How to Avoid Theft While Traveling

By Nick Wharton on 16 January 2017 0 comments

Travel can be a beautiful and life-changing experience, however, it does come with its own set of risks. By setting out in a prepared way, you can reduce the chance of having a horror story to bring back home with you. (See also: 7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Theft While Traveling)

While some destinations have reputations for being dangerous, petty crime like pickpocketing and theft can occur in pretty much any major city in the world. It exists in Paris, just as it does in New York. (See also: What to Do When Your Belongings Get Stolen Abroad.)

You may want to research your destination before you leave home to get an idea for the major concerns that you will face on arrival, and to develop the strategies you might follow once you're there. It helps to have a credit card that offers purchase protection insurance against theft or accidental damage. While it doesn't help to be suspicious of everyone, you do need to be aware of some basic procedures and guidelines for safety. (See also: Follow These 5 Credit Card Rules When Traveling)

Be Aware, Not Afraid

While you're traveling, you may find yourself at times out of your comfort zone. This is a completely normal part of traveling and it can arise from something as simple as not speaking the local language. Your discomfort does not mean that you're in a particularly risky situation.

However, regardless of how you're feeling, it's important to project an attitude of confidence. If you do find yourself in a situation that you're uncomfortable with, confidently take action to get yourself out of that situation.

If you appear to be frightened, you may make yourself seem like an easier mark for petty crime. Instead, you should focus on having a good time while always being aware of your surroundings.

Be especially alert when taking public transportation as this is a common place for pickpockets to strike. (See also: How to Use a Decoy Wallet When Traveling)

Keeping Your Stuff Safe

What kind of bag did you choose to bring with you? The most secure bags for traveling always close securely. This means they have a zipper or a front flap that closes tightly so that pickpockets can't get their hands into them easily (or at all!).

Avoid walking around with valuables or money in your back pockets. Instead, put your stuff in your front pockets where you'll notice if anyone's trying to grab it.

Sometimes pickpockets work in groups, so there may be someone chatting with you as a distraction. This doesn't mean you need to be wary of every person that comes your way to talk to you, but if the situation doesn't feel comfortable, listen to your intuition and find a way to get out of it quickly — and confidently. (See also: How to Get and Carry Cash Safely and Securely)

Understand Your Surroundings

Travel is amazing because it means you get to check out uncharted territory. However, it's always a good idea to either research online or talk to locals once you get there. If there are neighborhoods that they avoid, for example, it's better to know about them before you end up wandering there.

Some places will be perfectly safe to walk around during the day, but are better off avoided at night. Know how and where to get a reliable taxi. You can ask the receptionist or concierge at your hotel and they will likely give you an informed answer. Just make sure you take the time to ask; then you can explore in a carefree and safe way.

Avoiding Theft at Your Hotel

If there is a safe in your hotel, it's a good idea to store your valuables (cash, passport, credit cards you won't be using) there. If you don't have a safe, consider another secure place. Remember, your wallet may not be the best choice since it's the most obvious place that a thief would check for cash.

If you're staying in hostels, they will usually have a locker where you can put your belongings. Remember to travel with your own lock since sometimes a hostel won't provide them, and if they do provide them, you have no way of knowing who else has a copy of the key. (See also: How to Keep Your Laptop Safe When Traveling.)

And During Transport

Airlines rightly recommend that you never check valuables. Tablets, cameras, and computers all need to be packed into your carry on bag. The reason for this is straightforward; a checked bag will be out of your eyesight and in the hands of strangers for the majority of your time in transit. Keep them close.

For train and bus travel, be cautious especially during overnight trips. Again, the bag that you check under the bus or at the end of the aisle of a train car is the bag that's at a higher risk of going missing.

For overnight buses or trains, consider a money belt that you can tuck into your pants while you sleep. This will give you peace of mind and a reasonable defense against pickpockets or thieves who will look to target you in your sleep. You are at a higher risk while traveling alone, so you may want to find a travel buddy, even if it's just for a few days.

To Money Belt or Not?

Outside of those overnight journeys, you may want to use a money belt for daily use, too. This is a personal choice and there are solid arguments on either side of it. Some people will never use a money belt because it feels clunky. You can argue that when you pull out or otherwise show the money belt, it will pinpoint you as a tourist and may make you a more likely pickpocketing target. If locals aren't using money belts, why should you?

However, if you feel comfortable hiding money on your person in this way, there's nothing wrong with that either.

If you're keeping money in a bag, be sure that it's in a zipped compartment. You may also want to consider separating your money, so maybe you have some in your pocket and some in your bag. This way if some of it does get stolen, chances are that not everything will get lifted. Also consider keeping some emergency cash or credit card with a list of contacts somewhere very safe, in case you do lose everything you're carrying. (See also: Best Credit Cards to Use While Traveling)

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Guest's picture
debbie

We were in Rome in November. My small purse was on a long handle, worn around my neck, inside my coat. felt very secure and had no problems