8 Ways To Ward Off Thieves While Traveling

The summer travel season might be winding down, but that won’t stop thieves from trying to paw your precious valuables. Keep them at bay with the following eight tips…

  • Carry On Valuables. Travel guru Peter Greenberg says there are two types of luggage: carry-on, and lost. Keep your valuables with you at all times.
  • Don’t Need It? Don’t Bring It. Leave the nice diamond earrings and flashy bracelets at home.
  • Pack Valuables In See-Through Bags. Put an extra layer between your valuables and crooked TSA wannabes so they don’t have a reason to directly handle your rubies.
  • Make Your Bag Screener Friendly. Beyond the clear bag, deter opportunistic thieves and secondary screenings by packing in layers so your bag will image cleanly.
  • Don’t Throw Loose Items Into Screening Bins. Stash your cellphone and keys in your bag before pushing it through the scanner.
  • Don’t Leave Your Bags Unattended. Is that your checked bag at the other end of the carousel with the Care Bears tag? Don’t put down your carry-on to go look.
  • Safes! Use safes wherever you go because they work.
  • Trust Nobody. Don’t believe tour guides who say it’s safe to leave things unattended on a tour bus. It’s not.

10 tips to protect valuables from travel theft [Tripso]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. EarlNowak says:

    Here’s another- if you have a GPS, always put it in the glovebox when you park your car. And take down the suction cup mount and put the charger away, too.

    My rental car was broken into two nights ago. I had put everything away except the charger (late night, I was tired, I forgot). The charger was enough of an incentive that someone smashed the window, searched the car, and stole my GPS and ipod. Cops say this is the most common form of theft they’re seeing, and thieves search hotel parking lots for any sign of portable electronics.

  2. missdona says:

    @EarlNowak: Don’t put it in the glovebox. Take it with you.

  3. TurboWagon00 says:

    dont just take it off, and take it with you, but wipe the round mark off your windshield. They’ll know.

  4. Trai_Dep says:

    Don’t just take it off, and take it with you, and wipe of the round mark on your windshield. Also hide it in a body cavity before going to sleep.

  5. Etoiles says:

    Unfortunately, the theft I’ve had while traveling was very difficult to avoid: the license plates off of the car. (It was parked at a hotel.) I’ve also come back to long-term airport parking to find the plates missing off of several other cars in the lot but, thankfully, not mine.

  6. ASMx4 says:

    Don’t just take it off, and take it with you, and wipe of the round mark on your windshield. Also … oooh, nevermind.

  7. mgy says:

    Don’t just take it off, and take it with you, and wipe of the round mark on your windshield and hide it in a body cavity before going to sleep. Also lock yourself in a safe.

  8. mac-phisto says:

    split your money up – keep only a nominal amount in your wallet/purse & spread the rest around (jacket pockets, socks, wherever (just remember where you put it). if you’re traveling with credit cards, keep one separate from your wallet/purse in case everything is stolen (so you won’t be stranded without money). you may even consider concealing cash/cards in a cash belt or under-clothing wallet.

    & don’t whip out a wad when you’re buying something – muggers/pickpockets/thieves usually case their targets before striking.

  9. stopNgoBeau says:

    @Trai_Dep: I see what you did there.

  10. outinthedark says:

    WTF…! 6 out of 8 of those “tips” are while in the airport!

    Should rephrase the title to “6 Ways to Ward Off Crooked TSA Employees While in the Airport”.

  11. laserjobs says:

    I just travel nude

  12. timmus says:

    Safes! Use safes wherever you go because they work.

    When I was in Kenya years ago, they had in-room safes at the hotel. The expats there said the maids knew the combinations.

  13. sketchy says:

    @laserjobs: I do too and, funnily enough, while criminals avoid me like the plague the TSA employees can’t seem to ask enough questions.

  14. chandler in lasvegas says:

    Is it me or are there several non productive comments violations on this thread?

  15. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    As a former baggage handler, I have some advice.

    Don’t whip out your laptop when coming from an international flight when you are in customs if you are stupidly trusting enough to check your laptop, people are watching.

