Keeping Your Money Safe While Traveling – Pick Pockets
Prague is one of the most beautiful cities you will ever see. Wandering to the bustling Old-Town Hall to watch the Glockenspiel that dates back to the early 15th century, is an experience not to be missed! After enjoying the procession of 12 apostles in succession appear at the top window and the 12 zodiacal constellations at lower part of the Glockenspiel, I went to get a gelato on our way to ship a kayak (yes, a kayak) to Ohio. I reached in my wallet and my credit card was gone. Absolutely gone! Everything else was still in tact but my credit card was no where to be found. The lady at the cafe informed me that the square in front of the Glockenspiel was a notorious spot for the best pickpockets in the land! Having the wallet returned only missing a credit card is something she hears about daily. Well, at least I wasn’t special…and the gelato wasn’t free. Here are a few little tips to help keep your pockets a little safer while traveling.
- Find out where the high pick pocketing areas are. You can either avoid these areas or at least increase your awareness of your surroundings.
- Crowded areas are notorious for pick pockets, from the street to the subway.
- Appear confident no matter what, even if you are lost and try to blend in with the locals by avoiding shorts, flip flops, baseball caps, etc.
- Studying your map while in a crowded area will instantly make you a target. Look at your map before leaving the hotel or while sitting at a restaurant or table. Make notes for yourself with landmarks for easy reference. If you must study your map in public, stand with your back to a wall and belongings secured. If a wall is unavailable, stand in a wide open area where many people can see someone approaching. This will slightly deter a pickpocket, but you will still look like a target once you begin moving.
- Stay alert while speaking to strangers. Finding new friends and opportunities abroad comes from speaking to strangers, just be alert of their body language and your belongings. If person who looks and sounds like a local comes to ask you for directions, politely decline because this is a very common trick.
- Use common sense when using an ATM. Look for ATMs in bank lobbies during bank opening hours and block the keypad when entering your PIN. Also, be stealth when counting and securing your funds.
- Pick pockets like to lurk in the shade, so walk on the sunny side of the street when possible.
- There is safety in numbers, so travel in groups if possible, but remember that there are teams of pick pockets that have cleaver ways of picking a whole group’s pockets during one interruption. Much like animal pack mentality, have your most observant members of the group act as a look-out towards the back of the group and your least observant members of the group on the inside of the group.
- Try to find a seat when traveling by train, attempt to find a seat. When seated, put your backpack or purse on your lap. If you are unable to get a seat, try not to stand by the doors.
- If you carry a backpack or purse in a crowded place, use clips or other items to secure your zippers shut, I use locking carabiners to secure my zippers. If fashion is not an issue for you, you could wear the backpack on your front, or your purse across your body. Also consider a purse with only 1 (one) zipper and walk with your hand on the zipper.
- Never leave your backpack or purse hanging on the back of a chair. The safest place is on the floor in front of your feet with the strap draped around your leg or ankle. You can also bring a purse hook, which you can put on the side of the table and your bag will hang from it. This will keep your bag in your eye sight and a little more sanitary.
- If you are being followed, the best advice is to be unpredictable. Randomly turn into a store, stand in an area where you can be easily seen, or just start jutting down roads with purpose. This will catch the pick pocket off guard or cause them to lose interest.
- Use a money belt but don’t advertise where it is! If you need to retrieve money from your belt, be sure to go to a bathroom or other private place before exposing your très chic travel accessory. Also, be aware that your travel clothing doesn’t expose your money belt or passport pouch. They are not the prettiest of accessories, so that is another reason to keep them hidden.
- Don’t put anything in the outside pockets. A traveler friend of ours was waiting for her train in Rome and fell asleep with her purse as a pillow. A thief literally cut the bottom of her purse/pillow while she was asleep. He was so practiced that she did not even wake up! Luckily, she followed this rule of thumb and he only slashed the pocket that she kept tissues in.