How To Avoid Pickpocketing While Travelling

Ubud Markets

Travelling is meant to be, in a word, fun. Jetting off somewhere for away – whether it’s for a holiday, for work, or for an amount of time you’re not even sure about yourself – should be a positive experience, filled with the uncertainty of what you’ll find along the way. And although it’s not always stress-free, it shouldn’t harbour huge worries.

In recent years, so much of what we do and have in ordinary life has undergone some serious upgrades.

This usually means that the things that might have been more difficult or cumbersome for us to access in the past have, over time, become smaller, lighter, or just better. From digital purchases, like contactless cards and Apple or Android Pay, to top-end digital or action cameras you can fit in your pocket, and even things like noise-cancelling headphones or fit-bit watches.

The only downside to these upgrades is that, in this day and age, we often carry many of these expensive things with us on a daily basis – and the same goes with travel.

What would have, twenty years ago, been a backpack full of CDs, books and a clunky camera, is now a pair of cargo shorts or a bum bag filled with $200 headphones, a $500 camera, and a pair of designer sunglasses.

Because of this, in certain countries thieves and scammers are thriving, simply knowing that the average tourist, or even seasoned traveller, is likely to carry an array of valuable good.

So it’s crucial for anyone venturing off – somewhere familiar or not – to be wary of any thieves or other opportunists; the last thing you want to happen whilst you’re on holiday is to fall victim to pickpocketing as trust me, it can prove to be a nightmare. So I’ve put together these few tips to help prevent you from getting pickpocketed on 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 best 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.

This will let you know which places to be cautious in, and which places to avoid entirely. Not only this, but anything you consider valuable should be insured before you go, just in case – just be sure to always double-check your travel insurance coverage to make sure what they cover, and how quickly they can help out if anything did go missing.

Carry small

Whether it’s your devices, your accessories, or your money itself, only carry what you really need to enhanced your experience.

Feel free to wear nice sunglasses, but maybe the $40 pair you don’t wear that often. Your noise-cancelling headphones might be great for the flight, but you don’t need them on you whilst walking through the busy market.

Remember, if you don’t have it with you, it can’t get stolen. And when it comes to cash, 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 the hotel or hostel.

Money belts & body wallets

They might be uncomfortable, they might be awkward, they might not be the most stylish things around… but I can sure as hell guarantee you that they work.

Wherever you travel, there will be a point (usually upon arrival or when checking out) where you’ll have everything on you at once – that’s where money belts and body wallets come in.

Money belts are essentially bum bags that tie around your waist and go under your shirt, and body wallets are much the same, usually hanging around your neck like a chunky necklace.

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 at all times. Passport, money, cards, passes – anything that would prevent you getting home should be zipped away and out of sight.

There’s nothing stopping your bags being taken off the coach without you knowing, getting mugged just outside the hotel, or even falling asleep on the train to wake up empty-handed. With your most key items out of sight, even if everything else goes missing, you can still make it home.

Be aware

This one is especially crucial when it comes to travelling, because you’re likely to go to a place you’re not familiar with.

When entering busy areas, or areas you’re unsure about, always be aware of your surroundings. Whether it’s large crowds, distractions, or even street performers – pickpockets have a huge range of methods they use to let peoples’ guards down, and take advantage of both tourists and locals’ money and goods. And worse yet, with large crowds, they can disappear in an instant.

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 – simple things like this can be the difference between it being a holiday to remember, or one you’d rather forget.

Wherever you go, feel free to soak in the atmosphere, but always know where your valuables are, and check them regularly to make sure they’re still around.

Blend in

If you look out of place and stand out from the crowd, then there’s no doubt you’ll be getting eyed up more than anyone else.

Pickpockets often play ‘spot the tourist’ when they’re looking for a 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 try to look like you know where you’re going, ignore anyone asking for money or help in busy places, and only ask for directions from trustworthy sources, like tourist information centres, or uniformed tour guides.

In short, although your primary goal should be enjoyment, be cautious along the way, and that’ll ensure that your trip goes smoothly – soak in the sights, eat, drink and have fun to your heart’s, but just be wary whilst you do.

What tips do you have for avoiding getting pickpocketed? What tactics do you use to keep your things safe on your travels? Share your tips with a comment below!

Pickpocketing FAQ’s

How do you avoid being pickpocketed while travelling?

Do some research before you go to know the risks. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t stand out as a tourist.

Can pickpockets steal from front pockets?

Absolutely. In tourist rich areas, there are many “professional pickpocketers” know to target front pockets.

Are money belts safe from pickpockets?

They add an extra level of protection since they aren’t easily accessible.

What should I do if I have been pickpocketed

Report it to the police. Contact your travel insurance. Get in touch with your embassy if required.

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About the Author: Rhys Vandersyde

Traveler, Photographer, Content Creator. I've spent the last 10 years exploring all over the world, but there is still plenty more to see.

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