How to keep your smartphone safe when travelling

A person taking a photo of the Colosseum on a smartphone

Nicola Dowse

Posted July 03, 2023

Phones are useful travel tools that can be tempting to thieves. Here's how to keep your phone safe while on holiday and what to do if it does go missing.  

Smartphones have quickly become a part of everyday life, helping us do everything from staying in contact with loved ones through to paying for our daily coffee. For many people, smartphones are also a vital travel tool, with trip planner apps (such as arevo) as well as translation services helping us navigate in unfamiliar locations, whether in Australia or overseas. Not to mention how useful they are for capturing holiday snapshots.

But carrying our smartphone with us when travelling, or even when just heading out to the office, puts it at risk of being lost, stolen, broken or compromised. In the year to June 19, 2023 the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) blocked 43,640 phones in Australia, for reasons including theft, loss and fraud. Of those, only 5,971 were eventually unblocked. 

Given that many smartphones cost thousands of dollars and can contain sensitive information, it’s important to protect this handy asset when out and about.  

A man on his phone in a busy airport

Never leave your phone in your checked luggage when travelling overseas. Photo: Getty. 

How to protect your phone while travelling 

Leave your phone at home 

If your budget allows it, buying a basic phone for travel (especially if you’re going to be buying a local SIM card anyway) means you don’t have to worry as much if it goes missing. Just don’t put any sensitive personal information on the travel phone wherever possible.

If you are going to purchase a phone specifically for travel, do so from a reputable retailer. Online marketplaces might appear to have some great deals but you leave yourself open to purchasing a phone that’s been stolen and potentially blocked by the AMTA (more on blocking below). This can occur even with phones that are seemingly sold new in their box. 

Keep your phone in the same, secure location  

This might be in a secure pocket on your person or in your carry-on luggage. Never leave your smartphone in your checked luggage and reconsider leaving it in your hotel room, even if it’s in a safe. Never give your phone to someone you don’t know or let someone take it out of your sight.

Use a strong password and two-factor authentication 

In the event you do lose your phone, having strong security measures in place can help minimise the damage potential thieves can do. 

Having a strong password, passcode or biometric login (such as a fingerprint scanner or FaceID) makes it harder for thieves to crack into your phone and access your personal information and apps.  

Setting up two-factor authentication on apps that contain sensitive information (such as banking apps) can further protect you if your device goes missing.

Be smart online 

Smartphones can also serve as a gateway for data theft as well as physical theft. Clear any passwords from apps and websites on your phone before travelling and make sure all your phone’s apps and operating system are updated.

Keep Wi-Fi and data turned off unless in use and be wary about any public Wi-Fi networks you can connect to. Turn off features that allow device-to-device sharing (like AirDrop).


A person plugging a phone into charge on a kitchen bench

Keeping your phone in the same location, such as by its charger, can help stop you losing it at home. Photo: Getty.

What to do if your phone is lost or stolen

Stay calm and contact your mobile service provider. Every phone in the world has what’s known as an International Mobile Equipment Identifier number (IMEI) which you can ask your provider to block if your device goes missing. Blocking prevents your phone from making or receiving calls and text messages, or from using data while on any Australian network. Blocking the IMEI is also different to just blocking the SIM card, which allows thieves to still use the device by swapping in a new SIM (blocking the IMEI makes the entire device useless).  

Having your phone blocked is a free service and can be reversed if you end up finding your phone. It’s also a good idea to have your IMEI blocked as it may be a requirement should you need to make an insurance claim. Reporting the loss to the local police is also recommended for the same reason. If you lose your phone overseas you can still have your IMEI blocked, but the block will only work on Australian networks. 

Smartphone operating systems like Android and iPhone also allow you to remotely find, lock or erase all the data on your phone. Because smartphones often store passwords via the cloud, it’s a good idea to also update all your passwords (e.g. your email, banking, social media etc) if your phone goes missing. If you have online or mobile banking linked to your phone, consider contacting your bank so they can flag any unusual transactions too (or put a temporary hold on your accounts). 

How to stop losing your phone around the house

Gone are the days when our phones were attached with a cord to the wall. But you can try recreating the permanence of landline phones by having a dedicated location in your home for your mobile. This is the same method used to keep track of other highly mobile items like keys and passports.  

Just make sure that location isn’t visible from outside your home so as not to tempt potential thieves. Keeping your phone near its charger (and not moving the charger) is one solution, while keeping the ringer turned on can assist in finding it should it be misplaced. 


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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd AR 001243563 is an authorised representative of the issuer and receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Issued by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd ABN 80 000 438 291 AFSL 246 548. Terms & conditions apply, refer to the PDS.