How to Avoid Being Robbed While Traveling

Travel Tips

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By Ryan Gargiulo

How To Avoid Being Robbed

I’ll start this off by placing a huge jinx on myself. I have yet to be robbed while traveling.

Yep, in over five years of travel through more than thirty-something countries. Never. Been. Robbed.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I need to take a minute to go knock on some serious wood.

Alright, let’s face it, you’ve read endless stories on the web and you’ve watched it on the news.

Hell, you might even have some friends or family members that have been robbed on vacation.

Trust me, I’ve heard it all.

Although I’ve never been robbed while traveling, I’ve met plenty of people who have.

Yes, robbery and theft DOES happen.

I’m not here to tell you that there’s a magical way to avoid being robbed on the road but there are a few rules that I always try my best to stick to.

I think you’ll find the following travel safety tips of mine quite helpful and if you take my advice, I’m sure it will lessen your chances of being taken for everything you’ve got.

1.Be Aware of Your Surroundings

You’ve heard it before. I know you have.

But, sometimes we all need a friendly reminder.

Being aware of your surroundings is one of the most important things when it comes to lowering your chances of becoming a victim of robbery.

Being aware of your surroundings includes having a good idea of where you are even if you have just arrived in a destination that is foreign to you, knowing where the local police station is, where the center of the town/city is, and more.

2. Map It Out

Nobody wants to unknowingly wander into a bad part of town where you’re likely to be mugged.

Avoid this situation by loading maps on to your smartphone prior to arrving in a new city.

There are a few different ways to load maps on your smart phone prior to arriving in a new city.

  • You can purchase a premium offline maps app or download a free offline maps app for your smartphone.
  • You can use this handy little tutorial which explains how to save offline maps in the new GoogleMaps app.
  • You can take screenshots of your hotel, arrival bus station, or airport as your focal point and save them to your phone for later use.

While I don’t suggest that you keep your eyes locked on your phone the entire time, having a digital map of sorts is a hell of a lot better than fumbling around one of those oversized paper maps that fold into 26 sections.

Which brings me to my next point…

3. Use Your Phone Only When Necessary

Having a mobile data plan can be a great way to keep tabs on your location and having one gives you the ability to map out directions, save important locations and more.

While having a data plan can be a real handy tool, it can also be a great way to get yourself robbed.

Try to avoid pulling your phone out in unfamiliar areas.

Instead, simply step inside a restaurant, coffee shop, mall, or any other public establishment before you whip your phone out.

Doing so will allow you to truly focus and figure out where you are currently and which direction you need to be headed.

You have no idea how easy of a target you are when you’ve got your eyes glued to your phone.

Thieves love people who are fully engrossed in their phones.

…and rightfully so. You’re a walking jackpot!

Whether you like to hear it or not, thieves are watching your every move. They see you coming from a mile away.

If you’re eyes are locked on your phone because you’re catching up on the latest Facebook drama, there’s a good chance you could find yourself in deep, deep trouble.

4. Keep Your Money Safe

You could dream up a few ways to trick potential thieves and keep them from stealing everything you’ve got, but why waste your time when you can duplicate my not-so secret system for keeping my money safe when I travel.

I could go on for days about how kick ass this system is, but, I’ll let you read the whole shebang over HERE.

Oh, and remember, always keep your wallet in your front pocket.

If your wallet is too bulky to place in your front pocket, then I highly recommend you pick yourself up a slimmy or a money clip wallet.

5. Look People Directly in the Eyes

One of the first things I tell people when I talk about how to avoid getting robbed when traveling is that you need to look people directly in the eyes.

I don’t care how awkward or uncomfortable this may seem.

As a matter of fact, you should want it to feel awkward.

I sometimes take things a step further by nodding and saying “Hi” in the language of the destination.

You wouldn’t believe how much a simple nod and a “Buenas tardes” can throw off a would be thief.

Think about it.

Most criminals prey on the fact that you’re either not paying attention or that you didn’t get a good look at them prior to the robbery.

Looking people in the eyes, giving them a nod and maybe even a small hello as you pass lets them know that you’ve acknowledged them and you’re aware of them.

6. Leave the Bling at Home!

You can still stay classy without being too flashy.

