After working 3 part-time jobs you finally managed to save up enough money for your backpacking dream trip. But I’m sure no one told you that making money was the easy part…. How to hold on to your money will be your biggest challenge and especially when traveling solo. The practical tips below helped me to keep my cash safe during my travels and also prepared me in case one of my bags got stolen. Fortunately this never happened and I hope these ten simple tips will also help you to travel safe and worry-free!
Lock your bag with a simple clip
I pride myself in having sort of invented this, although I’m sure more people use it. I always lock the zipper of my small cross-over bag with a simple open-close key clip. It’s an extremely simple measure, but it will make it more difficult to quickly unzip your bag and steal your wallet. I especially felt safer in crowded streets, busses etc.
P.s. I hate money belts! I tried them several times, but I find them uncomfortable and bulky. I prefer normal bags. Curious to hear your experiences though.
Keep some small change in your pockets
I also always kept some small change (the equivalent of about 5 USD) in my pocket or in the front compartment of my bag. This way I didn’t need to take out my tempting cash-filled wallet every time I bought a bottle of water.
Have your emergency numbers with you
Have your emergency numbers printed out and keep them in your bags and in your email box.
Take some US dollars with you
USD always come in handy at border crossings or you can simply use them to exchange for local currency (know your currency rates!)
Don’t keep your eggs in one basket
Keep money in separate places. In my case I traveled with a daypack, a small cross-over shoulder bag and a backpack. I had the biggest amount of cash in the shoulder bag (which I carried on me at all times. Sometimes even while sleeping!) and small amounts of cash (like 50 USD) in each of the other bags. I also carried copies of my passport in each bag.
Hide money in a lipstick
Leaving your backpack behind with money in it may feel uncomfortable. Housekeeping and fellow travelers have easy access to it while you’re out exploring. Therefore, hide the money in something unusual such as an empty lipstick or in a small Kleenex tissue pack.
Bring different types of plastic
It depends on the local bank which cards you will be able to use. Make sure to bring different types of plastic such as Maestro, Mastercard and VISA and hide them separately in case one or more of your bags get stolen.
Have enough money in your bank account
Another tip: have enough money in your bank account, but not too much in case the bad guys gets hold of your card (and in some nasty ‘forcing-you-to-withdraw-money’ scam on you). It’s better to transfer money from your savings account to your checking account every few weeks.
Always keep an eye on your luggage
Even during stops of long-distance buses I often checked if there were people opening the luggage compartment. Also, in night trains: have your luggage as close to you as possible. I usually knotted one of the backpack ropes to a rack. It’s not theft proof, but it at least made it a bit more difficult for possible thieves (especially with my excellent knots). A better option would be to use pad locks though.
Don’t dress too richly and flashy. On my backpacking trips I didn’t wear jewelry, a watch or fancy-looking clothes. I also always brought as few things of value as possible. All things of value fitted in my small hand bag, so that was the item I cared about most and protected with my life. The less you carry with you, the less you have to worry about ;). This tip can also be found in this article about safety for adventurous solo backpackers .
I once almost got mugged in India. I was walking though the crowded Mumbai streets when I suddenly felt movement in my small backpack (on my back). It all went really quickly and before I realized I was being mugged, the ‘thieves’ had already disappeared in the crowds. I remember shouting ‘HEY!’ without any effect (of course). Fortunately, they had only unzipped my front compartment which held a plastic bag with anti-motion sickness tablets. Obviously, those were no use and they had dropped the bag on the street, so I ended up losing nothing.
Have you ever been mugged? Do you have any other tips? And do you use a money belt?