even in a bathroom stall) and putting it in your pocket little by little as needed.
Or, you could opt for plastic. People are often surprised how easy it is to access their money at an ATM, even while traveling in developing countries. ATMs can be found in almost every city in the world. If you have a bank with worldwide reach, you will be able to get to your money almost anywhere. It might be worth setting up a basic checking account at a global bank if you don’t have overseas ATM service. Without a pin number, thieves won’t be able to access you cash. Or at least, you will be able to cancel the card before they figure out how to use it.
Prepaid credit cards, offered by major card companies like Visa, are an alternative to traditional cards. These can be used like credit or debit cards and hold a predetermined amount of money. Thieves who can get a hold of these cards won’t be able to access all your funds, just the portion that you put on the card. What about traveler’s checks? They are still a possibility, but since it is becoming easier and easier to access your funds with plastic, travelers checks have become less useful.
But what about those times when you are on the road without ATMs or room safes. Perhaps you could go old school, using duck tape to fasten your valuables to the inside of a toilet tank or under a bed or desk. This is risky (what if you forget it) but will protect against someone who plans to sneak into your room at night and grab what’s available (not unheard of). Bicycle locks that fasten a suitcase to something sturdy (plumbing pipes, heavy furniture) can supplement a lock on the bag’s zipper. On the high end, there are mesh coverings made of un-cut-able material that can deter anyone trying to cut a bag to get at what’s inside.
Sometimes your best efforts to tip the odds in your favor won’t be enough to protect you. If the worst-case scenario becomes reality, it is best to be prepared. Having copies of your passport, travel documents and other important papers can greatly help when it comes to reporting your passport and airline ticket stolen and obtaining replacements quickly. If you really want to be secure, you can scan the documents and upload them to your online storage account or email them to yourself. This will give you access from any computer with internet service.