The sights, sounds, smells, and exciting atmosphere of a new city can be so exciting and may completely grab all of your attention! As they should! Being completely immersed and distracted in foreign surroundings is one of my favorite things about traveling. BUT with that said, there may be people who will try to exploit your distracted attention, and try to pickpocket or steal your belongings. You don’t want that to happen!! You want to leave your trip with everything you took with you (and maybe bring home a few more things too). Here are 11 tips on how to avoid pickpockets when traveling and keep your belongings safe!
11 Tips on How to Avoid Pickpockets When Traveling
1. You Don’t Need To Keep Your Passport On You At All Times
This may sound obvious, but there have been multiple times when I go out sightseeing and I realize I have left my passport in my purse. This is a big NO-NO. The only time you need your passport on you is when you are traveling in between countries, if you are not, keep your passport in a secure place at the hotel. Only keep your passport on you if you absolutely need it! The last thing you want is to have your travel documents stolen – it is not fun to be stuck in a foreign country and standing in line for hours at an Embassy. If your passport gets lost or stolen while abroad, check out this website.
2. Only Keep The Money You Need For The Day With You
One of the best ways to avoid pickpockets is to be one step ahead of the pickpocket. Have a plan and know what you are doing for the day. Know the exact amount of money you need for tickets, food, activities, and other expenses. Keep that amount of cash on you and nothing else. Also, NEVER carry a debit card on you. Choose to carry a credit card on you instead. Call your bank before you depart and let them know where you will be and when you will be there. If your wallet gets stolen, you will only lose one day of cash and a credit card that you can easily cancel.
3. Keep Your Passport, Travel Documents, Extra Money, Jewelry, Laptop, Phone, etc. in the Safe Whenever You Don’t Need It
So you know not to take everything out with you during the day, but what about in the hotel? We make it a habit to keep all our money, travel documents, electronics, and jewelry locked in the safe whenever we aren’t using them… even if we are in the hotel. Avoiding pickpockets does not just happen when you are out and about. It’s up to you to decide what you do with your belongings but it is better to be safe than sorry!
4. When Carrying Cash, Keep Your Money In A Bag In The Front Of You That Has A Zipper
When you are carrying valuables with you, be very aware of what type of bags you are storing your belongings in. There are many different types of bags you can choose from like under-the-shirt pockets, fanny packs, or money belts. How to avoid pickpockets has a lot to do with the type of bag you choose to carry. I personally travel with a little cross-body bag with a zipper that I keep in front of me at all times. And when I venture into a crowded area or someone approaches me on the street, I always make it a point to clasp my hand over the closed zipper.
5. Try To Avoid Wearing A Backpack: If You Choose To Wear A Backpack, Keep Your Important Documents and Money In A Deep/Inner Pocket In Your Backpack
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a cute backpack, but try to avoid wearing a backpack when out sightseeing. I always travel with a backpack to and from the airport, but I never take a backpack out with me for the day. If you choose to wear a backpack, be aware that your belongings can be especially vulnerable because the bag is behind you and out of sight. Make sure you put your important things in the deepest and innermost pockets as possible to avoid pickpockets. And if a situation arises that makes you uncomfortable, wear your backpack in front of you.
6. Be Cute, But NOT Flashy
The more you can blend in with your surroundings, the less targeted you will be from people who are looking to pickpocket tourists. If you are traveling somewhere that is known for pickpocketing, avoid flashy designer clothes or expensive jewelry. Try not to travel with something that has a lot of sentimental value, is expensive, or is irreplaceable.
7. Transport Your Valuables With You In Your Carry On
I have had things stolen out of my luggage many times and there is nothing more frustrating. One time I had a brand new coat and few clothes stolen right out of my checked luggage. But I learned my lesson: all the clothing items with tags were stolen. That same trip, my sister had brand new, unpackaged makeup stolen out of her luggage. After that experience, I never put unpackaged things or clothing items with tags on them in my luggage. And this may sound gross, but if I buy something particularly amazing on a trip that I can’t put in the carry-on, I usually bury it under some dirty underwear. You do what you gotta do, but I seriously doubt someone is desperate enough to scrounge through my dirty laundry!
Want to save up more money for your travel budget? Check out this blog post for 10 Simple Ways to Save For Travel!
8. Street Scam Techniques
One of the best ways to avoid pickpockets is to understand street scam techniques. Street scammers can be very sneaky. When Cole and I were in Paris, a group of college age kids came up to us and asked us to sign a petition for starving children in Africa. Cole was about to sign it, but I had seen this before, so I told them to buzz off before Cole could sign it. Cole was so confused and thought I was a little harsh, especially when it was such a good cause. What he didn’t know was that it was actually a scam! They would have waited for him to be distracted with signing a petition, and someone would come behind him and try to steal his wallet.
Here are a few other techniques that pickpockets might try to use on a traveler:
- Approaching you and starting a conversation
- Accidentally spilling something on you and then offering to help clean it up
- Using children to beg or otherwise distract you
- Targeting possessions that you leave unattended
- Dropping money, a ring, etc. in front of you or near you and asking if it is yours
- A man offering you a rose (this happens a lot in Italy)
9. Don’t Rummage Through Your Purse Or Count Money In Public – Be As Discreet As Possible When Paying
This is another really simple tip, but be very cautious with your money and belongings in public. Try to pay with cash as much as possible, but if you choose to pay with a card, NEVER let anyone handle your credit card. At any reputable restaurant in Europe, the waiter will bring you a card machine and let you charge the card yourself. Try to be as discreet as possible when handling your money or paying for something and do NOT flash big wads of cash. Never letting anyone handle your cash, cards or valuables will help so much when it comes to avoiding pickpockets.
10. Be ATM Smart To Avoid Pickpockets
Try to withdraw and exchange your money BEFORE you leave on your trip – it tends to be a lot easier and a LOT cheaper. Do a quick google search for exchange rates and contact your local bank and exchange your money before you depart. But I get it, things come up when traveling and you may have to use an ATM while abroad. Try to use an ATM machine that is inside a bank instead of just out on the street. ATMs within a bank tend to be more secure and more regulated. If anything seems strange or sketchy about an ATM you are about to use, trust your gut, and find a different one. Here are a few things to be aware of when using an ATM machine:
- Shoulder surfing: this is where criminals look over your shoulder and watch you enter your PIN.
- Card-trapping: a device inserted into a cash machine cart slot that retains your card inside the cash machine
- Skimming: a skimming device is attached to the card slot in order to copy your card details and a separate, miniature pinhole camera is hidden overlooking the PIN pad
11. Be Aware
Be aware of your surroundings! Know the sketchy areas of the place you are visiting and steer clear. Understand that you are at more of a risk of pickpocketing in touristy or busy areas. Listen to your gut if you feel threatened or uncomfortable and in those situations, don’t feel obligated to be nice. If you feel you are being targeted, make a scene, and don’t be afraid to tell someone to back off.
That’s it! Use these tips to go out, be smart and enjoy your vacation without the stress of being pickpocketed. Please let us know what you do to prevent pickpockets and scams you’ve seen while traveling!
Safe travels, friends!