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From trying out your rudimentary French skills to making friends with the locals, no experience is as thrilling as a backpacking trip through Europe. Sure, talking to strangers, traveling without an itinerary, and sleeping in questionable hostels are all part of the experience, but you shouldn’t sacrifice safety in the name of adventure.
Planning a European backpacking trip this summer? These five tips will help you stay safe and enjoy the journey of a lifetime.
Keep your cash and credit cards in a money belt at all times. Watch out for the bump and grab— one thief “bumps” you to create a distraction while the other thief steals your wallet. To confuse thieves and protect your money, use a “decoy” wallet. Keep a limited amount of change in this wallet and leave it in your backpack or pocket. Thieves will take this wallet and bypass your other valuables. For financial peace-of-mind, keep a separate emergency cash stash and international phone card hidden on you at all times, according to essortment.com.
With camera phones and other recording devices, your credit card never has to leave your hand to have its number stolen for fraudulent purchases. So, exactly what is shoulder surfing? Identity thieves stand over your shoulder and use a smartphone to snap photos of personal information while you make a purchase or fill out an application. Be especially aware of shoulder surfing in crowded areas. If you must write out sensitive personal information, use a hand or piece of paper to cover what you are writing. For extra identity theft protection, consider enrolling in an identity theft monitoring service before leaving home.
Lugging your laptop through Europe is a bad idea. Not only will it weigh down your bags, but you will also make yourself an easy target for theft. Instead, bring an old smartphone. Even if you do not have phone service on this phone, you can still take advantage of free Wi-Fi at European cafes and hostels. Should your phone be stolen, the replacement cost is minimal in comparison to a laptop. Bonus tip: Bring USB drives for use at Internet cafes. Every few days, back up your camera’s memory card to these USB drives. If your camera ever gets stolen, you will still have your photos, recommends activebackpacker.com.
If you are traveling alone, hostels are a great way to meet new friends in a foreign city and get recommendations for where to travel. However, be cautious when going out with these new acquaintances, especially if alcohol is involved. Tell the hostel director where you are going and when you will be back. Some popular European destinations can be crawling with impersonators and scam artists. Travel in a group and do not go anywhere by yourself with someone you just met. Use common sense to protect yourself from scam artists and predators.
It’s always smart to carry copies of your passport and travel itinerary, but if your backpack is stolen, you don’t want to be without directions to your next destination. Scan and email yourself copies of your passport and travel insurance, along with an itinerary listing tour and hostel contact information. If a private locker is not available, use a combination lock to close your backpack and then chain it securely to your dorm bed. Should anything be stolen, you’ll have all the emergency contact info you need sitting right in your email account.