A few years ago, a friend of mine came back from the Carnival of Venice with an almost crying face. “My wallet was stolen!” I wasn’t even surprised to hear that because in my impression, pickpockets are everywhere in major tourist hot spots. When I was in Spain more than a year ago, I even heard stories about child shoplifters hiding under the clothes rack in Zara stores. The situation was shocking and sad. But whenever someone complained to me about stealing, I shrugged my shoulders and thought lucky for me, this never happened!
A late night two months ago, I was getting on a train in a relatively empty train station in northern Germany. I was tired and completely off guard. Normally I would put my cell phone in my bag or hold it if I am using it, but that night I had the best idea in the world to just put it in my pocket. According to a friend, a guy quickly passed me when I got on the train and one minute later, I found out that my phone was stolen and that guy was nowhere to be found.
You really need to be careful with your belongings when you travel! You may think it is OK to lose some money, but you really don’t want to lose important documents. Also, nowadays people rely so much on their devices such as cell phones or computers. I am just surprised to see how careless people are with their possessions, even though they know how easily things can get stolen from them!
Here are five useful tips for your pickpocket-free trip:
Step 1. KNOW YOUR RISK
It is really easy to find out if your destination is a “pickpockets zone”. If it is, you have to be extra careful with your belongings. Travelling insurance, for example, is a good option to take into account when you plan your trip. Nevertheless don’t panic, because you can still enjoy your trip to the fullest as long as you take some precautions.
Just to give you a general idea, here is a list of popular spots for pickpocketing in Europe:
Prague, Czech Republic
List via The Savy Backpacker
Step 2. PACK YOUR BAGS WISELY
Many bags have multiple layers and inside pockets. In my opinion, it is safer to put relatively more valuable stuff deep in your bag or in your inside pockets and make sure that your zipper is pulled up. You may also wear your bag backwards. You don’t have to pack everything in your bag, so pick stuff you really need to bring with you. Important documents and belongings, if not needed, can be left in the hotel rooms and some hotels provide you with a safe in the room. It is also possible to lock those stuff in your suitcase.
Step 3. STAY ALERT
Stay alert in all situations: when you are standing in line to buy something, when you are walking in a crowded place like a train station, when you are taking pictures, when you are talking or resting or eating food… You don’t need to be paranoid, just make sure that you keep an eye on your belongings. It is also better to be physically in control of your backpack. For example, you may hold it in your arm. If you notice a stranger following you or getting closer to you without a clear intent, be alarmed.
Step 4. HELP EACH OTHER
Most people overlook the power of group. It is as simple as watching out for each other and reminding each other to check possessions once in a while. Staying closer to your travel mates can also prevent you from getting lost in a huge crowd and becoming the target of pickpockets. If you have the time, make copies of your important documents and keep them for each other.
Step 5. FIND HELP
The worst scenario happens and you find your stuff missing. What do you do? Calm down and make sure you haven’t misjudged the situation. Ask yourself if you may have left it in your room or somewhere you have just been. Call the police, track your device, and make sure your personal information is safe (I recommend always backing up your data).
I wish you all the best! Once I was lucky enough to find my phone back after accidentally dropping it in a cab. What you should know is that your happiness and precious memory of travelling will never be stolen from you by anyone if you consider all of the above. Stay safe!
Freya Ziyan Lu
Featured image via TravelAsk.ru
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