6 Tips to avoid travel theft

Want to travel safe? Here are 6 easy ways to avoid travel theft
Nothing screams tourist like pulling out a paper map.

Have you ever had something stolen from you while you were travelling? Once a thief broken into the New Zealand condo I was staying at with my parents, and made off with the contents of our wallets. I was living in Japan at the time, where bank machines weren’t open on evenings and weekends (I hope that’s changed!). I can’t remember how I made it back to my village in Japan with no cash and no bus pass, but somehow I did. The theft put a major downer on the rest of our holiday, but I’ve gotten wiser. Here are my best tips for avoiding travel theft.

6 Tips to avoid travel theft
Looks cute, but is a prime target for pickpocketers.

How to avoid travel theft

Canadian traveller
suitcase with Canadian flag.

1. Pretend you’re a local

Is anyone still sporting a maple leaf sewn on their backpack? If you are, I hate to break it to you, but the 90s are over. Canadian flag clothing and luggage tags can be a clear tip-off you’re from a first world country and likely have valuables in your luggage and on your person. Worse, thieves might make the assumption you’re a paranoid American.

2. Secure your luggage without a lock

Since we can no longer use luggage locks (not that they were all that secure, anyway), twist ties are an inexpensive way to secure your luggage, while allowing security access if needed. This clever twist adds significantly more time for would-be thieves to get into your luggage and may keep them from targeting your bags in the first place.

suitcase zippers

3. Buy the safest purse for travel

One traveler writer I know feels more secure using a travel safe purse with a ‘slash proof’ strap. Slashing the strap of a bag is a quick way for thieves to make off with your belongings. Some of these handbags also sport anti-scan pockets for credit cards. If you’re super uptight, you might also consider purchasing an anti-scan wallet.

4. Get the best credit card for foreign travel 

Calling your credit card company to let them know you’re traveling could stop fraud before it starts. I always call Visa the week before I travel, to give them a list of the countries I’m visiting. Once when I didn’t do this, my credit card was denied in London because Visa flagged it. They thought the recent charges (clothes, clothes and more clothes) were unusual and potentially fraudulent. Um, OK. I also have my credit card company’s number programmed into my phone, so I can call collect if needed from the road.

traveller waiting
Its a good idea to split up your cash and cards in case one of your bags gets lifted.

5. Keep ‘Tommy Tourist’ on a tether

Does your travel companion have “Tommy Tourist written on their forehead? If so, consider commandeering their documents and money, only doling out what’s needed when it’s needed. 

Tommy tourist
Who pulls out a paper map anymore anyway?

6. Leave jewels and bling at home

I never travel with my best jewelry. Not so much because I’m worried about it getting stollen (though 17% believe it can make you a target for thieves), but because I’m apt to leave it at the hotel. There’s nothing worse than having to repurchase your anniversary present because you “misplaced” the original at a hotel.

packing luggage

I also travel with inferior luggage, as do 27% of survey respondents. Unless you’re flying on a private jet, I don’t see the point of toting designer suitcases. You know luggage gets banged up and filthy, so why would you invest in a depreciating asset that’s a potential target? I’ve had my luggage taken by other travellers four times and lost for three days in Bahrain. I do what I can to make it look different enough, so other’s don’t accidentally grab the wrong bag, but it still happens from time to time.

Have you ever had anything stolen on your travels? What tips to do you take to avoid travel theft?

How to avoid travel theft


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12 thoughts on “6 Tips to avoid travel theft”

  1. When leaving my hotel room, and I see the maid in the hallway,,,
    I pretend there’s someone else in the room and I turn back too have a short conversation with the imaginary person in the room, telling them I would probably be back in about forty five minutes and hope they would be ready then….
    It makes me feel better that the maid then thinks there’s someone in there while I’m gone…

    1. Such a great idea! I do that whenever I leave my house, but never thought to do it in a hotel room.

  2. I once had my credit cards stolen in a hostel in Bangkok. That wasn’t fun; good thing she only managed to charge $350 before my bank denied the transactions (the bank still made me pay though. Sucks). Now, I’m more careful about my stuff, making sure I lock them up even if I just have to go to the toilet. I certainly learned my lesson the hard way.

  3. Had my wallet stolen with EVERYTHING in it on the first night of a six week solo jaunt through Europe. Lesson learned: don’t leave bag hanging off a chair in a crowded pub.

    1. Even though it was a great lesson, what a hard one to learn! My friend had her purse stolen at a pub, too. From now on we keep our purses on our laps or I hook my leg through the straps.

  4. Knock on wood, I haven’t had anything stolen during my travels yet and take all advice about how to keep that from happening in the future. Interesting about the luggage twists – I think I’ll give that a try.

  5. Great tips! I haven’t had anything stolen since my purse was nabbed in Paris when I was 15 years old. Will keep these in mind to keep my good streak going!

  6. Fantastic tips here – I especially love the point about the zip ties, my father taught me that one at a young age, so I’ve sworn by it ever since! Very easy way to know if your bag has been tampered with!

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