7 Strategies for Avoiding Pickpockets on Your Next Vacation

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The world holds many wonders, and travel allows us to experience them. There’s nothing like jetsetting across the world to explore ancient ruins and immerse yourself in a different culture. 

A big downfall, however, is that many of these wonders are populated by people who live in poverty. Poverty can breed crime, and tourists are often an easy target for petty criminals hoping to make a quick buck. 

Although rare in the United States (outside big cities and the subway), pickpockets are prevalent in most other parts of the world. 

Pickpockets pose a threat to unsuspecting travelers. Here’s how to keep your stuff safe. 

What Are Pickpockets?

Pickpockets are skilled thieves who aim to steal your belongings stealthily. Some pickpockets will slit your back pocket so that your wallet slides right out without you ever even noticing. Others will reach into your purse while your head is turned, quickly snatching your valuables while you remain unaware.  

Some will even go so far as to steal your purse or handbag if you set it down for a second.

How to Avoid PickPockets

Pickpockets are good at what they do, but you can protect yourself. 

Here’s how to keep the pickpocketers target off your back. 

1. Don’t Wear a Back-Facing Backpack

A rear-facing backpack is a pickpocket’s dream. Cutting the bottom out of a backpack and stealing everything inside is far easier than you’d think. Wearing one is practically asking a skilled thief to rummage through it. 

You often must bring your backpack while traveling, especially if you’re moving from one destination to another. 

To ensure you don’t lose your valuables while wearing a backpack, wear it in front of you rather than on your back. This tactic allows you to sit down while wearing it as a bonus. 

It’s also crucial to keep your essential documents, like your passport, credit cards, and money, in the safest place on your person. Make it impossible for pickpockets to access them.  

2. Keep Your Back Pockets Empty

Back pockets are an easy target for pickpockets. Some are skilled enough to take your wallet without you noticing, while others use a crowded place as an excuse for touching you. 

You expect to be touching others when packed into a train or bus like sardines in a can. Would you notice if the person next to you purposefully lifted your wallet rather than accidentally rubbing it against you? 

Most of us wouldn’t be able to tell the difference when there are so many people pushing against us. 

Some pickpockets will even go so far as to slit the pocket with a knife so that all of the belongings fall out. You will lose your stuff, and your pants will get ruined. 

Keeping valuables in your front pocket will significantly reduce this risk. 

3. Use The Right Purse

Some purses make easier targets than others. When I travel to places known for pickpockets, I use a small purse with an around-the-shoulder strap that rests on my hip. Since the purse was always wrapped around me, I didn’t have to worry as much about purse snatching. 

My purse also had a top portion that folded over the inside compartments, which a thief would have to lift to access my wallet. I ensured that it was always on my front hip, and while in crowded places, I’d place my hand over the top as an extra precaution. 

However, you must consider the drive-by purse-snatching method when choosing this option. In some countries, thieves drive up on a moped, cut your purse strap, and drive off with the goods. 

Hip Kip

When traveling in areas with massive pickpocket problems, I use a hip clip, a cute little purse that clips to your pants. When used correctly, it takes immense pressure to pull off, meaning it’s not going anywhere if someone tugs on it trying to snatch it. 

I also wear a jacket or long shirt that covers the hip clip’s zipper for extra protection. A thief would have to lift my shirt to access it. 

Get a Hip Klip on Amazon!

There are tons of stylish handbags that help prevent theft. Use one on your next trip to keep your valuables safe!

4. Use a Wearable Neck Wallet

Savvy travelers get small plastic wallets that go around the next and rest under their clothing. 

The strap is generally adjustable so you can wear it over your shoulder like a traditional purse.  They come with many pockets, so you can easily carry your passport, credit cards, and some extra cash.

The wearable wallets are exceptionally good at preventing pickpockets, especially when worn around your neck and under the clothing. 

A disadvantage is that they can be somewhat uncomfortable, especially if you’re not used to wearing a large packet around your neck. I’ve developed a slight rash from the nylon rope holding the wallet, and the weight of my documents hurt my neck. However, some people wear them without discomfort, so it doesn’t hurt to try, especially in regions with heavy pickpocketing. 

5. Look Like You Know Where You Are Going

Pickpockets love targeting lost tourists. A perplexed person standing near the street corner, staring from their map to the street signs and then around them, sticks out like a sore thumb. You may as well have a giant sign saying “rob me” if you do that. 

While on the streets, move with a purpose, even if you’re lost. No matter how you are feeling on the inside, never “look” lost on the outside. 

Of course, you will get lost while wandering around a city you’ve never been to. When it happens, find the nearest restaurant or coffee shop, grab a table, and check out your map while enjoying a drink. 

You won’t be seen as a target in a coffee shop and have a place to relax and gather your bearings. Also, if you can’t figure out the map, you can always ask the staff for assistance.

Pro Tip: While in the restaurant, maintain awareness of your belongings. Thieves lurk in every corner. Someone could quickly grab your wallet from an open bag beside you. I always keep my purse strapped to me or on the table within my site, even when relaxing. 

6. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Maintaining situational awareness is one of the easiest ways to prevent pickpockets. 

Watch people. Notice the folks who are watching back. They may be looking for their next target.  If you are in a heavy crowd, hold on to your valuables. Being aware of who and what is around you can significantly reduce your risk of being targeted.

7. Dress Appropriately

Your clothing is the first thing potential thieves see about you. It can either make you a prime target or make them decide you’re not worth the effort. 

Avoid wearing fancy jewelry and watches so you don’t look like you have a lot of money. Dress appropriately for the region and the culture so you don’t stand out. Wear comfortable walking shoes so that you can keep up with your group and move around with ease. 

Being intentional about your clothing and apparel choices will help ensure you aren’t their target. 

Pickpockets Aren’t Always Avoidable

These tips for avoiding pickpockets will help ensure you aren’t the prime target, but preventing 100% of all crimes is impossible. Sometimes, you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes the criminals are incredibly brazen. 

Reducing risk doesn’t eliminate all risk, so prepare yourself before your trip for the possibility that you might lose your stuff. 

Many people avoid international travel because of the stigma around pickpockets and other dangers, but they’re missing out on an incredible world of robust experiences. If you plan ahead and follow the appropriate guidelines to stay safe, you’ll have a fantastic pickpocket-free experience.