Tourists make tempting targets for thieves. As a stranger in the location and potentially carrying valuables, travelers can be at increased risk of pickpocketing or other theft. 

Luckily, there are a number of ways in which you can keep your most important belongings secure. Here are my experiences with some of the common anti theft travel gear.

1. Money pouch

A hidden money pouch is often the first thing that comes to mind to protect your cash, passport, and other important items.  Typically worn around your waist and underneath your clothes, it may seem like the perfect solution.

The money belt is the classic anti theft gear

Personally, I’m not much of a fan. Before my first big around the world trip, I thought this was surely the best thing since sliced bread, but in 22 months of travel I honestly rarely wore it I know some people swear by these money pouches, but there are a couple of reasons why I don’t like them:

  1. Firstly, picture yourself digging for something somewhere under your shirt… you just end up drawing attention to yourself.
  2. Personally, I think they are not truly comfortable. I’m always aware of wearing it, especially if I’m in a summer destination and only wearing a t-shirt on top. It makes me feel like a police informant wearing a wire.
  3. While useful against opportunistic theft, it won’t work against outright robbery.

Still, I think a money pouch or money belt can be a decent solution, especially for securing things while in transit.

I’ve been on a number of night buses and trains in developing countries where it made me feel more assured that even if someone were to snatch my bag, I would still have my passport and money. 

Where to buy: check out this money belt by Eagle Creek or this RFID-blocking money pouch by Lewis N. Clark

2. Security padlock 

A simple padlock can be a surprisingly handy piece of anti-theft travel gear.

This is especially so if you plan to travel to developing countries, where local guesthouses and B&Bs typically do not have rooms with a safe, but may offer a security box. 

If you plan to stay in backpacker hostels anywhere in the world, then a padlock is even absolutely essential. Hostels typically only have lockers for you to store your important belongings — and it’s up to you to have a lock! 

Security lockers at a hostel

Your place of accommodation is usually a safe place to keep your valuables — at least, if you can secure them there. When I go out for sightseeing, I only bring some cash I need for the day, and I prefer to keep my passport, bank cards, and remaining cash at my hotel or hostel. 

Tip: get a number padlock so you don’t have to worry about losing the key! 

Some backpacks also have main compartment zippers that you can lock with a padlock. Some suitcases also let you use a padlock to secure them. This adds one extra measure of security against opportunistic theft. 

3. Wire lock or wire mesh

Wire locks can be useful for anchoring your bags to a pole or other fixed object so they can’t be stolen as easily. The wire is usually quite thin however so anyone with the right tools can easily break them, but they are mainly intended to prevent opportunistic theft.

Using a wire mesh on a train

The normal wire lock is basically a combination padlock but with a metal string that you can pull out and wrap around a pole or other fixed object. I’ve used this to connect my luggage to a rack or pole on longer overland journeys.

You also have wire mesh locks that allow you to wrap your entire luggage in metal wires and attach this to a fixed point. I haven’t used one of these yet but they seem like they could be a good deterrent.  

4. Secret luggage compartment

Some luggage comes designed with a secret compartment. For example, my Pakt Travel Backpack has a small invisible zipped compartment on the back, just big enough to fit a passport, some money, and a bank card or two.

Of course, this does not prevent someone from stealing a bag wholesale. However, it does prevent someone rifling through your luggage from quickly finding your most important items. While you are carrying the backpack, these items are also in the most hard-to-reach place, preventing anyone from just unzipping a pocket and picking it.

Although I probably wouldn’t buy new luggage just for this feature, it’s good to keep an eye out for a secret compartment like this if you’re purchasing a new backpack or suitcase.

5. Anti-theft money belt

Want to know my favorite anti-theft travel gear? It’s this.

A money belt is simply a belt containing a secret compartment. It may not be spacious enough for an ID or bank card, but it does let you stuff some banknotes inside without anyone noticing.

I like this solution is because, in my experience, it has passed the test! I once got robbed in Rio de Janeiro and while the thieves got away with a small coin purse I kept in my pocket (containing just a few dollars worth of reais) they never found the $100 worth of bills stashed in my belt. (Muahahahah!)

Unlike a money pouch, it’s not awkward to wear, so I’m a big fan of using a money belt for storing some emergency cash.

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