    Get a Ziplock bag, put your watch, keys, wallet, cell, and change in it so you can grab it when you go through security.

    If you think Samsonite luggage is the best, you are fooling urself. They can be opened in about 30 seconds, the locks are easy to pick the combination, so don’t ship valuables, don’t be cheap, use Fedex.

    If possible, get a security tag on your laptop. I got mine from the factory for $5 more, it has my name, company name, and serial number on the lid of my laptop, so if you go through security and you have a popular model like a Thinkpad, if someone “accidently” takes the wrong laptop yu have your name on it.

    Get one of these and hang it around your neck, under our jacket or whatevr, put your passport/ID and your ticket if possible so you can get it quickly and not be “that” guy who gets to the gate and fumbles around in his pocket/her purse.

  16. empkae says:

    Theft is important, but simple forgetfulness may be a larger problem.

    Golden Rule: NEVER set anything down that you cannot live without.

    Of course you must set some things down, like a backpack or coat. Be sure that all your smaller things are inside your pack, or your pockets, or otherwise secure. It is way too easy to set down a hat, or camera, etc. on a table as you eat, then forget to pick it up later.

  17. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    *yourself

  18. ADM says:

    Based on foreign travels in some dicey areas…

    - Use an under-clothing wallet and keep back-up cash, and a credit card, and (arguably) your passport in there. Never let this wallet leave your sight. Also, do not reach into it in public.

    - In your regular wallet, keep just enough cash for the day (also known as just enough cash to hand over if you get robbed) so as not to frustrate your muggers. If you are good at predicting how much you’ll be spending, you won’t even need to keep a credit/ATM card in this one.

    - When traveling, do everything possible to bring your bag with you on the bus (rather than leave it in the luggage compartment). When challenged about it, be insistent and say something about safety. On the bus, DO NOT put it in the ceiling rack. Keep it on the floor under your legs. Even if you think you are looking at your bag on the ceiling rack, it will get robbed. I know several people who were robbed this way, even when they thought they were being attentive. (The implication of this tip is to travel very light, so your bag is small enough to take on the bus.)

    - Keep your bags locked with a small padlock at all times. This will strongly deter crimes of opportunity, i.e., those that occur by thieves who are not looking to physically engage you, but just happen to notice you are not keeping a careful eye on your stuff.

    - When staying at hostels, do not stay in the dorm rooms. Individual rooms are cheap enough and far more secure. If you stay in a dorm room, the workers will steal your stuff, and you will have no recourse with management, since they can just blame the strangers in your room. This is another one of those that has affected a lot of people I know.

    - Don’t walk around with an expensive camera bag. You might consider just keeping your camera in a plastic bag from a local grocery store and pulling it out when needed. This is a debatable one, but I’ve employed this method a lot without any problems.

    - Do not give your passport to ANYONE who is not a uniformed member of immigrations/customs. This includes locals who say they are with the tourism ministry and have ID cards to “prove” it. Once someone has your passport, you entirely under their control. If someone else needs to see your passport, show it to them, but don’t hand it to them.

    - If you have a car, always keep the doors locked, even when the car is parked and you are in it, or when you are standing right next to it. The one time I’ve been robbed occurred in Barcelona late at night when some moped-riding bandits slashed my tire at a stop light (without my knowledge), then distracted me while I changed the tire while an accomplice grabbed my bag out of the back seat on the other side of the car. Prior to changing the tire, I thought, “Should I lock the doors?”, but didn’t do it. Mistake.

  19. ADM says:

    Oh, also: Don’t accept offers from anyone who approaches you. For example, if you are at the bus station or airport and someone comes up to you asking if you need a taxi, ignore them and either go find a staff person who can find you a “safe” taxi driver, or go to the taxi stand and find someone who you get a good feeling from (I usually look for old guys who look like they’ve been driving cabs for 30 years). This is another thing you can be insistent about and people will understand.

  20. forgottenpassword says:

    I was a paranoid nut when I traveled out of the country for the first time but I had no problems & nothing stolen from me. :)

    Example of something i did…. when I set my suitcase down to make a phonecall at the airport… I leaned it against my leg so I KNEW it was still there.

