When travelling with an expensive camera and other equipment you should be a lot more cautious, so as not become a victim of street crime and theft. Here are top tips to hopefully prevent anything happening to your equipment when you travel.
Tips to Protect Your Camera When You Travel
Research in advance street crime and safety
You can get a good idea on how safe a destination is by looking online. I often use the UK’s foreign travel advice website which gives me an idea on the safety of a place. I then use search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, and search “street crime in [destination]” or “camera safety in [destination]” to do more research.
Get a feel for an area before getting your camera out
Whenever I visit a destination I will always try and get a feel for how safe an area is. I will keep my camera in my bag until I feel comfortable that it’s safe to take photographs. This applies to places such as isolated areas or if it’s dark.
Busy places and crowds
When in busy places and crowds you may want to keep your camera bag in front of you. This should prevent any opportunists slipping a hand in. Busy places may be on subway systems, at large events, when in queues etc.
Don’t hang your camera loosely on your shoulder
This is a pet hate of mine, where you see people with expensive cameras dangling off their shoulder. It would be extremely easy for someone to run past and grab it, or cut the strap and run off before you have a chance to react. And trust me this happens!
When eating at restaurants or visiting bars and cafes, avoid leaving your camera on your table, or having your bag lose at your feet. This is especially important if you are eating outside on the street. I’ve got friends who’ve had someone go past on a bike and grab their bag because it wasn’t secure. You are essentially asking for trouble if you leave expensive items on your table which are grabbable by passers-by.
Keep an eye on who’s around you at night
At night you should be extra vigilant about who’s around you. You will generally be ok in busy touristy areas, but avoid going down quiet side streets. When taking pictures with a tripod look around every now and then, such as when you are standing still. This will make you seem less of an easy target and potentially robbers may stay away.
Don’t put your camera in checked luggage
If possible always avoid putting your camera and other expensive items in the hold of a plane. I’ve heard stories of things going missing in the past, so it’s best to avoid the headache of it potentially happening to you.
With some new regulation that’s coming up, such as with travelling to the United States, it’s worth looking at whether you can keep your camera on you, or if it has to be in checked luggage. Try and check this before you travel and then make a decision from there. If the airline regulations require your camera to be checked in, then ensure you have a lock on your suitcase and that your insurance would cover your items if they went missing.
Lock up your equipment in hostels
Hostels tend to be the most friendly and relaxed places to stay when travelling. I’ve stayed in many hostels which didn’t have locks on the rooms, and some didn’t even have private lockers. When staying in places like this and to avoid your equipment going missing, then make sure you use the lockers if available, or travel with a lockable suitcase. Also, avoid flashing your equipment around to other guests in the building.
If you have very expensive equipment I’d avoid staying in hostels and instead stay in a hotel that has good security.
Never walk away from your camera or equipment
I often see people leave their bags and equipment and then walk away to start chatting with someone. That’s definitely not a good idea and it’ll only take one dodgy person to run off with your expensive camera and possibly your memories from the trip.
Be wary about who offers to take photographs of you
It’s nice to get pictures of yourself when travelling, but you should be wary of who you hand your camera too. I generally wouldn’t let someone who offered, unless they were a family or couple, or someone who definitely looked trustworthy.
Travel with others
If you travel with others then you are less likely to be a target to any street crime. This may be with your friends or partners, or if you are travelling in tour groups or with other photographers.
Get Taxi’s or Ubers at night
When travelling at night especially in potentially quiet or slightly dodgy areas, then consider taking an Uber or Taxi, as opposed to walking. Hiring a car would work too.
Night trains and buses
Sometimes when travelling you may be sleeping on night trains or buses. When doing this ensure you keep your expensive equipment with you. I often have my bag wrapped around my feet or on the bed with me (if there is a bed).
When travelling by bus or train
..on from this, don’t put your expensive camera and equipment in the luggage area of a bus or train. Instead, keep your most expensive equipment in a bag with you.
Ensure your insurance covers your equipment
When travelling with professional or expensive equipment, then always ensure you have good insurance. When living in the UK I used photoguard.co.uk who have great prices. I never had to make a claim though, so ensure you do your research in advance before buying insurance.
Regularly do backups
When travelling it’s important to make regular backups. This may be by duplicating the pictures onto portable hard drives or other memory cards. You can also back your pictures up online using various services. Head to my post Backing up your Images to read more.
I hope these tips help you protect your camera and equipment when you travel. Things can unfortunately still happen, but by being a bit more safety conscious and doing your research the chances should be lower.
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