This blog post was updated on November 19, 2018.


"Crush loaded," Flickr photo credit: Kriston Lewis
Crowded places like subways are where you might be vulnerable


Being robbed or having your items stolen is a lot worse than you’d think. Suddenly all the money you saved on cheap flights is down the drain.  Once it happens, you’ll never look back and wonder: What if? Pickpockets are serious in all parts of the world, even and especially in big cities. Though it may not be completely unavoidable, simple suggestions are useful to keep in mind while traveling to decrease that risk of losing your valuables abroad.


Don’t flash expensive items: The worst thing you can do is feel comfortable enough in a country to disregard any notion that you’ll be targeted. Even if you look, feel and smell like a local, your innocent actions may be a red alert to a pickpocket. Just because you’ve done your morning jog in the safe area of Miraflores in Lima, Peru doesn’t mean you should start jogging with your iPhone in your cutest outfit while holding a few bills for a Starbucks coffee later. Expensive items are a target, probably in your own town as well so it is better to be aware of what you use and where you use it.


Pat yourself every once in a while: You’re on a crowded New York City subway, which is typical of what everyone has told you. Little did you know that the zipper on your backpack was slightly open and someone sneakishly robbed you blindly! In crowded areas or unsafe places, do yourself a pat down every once in a while, to make sure you know where your belongings are. Check to see your backpack is zippered right, your pockets are empty and if you’re wearing a money belt that it is still there and tight in place. If you can’t do a quick check in public, excuse yourself to the restroom and check privately.


Keep your eyes and ears open: On any trip, it is wise to keep your eyes and ears open to be aware of danger that could be lurking. Maybe you speak a little Italian and you can overhear two teenagers talking about pick pocketing those stupid American tourists. Don’t let your guard down by having earphones on or napping on public transportation; at that point you are just asking people to rob you. Remember, if you feel unsafe, you are better safe than sorry to simply change your seat or exit completely.


Be creative: Even if you get funny looks for reaching into your sock to get your money to enter a club in Buenos Aires doesn’t mean you’re any less of a traveler. It is especially important in high crime cities to be creative as to where you hide your money. Some creative spots including hiding money in your socks, in the inside of your glove or places where the sun might not shine. You may consider purchasing travel items that are made to hide money, such as flip flops with a secret compartment to stash cash.


Avoid tight areas: It may be easier said than done, but if you have the option to avoid tight areas, do so. These are prime targets for pickpocketers to simply bump into you and try to harass you unknowingly. If a train is too packed, consider taking the next one.


“Crush Loaded,” Flickr photo credit: Kriston Lewis

One Response

  1. Charlie

    Ever since I "lost" my wallet in Spain a few years ago I’m always looking for a new ‘security’ items. Tried several, settled on the wallet with a chain that loops your belt, and goes into your FRONT pocket. It has foiled 2 attempts that I know of, both in Lisbon on streetcars. I’ve also become a keen observer, and have seen several thefts. What I’ve learned: 1) pickpockets almost always work in pairs (one does the pick…and quickly hands to his partner). 2) they usually carry a jacket to wrap the stolen item 3) the venue doesn’t have to be crowded. I’ve seen them helping people understand how to put the right change in tram or streetcar collection boxes. 4) thieves almost always strike just before a metro or team stop, for a quick exit.


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