  21. FLConsumer says:

    I’ve had the opposite experience when it comes to packing neatly… I stuff a ton of electronics all in my carryon. The TSA agent usually spends a minute or two counting all of the power transformers (they seem to be obsessed with these) and then push the bag through. Invariably, I end up through the metal detector and even have enough time to put my shoes back on before they’re done with my bag.

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    @mgy: Don’t just take it off and take it with you and take wipe of the round mark on your windshield and hide it in a body cavity before going to sleep. And take lock yourself in a safe. And then forget the combination.

    @chandler in lasvegas: (Then kindly email Roz if you feel a post doesn’t meet standards rather than clutter up the comments – as the guidelines dictate, while simultaneously demonstrating to the world that you lack a funny-bone)

  23. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    @ADM: “- Do not give your passport to ANYONE who is not a uniformed member of immigrations/customs. This includes locals who say they are with the tourism ministry and have ID cards to “prove” it. Once someone has your passport, you entirely under their control. If someone else needs to see your passport, show it to them, but don’t hand it to them.”

    This. Also if you are in a foreign country, and someone asks for your ID or passport to hold while you borrow something or rent something walk away. I was in Montreal, Canada visiting the indoor gardens (i forget the name) and to get one of those headphone announcers the lady wanted to hold my passport or ID, and I stupidly did that. Your passport is the most valueable thing you have on yourself next to your credit card. Don’t give or hand it to anyone unless they are law enforcement, it can make or break your trip.

  24. lolababy says:

    @ADM: Word on the mini-cabs. One of the more retarded things I did during my undergrad abroad was take the shadiest, rapiest mini-cabs around because they were cheap, and while 80% of them are probably above board guys who just want to feed their families, they are illegal, and bad things do happen.

    Also word on the passport, but I would argue it might be even more important then your credit card. A US passport on the black market could be worth thousands, and theives are very aware of this.

  25. sean.thor says:

    I can’t agree more with the “Trust Nobody!” advice. On a school trip to Italy we had stopped at a bassilica in between the airport and hotel to kill time before our rooms were ready. the bus drivers said the buses would be locked and we could leave everything on the bus. When we got back to the buses one of them had been completely cleaned out.

  26. bovinekid says:

    @Trai_Dep: Don’t just take if off and take it with you and wipe the off the round mark on your windshield and hide it in a body cavity before going to sleep and lock yourself in a safe and forget the combination. Also bury the safe far enough away from where you’re staying that no one will think to look for valuables there.

  27. sven.kirk says:

    @EarlNowak: Do not use suction mounts. Thieves also look for that for GPS receivers.

  28. Gnuwave says:

    “Safes! Use safes wherever you go because they work.”

    Not necessarily true. I used to believe that until another guest across the hall at a hotel I was staying at in Bangkok waited for me to go out for the evening, broke into my room, pryed the safe from its mounts, and then was able to pry the door open.

    Better to use the safe deposit boxes in reception.

  29. kidnextdoor says:

    There’s something strangely homoerotic about that picture used. Maybe it’s just me. Yep, it’s just me.

  30. maxx22 says:

    Having once had someone reach into my side pants pocket, grab some money and run – not a pickpocket, just a reach in, grab and take off – I now pin the pocket from inside with a safety pin. It doesn’t show and it deters anyone from reaching into the pocket.

    I have to remove the pin to access the pocket, but it is clearly worth the extra time.

  31. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    @EtoilePB:
    Use Robertson screws to attach your license plates. Works great south of the 49th.

    Use sun shades on your windscreen to darken the interior of your parked car.

    Resist the urge to give your wallet a reassuring pat when you see a “Beware of pickpockets” sign.

  32. jamesdenver says:

    Also – have a a file somewhere, (like emailed to yourself) with your CC and debit card phone numbers, and a copy of your driver’s license and passport.

    I use a small messenger bag when traveling, and usually keep my wallet in there with some cash and CC in pocket.

    But if something ugly did happen at least I can quickly expedite the steps – and a copy of my passport is a big help overseas.

  33. @timmus:
    Were the safes the electronic kind where you choose your own password before locking it?

