Travel is amazing. The world holds so many wonders, and it is such a treasure to be able to experience them. 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. Of course, I’m talking about pickpockets.
Pickpockets, although rare in the United States, are extremely common in most other parts of the world. These people are very skilled. They slit your back pocket so that your wallet slides right out without you ever even noticing. Sometimes they will reach into your purse while your head is turned, quickly snatching your valuables while you remain unaware. Pickpockets are good at what they do. But there steps that you can take to protect yourself.
How to Avoid PickPockets
1. Don’t wear a back-facing back pack
These are a pickpocket’s dream. It is incredible easy to cut the bottom out of a backpack and steal everything inside. Wearing a back pack is asking to be pick pocketed. Sometimes, though, like when you are actually traveling from one destination to another, you need your back pack with you. That’s understandable, I do it too! Make sure you keep your wallet and any other valuables in your front pockets. Don’t leave anything important in those small rear-facing compartments!
2. Keep your items out of you back pockets
Back pockets are another easy target for pickpockets. Some are skilled enough to take your wallet without you noticing, others use crowded places as an excuse for touching you, and still others will simply slit the pocket with a knife so that all of the belongings fall out. Keeping valuables in your front pocket will greatly reduce this risk.
3. Use a purse with an across the shoulder strap or a hip clip
I used to use a small purse that strapped around my shoulder, so I didn’t have to worry much about purse snatching (however, in some countries, you have to be aware of the drive by purse snatch, where someone will cut the strap while driving by on a moped, taking the purse with him). The purse has a top portion that folds over the inside compartments which a pick pocket would have to lift before being able to get to my wallet. I ensure that it stays to my front, to prevent people from slicing it open. When I’m in a crowded place, I like to hold onto it (Just a tiny bit of paranoia!). Now, I generally use my Hip-Klip, which is a cute little purse that literally clips to your pants.
4. Use a wearable wallet
These are small plastic wallets that you wear around your neck under your clothing. I do not like these, I find them to be rather uncomfortable, but some people swear by them. They are really good at preventing pickpockets though, so if you are super concerned, you can always get one of these.
5. Look like you know where you are going
Move with a purpose, even if you are lost. Don’t stand on a corner staring down at a map and then up at the street signs, looking all confused. Don’t look lost. Pickpockets and other criminals often prey on people who are lost. If you do get lost, 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 you 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.
6. Be aware of your surroundings
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. Simply being aware of who and what is around you can greatly reduce your risk of being targeted.
Do the Best You Can
It is impossible to prevent 100% of all crimes. Sometimes you are just in the wrong place in the wrong time, and sometimes the criminals are incredibly brazen. However, minimizing your risk is the best way to avoid becoming a victim. These steps are all about minimizing risk.
Do you have any additional advice for warding off pickpockets? Let me know!
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Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.