One of the things that travelers worry about most is how to avoid pickpockets. It's a valid concern and we recently heard from a reader who was the victim of one.
She had her money and credit cards stolen while traveling. It was not a happy scenario but she managed to get things straightened away and move on with her trip.
None of us need this type of problem.
Fortunately there are things you can do to protect yourself and your valuables from pickpockets.
How to Avoid Pickpockets and Safeguard Your Cards & Cash
- Take precautions before you leave. Just in case, despite all the tips below, you still fall prey to a pickpocket, make sure that you have:
- copies of your travel itinerary, passport, visa, vaccination documents, credit cards, debit cards, and bank information on you, with a friend at home, and in the cloud
- insurance against theft should it be your phone or other item that goes missing. Read A Complete Guide to Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers.
- photos of your expensive gear in case you need to make a claim
- Stash your cash in multiple places. Make sure that you carry your money in multiple safe places on your person. One might be in a belt that holds money.
- Beware of crowded places. Markets, train stations, large public events–these are the types of places that pickpockets love. If you're carrying a purse, it should have a flap and a zipper. Or consider something like the Travelon Cross-body Messenger Bag with locking zippers (Tracey swears by this one). If you carry a daypack, wear it on your front rather than your back in these places. If you insist on carrying a wallet in your pocket, it should be a front pocket, not in the back.
- Be careful around warning signs about pickpockets. If you see a sign in a public place warning you about pickpockets, do not touch your pocket to check on your valuables. Pickpockets hang out in such places waiting for innocent people to point out where their wallet is. Don't help them out. You may not be able to avoid pickpockets but you can certainly make it harder for them to target you.
- Keep your priority items to a minimum. I check for my most important items every time I stand up to move on. These are my wallet, phone, and passport. That's it. If I forget something else, it's not that important.
- Always look back. Whenever you're leaving a restaurant, hopping off a bus, or getting up from a park bench, always look back at where you were seated before moving on. This can save you a lot of worry and backtracking looking for forgotten items.
- Anchor your purse or pack. Many tourists have lost a pack or purse off the back of a restaurant chair. Loop a strap through the leg of the chair, keep it on your lap or squeezed between you and a companion, whatever will keep it safe. Consider the Loctote antitheft sack. It is a safe and it's a backpack. Take it with you or leave it in your room locked to an immovable object with your valuables inside and everything will be safe.
- Use an RFID blocking wallet. I hardly use cash now when I travel. I put as much as I can on my credit card. Ah, but what about identity theft?. That's where an RFID blocking wallet is useful. RFID skimming is where, with the right technology, a person near you can gather data from your credit cards without your knowledge. There's a bit of a debate about them but there's no harm erring on the side of safety. Such wallets are available in hard-shell card holders and leather wallets.
- Wear pickpocket-proof clothing. Pants with zippered pockets inside of pockets, bras with stash pockets for credit cards, and jackets with inside pockets are all great places to keep cash. Here's a link to Amazon's many pickpocket proof items.
- Use a money belt or neck stash. I use these sometimes but certainly not always. However, it does keep your valuables out of sight and hard to get at. Again, RFID protection is a good idea. Here are a money belt and a neck stash to consider.
- Keep spare cash where no one would expect to find it. This tip to avoid pickpockets comes from Journeywoman. Roll a few bills and put them in an almost empty pill jar so that the bottle still makes a noise when shaken. If anyone ever rifles through your things they won't think that you have money there.
For plenty more solo travel safety tips, check out Solo Travel Safety: 50+ Proven Tips to Keep You Safe.