Staying safe abroad: Tips to avoid scams and theft

We may be named after our iconic flightless bird, but we certainly love to spread our wings and travel. 

In the year to April 2023, the travellers amongst us spent an average of 24 days overseas. Our most common hot spots include our neighbours in Australia (the most popular by far), Fiji, the USA, India, China, and the Cook Islands. Domestic travel has also been a priority for many seniors after retirement.

According to our recent Grey Nomads Report, two out of three active travellers (67%) see regular travel as either a very or extremely important part of their lives. 

That said, travel doesn’t come without its concerns. After cost, the second largest consideration for travellers in our Grey Nomads Report was safety, with 61% of survey respondents highlighting this as a major factor. 

With that in mind, here are our top tips for avoiding scams and theft on your travels. 

Check Safe Travel for advisories  

Before you travel (and perhaps before you even book the trip), double check the Safe Travel website for any advisories in place. 

Type in your intended country of travel to view all the health and safety risks in that country. This includes risks of petty crime such as bag snatching and pickpocketing, as well as conflicts and health issues such as illness outbreaks. Each warning is accompanied by area-specific tips for safe travel.

You can also consult family and friends who have visited your travel destinations for any additional first-hand insights.

Protect essential documents  

While you’re travelling, your passport is your most valuable possession. 

Wearing a money belt under your clothes can assist to keep your passport, credit card and cash safe while you’re on the move. An anti-theft travel bag made from extra tough materials can also offer further protection.

You can also scan and print copies of your passport, visas, flight information, travel insurance, and other key info. Keep these separate from the originals as a back-up should the worst occur. 

Leave the valuables at home  

Wearing expensive jewellery might make for nice photos, but it can also make you a target for crime when travelling. With theft and pickpocketing being amongst one of the top concerns for two in five seniors when travelling, this is a key risk to consider. 

If you’re going somewhere where crime may be common or is a risk, consider leaving the expensive jewellery, watches, and other luxury items at home. 

Beware offers of help   

We often hear from visitors about how lovely us Kiwis are, and that’s because we love to help anyone who looks a bit lost or like they need a hand – and we don’t expect anything in return but a quick thanks or a crisp high five. 

Elsewhere in the world, those offers of help aren’t always so genuine. If you’re looking lost or staring at a map, you might be approached by a stranger offering advice. Once given, they may hassle you for cash ‘as thanks’, so be extremely cautious and do not accept unsolicited help from strangers if possible. 

Only use official taxis  

Unmarked taxis are a relatively common scam around the world. In this scenario, you might be ushered towards an unmarked car outside an airport or hotel and told it is a taxi. However, don’t let your natural politeness stop you from walking away if you can’t see any branding or signage on the vehicle. 

Once inside, you might be charged exorbitant fees on the meter, or often, there might not be a meter at all. Stick to known taxi companies and if possible, pull up the directions on your phone to your destination so you can ensure the driver is taking you via the most direct route. 

Stay vigilant  

It can be easy to let your guard down during travels but remember to be just as wary while travelling as you are at home – or more so. 

Follow all common tips for avoiding scams, such as being skeptical of anything that’s too good to be true, avoiding demands to react immediately, and not giving away personal information such as where you are staying or travel details. 

Remember some important considerations such as insurance  

Staying safe abroad also can include considering insurance, such as life insurance. New Zealand Seniors Term Life Insurance can help protect your finances should the worst occur. You can consider spending time researching insurance policies and what suits you.

Click here request a quote from New Zealand Seniors today. 

This is general information only. Please consider the Policy Document available from to ensure the product suits your needs. This information is provided by New Zealand Seniors, a trading name of Greenstone Financial Services NZ Limited NZBN 9429047013582, who have partnered with Pinnacle Life Limited (Pinnacle Life) NZBN 9429030397248, the insurer of this product. Terms and conditions apply.