Tips for Giving Money to Panhandlers Abroad


Strolling through the cobble stone streets of Vienna, the white buildings stand tall with carved faces staring down on to the bustling streets.  Sitting on the grey pavement in tattered clothes sits a woman with fragile features clutching her styrofoam cup begging for change.

A man in Prague living out of a camper

Sometimes the sight of a person in need pulls at your heart enough that you want to give them some change.  While kindness is a virtue it can also be a target.  While you travel be compassionate but smart.


Giving to Children

When I was in Morocco, some girls gave money to a little boy selling magnets.  And I told them, “You shouldn’t do that.”  The girls used some choice words towards me.  The issue is some families pull their children out of school to beg.  So when you are giving money to a child, you are justifying the parents’ choice to deny their child an education. Instead of giving children money, give them pens, the children love to see the click pens and they’ll use them for practical purposes.

Giving to the Elderly

Little old ladies with their head scarves could be the victims of misfortune but they may also have a son or grandson around the corner waiting for you.  They want you to stop, pull out your wallet so they can grab it and run.  Do not ever open your purse all the way or pull out your wallet in the street.  Instead, I put money in the cellphone pocket of my purse or my jean pocket so I can discreetly hand them money without risking all of my belongings.


Giving Money to “Helpful Locals”

Now the most common scam of all is someone trying to earn some money instead of panhandling.  If someone approaches you about anything, have your hand on your wallet or purse.  Do not let your guard down.  If they try to take you somewhere, say no.  They are either leading you somewhere incredibly expensive, to a team of muggers or distracting you while someone pickpockets you.


To Give or Not to Give

It’s beautiful to give money to someone.  You are directly effecting people and there’s something more tangible than giving to an organization.  For me, putting out a little good karma is good for the soul.  I’m well off:  I can travel; I have an education; I’ve never been scared of going hungry.  When I go on vacation I put a little money aside to give to homeless people.  I do it on vacation if I gave to every person begging for money I’d be broke.  So I make it part of budget and I try to do my best.

A man’s makeshift home built into the bridge with his dog.  Prague.


Many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of handing cash to strangers.  “Well, they’ll spend it on drugs,” is the usual reaction.

  • You can give your money to global organizations like Habitat for Humanity or The Heifer Project. These organizations do a lot to combat global poverty. You know your money is going to be used wisely.
  • Most airports have a tray for your currency in that will go to global charities instead of giving it to homeless people.
  • You can ask a homeless person what they need and go to the grocery store and buy it for them. That way you are giving them things they need.
  • Create small care packages of things they need like soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, tampons, sanitary wipes, sock, underwear, blanket, and water bottles. These are things they’ll appreciate.


We can’t tell people how to spend our money, we just hope we can help them a little and put out a little good karma into the universe.  While I travel I like to do it with kindness, putting more kindness into the universe than I usually do because I’m so blessed to be able to have the life I have.


Sima Greenfield Bio:

I’m Sima Greenfield.  A coffee addicted vegetarian trotting around the globe.  I write about travelling & living on a budget with compassion. Check out my blog www.

2 thoughts on “Tips for Giving Money to Panhandlers Abroad

  1. Ah! These are great tips. I haven’t travelled much, but it always makes me uncomfortable when confronted with this sort of thing, especially in high-tourist areas. There can be so many scenarios that can play out. I really like that you make donating part of your budget, it’s smart, and you can help others while also making sure you can look after yourself 🙂

    Erin | Explore, Refresh


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