  34. Quatre707 says:

    Local laws are irrelevant, always carry a gun.

  35. Trai_Dep says:

    @bovinekid: Don’t just take if off and take it with you and wipe the off the round mark on your windshield. Then hide it in a body cavity before going to sleep and lock yourself in a safe, forgetting the combination. Then bury the safe far away from where you’re staying, digging an extra 10′ deep to lay a foundation of rebar-ed concrete over it.

  36. deadspork says:

    @Quatre707: I really wouldn’t recommend carrying a gun at all unless you are 100% familiar with every single gun and concealed weapons law within the country you’ll be travelling.
    Also, standard “can be used against you” argument.
    But that’s just me.

  37. juniper says:

    Goes without saying, but ladies, do not bring a designer purse! You may as well just carry a big target.

    I traveled with a group last winter and the ones who got pickpocketed were the ones with the Prada/Coach/Kate Spade bags. A nondescript purse with a short strap that you wear in front of your body, with a zipper and at least one interior zipped pocket, will work great. I had a boring canvas purse from Eddie Bauer, it didn’t tag me as clearly a tourist (though the other ladies on the trip did that for me), it was structured and nice enough to wear into nicer places, and I had no trouble like they did.

  38. dakotad555 says:

    @Quatre707: I carry a sawed off shotgun under a trench coat when I’m overseas. No one f***s with me.

  39. The_IT_Crone says:

    @ADM: I have to add about NOT taking rides from people who approach you at the airport: unless you know about it beforehand, your hotel did NOT send someone. We got hit with this when we went to Puerto Vallarta. They knew our names, our hotel, and were waiting for us.

    They were not from the hotel. Though I have no doubt someone at the hotel made some money selling that info.

  40. racordes says:

    I had a front wheel stolen off of a rental car in the middle of the night while it was parked in the driveway of my son’s house in Houston. The car was right in front of the bedroom I was sleeping in and the window was open. I didn’t hear a thing.

  41. ShirtNinja says:

    @deadspork: You do understand that his comment was satirical, right?

  42. deadspork says:

    @ShirtNinja: I wasn’t sure. I live in Texas. We’re pretty big on guns here… It’s hard to tell tone in text.

    I actually do know people who would, very seriously, make that recommendation :P

  43. alysbrangwin says:

    I’ve traveled alone a lot in Europe, and the advice about hostels is right. My iPod and phone were stolen. It was fine because the phone was cheap and I hated it and it had no units on it, and while I was frustrated, I got a room upgrade, and iPods are replaceable.

    If you are going on vacation and don’t need your computer, leave it. Laptop thefts are easy to pull off in public places. Don’t carry a computer bag either.

    Wear your purse across your body, and also keep your hand on your purse when traveling in small spaces. Keep your purse across your body at outdoor cafes and next to you inside restaurants if you’re in a booth seat. Carry small amounts of cash, and leave behind credit cards or debit cards unless you absolutely must make a large purchase.

    If you are approached, do not engage people. I could often understand what was being said to me because I speak several languages. Don’t say where you’re from, don’t say who you are, and don’t say anything to indicate which language you do speak. It invites further conversation and if you engage people, they have a chance to rob you or they will relentlessly pursue you.

    Avoid making eye contact while walking around because some will see this as a sign that you want to engage in conversation.

    As said before carry a nondescript purse or none at all.

    Never carry your passport on you, but keep a copy. Don’t produce it unless asked, and only carry it if you plan to travel that day to another town.

    Walk briskly and avoid large groups of people like protests, demonstrations, and crowded shopping areas at peak times of the day.

    Don’t walk around alone at night unless it’s a short distance. Arrange travel ahead with friends so you know who’s taking a cab back with whom.

    Don’t get drunk. It draws attention to you, and you act as an exaggeration of yourself. Your speech gets louder and in a foreign language this attracts a lot of negative attention. Carry your drink in your hands too, but that’s standard frat party etiquette. Get your own drinks from the bar.

    Ignore people who ask to “assist” you at the airport. If they exist take a licensed cab and avoid gypsy cabs, but they’re harder to find in developing countries.

