8 money safety tips for travelling abroad

Tips By Cate Lawrence January 10, 2020

This article was created in partnership with Western Union.

A trip overseas is a fantastic opportunity to explore new places and experience different cultures. Whether you prefer to enjoy paella in Barcelona, ski in Lucerne or tube down the river in Vang Vieng, you always need money. Losing your bank card or wallet, being pickpocketed or falling victim to a scam can seriously dent your holiday enthusiasm. Fortunately, implementing the following money safety tips can help you reduce your risk before you even leave Germany.

Travelling overseas is a privilege and a joy. Plan ahead to ensure you have a memorable trip without misadventure.

1. Consider cash vs. cards

While travelling cash-free may seem a compelling option, losing your bank card or having your funds frozen can become a disaster. One of the top money safety tips is to notify your bank of any overseas travels to avoid having your card frozen in theft prevention efforts. While you’re abroad, regularly monitor your credit and bank statements.

2. Secure your cash

Reduce your risk of theft by spreading your money and cards over a few different bags and leaving some concealed in your hotel or Airbnb.

Another idea is to make a dummy wallet. If you’re travelling somewhere prone to scams and thefts, consider carrying something you can surrender willingly in the case of a mugging. A dummy wallet with a few notes and some unimportant cards — like coffee loyalty cards and an old library card — can be useful in such a scenario.

3. Be aware of local travel scams

Everyone seems to have some story of a travel scam where they parted with their money under less than stellar circumstances. You turn up to a pre-booked accommodation to find the place doesn’t exist. A taxi driver turns off the meter and demands exorbitant rates to release you and your luggage. You are invited to join students practising their English in a tea ceremony only to leave with your wallet considerably lighter.

There are a few things you can do. Book taxis through your hotel or via an app that selects and records the route upfront and shares the driver’s photo and car registration. Use the Taxi Calculator website to get free taxi fare estimations. Choose Airbnb superhosts and always read accommodation reviews. Research the most common scams in the cities you are visiting to educate yourself ahead of time.

4. Protect yourself from pickpockets

There’s nothing worse than the sinking feeling when you reach into your pocket or bag to find your wallet missing. Consider investing in an anti-theft bag made with slash-, cut- and stab-resistant fabric and shoulder straps, lockable zippers and a means to lock and attach it to a chair or table leg when you’re sitting down. Some travellers recommend travel money belts, but they are obvious to the trained eye. At a pinch, avoid using the front pockets on any bag (or back pockets on a pair of jeans). Instead, use jackets with zippered inside pockets, and always have your bag in sight at all times.

Be aware of your possessions, especially in crowded scenarios or while on public transportation. Common in Europe, a traveller will be walking down the street and feel something plop on their shoulder. Then, a friendly stranger approaches and begins to wipe their clothing while they or an accomplice pluck their wallet. People engrossed in watching a busker are also considered easy targets. Stay focused and be practical with securing your cash and passport.

5. Use cash with care

When you use cash, avoid peeling notes from wads of money. Also, make sure you’re able to recognize the currency to prevent receiving dud money, and always count your change. You can use the Western Union® app to prevent the need to carry lots of cash when you travel internationally. Simply send money to yourself anytime, and pick up cash in local currency from any of their agent locations.

6. Blend in

Where practical, dress like a local to blend in. Avoid walking with your head in a guidebook or map — instead, download both to your phone. Always know where you want to go before you leave a hotel or restaurant to avoid looking like a lost tourist and easy prey for pickpockets or scammers.

7. Choose ATMs thoughtfully

A secluded ATM can be a target for thieves. Use machines located inside your hotel or a local bank over those in isolated locations. Inspect machines for skimmers or tampering, and have a friend act as a security guard during the withdrawal.

8. Secure your electronics

Losing your laptop or phone can make it easy for someone to access your financial information. Protect your devices with complex passwords and employ two-factor authentication. Approach free Wi-Fi with caution — ask the local staff at bars and cafes for the Wi-Fi details, as hackers can set up their own hot spots to access your laptop, passwords and bank accounts. Encrypt your online activities with a VPN (a virtual private network).

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