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Chapter 6 : Travel Security Secrets

Both my wife and I had a strong feeling we shouldn't get on that bus in Cuenca, but neither of us said anything. A taxi was two dollars, and the bus cost only twenty-five cents. Ana sat down, but there was no room left for me, so I was packed in with the other commuters standing up. Almost immediately I noticed the drunk pushing his way through the crowd, randomly going this way and that.

I knew something was up, and instinctively reached into my pockets to check on my money. We had just visited the ATM that morning, and the $170 cash in my pocket was the most we had carried in one place during the entire trip. It was still there. The old guy pushed against me like he was trying to find a place to stand comfortably. I checked my pocket again.

A few minutes later some space opened up near Ana, and I went over to her seat. I reached in my pocket again, and it was empty. The other pocket was empty too. I hadn't felt a thing. The old drunk was still on the bus. I looked over at him.
"We've been robbed," I told Ana. "All of it." I grabbed the drunk, who was no longer acting drunk at all.

At the next stop we got off, dragging the thief with us. A police officer appeared, and a crowd formed. The man was very sober now, pulling out his pockets and insisting again and again that he was innocent. He said we could search him if we wanted. We wanted. I searched him, but I understood now that his associate was long gone with the money, probably off the bus at a previous stop.

Despite his begging, and the impossibility of getting the money back, we had the officer take him to the police station on his motorcycle while we followed in a taxi (Paying with a twenty from under the sole of my shoe). We filed a complaint, and he would spend the night in jail, then be released for a lack of evidence in the morning. At least his finger prints were on file now.

Travel Security Lessons

A money belt probably would have prevented the robbery. Pockets that close help too, although I had a wallet stolen from a zippered pocket once, and I didn't notice until forty minutes later. At least it was a decoy-wallet, put there for just such an occasion. My real wallet was safely hidden elsewhere (another little travel security trick).

Carry your money in at least three different places. These can include; under the sole of your shoe, in a pocket that you pin inside your clothes, in your shaving kit. Also carry two credit or debit cards in two separate and secure places. Have the "lost or stolen" phone numbers in another place.

Dress properly. If the area you're visiting has much crime, leave expensive watches and jewelry behind.

Ask locals where it is safe. Of course, ask them where it is unsafe too. People sometimes think that foreign cities are dangerous because they just go anywhere in the city - something they would never do in New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago.

There are many things you can do to travel more safely. Of course, the biggest lesson of our experience was obvious. You have to learn to trust your intuition.

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. - Susan Heller

Continue with Chapter 7 here: Wal-Mart Camping

Note: This chapter on travel security was part of the e-book Travel Secrets. Now all chapters are free on this site. See the homepage (the link is at the bottom of this page) for a list of all chapters and links to them.

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