    Sit close to older women if you can on a bus or in a small space. People are less likely to pester you when surrounded by babushkas.

    Dress according to local custom as best you can. Don’t wear shorts, flip-flops, T-shirts in English, and avoid using backpacks. They’re all signs of a tourist/student/target.

    Talk quietly, no matter which language it’s in.

    But the most important piece of advice I received when living abroad is don’t ever look lost. Always pretend you know exactly where you’re going and walk with confidence. If you are lost, whip out a map only in an open public space like a park. Don’t ask for directions from people on the street. Ask shopkeepers. Keep track of the street name you are on and the streets you have crossed if applicable so you can pinpoint your location easily on a map.

    And if you are living abroad, make friends with shopkeepers so if you’re being followed, you can duck into their place without arousing suspicion. They can even sometimes help you out by telling someone to get lost.

  44. bnpederson says:

    Overall the rule seems to be “Be afraid, people! Be very afraid!”

    Yeesh, I understand some precautions but going over a thirty point checklist, avoiding all eye contact, acting meek and servile, hiding all valuables rectally and sneering at casual conversation aren’t going to make any trip all that enjoyable. I’d rather lose my laptop than live in the paranoid world many of my fellow commenters seem to inhabit.

  45. akalish says:

    @Trai_Dep: I _knew_ I felt “bunched up” lol!

  46. weave says:

    One of the hotels I stopped at had a combo safe that was closed and locked. I assume someone was being an idiot and closed and locked it for fun. I called the front desk and someone came up and punched in a bypass code to reset it and open it.

    So just because you can set the combo yourself doesn’t mean there isn’t a “back door” into the thing as well.

  47. GothGirl says:

    Don’t buy a camera bag with the camera company name on it like “Nikon”, “Sony”, etc…. If you have a nice SLR camera get a camera backpack, a nice one will run you about 75-100 bucks. They look like every other backpack, people won’t know your camera is in there, or your dirty socks.

  48. thelushie says:

    @bnpederson: Actually acting meek, especially if you are a woman traveling alone is the last thing you should do. In this day and age, it is a “trust no one” mentality. There are alot people who want to take advantage of a very nice “rich American (or whatever). You keep yourself safe.

    @alysbrangwin: Thank you for this awesome list. My mom lived in Europe for two years (and is encouraging me to do the same after Grad school) so I have heard almost all of these before. I was going to post about walking briskly and with confidence as meek people will be targeted but you did a fine job of doing it.

  49. velocium says:

    @EarlNowak: Same thing happened to our car. We just left the charger in the car outlet and someone smashed the passenger side window to get in and steal it. Luckily, we only left the cable so the gps unit is safe, we had to buy a new cable and window.

  50. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    You could always get one of these:

    [butch1.bluscs.com]

  51. redpeppers20xx says:

    @bnpederson

    I agree…reading all of these suggestions I have to ask…why even bother taking a trip at all?

    There is a line that separates ‘careful’ with ‘paranoid’.

  52. hsanch1 says:

    My parents were vacationing in Florida and the hotel they were staying at had its own enclosed parking garage (I think it was under the hotel, but I’m not sure) anyway, they parked the car after checking in and went up to their room. When they went back down to get the car to go to dinner, somebody had stolen the hubcaps right off of the rental car! The cool thing about it is this: the rental car company didn’t even notice it when they went to do the check in inspection before my parents came home!

  53. lestat730 says:

    Not bad advice. I’ve only had something stolen while traveling once and I really should have known better. Definitely a stupid move on my part. I had a wrist watch that I took with me to Aruba. While on the trip the clasp broke on me, and not wanting to deal with getting it repaired while abroad I stuck it in my luggage and forgot about it. When the day came to catch a flight home I didn’t transfer it from my luggage to my carry-on and of course it was gone when I got back home (didn’t notice it until then.) It was a lesson I learned the hard way and I’ll never make that mistake again.

  54. LightLeigh says:

    @EtoilePB: I’ve had my license plate stolen before, but they put a different stolen plate on my car, so I didn’t notice for a while.

