Being pickpocketed while travelling is the worst feeling… If you’ve ever had it happen to you, you will know exactly what I mean.
Travelling is meant to be fun, positive experience and a simple thing like being pickpocketed can really make a big dent on that. Particularly in this day and age of smartphones and contactless cards. It can be a real pain!
Thieves and scammers are nothing new, they’ve been thriving in tourist hotspots and pulling their tricks for as long as there have been travellers.
But as we put more and more emphasis on smaller easy to carry around technology, the impact of being pickpocketed has become much more significant.
So with that in mind, I’ve put together these few tips to help prevent you from getting pickpocketed during your travels, and to keep all your belongings safe and sound:
Know before you go
In the same way that you might research the best bars to visit, or most magnificent churches or temples to check out. It’s also important to do some research when it comes to pickpocketing and theft.
Are the souks of Morocco more of a danger than the markets of Barcelona? Is London’s South Bank a cause for concern? Check travel forums, government travel advisory services, and online guidebooks for the latest information on current pickpocketing and scams.
While you should be cautious at all times, a little bit of research will let you know which places to be extra careful in, and possibly even which places to avoid entirely. Just helps save yourself the heartache.
Also, much like the advise in my travel disasters tips, making sure your valuables are insured can go a long way to being in a better situation should the worst happen.
Just make sure you use a reputable travel insurance company (I use Covermore) so you don’t have any issues on the other side.
Whether it’s your devices, your accessories, or your money itself, only carry what you really need to enhanced your travel experience.
Nice sunglasses are good and all, but maybe the $40 pair you don’t wear that often might be an acceptable alternative for your trip.
Noise-cancelling headphones might be great for the flight, but they’ll just make you a target if you’re showcasing them whilst walking through a busy market.
Remember, if you don’t have it with you, it can’t be pickpocketed off you as you explore.
When it comes to money you’ve got a couple of options. Either pre-load a travel card that requires a pin to access the funds, or carry very small amounts on you each day, leaving the rest securely locked away in your hotel or hostel.
Money belts & body wallets
They might be uncomfortable, they might be awkward, and they are definitely not the most stylish things going around… but I can sure as hell guarantee you that they work
Money belts are essentially bum bags (fanny packs you American’s out there) that tie around your waist and go under your shirt. Body wallets are much the same, although they usually hanging around your neck like a chunky necklace/lanyard thing.
Of course, it’s impossible to fit all your belongings in them, but the key essentials that you can’t get home without should be in there whenever you aren’t using them. Passport, money, bank cards, passes – anything that would prevent you from getting home should be zipped away and out of sight.
There’s nothing stopping your bags being taken off the coach without you knowing, falling asleep on the train to wake up empty-handed or even just having your luggage left on the tarmac when you fly.
A money belt or body wallet is a great way to keep everything essential to you and your travels together and on your person at all times so no matter what you can always get home.
This one is especially crucial when it comes to travelling because you’re likely to go to a place that you are just simply not familiar with.
When entering busy areas, or places you’re unsure about, always be aware of your surroundings.
Whether it’s large crowds, distractions, or even street performers… Pickpocketers have a huge range of methods they will utilise to get you to drop your guard for even just a few seconds. In a busy tourist area, that is all they need to make you part with your money and other valuables.
Keeping your hands in your pockets at certain times, or wearing your backpack on your front so it can’t get accessed without you knowing, might look a little silly, but they are simple things that can make a big difference between it being a holiday to remember or one you’d rather forget.
Wherever your travels take, please take it all in and soak up the atmosphere, but always know where your valuables are, and check them regularly to make sure they’re still around.
I can not put too fine a point on it, if you stand out you will definitely make yourself a target.
Pickpockets often play ‘spot the tourist’ when they’re looking for an easy victim, so standing at an intersection with a map out can often make you a big target.
You don’t have to dress differently, or put on a strange accent, but just simply looking like you know where you’re going. Walking to places with purpose and ignoring anyone that is asking for money or help in busy places can make a big difference.
If you need directions, use your smartphone in the same why as it might appear you are reading a message or other notification. Look at it briefly (with the voice directions off!) to guide yourself put it away then continue on your way.
If your unsure sit down at a cafe order a beverage and watch to how the locals go about their daily lives so you can better fit in.
Do some research before you go to know the risks. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t stand out as a tourist.
Absolutely. In tourist rich areas, there are many “professional pickpocketers” know to target front pockets.
They add an extra level of protection since they aren’t easily accessible.
Report it to the police. Contact your travel insurance. Get in touch with your embassy if required.
Look at the end of the day you can’t be paranoid about pickpockets or you’ll just never enjoy your travels, but a little awareness can go a long, long way to making for a much more positive travel experience.
Feel free to share this post with any of your friends who are planning their own trips and if you’d like some more travel tips, head on over to my travel tips page for plenty more advice.
And if you have a travel-related question you would like me to answer, head on over to my contact page to get in touch and let me know.