Having traveled around the world for more than 10 years, we’ve picked up some helpful tips and tricks for safe travels along the way. The photo above is a photo back in 2011 when we decided to travel from the south to the north of India via buses and trains. We’ve lived in countries like Bangladesh where we stuck out like a sore thumb and traveled to big cities like New York and Paris where there’s chaotic streets and subways filled with pick-pocketers. No matter where we go, we always make sure our safety is the first priority.
Safety is always important no matter where we are and it can be especially important when you are exploring a new country, city or community. You don’t want to be stressed and worried about your safety because that means you won’t be able to enjoy your trip as much as you could. We all want to be safe and have an awesome time while traveling and so we’ve come up with 10 super easy tips that can help you have safe travels no matter where you are.
1. Always wear a money belt
As dorky as it can be, a money belt can be your best bet in keeping your most valuable items safe. I remember wearing my handmade money belt made from my father when I first started traveling. It’s super easy to do and surprisingly, a handmade one works exactly like the money belts you buy at the shops. There’s absolutely no need to get fancy.
After many years of wearing these bad boys, we like to tuck our money belt inside our pants with the zipper opening right at the top for easy access. Sounds a bit wrong but it works! It doesn’t bulge out, doesn’t feel uncomfortable and no one ever suspects that you have it on you. Storing our passports, money, credit cards and keys, we have found that wearing a money belt can come in very handy.
There are a lot of places in the world where you won’t need to wear a money belt, and we say don’t worry about it either. Living overseas for months on end means that we don’t typically wear them day in and day out. Instead, we are just careful and use them when we feel it’s a good idea to. For example, on days when we are carrying loads of cash or when we withdraw money out of an ATM.
It’s always good to keep on hand in case you feel a little worried or concerned while traveling. What we found is that money belts can be helpful if you need to go on an overnight bus or train, while you are moving from the hotel to the airport or even while you are out and about at the night markets. It can be a godsend when you need to withdraw large sums of money and hold it somewhere that is more secure and safe.
Places where there is a higher risk of theft, money belts can be great to store all your personal valuables and not feel worried about them. We found this to be helpful on subways in Paris or at very busy markets where people can typically bump into you. Plus, most of the time, you never feel like your wearing a money belt, which is awesome!
2. Secure your bags with bike locks
After so many years going on shady trains and packed buses both during the day and overnight, we always travel with at least 2 bike locks. Bike locks are super lightweight and portable but provide extra security to your belongings. If you are worried about using the overhead compartments on trains and buses, just bike lock them onto the rails. This is an easy and fast way to prevent theft.
We recommend getting bike locks with the 4 digit pass-code such as this one here and locking your zippers with standard locks too. That way, if you notice someone trying to open your bag or trying to run away with it, they most likely will leave your bag alone.
We’ve heard so many stories online and in-person of people experiencing theft on buses and trains. It’s harder for someone to snatch your bag if it’s tied to the compartment of a train or bus. Another helpful tip is to stay away from seats located right near the door. These are the ones that are typically targeted as the bags located here are easy to reach for and easy for people to run out the door with.
We also found this handy if we have to leave our bags at the front of reception at a hotel because we came a little early and are waiting for previous guests to check out or if we are leaving to the airport and want to go out a few more hours around town but have checked out already. We would lock all our bags together and then to lock them to something that cannot be removed such as a pole, bar, rail or even the cabinet. This makes it impossible (or at least a pain in the ass) for someone to run off with your bags.
3. Have copies of your documents
Back in the day when we lived in Bangladesh for a year, we were actually robbed in the middle of the night. The guy had the nerve to come into our bedroom while we were sleeping and when Albie woke up from the rattling sounds, we knew we were being robbed.
The first thing that came into our minds was our safety. Immediately we screamed, turned on the lights and watched him climb down the balcony. We were on the third floor! Once the guy manage to run off with little that he was able to grab from our room, we quickly checked our belongings, the most important being our documents and laptops. Luckily, he didn’t take any of our passports or documents and only had time to snatch my brick of a phone and some spare cash lying around in Albie’s pant’s pockets.
Having photocopies of your passport, visas and any other important information can be handy particularly if you lose your real documents or if you need to show identification and don’t want to bring the real deal. We learnt this in a very scary and real way and always bring along with us a couple of copies of what’s important. We also like to keep a scan copy on our laptops, hard drives and of course in the cloud. You never know when unfortunately events such as this happens so it’s always best to be safe than sorry.
4. Get travel insurance
You may not always be able to prevent theft when you travel, but having travel insurance can mean you can recover a part of what you lose. Now the tricky part of travel insurance is that the claims have to reach a certain amount in your local currency as well as you will need to provide proof of the stolen goods.
