Travel Tips

Safety & Security: How to Avoid Travel Theft & Pickpockets

By on April 9, 2014

PickpocketSafety and security while traveling is something everyone should concern themselves with. Losing your passport, cash, credit cards and other valuables can put a serious damper on any holiday. Being prepared and aware cannot only save your happiness on a trip, but will help you travel with confidence. This is especially important as travelers ease into everyday experiences where it’s easy to drop our guard. In all of the countries I have visited on four continents, I have never been pick pocketed. That doesn’t mean people haven’t tried. As a matter of fact, I consider it a cultural experience when I feel sticky fingers in my pockets. Here is my fool proof way of avoiding pickpockets and outsmarting thieves during any trip. 

Wear a Money Belt

For me, the undisputed way to outsmart thieves and pickpockets is to wear an undercover security belt commonly referred to as a money belt. They come in various shapes and sizes and are designed to be worn underneath your clothes. You put it on in the morning and just forget about it. Just like your underwear! Consider this your safe deposit box and only reach into it for select withdrawals and deposits. You should have petty cash for the day in your purse or wallet.

This is your personal safe deposit box: Cash, Credit Cards, Passport

This is your personal safe deposit box: Cash, Credit Cards, Passport

Use a Hotel Safe Wisely

If you have a reliable safe in your hotel room, you can store your money belt in the safe and carry one credit card and petty cash for the day. In my experience, hotel safes in 4* or 5* hotels are pretty reliable. All travelers should trust their instincts regarding how reliable hotel safes truly are. If you really want to test it out, call downstairs and pretend you “forgot” the combination. Also, do not put anything of value inside the safe without testing it out first.

HotelSavoy_Vienna

Hotel Savoy, Vienna

Carry Your Purse with Confidence

My mom, and other experienced women travelers I know, have been carrying a purse during their trips for years. The goal is to not carry anything of extreme value inside your purse. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. For reduced risk, only carry the necessary petty cash for that day in your purse. For added security, carry your purse across your body. All of your valuables should be in your money belt, either on your body (under your clothes) or in your reliable hotel safe.

Every day women carrying their purses in Central Paris.

Blair_PalaisRoyal

My wife, the temporary local, carrying her travel purse with confidence!

No valuables inside of my wife’s purse. Only petty cash, one credit card and her other necessities for the day.

Travel Smart with Men’s Wallets

Do not carry all of your cash and credit cards in your wallet. Travel wallets should have RFID protection (if your cards have chips inside of them) and only carry the necessities for that day: petty cash and maybe one credit card. All other valuables should be in your money belt, either on your body (under your clothes) or in your reliable hotel safe. We’ve all heard that men’s wallets should be in the front pocket when traveling. But, we are all creatures of habit and it will eventually return to the back pocket. Be sure to purchase a wallet with a rubber band around it. That will provide friction in your back pocket. 

RFIDtec 100 by Pacsafe. The lightweight wallet perfectly slips into your pocket or travel pack. The whole wallet blocks out RFID transmissions ensuring all your identity cards, credit & bank cards are safe from potential identity thieves, while the smartly zippered pocket for cash adds an extra barrier against pickpockets.

RFIDtec 100 by Pacsafe. The lightweight wallet perfectly slips into your pocket or travel pack. The whole wallet blocks out RFID transmissions ensuring all your identity cards, credit & bank cards are safe from potential identity thieves, while the smartly zippered pocket for cash adds an extra barrier against pickpockets.

 

Many modern passports and credit cards contain RFID chips containing sensitive personal information. To protect you from unwanted people getting access to this data, Pacsafe's RFID blocking accessories are designed with state-of-the-art material which blocks out transmissions and stops personal information from being accessed by identity thieves.

Many modern passports and credit cards contain RFID chips containing sensitive personal information. To protect you from unwanted people getting access to this data, Pacsafe’s RFID blocking accessories are designed with state-of-the-art material which blocks out transmissions and stops personal information from being accessed by identity thieves.

