All over the world, a traveler must be cautious about being the victim of pickpocketing (especially around tourist areas and around city centers...but basically anywhere).
|Be alert in large crowds!|
Pickpocketing is done in a myriad of ways but especially watch out for:
1. Someone bumping into you or spilling something on you thus diverting your attention while they reach into your bag or pocket; or
2. Child beggars or gypsy women. Their reputation for stealing is well deserved. Remember, if you stop and give them money it: 1. Opens up the opportunity for them to see how much money you have thus making you vulnerable. 2. Give them more opportunity to steal from you - that's right, while you're fishing around in your pockets or purse looking for some spare change, don't be surprised if they send another beggar to slip something out of your other pocket.
If you don't stop or say "no", the beggars will probably follow you with hand cupped and stretched toward you - but be persistent. Ignore the fact they are there, hold on to your bag, and walk away. They'll lost interest and find another person to steal from.
Before you start feeling all indignant about what I'm saying, just remember that pickpocketing is a huge problem that can ruin your trip. Pickpocketers rely on the tourist being naive and trusting. And, please don't think the money you are giving the children is actually going to them. Most of the time, giving money to a child beggar will only result in them giving every last cent to a "minder" or an older person who is in charge or 1 or more children on the street.
In the UK, some of these children have been followed by investigative journalists who have tied them to gangs and who have seen them walk around the corner and get into BMWs. It is reported that one child can rake in 500 Euros a day!
How can you prevent being a victim?
1. Wear a money belt for your passport and a credit card. That way, you have those things on you if you need it - and in the safest place possible. Leave the belt untouched throughout the day as fumbling around with a money belt for simple transactions will only send out more signals that you are a tourist and a target.
2. Refrain from carrying a backpack. This is impossible at times, I know. But if you know you're going to be touring or walking around a busy metropolitan city all day, try to leave your backpack in your hostel locker or hotel room. The fact is, you simply cannot feel when someone is unzipping and reaching into the front pocket of a pack (or even a daypack) - especially when you're in large crowds getting bumped around. If wearing a backpack in unavoidable, make sure that you check it often (there are stories of packs getting slashed with knives) - and if you're with someone, make it a point to mutually mind the other's pack. Backpacks (daypacks and large packs) also just make you look like a tourist - which again, makes you a target.
3. Don't keep your money in one place - when walking around, put some cash in your purse and some in your pocket. Or, if you're not carrying a purse, some in each of your front pockets. That way, it'll be unlikely that all of your money will get taken in one pickpocketing incident.
4. Women, always be mindful of your purses. I suggest you carry around something that zips on the top (something like a Longchamp Le Pliage) so someone can't just reach into your purse and snatch something. Furthermore, always keep a hand on it - that way, if someone tries to grab and run with your purse, you may be able to hold on to it long enough to prevent losing it. Keeping a hand on your purse may also be a deterrent for thief who is planning on grabbing a purse in the first place - I'm sure they'd rather go for the oblivious woman who has it loosely dangling on her shoulder.
Also, when eating, don't drape your purse on the back of your chair, put it on the ground, or even leave it on the table. This just makes it too easy for purse snatchers! I usually keep my purse on my lap if I'm at an outdoor cafe near the street. If you're inside a cafe or in a nice restaurant, placing your purse at your side should be fine!
5. Men, NEVER carry your wallet in your back pocket - make sure it's in your front pocket.
6. Put several photocopies of your passport in different places. If you do #1 on the list, you shouldn't have a problem with your passport getting pickpocketed. However, as a traveler, you must be ready for any kind of situation - things do happen and passports get lost. Make sure a copy of your passport is in your main bag (suitcase or backpack) and that you have a few more scattered around in your belongings. I usually have one in my wallet, one in my suitcase, and Ryan holds on to one for me.
7. On trains and buses, be mindful of your belongings. If you're going to sleep in a public place like this, read our Backpacker's Guide to Sleeping in Public Places.