Image: Train bound for China
Paula Bronstein  /  Getty Images
The Qinghai-Tibet train heads off on its way from Lhasa towards China. All over the world, petty crime is all too common against travelers. A little bit of common sense and preparation can go a long way toward keeping this from happening to you.
By
updated 2/8/2007 10:24:05 AM ET 2007-02-08T15:24:05

That little girl who came up to you in Rome looked so innocent — until you realized that she was just distracting you while her father picked your pocket! Unfortunately, this type of petty crime is all too common against travelers all over the world. Whether they're fumbling through guidebooks or gawking at new sights, tourists are often unaware of their surroundings — making them easy prey for thieves.

Luckily, a little bit of common sense and preparation can go a long way toward keeping this from happening to you. Read on for tips from us and our members about how to keep your valuables — and yourself — safe on your next trip.

Where to Keep Your Valuables
The most important rule of the road is to make sure you keep your money, credit and debit cards, passport and airline tickets on you at all times. We don't recommend carrying anything valuable in a purse (too easily snatched) or a backpack, which can be opened without your noticing. Even a wallet kept in your front pocket can be taken by an experienced pickpocket.

Instead, we recommend a money pouch that can be concealed under your clothing. Some attach to your belt, while others are worn around the neck, waist or calf. These are particularly important if you're sleeping on a train, standing on a crowded subway or staying in a hotel that is not very secure. Choose one that is comfortable and practical for where you're traveling. You can buy money pouches at Magellan's or other travel stores.

And it's not just pouches — you can find some really creative ways to hide your money. There are key chains, belts, cases, even a portable closet safe disguised as a padded coat hanger! You can get all of these items for under $40.

Try not to carry all of your valuables in the same place. If you're traveling with a companion, make sure each of you has some cash and a credit card on hand in case you're split up or one of you is robbed. If you're alone, keep a backup credit or debit card in a separate pouch from the one you'll be using most often.

While most valuables should be safely hidden away, you may want to keep a small amount of local currency in a separate dummy wallet where it's easily accessible; that way you're not flashing your cash each time you want to make a small purchase, and if it's stolen it won't be a huge loss.

Another good tip is to make two copies of your passport, credit cards, ATM cards, plane tickets and traveler's check serial numbers. Leave one copy at home with someone you can reach in an emergency. Keep the other set with you in a safe place separate from the originals.

Safety at the ATM
Since your ATM card is a direct link to your financial savings, guard it at least as carefully as you would cash or other valuables. Visa offers these tips for ATM safety:

  • Make sure that no one waiting behind you can see you entering your PIN number.
  • Be sure to take your receipt with you. 
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If the machine is poorly lit, or is in a hidden area, use another location.
  • Don't count your cash or rummage through your personal items while standing at the ATM.
  • If you are using an indoor ATM that requires your card to open the door, avoid letting anyone come in with you that you do not know.
  • When using a drive-through ATM, lock your car doors. When walking up, never leave your car running or unlocked.
  • If you lose your ATM card, immediately contact the financial institution that issued it.

More Insider Tips from our Members
"I cannot stress enough how important it is to always have your papers, cards and money as close to your body as possible; there are several different kinds of small items one can purchase in which to place these valuable items so that they are near to you at all times. The only type of thing you should carry in your daypack is your guidebook, maps, snacks and any other item you might need for the day but could live without should it be taken." ~ Host Bonjour

"I always wear a money belt around my waist under my clothes when I travel. I have learned to safety-pin it on also, as I had the clasp fail on one and the belt fall off. Luckily for me, my son spotted it right away and picked it up." ~ sunnyflies

"When on vacation I carry my money and other valuables inside my bra cup. It's the safest way I know — I even do it at home in the local shopping mall. Usually I don't have pockets and don't like dragging a handbag around." ~ linda 617

"My girlfriend and I each use the kind of zippered pouch that hangs inside the pants, from a belt loop, or secured with a safety pin inside the waist seam in her case when she's not wearing a belt. It's easy to yank up and out when needed, and to stuff it back down, no need to go for a private corner somewhere. ... My girlfriend also has a kid's zippered little plastic wallet on a chain for coins and subway tickets, etc. I have a real wallet on a chain but only for minor sums of cash and business cards, etc; my credit cards and airline tix and passport are in the hanging pouch. Works even with shorts in summer." ~ ongmont

Slideshow: Around the World "A friend successfully evaded a mugging by doing the following: He had a few dollars in a throwaway wallet. When approached by a mugger he tossed the wallet, screamed 'Take it, just don't hurt me' and ran in the opposite direction while the mugger concentrated on the wallet." ~ Pickles47

Got your own tip to share? Post it on our boards!

The Independent Traveler is an interactive traveler's exchange and comprehensive online travel guide for a community of travelers who enjoy the fun of planning their own trips and the adventure of independent travel. You can access our wealth of travel resources and great bargains here at
www.independenttraveler.com, or at www.bargainbox.com.

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