Staying safe while traveling is always our biggest concern. Sure, the fun, the frolics and the adventure will come… but we don’t want any of the fun being ruined by a mishap that could easily be avoided. Keeping your wits about you is always the number one way to travel smart and securely, but sometimes we all need a helping hand to make sure our travels don’t fall prey to pickpockets, robbers and other sneaky people.
From anti-pick pocket bags to little tips to keep your prized goods safe, I’ve got some top tips on how you can travel smart and securely, without strapping your passport to your boobs. So take some notes, leave a comment if there’s a tip I’ve left out and be safe in the knowledge that your next trip will be as accident-free as possible!
12 things all travelers should do to travel smart and securely
1. Have a strong-as-hell bag
When it comes to carry-on luggage and day bags, you want your things to be protected from sticky fingers. If you’ve never been pick pocketed before, you don’t know how fast and clever they can be – you will not feel their touch or be aware that you’ve been targeted.
Pacsafe is a top choice of Travelette Kathi and I – this anti-theft travel backpack is perfect as carry-on luggage as it is 45 litres and opens up like a suitcase making it easy access… but only easy access for you! It has a caged, slash-guard wire lining to deter any knife slashing and has a secure lock for the zips. It also comes with a wire rope so you can lock your bag to a table/chair leg if you don’t want your eyes glued to your bag at all times.
2. Insurance is key!
When things go wrong, you need to make sure that you have a safety net. Ultimately, travel insurance is the key to making sure you are looked after, but be sure to read the fine print. It’s so easy to whack down a payment as soon as you find a reasonably priced quote, but you need to think what kind of activities you’ll be up to on your trip.
On a backpacking trip, I rode the hell out of scooters and it wasn’t until I happened to be reading my insurance fine print that I realized that it wouldn’t cover motorcycle/scooter accidents… it’s so common to see travelers on scooters, but if you don’t have the right insurance, then you’re stuffed if you come off your bike in an accident. Keep a copy of your insurance printed off and also in your emails. Wouldn’t hurt to give your policy number to your traveling partners and your mum… just in case.
3. Be strategic with your bank cards
You’re likely to have a bank card or two and a credit card when you’re on a long trip. If not, it’s a good idea to do so and spread your funds across them. You never know if one will go walkabout, and if it does, at least you’re traveling smart with more cards that have cash on them.
When you have multiple cards, never keep them in the same place. If you have everything in your wallet, then lose it…. you’re in a pickle. Have one card in your room (in a safe preferably) and another on you. Minimise the potential damage!
4. Photocopy your passport!
Keeping a copy of your passport is a traveler’s golden rule. If you lose it, take it to the embassy and things can be smoothed out a lot faster than turning up without any ID. Your passport is your baby when you’re on the road – take care of it, and it will take care of getting you from A to B.
5. Carry an emergency fund
You can have as many prepaid travel cards, travelers’ cheques and bank cards, but when someone ruthless goes through your belongings, all of these can be snatched. And that sucks big time.
Be prepared for the worst and keep a stash of American dollars or British pounds tucked away on your person at all times. Whether it’s in a hidden pocket of your day bag or in a really secret spot in your hotel room; if someone goes to town with your things at least you have some emergency cash to help you through the tough times.
6. Don’t flaunt flashy belongings
I love shiny things. I’m drawn to them like a magnet so will likely wear something that looks more expensive than it is on trips… but if I’m in a place that makes me uneasy or threatened, I’ll be sure to stuff them away. Whether it’s home or away, you have to be streetwise and tuck away that expensive camera or watch if you think it’s drawing more attention than it’s worth.
7. Trust your gut
Another golden traveler rule! If you feel unsafe or at risk, then stop. Rethink the situation and take a step back. Don’t let anyone harass you into making a split-second decision that you’re not happy with and just take things slow. Or move fast to get out of the scenario. Whatever your gut is saying, put some faith in it and act accordingly.
8. Protect yourself
When you see some of the awful things that can happen in the world, the thing you don’t want to feel is helpless. You don’t want to be faced with something that you’re completely powerless to protect yourself against. I’ve taken some kickboxing lessons and walking out of those classes made me feel so strong and fierce – I’m not saying to kick the crap out of anyone you think is suspicious,but it is an idea to look into self-defence classes just to familiarize yourself with some basics. Just in case the worst comes to worst.
Alternatively, have a keyring of keys which you can slip into your hand – put a few keys jutting out between your fingers in case you need to swing a punch. Or have an aerosol can of potent mosquito spray or deodorant to spray in the eyes of an attacker. Just having these at your disposal can ease an anxious heart.
9. Be aware. Don’t get wasted.
I love a cocktail or five. and I am not going to say that I’m the perfect traveler who’s never had too much to drink (mojitos are just too damn delicious!). But I am guilty of looking back at certain situations I’ve got myself in and thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t stumble down the wrong alleyway.
Be alert and don’t get so inebriated that you can’t take care of yourself. especially if you’re traveling alone. You need to take care of number one when on the road, and if too much rum has got you lost then it’s time to neck a heap of water and get safely home.
10. Know your timetables!
Turning up to a new city or town on public transport can sometimes be frustrating. Their schedules aren’t always convenient, so just know roughly what time you’ll be turning up and have some kind of game plan. Especially if you arrive at the dead of night and will need somewhere to lay your weary head. Don’t get stranded!
Arriving in Bangkok on night buses always spins me out: you arrive at around 4am or 5am, half-asleep, with many hostels booked up. Each time, I’ve luckily found accommodation with friendly passengers I’d met during the ride, but just familiarise yourself with the timetables and have a few guesthouses jotted down. You’ll definitely want a nap.
11. Know the exchange rate
Jot down a list of prices of your currency with a list of the foreign currency besides it. See below for the example with Thai Baht:
£1 = 43 THB
£5 = 215 THB
£10 = 430 THB
£15 = 645 THB
I usually go up to around £35 and have it written on a scrap of paper which I can easily refer to. This way that when I’m haggling for a cab ride, I know quickly if I’m being scammed. This also goes with exchanging money – it helps to know what the best exchange rate (written down on your currency convertor list) when discussing with the currency provider. Especially if they’re not affiliated with a bank and look slightly dodgy.
12. Work out a daily budget
Traveling smart applies to sticking to a budget. Spending without thinking can cut your trip short or make you miss out on certain excursions or detours that would’ve been brilliant. Look at how much money you have, work out a weekly budget, factor in transport costs and hostel/hotel costs, try stick to it. Eat where the locals are, drink the local beer, try and keep spending down, and never factor in your credit card into your budget. That isn’t your money. If you can, only use it for emergencies so you don’t return home in massive amounts of debt.
Check out more of our tips on how to stay safe while abroad, and also how to keep your technology safe while on the road. Combine the plethora of tips we have for you and you’ll be the smartest traveler around – now the boring safety procedures have been run through, time to enjoy your adventure! Happy traveling!
all photographs by Sophie Saint