I get a lot of customers coming into Indepal who are about to head overseas looking for a leather bag to use everyday that provides good security for their cash etc . With pickpocketing a genuine concern, especially in Europe, they want to buy an everyday leather bag that will keep their stuff safe from stealing hands. I’ll get to some recommendations later, but first I wanted to share some of my thoughts from my recent trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
First things first, you want your holiday to fun and enjoyable, not filled with paranoia about who might be wanting to rob you. As travel blogger Rick Steve’s says: Don’t travel fearfully, travel carefully. I hope this blog helps you to do that.
It goes without saying that you want to keep you and your belongings safe, but it’s important that you and your things are given the right priority.
- Most importantly, the safety of you and your loved ones is paramount. No explanation required here.
- Secondly, your passports and travel documents are critical to getting anywhere and identifying who you are. Sure they can be replaced if need be, but it’s a administrative nightmare doing this whilst overseas with nothing to back you up.
- Cash and credit cards come next. Being cashless, and/or without access to cash can be a lonely place on the other side of the world.
- The other stuff. Sure you don’t wan’t to lose your camera or your laptop, or your sunglasses, but when you put things in perspective of the other three points above, you can see that this is a (very frustrating and infuriating) inconvenience. They can be replaced and your travel insurance may even cover these. Check your cover.
The main strategy is to take the right precautions to make you a hard target. Or at least, ‘less easy’ than the other travellers around you. If you’ve got your essentials hidden away, and the person next to you has their phone hanging out of their back pocket, guess who they are going to go after?
The precautions you should take are pretty logical when you think about them, but nevertheless, here are my top 10.
- If you don’t need it, leave it in your room. All the travellers I’ve spoken to, have never had anything stolen from their room. I’m sure it happens, but the odds are much lower. And in these days of Tripadvisor, Airbnb, etc, the competition for customers is hot, so the risk of poor reviews with reports of theft, make these places really think about who they do and don’t hire.
- Keep valuables out of your pockets. Sound advice, but it’s also easy to fall back into old habits. I routinely put my phone in my back pocket here in Australia, and my wife had to remind me on several occasions that I’d ‘done it again’, and only then I remembered to put it back into my leather camera bag.
- For your everyday bag, use a strong one that can be zipped up and kept secure. My wife Sharon used our Wanderer leather bag when we were travelling. This is a popular choice for most of our customers who are heading off OS. Some great features of the Wanderer bag is that it’s made from leather, so it’s strong and tough, it has a zip across the top PLUS a leather flap that goes over the top of the zip. The strap is also made of leather. Sharon also wore hers with the flap against her body, as an extra layer of security. Also consider a ‘bumbag’ that it worn around the waist and hidden by a shirt or jumper. We’ll have some leather bumbags in stock very soon! Also, it sounds obvious, but keep your bags zipped up/clipped/closed. If you watch some of the videos below, you’ll see just how easy an open bag makes it for a pickpocket. A friend of mine even had her phone stolen from her open bag when lining up to board the plane! This was in a secure area with cameras everywhere!! Remember, your job is make it harder for the pickpocket, not easier.
- Keep your bag to the front, and keep your hand on it at all times. This is especially important in crowded areas and critical on public transport. By doing this, the pickpockets will soon move onto someone easier.
- In your wallet, don’t have all your cash on display. Keep only a small amount in full view, and other cash stored separately.
- When you’re travelling, you might see ‘beware of pickpocket signs’. The natural reaction is to touch your wallet or your money belt to make sure it’s still there. Pickpockets know this and will hang around these signs and watch where people are keeping their valuables.
- Be careful of beggars and also ‘harmless’ children. Pickpocket gangs enlist the help of small children to do their dirty work. With beggars, a man we befriended in Lisbon told us how a beggar came to his table one day and showed him his ‘story’ on a piece of paper about his children and how he couldn’t get any work. Our new friend said he gave him some money and felt good about helping him, until he realised that the beggar had stolen his mobile phone off the table. He’d used the paper with his ‘story’ as cover, while he slipped the phone into his pocket.
- When opening your wallet, keep as much money hidden as possible. Only have a few notes on display when you go to take cash out. A large stash of cash will attract the wrong attention.
- Don’t forget to pick up your bags! I’ve heard a number of stories where travellers have taken due diligence to protect themselves, only to leave their bags behind when they leave a restaurant or get off a bus! This is making it TOO easy for thieves! Also, remember to secure or hide your bags when you are sitting down at a cafe or elsewhere.
- Stay on well lit streets and within well populated areas where possible. Avoid if possible the unsolicited help of people who know ‘shortcuts’. Google maps is a life saver these days. Even if you don’t have phone access, you can download local areas when you have access to wi-fi which will give you access to maps and your location, even without a phone plan. Speaking of phones, there are even apps for your iPhone that show known areas where thieves operate. One called BeSafe can be downloaded from iTunes.
I hope that helps you prepare for you big adventure. Learn more about how pickpockets operate with these great videos produced by the British Transport Police. They show you just how they get away with it, but more importantly, make you more vigilant next time you’re travelling.
Courtesy of British Transport Police