Safety is always on my mind when traveling. I often get really freaked out right before I leave on a trip by myself, and always wonder if I am as prepared as I should be. One of my top safety concerns is money. Do I have enough? Am I bringing too much? Should I get it when I am there? Should I hide it? Should I carry it? Is it safe if I leave it in my room? Should I only use my credit card?
As Travel and Escape explains, “The drawback of traveling solo is that you have nobody to watch your back, to help you make travel arrangements or to guard your luggage while you are off to use the restrooms. You are literally on your own and have to protect yourself. Especially your money.”
Here are a few things that might come up when it comes to solo travel and your money. These are thing that I do to keep my money safe while on the road, but doesn’t necessarily mean it is what you have to do. Just consider the following:
A money belt?
The old school way of traveling was to tuck your money belt safely under your clothes, making it hard to access when you really need it. Money belts are obviously designed to protect your money and other small valuables from thieves. These types of hidden money belts look just like a regular belt and on the reverse side of the belt is a zippered money compartment which remains hidden from view.
The number one limitation is that you don’t have quick and easy access to your money. I am not a fan of any money belts because I think it just screams, “I AM A TOURIST! COME STEAL FROM ME!” but I know plenty of people who use them and swear by them. Consider buying a small one to hold a small amount of cash. Which leads me to my next thought:
Take it out as you need it
Don’t take out a ton of money all at once! Consider your next few days of travel: what are you doing, where are you eating, and what sites do you want to see? And take out a rounded amount of those things. It’s worth the fee to take out money as you go, as you don’t want to lose or have it stollen when you take out a giant wad of cash everywhere you go. This also says, “You have more money than you know what to do with” and is prime target for pickpockets and thieves.
Don’t carry it all with you
Don’t take out a lot of cash, but I would also suggest not caring every dollar you have with you all the time. Find a safe place to stow your extra cash and passport in the hotel safe. If this isn’t an option, or you are staying at a hostel, bring a lock so you can leave it in a secure locker. Sometimes you might feel like have it all on you all the time is best, but I am not sure about that.
Consider only using your credit card
This is always an option if you don’t want to worry about carrying cash. Sure, you incur a fee for almost every purchase for most credit cards, but it also means it is an easy way to spend money and not feel like you are carrying around a lot of cash. I did this on a trip to Europe and felt the fees weren’t as bad as I thought they would be when it was all said and done. Just pick the right credit card to do this with (like one that is meant for travelers) and make sure to call them before you go on your trip. They will shut down your card very fast if they think it is fraudulent activity. Telling them your itinerary from the start of your trip, makes it much easier than dealing with it on the road. Trust me!
Avoid the travel scam
You know this, but not everyone is going to be honest all the time, so be careful with some of the following travel scams:
Product substitution: make sure you know what tour or trip you are taking. And make sure you get EXACTLY that. You are paying for it, and deserve it. Don’t let them sub out some half-rate van or ticket because
Counterfeiting: ensure that the tour or ticket you purchase is legitimate. Don’t purchase something on the street. It may be cheaper, but it won’t be worth it if it doesn’t get you in to the event you want to see. Always buy transportation tickets from the official ticket office or website. Never on the side of the road!
Broken car or taxi meter: This happened to me a few times in places like Peru and Indonesia. They claim the meter is broken, so you have to pay a crazy high flat rate. Make sure to negotiate rates ahead of time, or make sure the meter is working before you get in the car. If the taxi driver refuses to turn on the meter, or tells you it’s cheaper without the meter, get out and opt for another driver. Not all cab drivers are scammers.
(I think I will go into this on a later post. So many different travel scams you want to avoid)
And finally, use the Internet to your advantage
One of my favorite sites and guidebooks, Lonely Planet, as a whole section on travel money essentials. This link has everything you need to know about money while traveling abroad. Take a look and learn from the best!
I know these are only a few of the many concerns and options you are faced with concerning your money and travel, and I normally just fall into the thought of: Would I do this at home with my money? If the answer is NO, then I would definitely not do it when traveling. Keep your head on straight, stay cautious but optimistic, and have a great time with the money you have earned to go on this trip!