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Often when traveling by bus you're supposed to leave your big bag in the bottom of the bus. When there are stops before your final destination someone could just take your bag.

Of course I wouldn't leave valuables in this luggage, but it would still be extremely annoying if it got lost.

What is a good, practical way to avoid this luggage stress?

I'm looking for a way that also works in third world countries (i.e. no tags) and that doesn't require me to be very alert at intermediate stops before my destination (possibly at night). I have an ongoing travel insurance, which helps somewhat but it would still be a major hassle if I lost my stuff.

Would some kind of chain be a possibility? Some chain that can be quickly attached without annoying bus company personnel, is there something like that? Could it work?

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    Get off the bus and stretch your legs. Which also gives you a good vantage point to observe. – Michael Hampton Nov 22 '14 at 16:49
  • Some buses have a couple of different compartments depending on destination. I try not to worry about it too much. If I had expensive fancy leather "steal me" luggage or hard cases that look like they've got $$ stuff with me I'd probably not be slogging it in a long distance bus. – Spehro Pefhany Nov 23 '14 at 0:17
  • I don't know the product name, but a coworker once showed me a laptop alarm that may do. It consisted of a loud alarm (like in a smoke detector) that you'd affix to a laptop, and a transmitter you kept in your pocket. If the alarm got too far away from the transmitter, it would start blaring. (The transmitter included a button to toggle the alarm in case you want to go away for a bit.) So you could put the alarm in one bag, the transmitter in another, and if either one is removed, the alarm will sound. You can scale this to more bags if you're worried about multiple bags being stolen at once. – Mark Plotnick Nov 23 '14 at 4:15
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Many companies use a tag that you keep with your ticket, to prove you own the luggage. If this service is available, make sure to use it.

If not, then some (Greyhound) provide a name ticket you can put your details on. Sure it doesn't prevent someone from taking it, but if anyone's suspicious it's easy to ask for ID and show it doesn't match the thief's ID.

Other than that, not much. I've been nervous at times so actually walked with my bag to the loading point and watched as the guy loaded it. Sometimes I've self-loaded and made sure my bag is behind someone else's - just so it's not easily accessible.

I also usually get a window seat above the luggage section, meaning at those intermediate points, you can just keep an eye out the window and ensure your bag doesn't get picked up incorrectly.

Finally, insure your luggage, so if it DOES go missing / gets stolen, at least you're covered for the value, even if it is frustrating.

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    I'm actually looking for an answer that will have some information that will allow me to not aim for a window seat above the luggage section and be alert at every stop. – guaka Nov 22 '14 at 15:42
  • @KasperSouren watching from the window is just 2 lines of my answer...there's more in there. But I'll keep looking for a tool or something as well. – Mark Mayo Nov 23 '14 at 0:33
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These days you may also consider tossing a bluetooth tracker in your bags; when the bag gets in or out of range an alert will pop up on your phone. There are devices custom built for this, such as this one.

  • So you get an alarm after somebody has already stolen your bag and got away with it. That doesn't seem very useful. – David Richerby Nov 22 '14 at 15:51
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    @DavidRicherby: It depends on the exact radius, but basically, this method just seems to replace the watching through the window - with the advantage that you do not have to be as alert, and also, it does not matter from which side of the bus the luggage is unloaded. If we assume that one can still be with the bag in time after seeing it being taken from inside the bus, there is no reason to assume the same couldn't hold after getting the signal on one's phone. – O. R. Mapper Nov 22 '14 at 19:32
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    Also, while I (luckily) do not have any personal experience with that, my naive assumption is that the strategy for stealing a bag/suitcase does not involve taking some random suitcase and running as fast as your legs carry you, but rather, taking a suitcase and normally walking away in the flow of the other people leaving the bus. (Add to that that being one of the last people to take a bag at the particular stop might be a good idea, as otherwise the owner may very well be standing right behind you.) – O. R. Mapper Nov 22 '14 at 19:34
  • As a thief, I would just wait until the bus was about to leave. If you get off the bus to chase me, the bus will leave without you. Maybe I'll just take your bag off the bus and stand around. Your alert will go off when you leave the bag behind. – emory Nov 23 '14 at 22:11
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Pack for carry-on. If you're willing to live with having a day-pack in your lap or under your feet, you don't need to check luggage. You can (and arguably should) certainly do that with anything small and valuable.

Remember, watching may not be enough. There was a case a few years ago where a team was packing a thief into a large piece of luggage, so he could go through all the other bags while the bus was in motion.

If you can't take it into the bus with you, and don't feel comfortable checking it, another solution may be to pay a parcel service to deliver your luggage separately. That's worth keeping in mind even for air travel, now that airlines have been imposing baggage charges even for the first checked bag.

  • It was in the US, in the last few years I believe. Saw a news report from a trustworthy source, but I can't recall more detail. – keshlam Nov 22 '14 at 19:59

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