Travellers are unfortunately easy targets for pickpockets, particularly in touristy areas. The loss of valuables is distressing and can ruin what would otherwise be an enjoyable and relaxing vacation. But we can prevent ourselves from falling victim to thieves as long as we stay alert and do not let our guard down.
Here are some tips to guard yourself against thefts!
1. Valuables – only the essentials
Items that are extremely precious to you, whether it is expensive pieces of jewellery or an heirloom, should be left at home. You will not want to catch the attention of thieves with your sparkling and pricey jewellery. Bring only the essential items, namely your passport, money, camera, mobile phone and the credit and debit cards you intend to use.
2. Cash – separate them
Rather than placing all the cash that you have on hand in your wallet, place only a sufficient amount in your wallet for the day and keep the rest in a separate pouch or store them in different compartments of your wallet. You can also choose to split your cash with your travel companion or place them in hidden pockets in your clothing. That way, you are less likely to draw unnecessary attention when making purchases.
3. Valuables that you will not use – store them
Do make use of the security safe if it is provided at your lodging. Use it to store valuable items that you are unlikely to use on the go, such as your laptops, tablets, camera lens, spare cash as well as your passport. Bring along a combination lock in the event that a security safe is not provided in your lodging and store your valuables in your suitcase and remember to lock it before you set off! For extra security, you may consider burying your valuables with dirty clothing in your suitcase before you lock it.
4. Day bags – go for zipper closures
Your day bag for travelling should be large enough to store items that you will need on the go and have enough inner compartments for you to organise your belongings. But it should also be sufficiently small and discreet such that it does not attract unnecessary attention. Whether you prefer a cross-body bag or backpack, the day bag you pick should have a zip closure so that your valuables are not left exposed.
Avoid bags with drawstring or flap closures as they give pickpockets easy access to belongings in your bag. Those who want to carry backpacks should also consider locking their bags for added security.
5. Dressing and mannerisms – not like a tourist!
Appear like a tourist – let your camera hang around your shoulder, look lost, open your maps in the middle of the street and speak loudly – and you will catch the attention of pickpockets. Blend in with the local community and you are less likely to be a target of thieves. Dress appropriately and be mindful of local customs in the destination you are visiting so that you do not end up standing out. Keep your camera away if you are not using it and avoid opening maps in the middle of the street – head to a corner if you need to look up directions or approach a local!
Appear calm and confident when on the go, even if you are lost. You may want to plan your itinerary in advance and seek advice on directions from locals you meet, be it the receptionist at your accommodation or service staff at stores. You are less likely to be identified as a tourist when you appear to know your way around.
6. Be alert
Stay vigilant, be mindful of your surroundings and keep your belongings close to you wherever you go. Take extra care when you are in crowded and touristy places as pickpockets are likely to be lurking around and waiting for unsuspecting tourists to prey on. Avoid areas that are dark, secluded and poorly lit as they are perfect conditions for skillful thieves to work in.
Do not leave valuables exposed and be wary of strangers who approach you. Pickpockets may not necessarily appear like pickpockets and they can work in teams to distract preys in an attempt to run off with their valuables.
When dining out or taking public transport, do not place your bags on the floor or leave them unattended. Your bags may be taken away when you are not paying attention to them. Either carry your bag or place it on your lap and keep an eye on it – do not give pickpockets a chance to take your valuables away!