As much as vacations should be about enjoying what the world has to offer while leaving the stress of work behind, there is one undeniable truth that shouldn’t be ignored. Even in relatively safer tourist destinations such as Rome or Paris, travelers are prime targets for theft. Most commonly, this comes in the form of pickpocketing.
Sure, stealing money or other valuables is a quick way to spoil your vacation enjoyment, but being overly preoccupied with the idea of it happening can also lead to horrific paranoia during the trip. Fortunately, there are many ways to make one less likely to fall victim to pickpocketing, and none of them are complicated. Here is a list of precautions to allow for an overall carefree travel experience even in cities notorious for pickpockets.
10 Follow your instincts
This may sound obvious, but always keep in mind that your gut instincts can often be a reliable warning to avoid threats. If you notice that someone is acting strange or seems a little concerned about what you’re doing and where you’re going, it’s best to act safe and avoid them. Keeping your distance is key here. This can be done in discreet evasive ways, such as simply crossing over to the other side of the street or just making sure that some people are standing between you and the suspicious stranger.
9 money belts
Money belts are an easy way to hide your valuables somewhere where pickpockets can never reach. There are different styles of money belts. Some are exactly what it sounds like, with a similar look to a typical belt, but with a small opening that could hold some cash or documents that zip closed. Some money belts are in the form of a bag. This isn’t too big or stylish enough to get into the fanny pack area, but it does have more storage space than a basic money belt.
8 Pickpocket protective clothing
As an alternative to relying on a money belt or for extra precaution, it’s easy to find specialized pickpocket-resistant clothing online. There are a variety of options in this department, mostly consisting of shirts or pants with hidden or well-secured pockets that fit in functionality while still looking reasonably fashionable. For the more security conscious, there are very complex travel jackets that are difficult to penetrate for pickpockets.
7 Keep everything on your front side
For those who don’t want to invest in things like money belts or pickpocket protective clothing, there are old, tried and true methods that require no expense. The concept is simple: keep all valuables up front where they can see them at all times. Moving the wallet from the back pocket to the front greatly reduces the chances that someone will be able to pull out a wallet quickly. Likewise, wearing backpacks toward the front side makes it impossible for pickpockets to surreptitiously reach a hand inside. This is a particularly common practice on crowded public transportation.
6 Leave valuables in your room when possible
Something that is not taken out in the pocket is not at risk of being stolen. Before leaving the room for the day, do a quick inventory of the items and sort out what’s really needed and what’s not. Passport theft is always a big concern and for this reason, most people choose to store it in a safe place in their room. Best practice is to take a quick photo of it in case a rare event that requires identification occurs.
5 Don’t carry more cash than you need
Next on the list follows the same logic that says that the less stuff you have in pockets, the more difficult it is to be a pickpocket target. The general rule of thumb for seasoned travelers is to never carry more cash than your estimated budget for a day. This not only reduces the likelihood that the thief will be able to find it, but also, in the event of theft, the loss will be minimized. Losing all the money withdrawn for an entire trip budget to one pickpocket is a pain to bear.
4 Don’t fall for scams
A common tactic among thieves is to distract the victim, giving him or her the opportunity to get into pockets unnoticed. This happens in an endless variety of ways and often involves the cooperation of two people who have chosen a target. One widely reported method involves someone “accidentally” spilling a drink on the victim before their partner pretends to offer a kind helping hand to the tourist while reaching into their pockets. Always be overly vigilant of physical contact with strangers regardless of the context.
3 Keep things and bags tied to your body
This is another simple precaution that many people take for granted until it is too late. Keeping things like bag straps or a camera securely attached to one’s body helps ensure that no one can grab them and get them up and running quickly. Even when you are in a safe place, it is a good idea to maintain the habit of keeping valuables physically attached to one’s body as much as possible rather than leaving bags, cameras, or other items sitting freely on the work surface or the floor. All a thief needs is a quick moment of weakness.
2 Do not display valuables
The easiest way to become a viable target in pickpocketing is to display valuables. Many tend to wave their cell phones or other electronic devices without thinking, count piles of cash, and wear flashy jewelry in public. Not only does this convey to the thieves that the traveler has high-value items worth taking, but it is also likely that it will tell them exactly what pocket they can get into to get it. Try to limit cell phone use in public places and don’t inadvertently display all the tons of cash.
1 Be very careful in large crowds
Avoiding large crowds is often impossible when traveling, whether it’s on public transport, on the streets of a major city on converging rides, or in the lively nightlife. The best one can do about it is to try to be very careful of any physical contact with a stranger, no matter how little bump or brush they may be with another person. Pickpockets realize that individuals in this place are overstimulated and will seize this as an opportunity to strike unnoticed. Constantly try to keep an open bubble of personal space.