Sunday, 23 January 2011

GENERAL TRAVEL - Damage Limitation

Following our mugging we have been reviewing our security measures.  We always like to learn by our mistakes and maybe some of the new methods that we will adopt along with old ones will save others our miss fortune.

Stands to reason that if you carry as little as possible with you then you have less to lose.  We were carrying a lot more than we needed at the time of the incident, we only went out to buy a few groceries so a small amount of money was all that we needed.  As it happened my bag contained money, credit and debit card and camera and these could and should have been left at our accommodation. 
(However this was not the main reason Steve gave chase but more a gut reaction to my being attacked).

They always say that the contents of your bags etc can be replaced whereas a life cannot and we completely agree but even so it would be better to do as much as possible to reduce the amount of damage or make recovery easier. 

You can scan or photograph passport pages, drivers licence, credit and debit cards  (front and reverse), travel documents and anything else important to the trip and E-mail them to yourself and save in a folder.  In the event of loss all you need is computer access to print copies and have information of numbers to call etc.
The chances of computer hackers making use of the information is in our opionion far less than the potential benifits.

When credit or debit cards are stolen the first instict is to phone the company to cancel them.  However we figure that if these are joint account and you have the other card in your possesion a smart move may be to take the second card, go to an ATM and draw the maximum possible.  This will prevent the thieves from drawing cash immediately and give you funds until new cards are issued.

Money belts are a great way to carry passports etc but in certain countries thieves expect this and will check for one, travellers are now using tubigrip or bands to secure other items to the upper arm or thigh in addition to a money belt.  A ladies stocking also makes a good security waist belt for contents that you don't need to access but just need to carry safely.  Other possibly places for hiding valuables are shoes, bras, false pockets created within clothing and inside hats.  The more places you have available the further you can spread the items.

Bum bags (fanny packs) seem to be a lesser target than a regular handbag or purse.  Backpacks seem less   likely to be stolen if carried in front of you (somewhat defeating the object!).

By staying in cheaper hotels and eating at cheaper restaurants you will probably be less of a target than staying and eating at the more expensive places.

Rather than wear real jewellery or even fake designer watches and gilded jewellery why not buy some local stuff made of fabric, shells, string etc.  This way you can give a bit of business to the locals but more importantly make it clear that the things you are wearing are not of value.  Fake designer watches and even cheap gilded jewellery could easily be mistaken for the real thing.  
Before leaving any store be sure to take a little time to put everthing away properly and secure any bags etc before stepping outside.  If you need to get to something frequently, such as money, then have it seperate from other valuables or just a small amount in a different place.

Before setting out to explore as a tourist try to get a map ahead of time, plan where you want to go and if possible mark your route with a highlighter pen.  In many places it is advisable not to stop and study your map in the street but to step into a store or somewhere safe whilst in other places we find the minute you glance at your map you get genuine help.  At least if you have your route marked the time taken using the map will be reduced whatever the case.  Follow your gut instinct if you feel you are getting into a seedy area and don't be afraid to backtrack. 

In some countries it is better if you don't stand out, I have blonde hair and blue eyes but on occasions colour my hair darker and try to wear sunglasses.  Dressing like the locals will also help you to blend in. 

Back up any photographs on a regular basis, a secondary memory card takes very little space as a way to do this.

Make good use of the hotel safe.  If this is in the hotel reception it may be worth confirming with them the items you are putting into it, especially the amount of money.  We have known hotels in Asia where they put your money in a special "sealed" envelope (with your signature on the seal) but then they have a way to unglue it, slip some notes out and then seal it up.

The new combined telephones, cameras, music players and E-mailers are great but obviously valuable.  If thiey get stolen you have lost the lot but by having each as an individual item you only have to take which item you need with you and that would be all you lost in the event of a theft.  In an area where you really don't want to be seen with a camera then a disposable one can fill the gap.

I am sure that if we were mugged again we would let the culprit go. We realise that we could easily have been thinking we were up against just one youth when in fact many are part of gangs and may have friends to back them up.

Read warnings in guide books and listen to local advice and build this into the way you travel in each place. 

Above all don't get too paranoid.  We have travelled almost all our lives (continuously for the last 13-years), visted over 70 countries and all the continents and had just one incident of this kind.



Trent and Teresa said...

Hi Glen. Those are excellent tips. We are so glad that Steve was not seriously hurt in that incident. We are also glad to hear that this was an isolated event, in your many years of travel !! Take care, Trent

Kevin and Ruth said...

Excellent tips Glen! Say hi to Steve...Whiskey says "woof"...