It may feel counter intuitive but you are less likely to be mugged when travelling if you carry money as cash than if you draw out smaller amounts as and when you need it. The majority of muggings, bag snatches and card thefts occur within a few meters of the ATM. There is a moment when you have your wallet out, cash in hand and you are focused entirely on getting the card back in the right slot or pocket and you are not looking around or paying attention to your surroundings. That is when you are most vulnerable!
In an ideal world your holiday should be a period where you don’t have any money worries, you have saved up and have more than enough for your needs and you do not need to do too much to protect yourself from most petty street crime and most of it is common sense when viewed i hindsight.
Firstly, I am going to assume you are not stupid enough to use an ATM in a dark street in a rough part of town!
Tip number one.
Separate your ID or passport from your money. I personally prefer one of the passport neck pouches but even just putting it in a different pocket or section of your handbag may be enough. Imagine you are stopped in the street by a police officer, he asks to see your ID and when you take your wallet out to get your ID he takes it from you. He checks you photo ID and checks the name against a couple of your cards and then hands it back to you. He warns you to be careful as pick pockets target tourists and he then walks off. The next time you get your wallet out you find half the cash is missing from your wallet. Are you really going to accuse a police officer of theft maybe hours after the event? This is a real street crime and is not uncommon. Get your money out when you need to and your ID out when you need that, but don’t give everything over at once.
Tip number two.
Always use an ATM machine inside a building. The best option if it is available is in your own hotel. The hotel may well have their own security to look after you and keep petty criminals off the premises but failing that if your bag or wallet is snatched you have the hotel staff to help and support you and liaise with the police. If there is no ATM in the hotel look for one in an atrium where you have to swipe your card to get in. These are normally protected by CCTV and you can put the money away safely before you go back into the street. Many also have glass doors or walls so you can glance up and down the street before you exit. Your third option is to use an ATM inside the bank during opening hours. Your hotel staff should be able to tell you where the local banks and ATM machines are relative to the hotel.
Tip number three.
Get advice and recommendations for bars, restaurants and clubs from the hotel staff. They have a vested interest in you having a good stay with them and want you to come back. Use the hotel staff to book your taxi for you and book the taxi back with the same company. Here is the scam that people fall into. You hail a cab off the street and ask them to recommend a club, they take you to one often they will say it is a friends or relatives. Once you are in the club the bar staff add a hefty service charge to your bill or charge extortionate prices for the drinks. If you refuse to pay they will either threaten you with the police or threaten you with violence.
That is all it really takes, a couple simple precautions, a little local knowledge and nothing so intrusive as to leave you feeling insecure and stop you enjoying your holiday.
Have a good trip!
Peter Rudin-Burgess is a partner at CompareHolidayMoney.com, probably the easiest travel money comparison website for the UK, and has been blogging travel money tips, hints and advice for the past two years.