Where do you put all that dough you’ll be carrying when traveling? It’s not something many or us are used to since cash is so scarce these days. Since you’ll be carrying quite a bit of money and important papers with you when you travel, it is important to put them somewhere safe.
We have a few tips for hiding money that you might find useful. We have felt very safe during our travels and have been very fortunate to not have had anything stolen in over a year away, but we still try to be very careful wherever we are. Wait, I take that back – we did have some food disappear from the ‘fridge in a hostel a few times… Maybe we are a bit paranoid, but that’s a good thing while traveling.
Here are Our Tips for Hiding Money Safely When Traveling
The simplest and most obvious advice is to split up your money and valuables into at least 2-3 different places per person, and don’t keep it all in the same bag. If something gets stolen it’ll be sad, but you won’t lose everything!
The Popular Money Belt: A good idea that works well, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Some types wrap around your waist and clip, some hook onto your belt and hang below in your pants, some strap around the calf of your leg, and some even are a zipper on the inside of an actual belt – imagine that!
We see people wear a little pouch around their neck under their shirt. That isn’t hidden and is too accessible for my liking. Some people even wear it like a necklace on the outside of their clothes – I try to be nice to them, but it just screams TOURIST! Everyone knows about money belts, so if someone tries to rob you with a weapon don’t try to convince him you don’t know what a money belt is. He knows you have one – just give it up. Yes, he knows about the cool belts with zippers on them too… Money belts are just meant to keep people with sticky fingers from finding your money and passport in your pockets.
Tips for Hiding Money – Secret Stashes
Here are some more hiding places where thieves may not think to look. If you happen to be robbed they may find some things, but at least they won’t get everything.
1. Roll some bills up and stuff them into an empty chapstick tube or lipstick tube.
2. Put a few folded bills in a chewing gum package.
3. Put some money in a book or with some folded up papers.
4. Hide money in obvious places with inexpensive things like in your extra bag of clothes (dirty clothes, preferably), but make sure it won’t just fall out if someone just empties your bag out.
5. Stash some in your shoe or sock.
6. Girls have a quick bra pocket available, but be careful because everybody knows about that hiding place too. Some keen people sew a pouch into their underwear – this gets awesome points!
7. The pringle tube-safe or soda can-safe work well if you are staying somewhere for awhile. It sounds cheesy, but if it fits in robbers will likely pass it up when rummaging through a house or room quickly.
Never put anything valuable in your back pocket or on an outside pocket of our backpack.
You can get creative with putting larger things in empty cereal boxes, etc. When you’re in a hotel room or dorm, be sure to keep your valuables in a locker with a padlock or key. We’ve never met anyone who we thought would steal from us, but it is better safe than sorry. Be especially cautious when in bus terminals or on buses because you will have everything valuable on you, not locked up somewhere safe. There are so ways to get creative hiding money, sometimes we have to write down where all our stashes are because it is easy to forget where we put something after a few weeks!
A Few Stories to Keep You on Your Guard
It is easy for us to get lazy after traveling for a few weeks and let our guard down. It is hard to realize sometimes because you get accustomed to feeling safe and start to trust people more than you should. We often hear stories of others’ mistakes, and that helps us stay alert. Here are a few common thief tactics to help you to know what to watch out for.
The Distraction Trick:
A few people start arguing and pushing in a crowded area and everyone turns and looks. You may get jostled a bit, or you may be to engrossed in the scene to notice. Soon it calms down and everything is back to normal. You go on your way to pay for your bus ticket and realize your wallet is gone. — Be wary of any unusual activity and never take your attention off your bags or your pockets, even if it is to help someone else.
The Quick Snatch Trick:
You are eating at a restaurant and set your bag down on the seat next to you. You keep your hand on it at first, but then your burger gets a little messy and requires 2 hands to manage it. You finish your meal and realize someone made off with your bag. — Never let go of your bag or it may be the last time you see it. It is a good idea to keep it on your lap, sit on the straps, or put your leg through the strap if it is under your seat.
The Bump-n-Grab Trick:
Someone accidentally bumps into you in a crowded area, but you don’t think twice about it since it is so busy. You stop in at McD to buy some familiar food and check your email and realize your money and iPhone is gone. — Always keep your pockets covered if you are in tight areas and always notice if someone bumps into your pocket accidentally.
