I had my passport stolen once, although not in the way you’d probably expect. I was working as a flight attendant and my assigned location to stow my luggage was in a random spot on a Boeing 777. At some point during the flight my passport was taken. Fortunately I was arriving into the US from China so I didn’t have too many problems getting through customs. I don’t feel totally to blame, but I definitely think I could have protected my passport better so it wouldn’t have been easy to grab. It was probably sitting on the top of my bag and if I had hidden it or put it in a zippered pocket, it may have prevented the theft.
When I studied abroad in Rome one of my professors was pick pocketed twice. Now I know Rome is a city that is infamous for pickpockets, but twice?! He was the quintessential absentminded professor with his head in the clouds and absolutely no situational awareness. So while I don’t think it’s right that he was pick pocketed, I do feel that there are so many things he could have done to prevent this from happening.
With my professor (and YOU!) in mind, I compiled a list of my best tips to avoid getting pick pocketed while traveling.
- Leave your valuables in a hotel safe if possible, or at least hide your laptop or iPad at the bottom of your luggage.
- Spread out your valuables so everything isn’t in one purse or wallet.
- Walk to a safe and less crowded area to pull your money or phone out.
- When you sit down at a restaurant or outdoor cafe, loop your bag around your leg, arm, or even a chair leg. Pickpockets love restaurants because tourists are relaxed and let their guard down.
- Secure your bags when sleeping on a train.
- Some of the best pickpockets are women and children. Trust no one! hee hee Just kidding. But do remember that a pickpocket could be anyone.
- Enjoy the scenery but walk with a purpose in heavily congested areas.
- Dress to fit in.
- Wear a money belt or pickpocket proof clothing.
- In some countries it’s best not to wear your camera around your neck (I had a friend get his snatched right off him in Brazil)
PLACES TO BE EXTRA CAUTIOUS
- Train stations
- Pulling money from an ATM
- Outside of museums, monuments, or other high tourist areas
- Don’t walk in deserted areas at night if you can avoid it (think about safety when booking your hotel location)
- Riding on public transportation
SCAMS TO BE AWARE OF
- Rose for your Girlfriend – Someone will approach you to buy a rose for your loved one and will follow you around until you buy one. Give them a firm NO and walk away quickly. I’ve also seen thugs in NY offer you a free CD and once you take it they bully you into paying for it. Again, just walk away.
- Don’t Sign any petitions on drugs, on Tibetan monks, or just to be safe… on anything!
- Don’t let anyone offer to take your luggage on or off a train. They may try to bully you into tipping them or worse take something.
- Be careful with your phone on public transportation. Thieves love to snatch your phone and slip off the train right as the doors are closing.
- Be cautious of Distractions. From shoving maps in your face (or even a baby in your arms), to a fake dropped wallet, to bumping into you, or just some sort of mock scene to grab your attention. These distractions come in all sorts of forms.
What other tips do you have? And I’m sure a few of you have your own pickpocket stories… would love to hear them!