Thursday 16 October 2014

Travel Tips 4: Theft Prevention

One of the greatest inconveniences when you travel is losing your money or personal documents such as credit cards, handphones or even your passport (*gasp*)! You'd have to call the credit card company/telco/embassy to inform them of the loss and/or report it at the local police station. This could put a huge damper on your spirits and cause significant delay to your itinerary.

Thus, it is of vital importance that you learn how to protect your personal belongings especially when you're in a foreign country.

Strolling along Oxford Street in London, UK

SEVEN Tips to Be Street Smart in a Foreign Country

1) Research
Do your research on the types of crimes in the country that you are visiting. This webpage nicely lists 40 common tourist scams and their locations in an infographic; make sure that you're familiar with them! I found the "friendship band" scam to be true. We were almost stopped by a black guy in Italy selling friendship bands but luckily we were fast enough to dodge him!

Ask questions, read blogs, find out from others about their experiences and share your experiences with others.

From our experiences, here's generally what to look out for:

A) Counterfeit Money
Counterfeit money exists everywhere but is probably, hands down, the most common in China.

Check your bills after you have received your change (the seller does the same so don't worry that he might feel insulted). I've gotten a lot of counterfeit coins in the course of our many trips to Shenzhen (I usually don't bother to check coins since they're worth so little)!

In addition, try not to exchange your small notes, especially big amounts of it, for a bigger note from a random stranger claiming that they need small change. Sometimes they will give you a fake note in exchange for your real ones!

B) Outrage of Modesty
Ladies, take extra care of yourself and your daughter/s when you're in crowded places like trains or buses. I had an incident on the MTR in Hong Kong once and let's just say that it wasn't pleasant =(
Our tour guide in Hokkaido also says that while pickpocketing is really uncommon in Japan, outrage of modesty is!

If your husband or boyfriend is with you, stick close to him and get him to watch out for you. And if you can, don't let the culprit get away with it!

C) Pickpockets
Watch out for pickpockets, especially in crowded trains and buses. This is most common in places like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and China.

The hubby's handphone got pickpocketed out of his backpack once on our maiden trip to Shenzhen, when we were still newbie travellers (this was maybe his 2nd or 3rd flight overseas?). He had to call his mum in Singapore to cancel the phone line and everything.

Don't keep your valuables in your backpack or fiddle with them as you are walking down the streets (here're 13 ways to prevent pickpockets). You'll also need to..

2) Buy an Anti-Theft Bag

Black Pacsafe Anti-Theft Sling Bag

This anti-theft bag is not cheap but it's made of good quality material that is not easily cut with a knife. The strap of the bag is made of strong nylon which according to the tag, cannot be cut with an ordinary knife or scissors. There's also a hook to clasp your zips so that they are "locked" at the corner and cannot be unzipped. We initially bought it because I thought that I would be visiting Paris, a city well-known for pickpockets (but we ended up just staying in London). They have a backpack too but we thought a sling bag would suffice.

3) Disguise Your Moneybag

My pouch that I've been using on all of my trips since 2008
(Don't worry, I won't be using this any more as the zip is spoilt, as you can see..)

We put thousands of dollars in seemingly ugly pouches that no one would even suspect that it is where we keep our money. Sometimes sellers would have a look on their face like "does this girl even have money?" when they observe me digging into the pouch for payment.

Even if a pickpocket wanted to steal your wallet, he wouldn't recognise it. Store your money in your shoe if you need to! *laughs*

4) Don't Put All Your Money into One Moneybag

My pouch on the left, hubby's pouch on the right

The hubby and I never store our money in the same place. We have different pouches; some of our money are in our pouches, some of it are in the hotel room safe and some are in our Common Fund (a fund consisting of contributions from everyone in the family, which is used to pay for common commodities such as food and transport).

In the event one of the pouches is stolen, we will not be left completely broke =)

5) Don't Wear Expensive Accessories

Our family in Penang

I suppose this is common sense; if you're decked out in gold or Hermes, you're asking for trouble. Unless you have a bodyguard who would follow you everywhere you go, it's better not to wear anything valuable.

It also helps with the bargaining if you don't look like a rich person. If you look like you can afford it, they're not going to lower the price.

However, this does not give you the license to neglect your appearance. There are shops in countries like Hong Kong that wouldn't serve you if you look less than appealing. You can still look good with cheap accessories =)

6) Photos of Identification

Photo of my girl's birth certificate

As mentioned previously, you may want to bring a photocopy or photo of your identification with you. It could be a photocopy or photo of your children's birth certificates (to prove that you are the parent), your identity card and/or your passports, A friend of mine even uploads the photos to Dropbox and emails a copy to herself, just in case she loses her handphone or camera as well.

7) Follow Your Instincts & Use Common Sense
Lastly, follow your instincts! Don't go out alone at night (for certain countries, don't go out at night period!), don't walk along dimly lit streets and do not be overly friendly with strangers.

Remember to back up the photos in your handphone; I even upload all the photos taken during the trip into my laptop (which we sometimes bring along so that I can blog on the go) just in case I lose my handphone or the camera. Insurance can get me back my possessions but not the photos and all the memories inside!

And if all else fails, there's always insurance so don't, I repeat, don't forget to buy insurance! This is money that cannot be saved, especially if you're travelling with kids.


We followed the above tips and by the grace of God, haven't had another incident of loss possessions since the hubby lost his handphone! *cross fingers that it never happens again*

What are your tips?

Continue to >> Travel Tips 5: Entertainment for Kids 
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This post is part of my series on Travel Tips for the Wanderlust Parent.
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Head on over to My Travel Page for a whole list of our travel itineraries!
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