In 2003, I studied abroad for a year in France. After completing my studies, I spent four months travelling across Spain. When I visited Barcelona, in 2003, the tour guides kept telling me to watch out, because the city was rife with pickpockets and that La Rambla, a popular pedestrian street mall, was notorious for thieves. Still today, TripAdvisor ranks Barcelona as the pickpocket capital of the world. Over time, with my experience in travelling, I have learned a thing or two about how to foil pickpockets. Here are a few tips:
1. Expect the worst
The first rule of thumb is to expect the worst and be prepared. Before you leave, make photocopies of your important documents (passport, prescriptions, travel itineraries, etc.), and email them to yourself for easy access. I also recommend that you send a copy to someone you trust who’s staying at home.
2. Take the strict minimum
Leave your important documents in the hotel safe. Only have what you need on you: a few tickets, one piece of ID, etc. I always leave my passport at the hotel but carry a copy of it. Your passport is your most important travel item, so keep it safe.
3. Dress modestly
When travelling and especially when visiting a major city, don’t wear brightly coloured clothing that would draw attention to you. As much as possible, avoid taking valuable items (like a watch, laptop, tablet or an expensive camera) with you. Use a pocket-size device instead. Do your best to blend into the crowd, and try not to look like a tourist.
4. Wear a security waist pack or carry an anti-theft bag
I always keep my money and important documents in a security waist pack under my clothing when travelling. There are also anti-theft bags that come with a slash-proof strap, to protect you from pickpockets.
5. Carry two wallets
Guys tend to leave their wallet in the back pocket of their pants. A good way to fool a pickpocket is to have an empty wallet in the back pocket of your pants and the one with money and important documents in your jacket pocket.
6. Keep your travel bag or suitcase secure
There are several ways to secure your luggage and prevent theft while travelling. You can use a lock to prevent zippers from being opened. You can also purchase a Pacsafe bag protector.
7. Be vigilant
When you’re in a crowded public place or in the washroom, don’t set your bag on the floor. Pickpockets will wait until you’re distracted to snatch it. If you’re lost and want to consult a map to find your way, find a place where you can do so discretely, without attracting too much attention. When travelling by public transit, always try to keep an eye on your luggage, and place important items in a little bag that you carry.
8. Take out travel insurance
Before leaving to go on a trip, you can purchase travel insurance with baggage and personal effects coverage, so you’re protected in the event of theft. In general, this coverage reimburses a maximum amount per insured in the following situations:
- Loss of your baggage and personal effects
- Theft of your baggage and personal effects or damage caused to them by reason of theft, fire or hazards of land, water or air transportation
- Theft of your baggage and personal effects or damage caused to them during a hotel stay.
If you’re robbed while travelling, you must get a police report of the incident as soon as possible. Then, you will have to complete forms providing a brief description of the incident and prepare a detailed list of the value of your lost baggage or personal effects for the insurer. Please note that certain conditions may apply. Don’t forget to read your insurance policy prior to departure, to ensure that it fully meets your needs.
Stay one step ahead of pickpockets! There’s loads more information on the subject on the internet. Check it out! You really can travel worry free!