For example, when my phone was stolen in Bangladesh we tried to claim it on our travel insurance but unfortunately the phone was under the minimum amount! If we were successful in the threshold, we would then have to provide a scan copy of the original purchase receipt and proof of ownership of the phone in the form of photos.
We needed to have photos that have a time stamp on it giving evidence that I in fact had this phone. If you plan to get travel insurance, it’s a good idea to read the terms and conditions. It may be helpful to go through basic and common examples of what someone would typically claim (like your camera, laptop, phone etc) and see if that type of travel insurance is right for you.
5. Setup a lock safe and wipe function on your smartphone
Nowadays all the latest smartphones have a lock safe. The lock safe function requires the owner or user to put in a code before being able to access the phone itself. In addition to this, smartphones also have the ability to remotely access your mobile account and wipe everything on it. This includes automatic log-in access to your apps and accounts.
This is so helpful as it can help prevent identity theft and the feeling that your personal privacy has been violated. Wiping your phone remotely is a brilliant way to access and store important documents, photos and data in the cloud. It can also mean that a stranger will never be able to see any of your personal stuff.
It’s super easy to setup and it depends on your phone and the brand but most if not all brands provide this service free of charge. So before you travel or even step foot out the door with your phone, setup this wipe function in case you ever have to use it. Remember, this function only works if you had previously set it up.
6. Be aware and alert
We know that this is such a basic travel tip but we will most likely forget about it if we don’t mention it at all. Often when we are traveling, we are swept away in the moment, excited about what we are experiencing and seeing for the first time that we forget to stay somewhat alert of anything that seems suspicious. This is particularly important in some locations like airports, hotel entrances, crowded places and very low-key places especially at night.
Keeping alert is good to remove any dangers that may be around you. You never want to be taken advantage of while traveling. It’s good to keep an eye on your belongings and make sure you know where everything is. Checking your belongings before you leave any place is also good in case you accidentally drop your personal belongings and didn’t notice.
7. Have a dummy wallet handy
A dummy wallet is used in case you are ever robbed. You fill the wallet with cards and items that are easily replaced and have no value for the person stealing it.
For example, membership cards in your original country that you can get a replacement of when you are back or expired cards that are no longer possible to use. It’s also good to put in a few dollars of cash but nothing too much that you’ll be angry to lose.
Basically you want to create the perception that it is your one and only wallet and if you ever get robbed, you can throw this wallet at them. Keeping your most valuable things like your passport and cards in your money belt can help as it would appear you have nothing else to steal.
8. Separate your money
Separating your money is a useful travel tip that can help you minimize the risk of losing everything. We all experienced it when we travel. It’s always the cheaper and more convenient way to withdraw larger amounts of cash at one time or to exchange our currency beforehand. In saying this, you’ll end up with a lot of money and you never want to put it in all the one place.
Always set aside your money into smaller amounts. If you know you’ll only need $50USD to get around during the day, have that handy in your wallet or pocket. The rest of the money should be separated into other areas like your backpack or money belt. This way you’ll be less likely to lose all your money if you were ever robbed or lose your belongings.
9. When in doubt go with official services and companies.
Going with well reviewed, certified and official services and companies when you travel can be extremely important to avoid any suspicious and dangerous situations.
One of the biggest no no’s in our books is going with an unregistered taxi. There are plenty of places in the world where getting a taxi off the street is the norm. However, when you are traveling to an unknown area, it’s always good to get an official service or company endorsed by the government or an establishment. When we’ve traveled in the past, we always make sure to get a cab from the airport at the booths. These are generally most established and will keep you safe as compared to selecting a random guy outside the airport. If we are out and about, we always like to ask local staff at shopping malls or hotels to call for a taxi for us. It might also be a good idea to read up on what taxi companies are good or how to locate a safe taxi. Generally, if the taxi uses a meter, has the registered stickers, displays the driver’s license and officially states it’s a registered taxi you are good to go.
This goes for tour companies, hotels and even companies that provide activities. We’ve been on a 3 day Bolivian Salt Flats tour and have heard of horror stories of drunk drivers. It’s always important to select these services not based on the price but the quality of the service.
10. Research beforehand
Wherever you plan to travel to, it’s always good to do a little research beforehand. Knowing ahead of time where you are going and the current situation of any risks to your safety is important. Of course theft and other small crimes happen everywhere in the world but it’s important to check whether it’s a high risk area or if there have been more complicated crimes occurring in the area that you may want to be aware of.
Never assume these incidences but do the research online. Forums and travel review sites are always great to give you a better picture of things. It doesn’t hurt to do an hour worth of research during your spare time before you travel to ensure you have a safe trip. This can be particularly important if you are traveling on your own or to a place you’ve never been to.
We hope that these travel tips for safe travels will help you keep safe wherever you choose to travel to. Comment below your best travel tips and your travel experiences. We would love to hear from you!