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It’s a traveler’s worst nightmare – being stuck abroad without access to your hard earned funds. And whether the airline lost your bags, the machine ate your card, or someone stole your cash, you really don’t want to have to throw yourself at the mercy of strangers to find a place to sleep, or break into an international bank!

It’s always good to have a Plan B and prepare for the worst case scenarios before you leave home, though if you can keep your money safe while abroad to start with, your trip will undoubtedly go much smoother for you.

Utilizing the following tips will mean you’ll never have to use that Plan B to save yourself from a worst case scenario. These are my top tips for keeping money safe while traveling abroad.

Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket

When traveling, it’s always a better idea to keep your wallet in your front pocket, as this eliminates the chance of being targeted by pickpockets.

Photo CC

Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket. Photo CC Laura Mason

Pick pocketing is incredibly common overseas, especially in some parts of Europe, and this is easily the number #1 crime against travelers. Though who knows, some people may enjoy having their back pocket checked out by a stray hand!

Also note that many pickpockets will congregate around signs which warn tourists to be careful of theft. When reading these signs, most people will subliminally touch the part of their body which holds their wallet to make sure it is still there, letting anyone watching know exactly where their money is.

Ditch the money belt.

Leaving aside the fact that wearing a money belt is a major violation of universal fashion laws, wearing one screams to the world that you are a tourist, and this attracts pickpockets.

Use a handbag or a wallet just as you would if you were at home, and blend in more as a local.

Keep a list of emergency bank phone numbers

In the instance that your credit or debit cards do become misplaced, eaten or stolen, you will need to call your bank straight away to cancel your cards and order a replacement.

Carry a list of phone numbers including international dialing codes with you just in case, and make sure you have traveled with emergency, backup credit cards so you’re never stuck without funds.

Never leave your bag unattended

This is timely advice, not just limited to airport security.  And what sounds like straight forward advice is actually the leading cause of most travel woes!

When, for instance, do you ever think twice about leaving your bag on the beach? Or at your feet during a lunch with views of the Eiffel Tower?

Leaving your bag unattended, even if it’s just at your feet over a casual lunch, is making a pickpocket’s job easy. If it’s loose, it’s a target for theft.

Though it’s not just pick pockets who may take an interest in an unattended bag!

Secure your bag by looping a strap around either your arm, leg or chair leg. If you’re sleeping in public, on a train or at an airport, be sure to do the same. Loop an arm through one of your bag straps while you sleep.

Fasten your bag to the seat, luggage rack, or yourself. I will always have at least one part of my body connected to my bag if I’m enjoying a public nap.

Split Your Cash

When traveling, divide your cash and credit cards and store these in different places. Split everything up into various pockets across different bags, and only carry your main credit cards and 1-2 days worth of cash with you in your wallet.

If something gets misplaced, lost or stolen, you then have emergency funds and haven’t lost your whole stash of cash.

Don’t give to beggars

In general, it’s a very bad idea when traveling to give money to people on the street.

Leaving aside the fact that you have to pull out your wallet in public, this is encouraging begging, and once you give to one, you’ll be followed and harassed by others the entire way home.

Don't give to beggars.

Don’t give to beggars. Photo CC Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Read: Please Stop Giving Pens to Children in India

Ifyou want to do good while traveling you should look into volunteer work in the destination or donate some money to a local charity.

Don’t flash your cash

Under no circumstances should you change money in the street or pull out large wads of cash in public. This is a great way to get pick pocketed or ripped off – and when it comes to changing money, this is especially true if you’re unfamiliar with the local currency.

Always make sure you exchange foreign currency with a recognised trader, such as a bank or exchange bureau. Avoid exchanging money at the airport as these are hardly ever competitive rates.

Organize the cash in your wallet monopoly style before you leave for the day, with like dominations together so you’re not flashing a wad of cash when looking for the correct change.

Meg Jerrard is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

Featured Photo CC 401(K) 2012 via Flickr and Kevin Harber

    18 Comments

  1. Great tips! I need to add the emergency numbers to my list. However, I do still wear a money belt when I’m in transit from city to city. More for my passport though, than my money. I refer to it as my ‘money belt baby!’

