In light of the horrifying hostel theft that happened to my dormmate on the first day I started backpacking, I put together the following of ways that you can feel more secure while backpacking. If you have any other advice that you feel should be added to this list, please let me know!
Tips for Staying Safe While Backpacking
Do your research beforehand. Read hostel reviews on sites such as HostelWorld or TravelFish. Know the common scams of the places you’re going to. Know how much money in a different country is worth, and get the general idea of prices for things such as tuk-tuk rides so that you don’t get overcharged.
Check your valuables often. Once a day, at least. I always glance over the contents of my locker after coming back to the room at the end of the day. I don’t care if it looks foolish: if something terrible does happen to you, the sooner you find out about it, the better your chances of figuring out what happened.
Divide your money. I don’t like to carry large amounts of money on me, but in places where bag-snatching isn’t a known problem, I might carry more on me. I put other parts of my money in various nondescript bags in my locker. Spreading my money out a bit helps me make sure that I’m stuck in a complete cash-less emergency.
Carry your money in a mixture of cash, cards, and traveler’s cheques. Similar to above, this helps ensure that you won’t ever be stuck without cash. Traveler’s cheques are more of a pain in the butt to cash in, but you can sign them before you start on your journey, and then they’ll be worthless to potential thieves.
Buy a secure combination lock. The little golden ones with the tiny keys that can be found on practically every street corner feel like they could be opened with a duplicate, master key, or hairpin. For your peace of mind, spend a little more on a lock that’s sturdier.
On the road, don’t put valuables in your stowed luggage. You will be separated from your main backpack on bus or plane rides. Don’t put anything you’re not willing to lose there. Many of the cheap backpacker buses that run from Khao San Road in Bangkok are known for being run by thieves who spend hours on long bus rides combing through your bags. It’s okay if they touch your underwear (I guess); touch your valuables, however, and you can kiss them bye-bye.
To money belt or not to money belt? Some people swear by it; others have never used one. Decide at your discretion. I’ve used one on some trips. The upsides: You feel most in control of the whereabouts of your valuables. The downsides: they’re uncomfortable, they collect sweat and stink, they’re ugly, and they’re one neon color away from making you feel like you’re wearing a fanny pack.
Traveling is an amazing experience, but help avoid it turning into a nightmare by keeping a good head on your shoulders and practicing vigilance. How do you keep your belongings safe while traveling?