How To Keep Your Bitcoin Safe When You Have to Flee Your home

    The world is becoming an increasingly unstable place politically and economically speaking. Many people all over the world are currently living somewhere presenting serious risks to their livelihood and well being, everything from totalitarian and persecutory governments to the general state of the economy deteriorating so badly that their ability to sustain themselves is in question.

    This puts people in a horrific position, having to choose between continuing to tough out the situation and maintain their possessions, or leaving most of what they own behind to flee from abusive governments or a destroyed economy. If they are lucky enough to even have the financial and practical capability to leave in the first place. You can’t bring large amounts of cash or gold with you, they’ll be seized at the border. Bank account balances can be completely restricted, meaning that even though you can technically access it globally in most cases, it can be locked down in an instant.

    You can’t bring your house, you can’t bring your car unless you can drive where you’re going (if you even own one), you can’t bring any sizable physical asset. All you can take with you is what you can carry on your back or in a few bags. Bitcoin completely changes this dynamic. It is a vehicle that can transport any amount of wealth you have stored in it across any border.

    All that is required is you in one form or another carry twelve words with you across the border. That is all it takes to bring your wealth with you should you find yourself in a situation where things are bad enough you have no option but to flee. These are some of the best options.

    Border Wallets

    Border Wallets is a very interesting scheme taking advantage of how people’s brains work with visual memory. The tools provide a way to generate a two dimensional grid of all the possible seed words. This can be generated in a few different ways, but I would recommend that anyone who uses this tool use the deterministic generation mechanism. This ensures that in a worst case scenario if you lose your copy of the seed word grid, you can regenerate the same one if necessary.

    This grid can then be filled in using a recognizable or memorable pattern. Human beings are very visual animals, and the reality of how our minds work is that visual patterns are much easier for the average person to memorize than words. After generating the grid, users can select words on the grid in a recognizable pattern that is easy to recognize. It is critically important to remember the order you are going to follow for actually turning this into a seed phrase. I.e. are you following all the highlighted words left to right in a row, then moving down each row? Are you going down each column top to bottom, then moving to the right one column?

    Recognizable shapes are great, a circle, a square, even a Bitcoin B. With the ability to regenerate the same grid, an easily recognizable pattern you can fill in, and the order in which to turn those highlighted words into a seed phrase, Border Wallets present a powerful tool designed specifically to ease the mental load of keeping a seed phrase memorized.

    This should allow you to cross an international border without anything identifiable at all that is related to Bitcoin. Just remember, before actually making the trip, test things. Run through the process of creating the word grid, make sure that you can properly regenerate the same grid. Create a test pattern and set it aside, then come back and make sure the pattern you remember arrives at the same word seed.

    Once you’ve run through the testing and verified you can regenerate everything properly, you can make the trip out of the country with confidence that your Bitcoin is safe and will be accessible when you arrive at your destination.

    Samourai Wallet

    Samourai Wallet in addition to their coinjoin implementation Whirlpool, and other privacy features, has one particular feature that has existed from almost the beginning of the project in one form or another: Stealth Mode. This is an incredibly valuable feature in a situation where you must cross an international border.

    The mobile application can be set to obscure everything about the fact that it is a Bitcoin wallet. The logo is changed to masquerade as a number of different applications, and all signs of Samourai Wallet being installed are obscured. It can function as either a calculator app, a VPN app, a QR scanner, or a notepad. Each fake application is functional, and when launched has the appearance of being whatever decoy app the user selects. Each decoy app has a different mechanism hidden in it to actually open Samourai Wallet to access your Bitcoin.

    It is important to note that this will not stand up to any forensic analysis of your device. I.e. if it is seized and actually inspected using computer forensics software, they will be able to suss out the fact that a Bitcoin wallet is installed. However, a manual inspection of your device (which is much more common if any inspection takes place at all) should give no sign whatsoever to a customs agent that a Bitcoin wallet is installed on your device.


    Steganography is the technique of hiding a piece of data or information inside of some other piece of information. A good example of this is hiding information inside of a jpeg. It is possible using different digital tools to take a secret piece of information, such as a text document, or a bitcoin seed phrase, and embed it inside of a jpeg. The jpeg would look completely normal, with no changes to the visual image, but the file itself would have the secret information included within it to be extracted by anyone who knew it was there.

    Now this requires putting your seed phrase on a computer to encode and embed it, and requires using tools that are not very user friendly (there are web based tools for this kind of thing, but NEVER use something like that to handle your seed phrase or private keys). However, the general concept is something that can be useful.

    Do you have a book? Any book? If you do, see if you can go through it page by page and find the words in a seed phrase you have generated in the correct order through the pages of the book. If you can, you’ve just found something that can be used to transport your seed phrase safely without anyone suspecting it. Simply go through the book and highlight (in order) the words making up your seed phrase as you find them. Done.

    You can simply stroll through border control with a completely innocuous looking book, knowing that hidden within it is your bitcoin savings.


    I mention this last specifically because all the other options presented above are much safer for most people, especially given that Border Wallets is a system set up specifically to aid peoples’ ability to memorize their seed phrase in a safer way. In the event that for some reason that is not an option, just memorizing your seed phrase as it is can be a path to take.

    But I must stress that this is very risky for many people. If you go this route, be very careful. Test yourself numerous times, memorize your phrase and give yourself a week of not looking at it. Repeat it to yourself in your head every day. At the end of this period write down what you remember and compare it to the original copy. Do this a few times.

    When it comes time to leave, as soon as you possibly can after arriving at your destination write it down again and create a physical copy. This is by no means the best, or safest, option for transporting your Bitcoin keys across a border. But sometimes people find themselves in a situation with limited options. This should be a last resort.

    Final Thoughts

    The list above of tools for transporting your seed phrase across an international border are by no means exhaustive. There are numerous other options for ways to accomplish this, all with their own trade offs in terms of risk of loss or detection. I’m sure that if many of you reading this put your minds to it you could come up with your own methods for doing so.

    The options here were chosen because of the reliability, simplicity, and the safety against loss. If you feel the need or desire to venture into more complicated or self created ways to transport your seed, I recommend extreme caution in doing so. The options above should be applicable and useful for the vast majority of situations people can find themselves in, and are some of the safest ways to do so.

    Keep these tools in mind, one day they might make the difference between starting over somewhere destitute, or starting over somewhere with your accumulated wealth intact. 

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