Staying safe while travelling is of utmost importance. After all, you’re not going to enjoy your trip if you’re constantly worried about being robbed, assaulted or getting ill.
While the odds of something happening to you are low, you’ll enjoy your trip much less if something does go wrong.
So, we’ve compiled this list of travel safety essentials to help protect you and give you peace of mind, so you can enjoy your trip to its fullest!
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Our Top Three Safety Essentials for Travellers!
- Wide range of uses
- Small and lightweight
- Packed with anti-theft features
- Comfortable to carry
- Acts as your daily carry bag
Calling Women and Minority Travellers…
While we here at South America Backpacker believe travel is for everyone, it would be remiss not to point out that those who identify as anything other than straight cis men face additional risks on the road.
Female travellers should know the basics of how women are treated in the country they’re travelling in and consider joining one of the many female-specific travel groups online. They contain a veritable library of resources about travelling through different countries as a woman.
And, if you fall elsewhere on the gender spectrum, search for specific LGBTQ+ travel groups and heed their advice!
Travel Safety Gear – Items to Keep You Safe While Travelling!
Related: (links open in new tab)
- Trip Planning for South America
- Safest South American Countries
- Safety Tips for Travelling in South America
- Easy to use
- Plenty of varieties available
- Small and lightweight
- Don't lose the key or forget the code
- A TSA-approved lock is a must for flying
Padlocks have a range of uses for travellers. They can be used to secure backpack zips, to keep lockers shut and in some super-budget hostels, you’ll want one to lock the door! They’re available almost everywhere, weigh very little and are cheap to buy. There’s no reason not to take a padlock travelling!
Padlocks with a retractable cable are super useful. They give you more options when it comes to locking your stuff!
Depending on where you’re travelling, you may need to use a TSA-approved lock when taking luggage through the airport!
Locking your backpack zips or securing a locker in a hostel.
- Prevents theft
- Available in a wide range of sizes
- Loads of interest technology involved
- Locking systems can be complicated
Smaller than a general theft-proof backpack, anti-theft daypacks keep your day-to-day items safe by deterring thieves and would-be criminals. They feature slash-proof materials, cut-resistant straps and all manner of locking mechanisms. Some can even be secured to fixed objects, so the bag can’t be snatched from under your nose!
Anti-theft daypacks can be used as your everyday bag. Small enough to carry around daily but big enough to hold your essentials, these bags offer peace of mind in towns and cities known for pickpocketing or petty theft.
- Allows you to drink tap water anywhere in the world
- Saves money in the long run
- Large initial investment
- Filters need replacing every so often
Buying bottled water is almost always an option but if you want to save money, reduce your plastic footprint and still avoid the dreaded travellers’ diarrhoea, a water purifier is a must. They come in a range of designs but our favourite is the Grayl UltraPress filtered water bottle. A Grayl bottle means you can drink water from any source, including tap water anywhere in the world. It’s easy to use and is super durable.
Can I Drink Tap Water?
Access to tap water that’s suitable for tourists to drink is limited to just a handful of countries across the world. In most countries, tap water is not suitable for travellers!
The downside is that Grayl bottles are bulky compared to normal travel bottles and are an expensive initial investment. You’ll also need to replace the filters fairly regularly.
For making tap water potable. It removes bacteria and viruses ensuring water is safe to drink. Can also be used to drink water from any source.
- Keeps mosquitos and other biting insects off your skin
- Reduces the odds of catching a mosquito-borne disease
- The only truly effective options contain strong chemicals
- Lots of natural products claim to work but very few actually do
- Can be expensive
Mosquito repellent is of utmost importance when it comes to staying safe while travelling. Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, zika or dengue are no joke. The best way to avoid them is to avoid being bitten. DEET is the most effective repellent you can apply to your skin while Permethrin is excellent for treating clothes, tents or backpacks. It lasts several washes and kills insects upon contact.
To prevent mosquitos or other insects biting you.
Travel insurance means you can get medical treatment abroad without having to worry about the expense. It can cover the cost of lost or stolen luggage and money and help get you home in an emergency. The downside of travel insurance is that it can be expensive and you need to read the small print to ensure you’re covered for everything you want to do!
