It happens, I can’t deny that. People get robbed when they travel. People also get robbed at home so is the occurrence more likely on the road? I don’t think so. I’ve visited 50+ countries over too many years and have suffered two thefts and one attempted theft, that’s not so bad. I’ve asked some of my favourite travel bloggers to contribute their real-life travel theft stories, I hope you enjoy them and can use them in avoiding theft and robbery while travelling. More travel security tips and suggestions are at the end of this post.
Real Life Travel Theft and Robbery Stories
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Our Travel Theft Story. Australia
When we emigrated to Australia we were, unsurprisingly, carrying way too much luggage along with 2 very small boys, their strollers, travel cots and car seats.
We’d maxed out our luggage allowance while the bulk of our possessions travelled slowly to Australia by container ship. Precious items, the ones I would be devastated to lose should the ship sink, I had in my day pack. These included my most precious photos, from our wedding, our travels and the birth of our children, along with jewellery, medical records and heirlooms.
We travelled from Cairns airport to our local hotel by large mini-bus taxi and arrived late at night. Excited to be on the tropical Coral Sea, we ditched our big bags in our securely locked hotel room and took a stroll down to the waterfront just carrying a small bag holding money, cards and passports. It was peaceful, warm and soothing, and it felt so good to be looking out to the reef from a tropical shore after our months of frantic preparation.
The next morning, as I boiled water for coffee and listened to the new, noisier, avian wake-up call, I noticed that my daypack was missing. All those precious, non-valuable items, along with my SLR Camera, gone. The camera was the only thing of value, the rest of the bag was entirely personal. We never saw any of it again, we checked with the police, the hotel, the taxi company and the airport multiple times over coming days, I was devastated. Airport security were adamant it hadn’t happened there, their security and CCTV system wouldn’t allow it. It was either a taxi theft, or somebody with a key took the bag from the hotel room. We’ll never know, but this story is alarmingly similar to this story from a Romanian travel blogger in Cairns.
Explore With Erin. Guatemala
Erin Holmes-Bender, well known family travel celebrity writes:
Jessica, a US based family travel blogger writes:
“It was day six of our ninety day traveling sabbatical around the country. Our plan was to visit several Route 66 sights, starting from St Louis and working my way to the south down the famous highway. Our first stop was the Chain of Rocks Bridge, the first toll bridge on the Mother Road, just off the main highway. It was a grey and drizzly day, so we were understandably the only car in the parking lot. With a break in the rain, it seemed like a good time to grab some pictures of the bridge before we headed to our next stop.
With the baby in the stroller, we set off about 50 yards from the car to grab some pictures of the bridge. I reached into the stroller to grab the video camera and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a car drive up next to my car. In what seemed like movie magic slow motion, I watched in disbelief as a shadowy figure entered my car and began rifling through my front seat.
When it was done, my cellphone and purse were stolen and our car was vandalized where they used a screwdriver to pop the lock, but the remainder of our belongings were left behind because I turned around and began screaming for them to get out of the car. I was also able to take pictures of the car as it sped away, and thankful, though we were shaken, no one was hurt.”
To Travel Too. Ecuador
Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith, our favourite retired travel couple write:
“Saturday morning in Quito Bus Station, the busiest morning of the week. Locals and tourists flock to the local buses that take you to Otavalo Market, Ecuador’s famous indigenous market a 2-hour ride away. The buses leave every 20 minutes and it is total mayhem. There are queues for the tickets; there are queues to get on the bus. When it is your turn to hop on the bus you are pushed and pulled.
Duncan has been asked to put our suitcases in the bus hold, so we are separated and I am told to enter the bus. It turns out eyes are on us from the time we enter the bus station, we are being watched. The local bus attendant guides me to our seats stating ‘company rules day packs must be placed under the seat’. Duncan pushes his way onto the bus and makes his way to where I am seated. He sits down asking where my bag is; I state the company rule again. “No way” he says. I reach down to retrieve my bag and I can’t move it, eventually after a lot of pulling it is released.
Checking in at the hostel we are asked for our passports and credit card. We open the bag and nothing. No passports, all my credit cards gone. That sinking feeling! Learning #1 ignore local bus attendants. Learning #2 don’t place your day pack under the seat in any circumstances. It turns out the friendly bus attendant is in cahoots with another passenger and we are seated in a position where another can access the content of our daypacks from under the seat.
2.5 months later we leave Ecuador with brand new Australian passports and Jane’s credit cards. It took that long to renew our Australian passports(involving original identification; birth certificates etc. being sent from Australia to Ecuador and back to Australia) at a cost of nearly $2,000 covering fees, transport to the Embassy and accommodation. Travel Insurance is a must – we say ‘if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.”
A2B2Sea. Papua New Guinea
Alissa, who travels with her family by boat writes:
Blended Family Road Trip. Vietnam
Leezett who travels internationally and by bus around Australia, writes:
Travel Security. What Can You Do to Avoid Theft and Robbery While Travelling
Everyone handles travel theft and security differently so there is no one definitive answer, the following points are suggestions only in avoiding crime while travelling.
- Take out good travel insurance to replace items and cover document replacement charges. This is the travel insurance we use.
- Leave everything non-essential at home, this includes jewellery.
- Split up your valuables, cards and cash. Never store everything in one place and have multiple cash sources. Consider a secure travel money card.
- Take a scan or photo of all your important documents and store them online, not on your computer.
- Choose a travel bag or purse that is either designated as anti theft, or is sturdy and can be worn cross-body. ( see anti-theft travel bags here). This halts bag snatchers or casual thieves.
- For backpackers, consider a wire mesh, pacsafe device (see metal backpack protectors here)
- Consider chaining or otherwise fastening, bags to train chairs or other immovable objects ( seeretractable cable locks here)
- Never take your eyes off your bags, if you are solo and have to sleep, secure your bag or hide your valuables on your body.
- Choses a bag that will take a small combination padlock.
- Never carry valuables in your pocket, unless you can keep a hand on that pocket at all times.
- Consider a waist pouch or neck pouch for small valuables.
- Consider one of the many travel securty garments on the market, from vests to scarves, bras with hidden pockets.
- A simple doorstop wedge can give you greater peace of mind at night, you can now buy them, cheaply, with built-in alarms. A night-time thief is unlikely to wake you.
- Remember that theft as you travel is rare, don’t travel in fear.
I really can’t state strongly enugh, don’t travel scared. Most of the above incidents are easily avoidable with just a little extra vigilance, but don’t beat yourself up if it happens to you. None of us are perfect and as we’ve shown here, we all take our eye off the ball sometimes. What about you, do you have a travel theft or robbery story that will help us all avoid theft on the road?