The Piñata-Slash Trick:
Someone comes up from behind you and slashes open your backpack or purse with a knife and everything falls out like a piñata that just lost the battle at a 6 year-old birthday party. He and his friends grab whatever looks good and disappear in the frantic commotion. An alternative is just cutting the strap(s) to your bag and taking the whole thing. — Not much you can do to prevent a slash, but you can keep your valuables inside smaller bags so nothing obvious like a camera or laptop falls to the ground. For the strap-cutters, there are special travel bags that have a metal cable in all the straps and metal mesh around the entire bag so they won’t be able to cut through it if they try.
The Mustard Trick:
Somebody squirts ketchup or mustard on you “accidentally” and then tries to help you clean it off with one of their friends. You quickly take your backpack off and are so focused on getting this mess off your shirt that you don’t notice when the friend makes off with your bag. Don’t worry about bird poo on your shirt, it’ll wash off – deal with it later, by yourself in your hotel room.
The Fake Policeman Trick:
Someone comes up to you and tries to convince you that they are a plain-clothed policeman and that you need to show him your passport or do a luggage check. You are dubious, but someone else comes up and says that they just had to do the same thing and it’s ok. You grudgingly comply and somehow lose some money, your passport, or belongings through the commotion. — This is common in La Paz, Bolivia, and there are many different ways this can turn out, but never show any valuables or your passport to anybody on the street. Insist on being brought to the police station before letting them search anything. The undercover policeman are under strict orders to not hassle tourists, so stay aware of fake set-ups.
The Shady Taxi Trick:
You get into a random car that has a taxi sign in the window and tell them where to go. 10 minutes later you arrive at a dark alley and proceed to get mugged. This is also common in Bolivia, and the taxi drivers are often paid to take tourists to some muggers. The best plan with a taxi is to ask your hotel to call a “radio taxi” from a reputable company diapatch. These have phone numbers written on the side of the car and sometimes on the top too. Sometimes they have a radio antenna on top of the car. If you can’t call for one, look for a clean looking car with phone numbers on it. When you get into the car, shut the door and open it again to make sure it doesn’t have a trick-latch on it. Also, follow your route on a map or GPS to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
The Bra Grab Trick:
A guy approaches you (if you’re a girl) and reaches into your bra and grabs the money or phone you had stashed in there. He makes a big angry scene and acts as if he is your husband or boyfriend. He stomps away with your valuables, leaving you in shock and wondering what just happened. — This scene could play out many different ways, but the thief relies on the element of surprise and hopes that you are petrified with fear and unable to do anything to stop him. It’s hard to react to a surprise, but stay on your guard if you’re using your bra-pocket, and keep the sharp edges of your phone from poking out.
The Kind Advice Trick:
You’re in a bus and someone points out that there is some water on the bus floor and is seeping into your bag you have by your feet. He casually points to all the other bags in the overhead bin and suggests you put it up there to keep it out of the water. It sounds like a good idea and you put it above you on the shelf. Later when you get off at your stop your bag feels a little light. You discover that your laptop and camera have disappeared. — Be aware of little things that are out of the ordinary and kind advice. You can set your bag on your feet to keep it out of the water and thank the person for their suggestion. We never put anything in the overhead bins of a bus unless it just has a jacket in it and we’re willing to lose it. We are also very cautious about putting our backpacks under the bus. Take all your valuables out, and make sure you get a tag/receipt for your bag, like at the airport. Sit on the right side of the bus and check at every stop to make sure nobody is walking away with your backpack.
The Innocent Girl:
Last piece of advice is to not let your guard down for a girl/lady/woman. They play the same games as guys do for robbing people, and are more successful because people automatically trust a girl more than a guy. Also be aware of couples, and even people who appear as tourists trying to help you out.
You might be pretty scared from those stories, but don’t worry, its just like reading the crazy stories in the newspaper back home. You most likely won’t find yourself in any of the situations mentioned above, but it really helps to be aware of little things that are out-of-the-ordinary so you can be on your guard.
Bottom line is:
Don’t distrust everyone, but be careful you don’t trust unfamiliar friendly people too quickly in out-of-the-ordinary situations. Also, don’t try to be a hero if someone has a weapon. It’ll cost you less to give him your wallet (rather, throw it to the side so he has to leave you to go get it) than pay for a hospital bill, or worse…