Covers you for a range of things that can go wrong while travelling and reduces the cost associated with injuries, accidents and crime!
- Stops thieves getting to your gear
- Available in a range of styles and designs
As the name suggests, theft-proof backpacks are built to stop thieves getting to your gear. They contain a bunch of anti-theft features such as slash-proof materials, anti-cut straps and lockable, puncture-resistant zippers. There’s a huge variation in styles and designs with a few big brands dominating the space. Our favourite is Pacsafe. The downside of anti-theft backpacks is their price and weight. Due to the anti-theft technology, they tend to be heavier and more expensive than standard packs.
Get an anti-theft backpack for your main travel bag. It’ll keep your gear safe from opportunistic thieves and can even deter more determined criminals.
- Easy to get
- Needs to be kept charged or requires spare batteries
Taking a torch travelling is always a good idea. Whether it’s for navigating dark dorms or getting around after dark, a torch illuminates your route protecting you from trips and falls. Having a torch also gives you peace of mind when walking through unlit areas, if you can see more of what’s around you, you can react to things in better time.
Getting across dark dorms in the middle of the night, lighting the way when on night hikes or getting back to your accommodation after dark.
A Note on Pepper Spray
Pepper spray or Mace should never be taken travelling. It comes with a whole world of legal problems. In some countries, it’s not legal at all and in others, you need to be licensed to carry it. If you’re caught with pepper spray in some places, it may be treated as an illegal firearm and you could end up serving jail time. It’s also hard to get pepper spray on planes. They tend to be banned from hand luggage but some airlines may allow a small canister in the hold.
- Keep your valuables safe and close to your body
- Hard for pickpockets to get to
- Not very comfortable
- Everyone knows they exist
- Hard to get stuff in and out of without showing you're wearing one
Money belts are one of the most recommended safety items for travellers and backpackers. But to be honest, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. Money belts aren’t that comfortable – especially in hot climates where heat rash can become a real issue – they can only store a limited amount and are hard to get stuff in and out of in public.
While they have their place, a traditional money belt isn’t the all-singing, all-dancing travel gadget it’s sold as.
To get the most out of a money belt, use it to store emergency money and your passport. Never use it to store things you’ll need during the day as getting stuff out shows everyone that you’re wearing one. You’ll also need to wear a loose-fitting top, so the belt doesn’t show through.
- Well hidden
- More comfortable than a money belt
- Hard to get things in and out of
- Only works if you wear a bra
Bra stashes are an excellent alternative to money belts. These small pockets attach to the centre or side of your bra and sit under your clothes. They don’t hold much; some cash and a couple of bank cards at most, so are only suitable for carrying emergency money.
Storing emergency money and bank cards. You’ll need a loose-fitting top to stop the stash showing through.
- Works as an actual belt
- Much more subtle than a traditional money belt
- Very hard to get stuff out of without taking the belt off
- Stores very little
A stash belt is another good alternative to a money belt. However, it can hold very little in comparison. A stash belt is essentially a normal belt with a thin pocket hidden within. When worn, a stash belt looks and works as a standard belt, so it’s multi-purpose! You can only store a few notes and maybe a key inside but you won’t be able to hide bank cards or anything bigger.
Storing emergency cash and potentially a key. You need to take the belt off to access the pocket, so don’t store anything in there you’ll need in a hurry!
First Aid Kit
- Perform basic treatments on yourself or others
- Prevent minor injuries becoming bigger problems
- Takes up extra room
- You might never need it
You might never need to use it but carrying a basic first aid kit for travel is a good idea for all backpackers. You won’t always be close to a medical centre or pharmacy, so carrying basic supplies can help get you out of a pickle. Some plasters, a bandage, tweezers and some antiseptic cream are the bare minimum you should bring.
For a more advanced first aid kit, consider adding painkillers, antihistamines and any other medications you require. It’s also worth keeping a list of any prescription medications inside your first aid kit in case you need it.
Based in the USA or Canada?
Consider adding a Jase Case. They’re not cheap but contain a load of antibiotics that could save your life if you’re well off the beaten track! Sadly, a Jase Case isn’t available to anyone based outside the USA or Canada.