I’m not saying you should be walking around looking like a scrub.

I’m simply advising you to leave all of those high end purses, shiny diamond rings and blinged out watches at home.

If you do decide to take some of your most prized possessions on your trip, pick yourself up one of these awesome Anti-Theft Lockdown Bags and you can rest assure that your valuables will be protected when you’re out and about.

7. Don’t Trust Your Hotel Room Safe

Many people will tell you to simply leave your valuables in your hotel room safe but this video proves that hotel room safes really aren’t that secure after all.

Also, something you should always keep in mind that most of the hotel staff, if not all, either have a backup key to your safe or know the default password.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust in your hotel staff, you should.

It’s just always good to acknowledge the risks of your stuff getting stolen on a case by case basis.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather stuff my valuables in one of these bags versus a hotel room safe that is seemingly pretty easy to break into.

At least with the lock down bag, the would be robber needs to cut through the the cable and the slashproof bag before stumbling upon your treasures.

Oh, and there’s something relieving about knowing that no one has a backup key to your most prized possessions.


If so, please leave a comment below! Also, don’t forget to share this article with your friends and family.

33 thoughts on “How to Avoid Being Robbed While Traveling”

  1. Even if you know this kind of things it’s always good if somebody wrote a post about it, because sometimes you just forget basic things, for example avoid being robbed while traveling. Thank you for reminding and keep up the good work!

  2. Haven’t been to South America, but I’ve heard about something called Devil’s Breath (Scopolamine) that keeps you conscious but makes you follow orders from the criminals that drug you with it, and worst of all, you can’t form memories when you’re under, so they can’t clean you out and you’ll have no idea what happened. Suffice to say, let let your drink out of your sight in Colombia, or anywhere nearby!

    • Thanks for the tip Heather. Of course, leaving your drink unattended is a huge mistake and will very likely put you in a position to be taken advantage of. This is the first time I’ve heard of Devil’s Breath, I’ll have to look that up.

  3. Before smartphones, I printed out small vicinity maps that could fit into either my wallet or notebook. Each night, I would pour over the map and study it like I had a test the following morning! The last thing I wanted was to look like a hapless tourist roaming the streets of a foreign city, especially since I traveled solo.

    I still keep that habit until now, even when I don’t travel alone anymore (I’m married!), because I found out that even if I download the maps onto my smartphone, it seems that something always goes wrong. So I rely either on my memory of the map (works most of the time) or on the small physical map that I either printed out or wrote on a small piece of paper.

  4. Interesting stuff Ryan.

    My main rule, Never fully trust anybody you meet.
    Not that i’m saying i never trust anyone, but on the road its always a bit different.
    Yes be nice to people and make friends and have a blast, but i would never 100 % trust someone i don’t really know, even if they give off the best impression in the world.

    I look like the scruffiest person in the world when i travel, i always take old clothes, things i don’t even mind if they are stolen.

    Anyhow. Good article to remind people. Some people are very trusting and can be taken advantage of, or they just forget where they are.

    • Of course. You should never fully trust anybody you meet on the street. You’re totally right. I like to think that I can get a good sense of someones character after chatting with them for a few. It could totally be in my head. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

  5. Great tips – especially about looking people in the eyes and letting them know that you’re aware of their presence. I’d also suggest to not ask for random people on the streets for directions. We learned this lesson in the Dominican Republic when we asked a random guy for directions to the nearest ATM (of all places) and after leading us there, he started threatening us unless we paid him a commission. The only way we were able to get rid of him was by ducking into a nearby restaurant and asking the waiter to call the police on him since he was standing outside of the restaurant making gestures that he was going to slit our throats. So now, we always duck into a restaurant, hotel, or other business to ask for directions instead of asking random people.

    • Sorry to hear about your bad experience in the DR. Your best bet would be to ask a shop owner or someone that runs a business versus someone on the streets. But, I’m sure you’ve learned that lesson after your experience in the Dominican. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Thanks for posting this! What if you use your iPhone for taking pics? I have a hard time leaving it in my bag or pocket when I want to capture all the cool moments of my trip. Thanks!

