Travellers who are careless about their valuables are most annoying because theft casts such a negative aura. If a tourist walks around with his camera strung loosely over his shoulder he shouldn’t be surprised if it’s snatched. If he keeps money in a back pocket or fanny belt he should be prepared to lose it. If she drops her purse on a nearby chair in a restaurant or leaves her baggage unattended in a bus station, if only for a moment or two, it could well disappear.
My husband had his day pack slashed and the contents taken when he was mobbed crossing a street. My daughter’s wallet was taken on a crowded bus when she took her hands off her bag to hang onto the rail on the bumpy road.
Theft can happen to anyone but it is worth taking the extra effort to secure your valuables for it can be a major hassle if your passport and other valuables have to be replaced.
Carry a photocopy of your passport, birth certificate, and plane ticket in a separate location from the originals and with someone back home. Put your valuables in the hotel safe; if the safe is a shared one, put them in an envelope and write your name across the seal so that it’s obvious if it is opened.
Use a money belt that you wear UNDER your pants. A loose shirt will help to hide the bulge. Carry only the small amount of cash you will need that day in an easily accessible place. Keep your camera out of sight unless in use. Never leave your luggage unattended and be sure it is securely stashed in the luggage compartment before getting on a bus. Never let anyone “help you” at a bank machine and guard your pin number. Carry your knapsack in front of you in crowded places.
When I was in Cusco, Peru it had a bad reputation for pickpockets and snatch thieves. However, the foreign tourists I saw were travelling smart, keeping their valuables in a money belt. I didn’t hear of one incidence of theft.
Be wise to scams. We were in Quito waiting for our bus to depart when a man we thought was the driver came down the aisle and collected the fare. A few moments later the real driver came aboard and we had to pay for the trip twice. Now bus travel in South America is very inexpensive but we should have been more alert.
I’ve been rethinking the value of travellers’ cheques—like I should carry some all the time. My debit card was recently compromised and 14 fraudulent transactions completed before I was aware of it. Funds are not replaced overnight! Most banks don’t send replacement debit cards out of country and it can take a while to get a replacement credit card if you’re in a remote location. So the old days of travellers’ cheques may be with us again.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2010