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How to Outsmart the Pickpocket


Pickpockets are a fact of travel. They prey on travelers and tourists alike, and while they may work in teams or on their own, it only takes one pickpocket experience to ruin your whole trip. But never fear! I’m here to give you some tips on how exactly to outsmart that pickpocket. This week we’re looking at ways to prevent becoming a pickpocket target, and next week we’ll look at some tricks of the trade so YOU know what to look out for!

In no particular order:

1. Do Not Be Paranoid

Pickpocketing happens, but it doesn’t have to happen to you! Don’t be afraid, and don’t act afraid. If you’re paranoid or obviously afraid of your own shadow, you’re just the person a pickpocket will target. Don’t constantly check for your phone, wallet, etc., because that will call attention to where those things are!

Be cool. Be confident. Walk with purpose. Do not act like a target! Be aware of your surroundings and your valuables, and you’ll be fine.

2. Don’t Bring Your Valuables

The easiest way to avoid being pickpocketed is to ensure you don’t have anything they might want! As if the Kim Kardashian incident weren’t warning enough, please leave your nice jewelry, designer scarves, and expensive handbags at home. You don’t need to look like a hobo, but this is not the time to show off your most desirable items either. Yes, this includes your engagement and wedding rings on your honeymoon. Get a cheap wedding band to wear in its place. Silicone bands come in all colors!

3. Choose the Right Purse

Now that you’ve committed to leaving your $2000 purse at home, choose one that’s nondescript and harder for someone else to get into. At the very minimum, make sure your bag has a zipper and by all means keep it zipped! A cross-body strap is better than a one-shoulder strap, and a chain strap is even better. A leather or fabric strap can easily be cut or ripped off, but a chain is less likely. There are many “anti-theft” options out there with wire or metal in the strap as well.

Pockets: If your bag has an outside pocket that is open or can’t be zipped, DO NOT keep your phone or camera in that pocket! Or your money, or your passport, or anything else you don’t want someone to reach in and get when you’re not looking.

4. Keep It in Front

And please keep your bag in front of you. If it’s too far to the side or if it’s behind you, a pickpocket well-practiced in getting into bags unnoticed (even zipped bags) will have no trouble lightening your load, if you know what I mean. Keep it in front of you, and with your hand on it if you feel like you’re being watched.

5. Backpacks Are Gold… for the Pickpockets

So you’re going somewhere hot and you’ll need to keep a water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, maybe a change of clothes, etc…. Or perhaps you just prefer a backpack to a purse. That’s fine, but if you’re in a crowd or on public transportation, please keep it in front of you. It doesn’t look stupid, it looks like you’ll be keeping all your stuff where it should be: with you. If it’s on your back, you will never know when someone slips your wallet out.

6. Dress Conservatively

I don’t just mean modestly, but that is certainly a factor. Drawing attention to yourself with fancy clothes, bright colors and patterns, or super short shorts and most of your top half hanging out will catch the eye of many people–including pickpockets. Dress according to your surroundings and blend in with the crowd.

7. Don’t Look at Your Map in Public

Have a plan before you leave your accommodation! Know where you’re going, and do not hold your guidebook or a map in your hands because guess what–that’s what tourists and travelers do. It will make you a target. If you need to check your book or map, duck into a restaurant or public bathroom to do that, not in the middle of the sidewalk or on a busy street corner. Again, walk with confidence! Need to know how to read a map? Check out this post!

8. Don’t Carry All Your Cash (or Your Passport)

It’s a good idea to hide cash in more than one place. Keep some on you, but also keep some with your luggage or in your hotel room safe.

Also, in some countries, you need to have your passport at the ready. But in much of Europe, Asia, Australia, or the Americas, you won’t be asked to show your passport at random. Keep it in your hotel room (locked in a safe, if you like) so that if you are pickpocketed, you can get home if you need to.

Do you have more tips for avoiding pickpockets? Leave a note in the comments and let me know!

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17 thoughts on “How to Outsmart the Pickpocket

  1. This is a pretty useful post. Always have to be cautious of pickpockets while traveling or otherwise!

  2. Great tips!!! I got pickpocketed in Barcelona and could have used this guide. Having the right bag is so important!!! Thanks!!

      1. I’m not sure how well-known it is (I’m not a fashion person), but it’s called Travelon. I got mine as a gift, but I just took a peek at the company’s website and it looks like they have tons of styles.

  3. Useful, practical tips to follow! I’m very conscious about where my wallet and hp and camera are all the time, this one focus helps me keep my valuables safe, thankfully!

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