To prevent minor problems becoming major issues!
Pacsafe Bag Protector
- Protects your entire bag
- Can be used to secure more than just your bag
- Very obvious
Pacsafe’s Bag Protector isn’t for everyone. The eXomesh locking system tightens around your entire bag and can be secured to fixed objects. It prevents anyone opening or stealing your bag by creating a cage around it. The protector is super tough and takes a huge amount of effort (and tools) to cut through. It can also be used to secure other items and is relatively common among motorcyclists who lock their helmets and protective clothing to their bikes with it.
The downside is that it’s very obvious when in use. Subtlety plays a huge part in protecting your gear but this bag protector is anything but subtle.
Locking your bag up in your accommodation or bag storage areas when you’re not there. The Pacsafe Bag Protector can also be used to secure clothes or other items to any fixed object. Great for touring motorcyclists.
Pacsafe Strapsafe Luggage Strap
- An extra deterrent
- Light tells you if the lock has been opened
- TSA approved
- Not slash-proof
Pacsafe’s Strapsafe Luggage Strap wraps around your backpack or suitcase to prevent it being opened. It’s an excellent deterrent for when you leave your bag in shared accommodation or check it on flights. It’s TSA approved so can be opened by airport security and has a small LED light to tell you whether it’s been opened.
The downside is that the Strapsafe isn’t slash-proof. It acts as a deterrent rather than a preventative method – determined thieves will get through it easily but most thefts that affect travellers are opportunistic and not targeted.
Securing your bag in hostels or when checked for flights.
Carry a List of Allergies
- Helps you get help if required
- Helps you avoid allergens
If you suffer from allergies, carry a list of what affects you. If possible, have this list translated into the local language too. Get it laminated, so it’s durable and always have a backup copy. This can be used to show at restaurants or when you’re buying food. It can also help you in an emergency as you’ll be able to show it to medical professionals.
To show food vendors or medical professionals.
👉Read More: Travelling in Southeast Asia With A Peanut Allergy! 👈
- Helps your translate what you need on the fly
- Only works if your phone is charged
A translate app ensures you’re able to communicate your needs while travelling. Google Translate and Apple Translate are both excellent but the Google option gives you access to more languages. Both apps can take photographs of written words and translate them on the fly. This is excellent for translating menus in a hurry! 🥡
Make sure you download the language you need to translate onto your phone, so you’re not reliant on WiFi or data.
Translating what you need into the local language.
- Protects you online
- Cheap and easy to acquire
- Slows down your internet connection
- Free options are very limited
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, protects you online by encrypting and rerouting your online communication through one or more servers across the world. It means the WiFi owner can’t see what you’re doing and other people using the same connection can’t trace your online activity. It reduces the chance of people stealing your data, making it especially important if you work from your laptop, use online banking or make big purchases on the web.
Protecting your online activity from prying eyes or those trying to steal your data and passwords.
Door Stop Alarm
- Keeps you safe by creating an alarm system wherever you need one
- Requires batteries to work
- Often won't work on slippery floors
Door-stop alarms are overkill for most travellers. However, if you want the peace of mind that having your own alarm system brings, they’re a good compact choice. Put the doorstop in place before going to sleep and if anyone tries to break in overnight, a loud alarm will sound. It will wake you up and should scare them off!
The downside is that they work best on carpet and when travelling, carpet is not always guaranteed. This might be a better option for digital nomads and those staying longer term in accommodations such as Airbnb.
Placing under doors before you go to sleep to create your own burglar alarm wherever you are.
A Round-Up of Travel Safety Accessories
Don’t let us, or this list of safety devices put you off travelling. Travel is generally safe. Even somewhere a bit sketchy can offer a rewarding experience.
The best way to stay safe while travelling isn’t to spend a ton of money on gadgets and gismos. It’s to be vigilant, know where, what and who to avoid, and try to blend in as much as you can.
But sometimes, you get unlucky and when that happens, you’ll be glad if you’ve got the odd safety accessory to rely on!
Have we missed your favourite travel accessory from this list? Let us know in the comments!