Safe Travel- 10 Tips for Increasing Your Security While Backpacking

travel scams
Unfortunately you can run into problems while backpacking. Do not get paranoid – it will ruin your trip, but do have a healthy respect for things that can happen. Certain places are higher risk and warrant extra attention such as around ATMs, money changers, bus and train stations, crowded streets and markets. Adapt to the country you visit, some countries are high risk and other are low risk.

Check your guidebook and with the locals to see what the scam of the day is and which areas are best avoided (varies during day and night).

If you carry around a hand bag in high risk environments (e.g. markets) keep the bag in front of you and keep one hand on top of the zipper. Do not let it hang on your back.

Spread your money into several places (e.g. your daypack, backpack, wallet and money belt) so that you do not lose all at the same time. Hide some emergency cash under the sole of your shoe, in your sock or elsewhere.

Do not keep valuables easily accessible in your day pack and then hang it on your back. Bag slashers use razors to cut your bag and steal your valuables without you noticing. You will not feel it. Put something of little value in the outer compartment so that they get hold of that if they get hold of anything.

Be careful with your valuables and important documents (passport, tickets, and traveler´s cheques), use a money belt or leg pouch. You can get belts with secret pockets on the inside where you can store cash or you can get a separate pocket for money which you can put on the inside of your pants. The idea behind a money belt is to keep it on you – not in the daypack which you carry on your back. If it is too sweaty you may be better off leaving the valuables in your hotel than carrying them in your backpack.

If you walk with your backpack and have to stop, move a little from side to side so that it will be more difficult for anyone to get to your bag without you noticing.

Staff in supermarkets and stores may try to short change you i.e. they give you back less change than you are supposed to get and will play all innocent when you point this out. Count it to make sure you get all the money you are supposed to get.

Avoid flashing expensive jewellery, money and watches around.

Do not give money to beggars. If you want to help give to charity instead. If you still want to give money do not flash your big wallet. Instead keep some small change in your pocket to hand over.

Use small locks to lock your backpack and daypack. Combination locks are easier to handle than key locks since you do not have to bother with the keys. A disadvantage with combination locks is that they can get worn out rather quickly and suddenly they will stop working, usually when your backpack is tied to something and you are in a hurry to catch a bus :) Once the locks start giving you trouble throw them away and get new ones. If you find yourself with the combination lock not responding, dial it to your set combination and try changing the first digit one step up and one step down (e.g. your combination is 1234, change it to 0234 and 2234), if that does not work do the same with the next digit (i.e. 1134, then 1334) until you have tried them all.

Keep the lock on your daypack when you go on day tours. If you have to leave the bags behind e.g. in order to do snorkelling or to go deep into a grotto this prevents curious hands from going through your bags while you are busy elsewhere.

Personal Experience – The Hoi An Hang-up

When I was in Hoi An in Vietnam I had locked my backpack to the bed with a combination lock. When it was time to leave the lock would not unlock no matter how much I tried. Finally we had to use a hammer to smash the lock. It took quite a surprising lot of beating before it gave in. Buying quality sometimes has its drawbacks :)

Happy travels!