    Now I have a license plate frame that has little covers over the screws. It’s not much security, but I figure it will encourage the thief to move on to an easier car.

  55. alysbrangwin says:

    @bnpederson: It’s not paranoia. As a young solo female traveler, it is always better to be cautious and fully aware of your surroundings so you can react accordingly. Having been followed several times in lots of different cities, I didn’t waste time yelling at anyone or finding out what they wanted since they weren’t cops. I had my local friends and could always turn to them for help, and I was friends with the bread lady and the vegetable lady and the bartender near my apartment back in Spain. It doesn’t hurt to be cautious, but it does hurt to be trusting and to make yourself vulnerable.

    Thought of more advice too: Never admit you’re traveling alone. You’re there to visit a relative or have a boyfriend or any other thing, but you’re not alone as far as anyone needs to know.

  56. ADM says:

    @alysbrangwin: Are you my dreamgirl?

    At those who wonder if these methods are paranoid or overkill: Please mention if you have spent a lot of time in crime-ridden countries and what your experiences were. In my experience, if you hang out in hostels in the poorer countries, you will constantly be running into people who have been robbed, and *everyone* has stories about people they know who were robbed or worse.

    Taking steps to keep yourself from getting robbed/attacked is a way to experience different cultures up close without having to deal with the hassle of replacing a passport, getting stranded thousands of miles from home with no cash, etc. I would much rather add a little effort upfront than have to deal with the consequences afterward.

    None of these methods are meant to be perfect. They just reduce risk significantly. If you would rather walk around with your wallet in your back pocket, your camera slung over your shoulder, and your unlocked backpack sitting in an unsecured dorm room while you hand your passport to anyone who asks for it, all because you think it’s too much of a pain to be cautious, feel free…

  57. mockingbird says:

    @alysbrangwin: @ADM: Amen. I did the backpack through the EU over ten years ago, and could have done with some of these tips then, and I was usually pretty careful anyway. I did screw up and fall asleep on the train, with my day bag with all my money and passports on my lap. Luckily the border guards found my bag in the bathroom, with only the money missing, and never carried much of that anyway. I will say that you shouldn’t be over-cautious about engaging with locals, just a bit more that you’d be in a big US city. The people in the cabin next to me on that train were so sweet and helpful that I still wonder if I’d have avoided being robbed at all if I’d sat with them instead of choosing to be alone.

    And, even using every kind of tip on here, I have a good “war wound,” a bad shoulder that acts up, caused by its being yanked by a couple jerks in Barcelona trying to steal my day bag. I’d misread the train schedule and couldn’t catch the train to Paris that I’d planned on, so I had to return to my hostel in Barcelona and had not paid attention to how I’d gotten to the station and had packed my map. I still don’t get how no one could give me directions to Las Ramblas, as I knew how to get back from there, but I ended up having to get my map out. I kept my back to a wall, in a well-lit church square full of people, and had my senses on high as I dropped my pack and got my map. It was in the 30 seconds that I was as helpless as a flipped turtle hiking my pack back that the guys decided to grab my day pack. I’d learned, so there was no money or documents in it, just my camera, with pictures I refused to give up. Yanking back and forth, I finally got across by snarling that I wasn’t letting go and they took off. I got applause from one couple, and I think the old lady who yelled at me in Catalan was bemoaning the fact that no one helped me.

    Even with those experiences, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. Plus, “I fought off muggers in Barcelona” is a much better reason for an painful old injury than “my foot fell asleep.” Wish I could attribute the bum ankle to the former rather than the latter.

  58. lingum says:

    Don’t travel to dirtbag nations full of savages.

  59. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    @lingum: Please do us all a favor and stay in the U.S. where such comments pass for intelligence in certain circles. You’re equally as likely to be robbed in the U.S. as you are anywhere else in the world.

  60. sketchy says:

    @bnpederson: Agree.

    The whole point of traveling is to experience something different, besides all those preconceptions and paranoias are way too heavy to carry around all day.

  61. frankblevins says:

    Be very wary of hotels that hold your luggage in a secure room after you check out. I left my luggage at a Travel Lodge in Montreal a few years ago because I had several hours before my flight. When I returned home I noticed several items were missing from my luggage. I still make use of the “secure” luggage rooms at hotels but always take a quick inventory before leaving the hotel.

