Avoid Being Pickpocketed: 5 Tips For Worry Free Wandering

Written by Joel
Posted in: Tips & Advice
With safety tag(s)

Vacation is more than just relaxing, it’s a much-needed escape from the humdrum routine of everyday life. Unfortunately, no matter where you decide to travel, people with sneaky fingers want to turn your blissful break into a gloomy getaway.

On my family visit to the Mediterranean, every city we visited a guide reminded us about the prevalence of “minor crime” — meaning, theft. I found it ironic that what they referred to as minor crime would be a major hassle for anyone who was a victim.

In all my (mis)adventures, I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid being a victim of pickpockets so I think it’s worthwhile to share my strategies for keeping my stuff safe.

Before I get to the strategies, lets define stuff. What are these criminal masterminds are most interested in? Cell phones, money and credit cards, and forms of ID so they can potentially assume your identity and gain access to your finances and/or open lines of credit and all the other things criminals do when they steal an identity.

Before we get too far, some of the links you’ll find in the rest of this article are ‘affiliate links’. When you click these links and buy a product, we get a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep the lights on at JJ Travel Associates and continue providing you with fantastic, wanderlust-inducing information. If you decide to make a purchase, not only will you be securing your belongings, but you’ll be supporting us as well.

Prevent pickpocketing

Preventing Pickpocketing 101

1. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

If you’ve ever found yourself so absorbed in the mesmerizing beauty of a fresco or beautiful stained glass window in an Italian cathedral (or gazing through a bakery window at apple strudel… no? just me?) you know it’s easy to completely lose track of your surroundings. No judgment here, we’ve all been there. 

But, while you were busy admiring the pastries, art, or whatever captivates you, a pickpocket might have been sizing you up, wondering what’s in your pocket, purse, or the shopping bag you’re carrying. By the way, you’re not the only potential target, your children and other people in your group are also potential victims. Be aware for them as much as for yourself.

Take note of where you are and who’s around you. If I’m standing still, I try to position myself so my back is against a wall. That limits the number of directions would be thieves can approach from or pass by. When I’m walking, I keep my head up, eyes scanning side to side looking for anything I think is peculiar.

There’s no need to be paranoid, so as you hear these words telling you now of my state, I tell you to enjoy life before it’s too late, but a sensible level of awareness will keep you one step ahead of the game.

Avoiding pickpockets on vacation
Wear a cross-body bag and hold it closely to your body.

2. Keep Those Belongings Snug and Tight

Imagine your precious phone, wallet, or passport as a baby koala. Yes, you heard that right! A baby koala clings to its mom as if its life depends on it (and it kinda does!). So treat your belongings like baby koalas – keep them close, secure, and always within your field of vision.

Pickpocket warnings in mind, the women traveling in our group took this advice seriously. Backpacks worn backward and cross body bags held tightly in front instead of hanging at their side were common sights, and worked as a great deterrent.

3. Pick the Right Pockets

Using your back pocket to carry a phone or wallet may be convenient but by doing so you’re making a thief’s life much easier. If you must carry those items in a pocket, consider those in the front of your pants or inside pocket of a jacket. You’ll still have quick access when you need it, but make it much more difficult for someone to steal from you.

Personally, I carry my phone in my front pants pocket, and if (it’s a big if, too) I have to carry a wallet, I keep it in the other front pocket. I also regularly brush my hands against those pockets as I’m walking because feeling those items keeps me aware that I’m carrying valuables, and knowing they’re still there makes me feel at ease. I’m not a fan of the hard case wallets, but I do switch out my every day wallet for a smaller, slimmer one when I travel.

I realize that a lot of woman’s clothing doesn’t have pockets. In that case, if you don’t have (or don’t want the hassle of carrying) a good cross body bag, there are a lot of smaller options like these travel wallets.

Protect your belongings. Avoid distractions
Distractions are a perps most effective strategy

4. Navigating the Sea of Crowds

Generally speaking, I’m not one for big crowds of people, but when traveling, I regularly find myself in markets where there are people everywhere and busy streets and squares where people are bumping into me and pushing to get where they need to go (or try to grab something out of my pocket on their way past).

These situations fall under the category of “be aware of your surroundings” but I think it’s important to point out some pickpocket tactics that are specific to times when there is a lot going on, people are milling around, and you’re in an unfamiliar area.

The number one thing to be aware of is distraction is a thief’s best tool. If you’re thinking of something other than the safety of your personal belongings, you’re at risk. So beware of people bumping into you (or knocking you over), spilling something on you, dropping something or falling (so you’ll help them), knocking something out of your hands (and offering to help you, or not!), or striking up a random conversation.

There are also plenty of distractions that don’t directly involve you. Beware of people arguing nearby, being obvious in an attempt to steal something from someone else or a store, or anything at all that would make any normal person pay attention and take note of what’s happening. Pay attention to what’s important; you can’t fully focus on more than one thing at a time. Don’t believe me? Talk to your spouse the next time they’re engrossed in a sporting event or movie, then ask them to repeat what you said.

5. The Secret Weapons: Anti-theft Accessories

Beyond backpacks and travel wallets, there are numerous other accessories for the gadget loving traveler. From money belts to a lightweight metal bag that covers your backpack, phone tethers to underarm hidden phone holsters, and even underwear with hidden pockets for men (and women), I’m reminded that where there’s a problem, there’s a solution… Although some are better than others

And there you have it! My tried-and-true tips (well, mostly… I haven’t tried the hidden pocket underwear) will help you keep those pesky pickpockets at bay, so you can make the most of your travels. Remember, a dash of awareness, a pinch of precaution, and a good measure of common sense can make your vacation a worry-free wonderland.

If you’re thinking of where to test out your new pickpocket-preventing prowess, schedule a free vacation planning call. We’re here to help create your next hassle-free and delightful adventure.

Joel - Partner at JJ Travel Associates

About The Author

Joel is a co-owner of JJ Travel Associates (a Dream Vacations franchise) and a history geek fascinated by world cultures and what we can learn from each. His specialty is planning vacations that combine history, culture, and fun.

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