    • Snap away! Of course, there will be lots of times that you’ll want to whip your phone out and snap a photo of something on your travels. Don’t be afraid to do so. Just know when and where to take it out. You know, just common sense stuff. Unfortunately, these days, carrying around an iPhone, Galaxy S series or just about any other smartphone these days increases your chances of being mugged. Before smartphones, thieves would have to hope you had some cash on you. These days just about everyone has an iPhone or something similar so the value of the theft skyrockets. Scoring an iPhone and money is the ultimate goal. ;-)

  7. Good tips! Sadly, I’ve been mugged before, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do, but there are totally ways to make yourself less of a target. I like the idea of looking a would-be thief directly in the eyes- it’s something I usually do anyway out of habit, but I never thought about it as a theft deterrent.

    • Oh, no! Sorry to hear Megan. That has to be a scary thing to go through. As I stated above, I would highly recommend using the “look them in the eyes” technique. I’m positive it makes a difference.

  8. Always good to re-read and remind yourself of these things. Being aware is so vital and having an idea of where you’re going or studying a map before you go is key. I know it’s not always possible or difficult but anything helps.

    At the same time it’s easy to get robbed anywhere. I got pickpocketed on my daily bus ride to work in my hometown. I didn’t think anything of the man who kept bumping into me on the packed bus. I thought he was just getting a bit too pervy. Little did I know he went into my purse and grabbed my wallet.

    • True Arnette. Reminders are always good for these types of situations. I completely agree that being aware is so vital.

      You make a great point about getting robbed anywhere. Even in your own neighborhood! Ugh, sorry to hear about that. Thanks for the comment

  9. Great tips – especially about looking people in the eyes and letting them know that you’re aware of their presence.

  10. Yeah …. I agree with your points and tips. These seven points on how to avoid being robbed while traveling will really help traveler like me.

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  12. Here’s what happened to me:

    Having getting my stuff stolen twice, both my phone and my expensive hiking shoes, on my 5 month backpacking trip I feel the need to let you in on my insight.

    You have a great post here about some really decent practical tips. Altho what is left out is the main most important thing when avoiding all robberies and thefts: use your common sense.

    My phone got stolen from a club, when I was drunk and when I left my bag on the floor just for a second. Not much common sense going on in there.

    My shoes were tied to the outside of my backpack – being there totally on display and just screaming for someone to snatch them.

    The thing is, when traveling around these allegedly dangerous corners of the world you most probably soon realize how safe it actually, generally put, is. You easily forget the everyday safety precautions because you just don’t encounter theft or robberies everyday – even in months of traveling. I’d say you, the author, are a prime example of this phenomena.

    Especially when going out drinking people tend to lose their last thread of common sense. So be especially aware when partying.

    And even tho it starts to seem safe while you are traveling for longer periods of time, you still shouldn’t forget to use yours. Being on the wrong corner at the wrong time and doing wrong things might prove fatal. Just take a look at my story.

    Anyways, thanks for the helpful post Ryan, keep up the good work! =)


  13. Another quality post my good man! A good tip I’ve learnt while travelling is how to prevent your day pack from falling victim to land sharks aka thieves. Is to covertly bury it in the sand and throw our towel over it. A lot of times thieves like you said only want a quick and easy target. The don’t tend to go digging through the sand. Keep up the good work!

  14. Also, maybe take a photo of someone who seems to be stalking you..letting them know that YOU know their intent

    don’t frequent drug dealer or prostitution areas

  15. Hey Ryan great tips. All are so true. I never take my jewellery or even carry a handbag in some places. I found in some areas of Central America during the day or night, I had a water bottle holder that I stored my little point and shoot camera in the bottom of it with the water bottle on top. It just looked like a water bottle was in there that’s it. I especially like the one about the “look in their eye and say hello in the language”. If I make eye connect with someone I always smile, nod and say hello. :)

  16. Really good article. Security is essential while travelling. I specially like the eye-contact tip. Usually showing a positive attitude towards the people as well as general awareness is key. A general tip as well is the less you have the less you have to worry about. And also being aware that being robbed may happen, makes you more relax and prepared.
    One pretty big tip missing is to install “Prey” on your mobile devices. We just got everything stolen here in Mexico and got almost everything back thanks to this! We wrote an article about it, it was quite an adventure!
    Matt from the also wrote about this app:

    Thanks for these tips, keep it up!


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