Tips for Dealing with Travel Theft

What do you do if your bag gets stolen or lost while you are traveling? How do you avoid being stranded somewhere without any money or any of your luggage? Here are a few strategies we use to make sure we have money when we need it, even in the event of loss or theft.

Keep a Copy of Everything

Photocopy all of your credit cards, your ID, your passport, etc. before you leave. Leave one copy of this information with a trustworthy friend or family member at home. Upload a second copy to secure storage online. This way in the event anything is lost or stolen you will have the information you need to notify your bank, embassy, etc.

Spread out the Risk

I keep one card that has access to cash in every bag I travel with. I keep my primary debit card in my wallet, but hide another in the lining of my clothes bag, another in the bottom of my climbing gear bag and another in a pocket in my purse. This means that even if everything else gets stolen or lost, as long as I have any single bag with me, I will have access to cash. The backup information I have given to my friends and stored online will be easy to access for canceling whatever got stolen.

But what if they take everything? I always have a few large denominations of local currency on my person. A lot of people carry money belts for this reason. Please, please don’t carry a money belt. They are silly, uncomfortable and unnecessary though wildly entertaining for locals to watch as you stick your hands down your pants to retrieve payment for the delicious meal you just ate.

Ladies can keep a few bills in their bras; guys can slip a few bills into a change pocket, a sock or a shoe. You don’t need a lot, just enough to get a room for the night, make a few calls and get online. Remember we’re talking about a worst case scenario.

Finally, I’m always sure to have a modest sum of global currency (about 200 Euros or US Dollars) in my wallet. This can be used at rare times when an ATM isn’t working or for whatever reason it is more convenient.

Connect to Your Cash

Many people still recommend traveler’s checks, but they are dinosaurs in today’s connected world. Why pay fees to convert your money to traveler’s checks and fees to redeem them when you can head to the ATM?

Keep in mind that access to money is pretty simple even in the countryside of Nepal. In more remote areas you will need to plan ahead a bit, but with today’s level of connectivity you don’t need a lot of backup money on you. You only need enough to stay warm and dry while you get online and get things taken care of.

Also, don’t sweat it too much. We have this whole elaborate system for dealing with loss or theft but have never had anything lost or stolen. If you have a good system in place you will be able to stop worrying about these worst case scenarios and get on to enjoying your adventure.

The best rule of thumb is that a little diligence and a lot of respect will keep you and your money safe wherever you are!

Do you have any tips to share with other travelers? Please leave them in the comments.

2 Responses to “Tips for Dealing with Travel Theft”

  1. Chloe said:

    I like to carry quite a bit of cash with me to last a few weeks (which limits ATM use and associated fees that go with it), but on my last trip to Indonesia I had a little mishap with my cards.

    I’ve learned to check the ATM in a new country ASAP, so that if your cards are frozen you can deal with the situation before running out of cash. I have bank accounts in 2 countries, and even though I notified both of my travels, all of my cards were frozen in Indonesia. I had to do a cash advance on credit, which was not ideal. Fancier hotels can also do a cash advance on credit, but at a cost.

    February 24th, 2013 at 9:27 pm

  2. Briana said:

    Excellent point, Chloe! You always want to make sure you have notified your credit card and ATM card companies that you are traveling so that they don’t freeze your accounts when you need cash. Note also that some have a maximum travel notice period so if you are traveling for a long time you may need to “re-notify” them every few months.

    February 24th, 2013 at 9:36 pm

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