 

Be Aware of Surroundings and Try to Blend In

If you have a death grip on your purse or wear flashy jewelry in bad parts of town you will stand out. If you are the loud foreigner on public transportation you will draw attention to yourself (and to your valuables). Pulling out the guidebook or huge paper map in front of a busy monument makes the thieves eyes go straight to you. Also, dressing like you are on Safari (khaki cargo pants and the double pocket fly fishing shirt) while trying to go out to dinner in Paris is not the way to blend in to your surroundings. The big white trainers (sneakers) are the classic tell-tale tourist uniform for most American’s over 50. Avoid any of the above and try your best to blend in. Also, don’t let your guard down when your are in crowded areas. Wherever there are travelers and tourists, there will be pickpockets working their route. 

European train stations are notorious for being magnets for pick pockets. Are you susceptible?

European train stations are notorious for being magnets for pick pockets. Are you susceptible?

If you ride public transportation on busy routes, there will be a professional thief working that route. Travel smart and safe!

If you ride public transportation on busy routes, there will be a professional thief working that route. Travel smart and safe!

In this crowd there is a pick pocket or thief. Are you traveling smart to avoid them?

In this crowd there is a pick pocket or thief. Are you traveling smart to avoid them?

This fellow traveler is advertising to every pick pocket in the area. Do not do  this in busy areas.

This fellow traveler is advertising to every pick pocket in the area. Do not do this in busy areas.

Here come the White Sneaker masses. A professional pick pocket's goldmine.

Here come the White Sneaker masses. A professional pick pocket’s goldmine.

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6 Comments
  1. Reply

    Barbara Carlson

    May 13, 2014

    What purse does your wife like?

    • Reply

      Angel

      May 14, 2014

      My wife uses a soft sided tote that is her “personal” item for the airplane. She also brings a collapsible smaller day bag. It fits inside of the soft sided tote. Also, you may want to consider bringing a small evening clutch. Again, my wife’s packs flat inside of these other bags. Hope that helps!

      • Reply

        Barbara Carlson

        May 14, 2014

        What brand is your wife’s purse and size. Is 14 3/4″ x 13″H x 6 3/4 too large?

        • Reply

          Angel

          June 10, 2014

          The brown bag pictured above is a Bric’s X-Bag. It comes with a smaller pouch inside. It is a great size (not too big, not too small). Fits under the seat of the airplane.

          The black one pictured above is by Eagle Creek but is no longer available.

  2. Reply

    David

    July 24, 2015

    I was thinking of taking a backpack. How safe is this?
    Second question: I heard you in Long Beach, and reading your site, you seem to like to do ‘Catholic’ things on vacation, like the Holy Week in Andalucia blog. Do you just go to Mass in the tourist attraction to get ahead of the crowd, or do you go to go to Mass? Just wondering…

    • Reply

      Angel

      July 25, 2015

      Hi David and greetings from Venice Italy.

      I don’t wear a backpack because it will immediately make me stick out a tourist. I’m comfortable with a satchel. You should do what is comfortable for you. I also think there is a security issue with backpacks. But for me, the ones with great security features don’t look so nice and are heavy.

      As far as the Cathoic thing, I just went to mass this morning in Venice at St Marks. I do not go to mass just to avoid crowds. That would be disingenuous and disrespectful. Travel is very personal for me and I think everyone should make travel personal. Most people fail to do so and return home wishing they had done something cool. With that said, depending on the area, I have visited many other religious sights and sacred buildings. For example, some of my best memories have been of Buddhist temples in Thailand, Shinto shrines in Japan or the Jewish Quarter in Prague. I’m the only one oft friends who has been in a Mosque and worshipped with Muslims. Thanks!

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Angel Castellanos
Pasadena, CA

I'm a US based travel expert and spend my time teaching people how to travel well, smart and often. I'm passionate about travel and helping people save time & money. This blog, or travel lounge, is a collection of my practical travel advice and experiences from traveling 8-10 weeks internationally each year. I believe that travel has never been easier and that everyone can achieve their travel dreams. Happy Travels!

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