  62. Apeweek says:

    -Wallet: When I’m in anyplace with a danger of pickpockets or muggers, I carry a fake wallet. This is a wallet full of expired cards and a couple of single dollar bills. My real wallet will be in an unobvious place.

    -License plates: After having mine stolen once, I now attach them with extra long screws that take a long time to remove.

    -Laptop: I never carry my main computer when traveling. I use an old obsolete computer for trips.

    -Camera: Again, if I just want snapshots, and not art, I carry an old camera I don’t care much about.

  63. Jetgirly says:

    At my hotel in Egypt (I was twenty-two, female and there alone) the safe in my room CONSTANTLY malfunctioned, meaning I had to invite Security Guard du Jour into my room and have him re-open it for me, allowing him to see everything that was in the safe (and see me, alone in the room). I asked for a new safe and they wouldn’t give me one. So, while safes OFTEN work, they don’t ALWAYS work!

    I took a can of neon orange spray paint and sprayed the back side of all my suitcases with random wavy lines. With a billion black suitcases coming along the carousel, the orange paint makes it easy to know which one is mine. But please choose a different color if you do this, as orange is MY color!

  64. lestat730 says:

    @Jetgirly: LOL, I hate to say this but I stopped using orange because every time I travel there are tons of black bags with orange lines, orange X’s, etc… I’ve since switched to light purple as I’ve never seen another black bag with a purple X =)

  65. EYESONLY says:

    @alysbrangwin: Terrific list. And THANK YOU for pointing out that women traveling alone have to think about these things. Drives me nuts when websites etc. run “[Country X] on 20 Euros a day!”-type features which only work if you’re willing to hitchhike everywhere.

    To the posters suggesting these things are too much trouble, etc.–obviously, traveling wouldn’t be much fun if all you did was speed through whole countries with your head down at all times. The point, though, is that if you learn to make habits of a lot of these things, they’ll become second nature, so you stay safe without needing to spend all day thinking about safety. (Also, everyone’s going to have a different set of precautions that makes sense for them. Rather than a strict “no eye contact, ever” policy, for instance, I’d say the more important thing is to think about context. Making bold eye contact with strangers if you’re a solo female traveler in a very conservative country, for instance = probably a bad idea. Casual eye contact walking around central London? Not such a problem.)

    I do agree 100 percent with alysbrangwin’s point about avoiding looking lost. I’d add that you’re best off trying to blend in with the locals as much as possible anyway, though of course you might naturally be limited by race, gender, and other factors beyond your control (e.g., I’m Chinese–it was much easier for me to blend in in Thailand than it was for my white, very Midwestern then-boyfriend)… Be aware of your appearance and behavior and how they might be perceived. A few years back, some friends and I visited the same city (at different times). Afterwards, my friends couldn’t stop talking about how rude all the locals had been; I, meanwhile, had invariably been treated courteously. Then it hit me that the fact that I wasn’t walking around in a pack of obviously American tourists, squawking loudly in English, might well have had something to do with that.

    Last tip (don’t think anyone’s pointed this out yet)–learn about the place before you get there!! Besides helping you get more out of your trip, this will clue you in as to the level of familiarity to expect from total strangers; it will also help you avoid “Ugly American” syndrome. Things we wouldn’t even notice at home are considered insults in some places (pointing the sole of your foot at someone, for instance). Remember you’re a guest in the country you’re visiting, and behave accordingly. You don’t have to buy pricey guidebooks, either–public libraries often have very strong guidebook stocks, as do used-book shops, and of course there’s the web.

  66. Meathamper says:

    Just bring a taser…they’ll have to let you bring one on board and kill the assholes that take your precious porn collection in your carry-on.

  67. Con Seannery says:

    @Trai_Dep: Recalculating…Recalculating…

  68. aikoto says:

    For pickpockets, just put your wallet in your FRONT pocket.