    • Lol love the “money belt baby” – I have a very similar thing which goes under my clothes and hangs from my neck which is also for my passport, and keeps one or two credit cards in it. It was brilliant for the first few years of my travel but Ive begun leaning towards a normal purse now 🙂

      I have a fond attachment to mine because it’s been with me on so many journeys!

  2. Awesome post! I like to keep my wallet in my pocket and whenever I walk into a crowded area, my hand goes straight into my pocket to protect my wallet.

    I think the most important thing is to try and be aware of your surroundings at all times, and not let anything distract you. Because sometimes I hear that pickpockets work in pairs: one distracts you while the other takes your wallet.

    • Thanks Si! Definitely agree with staying aware of your surroundings – I’ve always held to that using common sense and just making yourself aware of everything around you are the two main things for staying safe overseas.

      Great tip about not letting anything distract you – we’re more vulnerable to this when we travel for sure!

  3. Great tips! We also have a “decoy” wallet that still has our transportation pass, an expired credit card or two and money for the day. Then the rest is deeper in our bag (I use PacSafe).

    All travelers really need to think about using their common sense. It will go a long way!

    http://www.awanderlustforlife.com

    • Decoy wallet is such a great idea! I may just start using that tactic myself 🙂

      100% agree with you – I’ve long maintained that common sense is the main thing which will keep you safe abroad. Thanks Jessica!

  4. Must read for each traveler post! Great tips. I am always super careful when abroad but anything can happen, so do try keep things apart and never leave my bag unattended! That is the worst you can actually do – its like invitation for the theft!

    • Thanks Monika! So glad you enjoyed the post.

      Leaving a bag unattended really is an open invitation for theft – and it’s a straightforward tip but it’s so crazy how many people just don’t think about it!

      Wishing you a wonderful weekend – thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Meg,

    Agreed 100% on all of these. Don’t give to beggars. You enable or better yet program beggars to beg, and you’ll be hounded non stop. I learned that lesson early on; beggars will do something else if people don’t give them money. Give to organizations that empower these folks and don’t see them as powerless, helpless people.

    I’d add to buy products from street kids. Example; we learned in Cambodia’s capital that virtually all of the 4 and 5 year old kids who sell stuff by the river are working for the mafia/thugs. Buying their goods – even if you feel guilted into it – only supports the activity, and inspires 4 and 5 year olds to live a tough life, selling, when they should be in a class room for a bright, empowered future.

    Keep money split up. Doing so helps you call upon your cash reserve while your new ATM card is shipped to you from across the world. Yep; it’s happened to use twice. Once in Bali, once in Chiang Mai. We had hungry ATMs eat our cards.

    Thanks Meg.

    Ryan

    • Thanks Ryan – so glad you agree with the points above! Hadn’t heard of buying products from street kids, though have duly noted this for when we do eventually manage to get to Asia. So sad that there are groups who exploit young children like that!!

      I’ve also had a hungry ATM eat a credit card whilst overseas before – luckily I had a few emergency cards as a back up and then just got mine replaced when I returned home.It’s never fun though!!

      Thank for your great insight!

  6. All great tips! The details definitely matter when it comes to making sure your things are together! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Mary! Glad you found the post useful!

  7. These are great tips! When travelling always keep in mind on how to take care of your important things.

    • Thanks Maria – and absolutely – there is nothing more important than taking steps to ensure personal safety for both yourself and your belongings.

      Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  8. I have been a glob trotter the majority of my life. I ‘m happy to say, I have been able to keep myself and my money safe, that is until I went to Barcelona last year and had my wallet and passport stolen. When I got back, I invested in an anti-theft purse.

    • Yikes that’s scary! Hows the anti theft purse been working out for you?

    • It’s pretty good and stylish enough that I can wear it without it being obvious it’s anti-theft. Of course, now that I have it, I’ll never be a victim of crime again. Thanks for asking.

    • Glad to hear it! Awesome that it blends in and has the bonus of protecting you 🙂 Safe travels!

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