My brother in-law travels often and every now and then will be sharing his experiences good and bad. In this article, I'll be sharing his personal security tips while traveling abroad. He has given his blessings for me to copy his tips and share his article out, I'm only touching up a wee bit of typo and using freestock pictures, otherwise I'm crediting this article to his name.
Let's read and learn together, shall we?
Take just enough cash for the day spending
In Spain, we pre-researched that we might need EUR30 per day per person for lunch, refreshment, dinner, shopping & admission fees. So I took 3 notes of 10 EUR, and separated them into 2-3 pockets (pants, shirt) and only 1 credit card. No wallet, No handbag, No carrybag, No belt punch. I only have a compact knapsack to store water, snacks, a woollen jumper, mobile phone, and medicine. The rest of the holiday cash and passports are in the hotel room safe or hotel main safety box.
Watch for people watching you – scan your surroundings
Generally, in developed countries, the locals do not have a habit of staring or looking at you, it is impolite – even if you are dressed outrageously. Whenever we are descending into a train station or bus station, we scan the surroundings – to see who is looking at us.
In Barcelona (we pre-learned) how to recognise professional pick pockets – they are usually the ones looking at other people and their belongings; they don’t seemed to be waiting for trains or looking at the train notice board, and they ain’t reading anything – not even their mobile phone (this is a dead give-away). We saw a few – and we avoided them. In Barcelona, a pickpocket if caught is not charged unless you can prove that they stole more than EUR 300.
What if the hotel is budget type and storing in room doesn’t feel safe
We put all cash, cards and passports into a thick envelop, close it, doing these inside our room before going down to the counter. And at the counter, we store it into the hotel counter safety box - each box usually have a dual-key system. We do not give our things to the person on the counter to keep it into the box – we do it together in our presence.
What if the hotel is so budget that even the room safety box or counter safety box looks iffy
First, not worth to stay in such a hotel. Secondly, paying slightly more is for some measure of security. But in the event you don’t have choices, and you must take your valuables out with you on your body, make sure the (example of) 30 EUR (3 notes in 3 pockets); the rest, tightly packed into the deepest section of your knapsack firmly against your body.
Knapsack, Knapsack, Knapsack – just 1
Knapsack, Knapsack, Knapsack – and hug it in your front
Buy a very inconspicous uncomplicated boring but firm knapsack, with 2-3 deep sections preferably with inner zip. And always all the time, especially in crowded areas, specifically: airports, train stations, taxi & bus stations, lifts, elevators, street markets, inside trains & buses – HUG your knapsack in the FRONT of your body.
Honeymooning couples are usually bodily glued to each other everywhere they go, with knapsacks behind them, and bags all over the place – they are a thief and pickpocket heaven on earth. We do not carry more than 1 bag per body (maybe, max max 2 – 1 roller suitecase, 1 knapsack – for long holidays.)
If you’re carrying a knapsack, handbag, iPad, shopping bags, camera bag, waist pouch, pants wallet – you stand out like a "Come-Rob-Me-Please" beacon begging them. Robbing just you would help meet the thieves’ daily quota, or even weekly.
Do NOT count on numbers
Just because you are surrounded by family members, friends, colleagues, male members of the travelling entourage – Number is NOT safety. Do not count on others to watch your valuables. In 2 separate incidences, a male colleague was in the check-out queue of a 5 star hotel with other male colleagues, and the cctv later picked up a well-suit bespectabled bearded man casually walked up along him and lifted his notebook bag – with all the whole week site reports in there (!). A neighbour lost her notebook in a spanking new airport which she had transited so many times, this time surrounded by her family members.
Number is not safety.
It is like a stalking tiger deciding which gazelle it wants to pounce upon out of the many grazing gazelles mistaking security in numbers.
Jewelleries, Handbags, Wallets, Watches, Necklaces
Whenever I’m the group leader, I conditioned that all members must leave all burdensome & valuables things at home – we don’t need them to impress people or travelling companions to the places we’re heading. Specifically : branded handbags (or all handbags in general), all jewelleries (from every bodyparts except those already nailed onto the body) with exception of one’s wedding ring (of which the wife would be very unhappy not to see it on her husband’s finger) – on the otherhand, tai tai should abandon their 36 carats diamond ring at home – and no need to bring along to impress. You'll always end up paying more to the very people you’re trying to impress.
Try driving a Mercedes to the durian seller – you’ll be charged more. And men, expensive watches – leave it at home. Needless to say, necklace is so easy to grab. I once was waiting at a traffic light, on a bright sunny day, I saw something shiny flew across my windscreen ... it's so surreal like slow-mo movie... it fell on the road kerb, the owner a toughie ganster looking type picked up his thick gleaming gold chain ..and started to chase the 2 motorcycled snatch thieves.
Things You Can Leave at Home
Driving licence (unless you will be renting a car) and National Identity Card. Your passport** and visa are the only document you’ll need – for entry at Customs, hotel, car rental, etc. Pants wallet especially those bulging with cards and cash makes pick pocketers glee with joy and praising their patron god. So, I seldom use or keep valuables in a pant-wallet.
**before the trip, we photocopy all our passports, and credit cards .. and leave the photocopy inside our hotel safe in case anyone loses their passport or card - and we hv this copy to refer or make report.
Remember, when travelling in groups – especially if everyone are close friends or family members : if one member exposed themselves to be robbed and pickpocketed, or lose their travelling document or money – it clouds the entire holiday mood for everyone (remember my own Brussels-London trip?) So, in taking precautions and freeing ourselves from being robbed – we are actually preserving the happy mood of travelling together.
Go light, go easy, go safe.