Safe, Safer and Safest: How to Avoid Trouble in Europe and the U.K

It’s hard enough earning the money it took to travel overseas so make sure you’re the only one spending it. Okay, I’ll admit it’s the wife spending it since my idea of a European shopping spree is a ball cap that has “Rome” on the front. Still, hanging on to your money until the wife spots that lace tablecloth she just has to have is easy if you just use your head.

Money Talks
When traveling, I prefer cash, and lots of it. That doesn’t mean I have lots, I just would prefer to. Some folks use their ATM’s constantly but whenever possible, use a machine in a bank lobby; it’s not always a great idea to be seen on the street pulling out fresh bills. Using your credit cards instead of cash is preferred by some, though you will get hit hard with their exchange fees. Cash is best when haggling over prices, and haggling is practically a national sport in some countries. Wear a money belt under your shirt and keep just what cash you need in your pocket.

Money Talks

Zip it Up.
Just because they call them pick-pockets doesn’t mean they only pick pockets. Backpacks and purses are like honey to bears for thieves. Pacsafe makes bags that while not theft-proof, will deter most any common thief. We used a Pacsafe Coversafe 25 Secret Wallet on a recent trip to Europe, and while I didn’t feel necessarily “Hip” with it on my shoulder, it was comforting knowing no one could unzip it without a lot of trouble. Their bags also have steel threads embedded in the straps so if anyone tries to cut it, they’re screwed and if they try to rip it off, well, I’m coming with it. A good red-neck version of securing your backpack is to use a paperclip to clip opposing zippers together. While this won’t lock things up, it will slow down any but the most intrepid pick-pockets.

Stash It
If you’re staying in a hotel with a safe in the room, use it. Lock up everything including cameras, chargers, medications and souvenirs. It may just be a fridge magnet you bought on the street, but dang it, you haggled for it, it’s yours. If you’re not carrying your passport in your money belt around your waist (remember the money belt?) then lock it up. The one thing worse than losing your money is losing your identity, and believe me, overseas your passport is your identity.

Stash It

Safety in Numbers
If you’re traveling with a tour group, chances are you’ll be safe wherever. We used one and they ran us so ragged, we never stopped long enough to get into any trouble. Okay, there was that one incident in Paris where I lost my cool but I swear it wasn’t my fault. Luckily, even though we had left our group and were wandering aimlessly among the sex shops and strip clubs of the Montmartre neighborhood, I did bring a secret weapon: a 6’4”, 250 lb. Texan named Todd. I don’t usually carry one everywhere I go, but he certainly saved my life that night. My point is there is safety in numbers. If you are journeying to rough parts of town (by the way, we weren’t visiting the sex shops and strip clubs, just passing through) make sure you are not alone.

Just be aware of your surroundings. I knew we were in jeopardy that night in Paris but lost my cool without realizing it. If you do journey off the beaten track, keep your wits about you or believe me, the wife will remind you about it forever and forever. Be smart about getting intoxicated – I swear I hadn’t had a single drink, though I sure did afterwards – and use your better judgment when partying. You don’t need to be afraid, or even nervous, in your travels to Europe or the U.K, just be smart. Oh yeah, if you do have a 6’5” 250 lb. Texan handy, bring him along.

Okay Class, Now Pay Attention

by Michael Ryan

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