  69. HotTubber says:

    Don’t worry about wiping off the round mark off your windshield – use the “bean bag” GPS stand that sits on the dash instead. Hide it under the seat when you’re done.
    But be sure to hide the GPS in a body cavity, too.

  70. gr8chief says:

    Don’t just take if off and take it with you and wipe the off the round mark on your windshield. Then hide it in a body cavity before going to sleep and lock yourself in a safe, forgetting the combination. Then bury the safe far away from where you’re staying, digging an extra 10′ deep to lay a foundation of rebar-ed concrete over it. I would also highly recommend getting a pit bull and putting it in the same body cavity as the GPS for good measure, you can never be too careful.

  71. tbone13 says:

    when walking around, im a firm believer in “act like you know”. even if you arent totally sure where you are, walk with confidence to the nearest safe area. even a little bit of hesitation will raise red flags. just dont walk into a dark alley.

  72. Grive says:

    A lot of people have made too many great suggestions, so I won’t repeat them all.

    One thing I always do is know my destination. Always. There’s the internet. Learn the flow, learn the good and bad places, learn transportation. You should always be able to trace a route to a “safe” place no matter where you are. It doesn’t need to be efficient, just reliable. If there is a good, reasonably safe public transport system, find a major hub and a line that goes near your hotel – you only need to go to the hub and from there to your place.

    It’s not perfect, but it can help you be either self-sufficient or look as an unappealing mark if you have to ask directions.

    @alysbrangwin: The last point (don’t look lost) is right on the money.

    I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to walk through some really, really crummy areas all over the world. A straight face and a steady step have helped me more than anything else.

    Blending in is the best option, always. It will save you from more trouble than anything else.

  73. QuiteSpunky says:

    I’ve traveled a fair amount and try to balance safety with convenience. If you spend your whole trip terrified of getting your stuff stolen a or ripped off, that amounts to a terrible trip. Having said that, I do try to observe the following rules.

    1. Money Belt: essential for passport, credit card, and spare cash. These are the only things you cannot lose.

    2. Wallet: Always in front pocket.

    3. Laptop: Unless you are traveling for business, why are you bringing it? There are internet cafes everywhere, and it’s just one more thing to lug around and worry about. If you are traveling for business, they should put you up in a hotel where it’s safe to leave it.

    4. Backpack: An older worn-out backpack is less likely to get stolen. Regarding backpack locks, a pocket knife will cut through luggage just as fast as a zipper, but if it makes you feel better, go ahead and put one in.

    5: Leaving stuff: don’t leave anything you can’t stand to lose at the hotel/hostel unless you’re sure it’s secure. In other words, take your digital camera and ipod with you when you go out for the day.

    6: You’ll get scammed: it’s ok. You lose a few dollars. Chalk it up to experience, now you have a story for your friends back home.

    7: Pack Light: If you really need something, you’ll be able to get it where you’re going. My longest lasting pair of underwear I bought at a street vendor in India for $2. Plus trying to locate ordinary stuff in other cities is a fun thing to do and a break from the tourist trap.

    Happy Travels.

  74. Confuzius says:

    1. Be 6’3″ Tall and 220lbs
    2. Act no different than you do at home.

  75. TWSS says:

    If at all possible, NEVER use ATMs in unsecured public places. It’s too easy for someone to distract you, pull a bait-and-switch, and grab your money, your card, or both. Plan ahead, and only use ATMs in bank lobbies.

  76. LightLeigh says:

    @QuiteSpunky: “Pack Light: If you really need something, you’ll be able to get it where you’re going. My longest lasting pair of underwear I bought at a street vendor in India for $2. Plus trying to locate ordinary stuff in other cities is a fun thing to do and a break from the tourist trap.”

    One of my favorite humor books “Bad Girl’s Guide to the Open Road” suggests leaving on a trip with just the clothes on your back. Stop and buy new ones at thrift stores along the way, and discard the dirties in interesting locations. Saves hauling luggage and doing laundry!

  77. Orv says:

    @TheRealAbsurdist: I dunno, I’m finding these stories pretty eyebrow-raising. I’ve been to Detroit and Chicago and no one ever tried to rob me, but it sounds like you can’t set foot in Europe without being a target.