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Pickpocket Prevention: Don’t Become a Mark While Traveling

busy intersection crowd
Jacek Dylag

Most travelers are convinced they could never be pickpocketed. If you keep your wits about you, don’t get too drunk when traveling, and know how and where to stow your belongings, you probably won’t either — probably. However, pickpocketing is still the most prevalent non-violent crime in major cities around the world. While many of us know what we should do to avoid becoming a mark, it’s all too easy to let our guard down while on vacation. Hell, even travel guru Rick Steves recently admitted to being pickpocketed. It can quite literally happen to anyone. Here are the best ways to tip the odds in your favor.

Lock Down Your Wallet

Anti-theft travel clothing and accessories have come a long way in the last two decades. A hidden money belt (the kind worn under your clothing) might seem extremely uncool, but having all your cash and credit cards stolen is even less cool. Consider stashing half your money and credit cards in a money belt, and keeping the remainder (including a few expired “decoy” cards) in a zippered pocket on your person. Pickpocket-proof pants like those from boast double- and triple-secure pockets for safeguarding anything you’re toting around. To take it a step further, invest in a slashproof day pack like those from .

Keep Your Head on a Swivel, Especially in Crowds

The most popular tourist attractions are feeding grounds for pickpockets. They’re full of oblivious tourists flush with cash and valuables. While aboard public transportation and at major parks, monuments, even churches — anywhere packed with people — stay especially vigilant.

Don’t Pack Anything You Can’t Afford to Lose

Technology has made travel easier and more enjoyable in so many ways. Cameras, laptops, and smartphones are all far more compact, versatile, and powerful than ever. That means that even average travelers are toting at least a thousand dollars’ worth of gear in their day packs at any one time. It’s tempting to want to pack everything you might need. But, carefully consider whether a laptop is essential on a long weekend away.

Likewise, for shorter trips that aren’t of the once-in-a-lifetime variety, maybe leave your $3,000 DSLR camera at home and rely instead on your smartphone for photos. If you absolutely must pack everything and the kitchen sink, consider leaving most of your valuables in the hotel room (although this isn’t foolproof). Consider travel insurance as well. Comprehensive plans with theft protection can be found for less than $100 for most trips of a week or less.

Leave the Designer Goods at Home

This could fall under the above tip, but it’s worthwhile to call out on its own. While packing for a vacation, it’s tempting to want to bring your favorite — and likely most expensive — designer watches, shoes, ascots, and sunglasses. The flashier your accessories, however, the more likely you are to become a target for pickpockets and hotel room thieves. You might not be able to leave your laptop at home, but you can certainly survive a few days in the Caribbean without your Rolex or Louis Vuitton bar cart luggage. It’s almost always best to leave these at home.

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Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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