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Protect your Stuff: Avoid Pickpockets and Thieves while you Travel Abroad

Updated on February 15, 2017

Travelling Abroad in another Country

Congratulations on your opportunity to travel abroad! Traveling is one of my favorite activities and is surely one of the best ways to gain truly unique experiences. Many travelers spend much time planning destinations and accommodations and can easily overlook the importance of safety precautions, particularly around the security of the travelers’ possessions. In this hub, I will explain a few easy and effective methods to protect your valuables and help keep your mind at ease so you can focus your attention on all the fun and exciting aspects of traveling abroad!

Lock all Zippers

All zippers on luggage and backpacks should be locked at all times. I recommend a lock with combination dials so that you don’t have to fumble around with a key that could be lost. I also suggest that all the locks be made to have the same combination so that it is easier to remember. Some locks have been approved by TSA to be used on luggage at airports. I found dial locks made by Travel Sentry to be very good. These locks allow TSA to search your bags and then re-lock your bags after the search. Using locks that are not TSA approved can result in your locks being cut off your bags, leaving them unlocked and more accessible to thieves. The Travel Sentry lock will display a red indicator to alert you if TSA has unlocked your lock to search your bags.

Bike lock similar to the one I used

Keep your Bags from Walking Off

It is very important to be able to lock your luggage or bag to the luggage rails on a train or to an immovable object in a hostel room. Special cable locks are made for this purpose but I successfully used a bike lock while traveling Europe for a summer. It could be very easy for a thief to swipe a bag on train while a traveler is sleeping or even just not paying attention. Locking a bag to the luggage rails will ensure that if someone grabs your bag, they will not be able to walk away with it.

Similarly, many hostel rooms are shared with strangers, which can present another opportunity for a traveler to get his or her bag stolen. I’ve also been in hostel rooms that do not have locks on the doors, leaving my belongings vulnerable to anyone who walks into the hostel. To combat this treat to my stuff, I would lock my bag to something in the room that could not be moved such a bar on a bed or to a radiator. If there was nothing immovable in my room that I could lock my bag to, I would lock my bag to the bags of my friends. The thought behind locking our bags together is that a thief could not walk out with three or four giant bags weighing over a hundred pounds.

When locking a bag or luggage to something else, it is important to make sure the cable is secured around part of your bag that cannot be unstrapped. If you are using a bag that has two parts or a day bag attached to it, make sure that your lock is attached to each part of the bag so a thief cannot steal your day pack while your bag is locked up.

Passport Carrier

It is smart to keep your passport, credit cards, and money in a passport carrier either on your neck under your short or on a belt under your pants or shirt.  This way, no one can pickpocket you and take these important items.  Anything left in a wallet or pocket is very easy for a trained pickpocket to take.  I have actually seen a pickpocket put his hand into my friend's pocket and my friend couldn't feel a thing.   

How to Avoid Pickpockets

Pickpockets will go out of their way to spot and target tourists and foreigners.  They will almost always use distractions and often work in teams.  Be wary of tight crowds and know that street spectacles such as fights, freak outs, and nudity may be staged by a team of thieves.  Be aware of your belongings when someone bumps or stumbles into you.  What appears to be a drunk stranger falling into you while in line somewhere can easily be a planned distraction so someone else can take your wallet while your mind is off your stuff.  

Some thieves will not even worry about stealing from you without you knowing.  Common incidents include a simple snatch and grab in which a thief takes your item, such as a purse, bag, or digital camera and simply runs away.  While the victim may see who stole their item, the thief can use their intimate knowledge of the city and pass the item off to a series of partners in order to avoid getting caught by the victim.  Another not so sneaky scheme is for someone to notice a wallet in a back pocket and use a blade to cut the pocket and simply catch the wallet and run. 

The bottom line to avoid pickpockets is to always know where your stuff is and keep it under your shirt or on an inner belt.  Periodically feel for your items and always be aware of your surroundings.  

Share Your Story

Have you ever been robbed while on a trip?  Have any great tips that you did not see here? Did you find this hub useful?  Please share you stories and advice.  Thanks for reading!

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      Rose 5 years ago

      I left my iPod to charge in a common room hostel in Berlin. I'd done it twice before there, so I thought, no problem. Went out for half an hour, came back, it was gone. I know it impedes into time that could be spent doing cool stuff, but I think it's worth sitting in the hostel for an hour or two while your stuff charges just to avoid the risk.

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      BALA 5 years ago

      Useful.Once I was in a Q to board a bus.The felloww ahead of me kept on witing at the bus door & won't move in.2or 3 persons were behind me in Q.Suddenly I felt somebody touch my hip pocket. I was cautious,so I turned & caught him & made noise.Thus I could be saved.