How to deal with theft when backpacking

As some readers of this blog may already know, my laptop got stolen on a 10-hour bus ride from Probolinggo, Java, Indonesia while travelling to Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. I placed my laptop in my bag with two security locks by my feet and kept what I thought to be a good eye on it. At some point of my trip however, someone managed to sneakily steal my laptop and charger out of my bag and get off the bus. I couldn’t believe it! I was livid, I was mad at myself for not being able to spot the thief and even more upset because I had not backed up some of my pre-written posts or my biology research. So, here are some tips from the unfortunate life lesson I had to learn:

Two general rules that I stand by:

  1. Pre-plan for insurance.

If taking valuables (electronics, jewelry, outdoor and sporting equipment) on a trip, keep the receipt, copy of Serial number, model number and color as well as anything that makes the item stand out. This will all help with the Police Report because it is necessary to have this information to file a report and the police will need as many details as possible.

  1. Don’t pull out or wear fancy things in dodgy areas.

For example, my partner and I were driving back on a motorbike from Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, to our temporary home in Bona at 2 AM (1 hour and a half drive if you are going fast with no traffic!). I was unaware that my partner who was on the back of the motorbike had pulled out their Kindle and was reading. At some point, I noticed another motorbike driver getting close to us in the rearview mirror. Wanting to give them space I pulled closer to the edge of the road and found that they were still getting closer. At this point, I assumed the driver was drunk. In reality, they were attempting to steal my partner’s Kindle. This wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t displayed it so openly.
This also goes the same for jewelry, it’s best not to wear items that would attract attention.
If a phone, tablet, laptop or anything that uses a GPS gets stolen, follow these steps to recover the item.

  1. Put a security Pin/Password/fingerprint/whatever

This is hands down is the easiest feature to activate and it prevents criminals from getting personal details. This is especially important if you do online or mobile banking.



  1. Turn on the GPS on

A) Apple Products: 
If you have an apple product, there is a security feature called “Find My IPhone/Mac/Ipad/Whatever” which you need to register for on and enable location services. This program allows you to pinpoint the exact GPS location of your device. It also allows the device to play sound to locate it, keep it locked and you can even render the device useless by wiping its memory. To set it up:
Click on the Apple Menu, then go to system preferences. Then click iCloud. Turn on “Find My Whatever Apple device”.
If your device goes missing:
Go to, type in apple ID and password to log in, and Click find IPhone.
B) For Microsoft:
A similar feature exists for Microsoft and Gmail accounts. Both have a GPS feature enabled. All it takes is logging on to which ever account that the device is registered to and clicking a link that says, “My devices”. This doesn’t always give the exact location because most devices need to be connected to Wi-Fi or a network. On top of that, it requires that whomever stole the device can log on to the device and connecting to a network. Steps to do enable this here.
When I learned of this I was able to locate my stolen laptop. It turns out the thief managed to get from Java to Bali all in the same day.

  1. I highly recommend using PreyProject (I am not endorsed by them in anyway, but think their product is awesome!)

This software is amazing because it helps locate the exact GPS location of up to 3 registered devices as well. All for free!
Beyond that, if any electronics are stolen, then there is a feature that blasts a very loud alarm. That way if you misplace it somewhere or if the thief is nearby it allows them to be located. Furthermore, you can send your device a message if someone manages to log on to your device (to scare the crap out of the thief. Funny success story here). Lastly, the device can be set to “missing”. This means that the device starts taking reports with screenshots and pictures through the camera so that they could get the profile of the thief. It sends reports every 10 minutes and up to 20 for free.
For this feature to work, GPS location needs to be turned on and you need to create a guest account that allows the thief to be able to log on to Wi-Fi or a network.
Prey project also has better versions of this program for a monthly subscription. But it depends on how hardcore you want to be in terms of security.
One of my favorite features is the Geofence feature which allows you to build a virtual fence around wherever you are staying for a period of time. If your device leaves that designated safe area, then you immediately get an email!
I’m not advising anyone to be a vigilante and track down thieves themselves. It’s dangerous and can lead to more problems if the police end up being involved. Use your own judgement.

  1. Visit the PO-PO.

Once off the grueling and emotional bus ride, I went straight to tourist police. This proved to be an “interesting” encounter because the police officer that was filing the report was unprofessional, and he ended up filling out the report incorrectly. I had to go back a second time so that the serial number, proper contact information and case number were put on the report.

  1. Insurance

The most fun bit. Paperwork! This is where you need:

“Original purchase receipt for the Laptop, Copy of the Police Report, and one proof of travel document showing your travel in [Country] which can be a trip invoice for travel, or a flight ticket, or a bus ticket, or a hotel bill, or copy of passport pages showing arrival /departure dated stamps. “ – World Nomads

Insurance can be frustrating for anyone to deal with, but when it comes down to it, World Nomads is hands down the easiest, friendliest and most efficient insurance company I’ve ever dealt with.
I’ve had a string of unfortunate health (dog bite rabies story) and travel incidences, but every time I’ve contacted them, they’ve been on top of staying in touch with me and ensuring that I receive the best medical care. If you are backpacking or traveling for a short period of time, I really recommend them.


Nacpan Beach, El Nido, Philippines – The place I lost my glasses to the sea!

Travelling is really a privilege and the experiences will last a lifetime, but it’s important to be prepared for crazy things like theft or health emergencies to happen. I hope that no one reading this has to deal with theft because it genuinely sucks. If it does happen to you, I hope you have insurance and maybe these tips can help you deal with it. Happy Travels to all!
If anyone has any other tips that they think can help out other travelers, please comment below!