Your smart travel tips

Posted Date: 08 September 2017
Your smart travel tips

Couples in Canada, families in France, backpackers in Berlin and everywhere in between - it’s no secret that our customers love to travel. So we thought, who better to give travelling advice than you!

We recently asked our readers to send us their top travel tips, and we thank all of you who shared your advice and expertise. Here are five of our favourites as told by you.

Tips to avoid scammers and thieves

Unfortunately, we often hear from travellers who have fallen victim to theft overseas. Scammers and thieves are a global problem that can turn your holiday of a lifetime into one you wish to forget with the flick of the wrist. 

These pickpocketing stories are upsetting to hear, but thankfully, our readers are here to share their own safety strategies. 

Tip 1 - Chain it up

This simple solution to snatched wallets resulted in an awkward encounter with a thief on a bustling train station overseas:

“Before travelling in Europe with friends, I bought each of us a cheap wallet with a chain attached to use in crowded places like airports and markets.

One of my friends emerged from a lift at Pisa train station looking very angry, after a young woman had been chatting with her. She'd felt a tug on her waistband, looked down and saw her wallet sitting in the young woman’s bag, with the chain connecting them! An embarrassing moment for the thief and a deliciously satisfying save for my friend."

Train stations are notorious hunting grounds for petty thieves, so always keep your guard up and your valuables protected. The wallet chain may have been a saviour this time, but they can also pose other dangers if the thief refuses to give up!

For example, there have been cases of thieves driving past pedestrians on motorbikes and snatching their bags in London. One woman who instinctively held onto her bag was dragged across the road by a so-called ‘moped mugger’

Decoy wallets that only carry a limited amount of cash and don’t hold any cards are another alternative to help prevent a significant loss.

Tip 2 - Lock them together

Another tip for train travellers, this strategy is a simple way to deter thieves from running away with your entire bag:

“My wife and I travel with similar suitcases, and on one of the handles we have a cycle chain with a key lock. When travelling on a train with the suitcases stored in the baggage area at the end of each carriage, we chain both suitcases together. Trying to rush off with two very awkward bags should be enough to discourage all but the most determined of thieves.”

It may sound far-fetched for a fellow passenger to escape the train with your entire suitcase in tow, but it happens more often that you’d expect. In fact, a common train scam involves a thief posing as a baggage attendant who offers to help with your bags. You accept the help, only to see the thief abandon the train just as the doors are closing, leaving you stranded in transit without your luggage. 

Tip 3 - Travel light

Some travellers seem to have an insatiable urge to pack their entire wardrobe. This couple, on the other hand, have seen the benefit of travelling light to deter thieves;

“One of my travel tips is to take a lesson from the backpackers and travel light. Leave your laptop/iPad at home. Use your phone for emails and take a couple of books to read, ones that can be left in your hotel (or swapped with other traveller’s books) when you’ve read them.

That way, you don’t have cumbersome bags that - particularly on trains - may have to be stored some distance from your seat. Nor do you face “helpful” scammers trying to carry your bags for you. This is especially important for older travellers.”

We know how upsetting it is to lose your luggage overseas, especially if it contains irreplaceable and sentimental items. That’s why leaving those unnecessary expensive valuables at home is always a good idea, as this pair has found! 

Tip 4 - Beat the crush

Crowded areas make for a pickpocket's playground, as this traveller discovered on a tram in Turkey;

“Be careful when travelling on trams in Istanbul. They’re often jam packed, especially between the airport and the city, making it very easy in the crush for pickpockets to relieve you of your property. Being an unfortunate victim of pickpockets on Istanbul’s trams, my suggestion is to carry as little cash as necessary in your wallet and especially no credit cards.

After having my wallet stolen and reporting my misfortune to the local police, I was informed that many local individuals make their living as thieves on these crowded trams and trains.”

Crush situations like these present an easy opportunity for pickpockets, who can pinch a wallet from a pocket very easily amongst the mass of bodies. Some thieves have been known to obstruct the doors of a train when passengers are disembarking, to create a bottleneck that they can use to their advantage.

To keep your valuables safe in crowded areas, remember to:

  • Never place your wallet or phone in your back pocket
  • Wear any small backpacks on your front until you’re in the clear
  • Carry valuable travel documents and cash in a secure travel belt worn beneath your clothes

Tip 5 - Stay vigilant

While enjoying the sights and sounds of an exciting new city, it’s often easy to let your guard down and lose yourself in the moment. However, it’s essential that you stay vigilant to protect your valuables and yourselves, as this family learnt;

“Recently, my wife and I together with our three children were travelling in Madrid, and decided to visit the King’s Palace. On leaving the Palace and walking back towards the CBD area, I noticed a tall male following us. This male was casually dressed in a tracksuit, well built, and seemed to fit into the crowd. It was only when our children looked into the windows of the shops that I noticed this male also stopping and looking preoccupied with his mobile phone.

After stopping three times at shop windows and the male also stopping behind us, I decided to change to the other side of the road, where we were also followed. I saw another store down the street, which I was confident would have security cameras and stayed in the store for over half an hour, making sure this male had left.

I believe that this male had plenty of opportunities to steal my back pack in a less populated area if that is what he wanted. I still to this day believe he was after my two teenage daughters.”

This family trusted their instincts and used some great thinking in entering a secure shop to deter the would-be thief. This story shows just how important it is to stay vigilant, and if you feel that something isn’t quite right, stay calm, trust your gut and protect yourself.

We thank all of you who shared your tips to help other travellers stay safe overseas. Do you have a smart travel tip you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it! Please email us at stories@scti.com.au and tell us more.

We won’t identify you unless you say we can, and we won’t use this information for any other purpose than marketing. If you want to access a copy of the personal information we hold about you, please contact us at info@scti.com.au.

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