“Sumimasen.” (Excuse me)
The Caucasian tourist stuck his hand down the front of his pants. Oblivious to the questioning stares of everyone around him, he fumbled about before pulling out the end of a red string. Like a fisherman reeling in his line, the tourist firmly tugged with utmost concentration. “AH HA!” he cried with triumph, as a small navy money pouch shot out from his nether regions, and landed in his waiting hands.
Just weeks ago in Japan, I witnessed this dramatic scene while queuing up to make payment at a souvenir shop. Like this innovative tourist, many travellers have adopted a variety of ways to keep their money safe while on the road.
Keeping money safe is one of the primary concerns for travellers. Losing your money on the road can transform the dream adventure into an inconvenient nightmarish ordeal. To keep that possibility at bay, here is a list of tips and tricks you can practise to protect your money and valuables while travelling.
1) Inform your bank.
Inform your bank of your intention to travel. This is important as attempts to withdraw cash overseas will otherwise be deemed as suspicious and prevented by the bank to safeguard your money.
2) Keep a copy of card details and bank contact information
Make sure to bring along a copy of your card details and an accompanying list of bank phone numbers. If your credit or debit cards are stolen or lost, you will be able to call your bank to cancel your cards immediately.
3) Clean out your wallet
Before you travel, look through your wallet and remove items that could compromise the security of your identity when lost or stolen. This includes your ID card and extra credit cards. While travelling, just 1 or 2 credit/debit cards should be sufficient.
4) Prepare a dummy wallet
This was a great tip I got from an experienced backpacker I met during one of my travels! Having a wallet with just a few dollars and some unnecessary cards such as membership cards is an added precaution against pickpockets and robbers.
In the event of an armed robbery, you can surrender this wallet knowing that most of your money is still safely hidden. This dummy wallet can also be used to contain small bills for everyday transactions. It also stops you from flashing your cash when making payment. Remember, to avoid drawing attention from thieves, it is important to always be discreet with your money in public.
On the Road
5) Keep Your Money on You
Make sure that your money is kept physically close to you as much as possible.
For most travellers, the money belt is a popular item used to carry one’s money. When I solo travelled for the first time, I chose to carry a money belt around my torso under multiple layers of clothing.
Do note that a money belt is not a substitute for a wallet. Think of it as a safety deposit that should be kept out of sight. Accessing your money belt in public will cause yourself to be marked as an easy target for pickpockets or robbers. If you need to access your money belt for more cash, excuse yourself to a toilet stall or a private and safe area before doing so.
Another popular choice for travellers is an anti-theft backpack. However, I would recommend a more convenient and less bulky alternative of a small cross-body or messenger bag. A cross-body bag can be kept close to your body, effortlessly accessible while moving about, and easier to keep an eye on especially in crowds. In certain tourist locations such as museums and monuments, backpacks may have to be surrendered due to tight security, or concerns that you might bump into and damage artefacts.
When carrying a cross-body bag, sling the strap across your body and keep the bag in front of you at all times. This makes you less of an easy target for criminals.
6) Hiding your money in various locations
When it comes to money, it is crucial to be careful and not put all your eggs in one basket. By hiding your money in multiple places, you still have some money to tide you through if you lose your wallet or face an armed robbery, before seeking help from local authorities.
Some suggested locations include:
- In your sock or in your shoes
- Clothing with hidden interior pockets, or sew them into your clothing on your own
- Female travellers I have met shared how they always stash some cash in their sanitary products (pads, tampons). Some also recommended storing cash in empty and opaque toiletry bottles.
7) Be alert when withdrawing money from an ATM
In the event you need to withdraw some cash, pick an ATM that is located in a brightly lit and non-deserted area. The safest option would be one that is located at a bank or a hotel as they are likely to be surrounded by surveillance cameras.
While using the ATM, stay vigilant. If you notice anyone lurking around or approaching you, cancel your transaction first. This is to reduce the likelihood of them stealing your cash during your ATM withdrawal or scanning your card with skimmers. These are small devices that can capture your card information, allowing thieves to subsequently withdraw cash from your account.
8) Protect your electronic devices
Electronic devices can store important financial information such as bank account and card details, and should be password protected. While travelling, not only should you ensure your laptops, tablets and phones are kept safely, you should delete unrequired applications and avoid unsecured public Wi-Fi connections as these can be utilised by thieves to access your financial information.
Of course, this list of tips is non-exhaustive. The best advice really is to always stay vigilant and alert to your surroundings, and never leave your belongings unattended.
For more hacks to keep your money safe, as well as other travelling tips, stay tuned to Chirpey’s Facebook page, and also connect with female travellers who are ever willing to share their personal experiences!
Written By: Si Yun Gien