Thursday 13: How NOT to Be a Victim of Pickpockets While Traveling Abroad

July 28, 2011

Well, here I am back from almost a week in London England.  I love England… I always have and I probably always will.  But for one day last week, my love affair with all things English nearly came to a screeching halt.  A pickpocket stole my wallet as I rode the subway back to our hotel.

Needless to say, I made some mistakes that led to this unfortunate loss.  But I also did some things right.  Here’s a list to help me remember how to keep this from happening again.

  1. Keep passports in the hotel room.  You won’t need them while you’re out and about, just at the airport.
  2. Only take one day’s worth of cash with you when you’re out.
  3. Write down your credit card company’s phone number to report lost/stolen cards.  (Visa has a toll free number from nearly every country as well.  List here.)  Keep that number in your hotel room (not, for heaven’s sake, in your wallet!)
  4. Have a backup credit card that you leave in the hotel room.  Trust me, once the stolen card is reported stolen, it will be easier to use another card than to navigate the procedures for getting a replacement card sent to you.  And while we’re on the subject, be sure to notify your credit card companies that you will be traveling out of the country before you leave so they won’t decline your charges as suspicious.
  5. Carry your cash in the front pockets of your pants.  No one can pickpocket those without it looking like a sexual assault.  🙂
  6. For ladies, use a handbag with a long strap and wear it diagonally across your torso.  This will prevent anyone from grabbing your purse and running away with it.
  7. If your bag zips, make sure that the zipper is in front where you can see it.  Never leave the opening of your purse behind you.
  8. Avoided crowded places where people will be bumping into you and it would not cause you to be alarmed.  (For instance, the subway at rush hour!)
  9. If signs are posted telling you that pickpockets operate in a certain area, take them seriously.  They aren’t posted there just to scare away the tourists.
  10. If you might forget to do #1 above, enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  (Actually, this is a good idea even if you don’t forget to do #1.)
  11. Be aware of where your wallet/money/bag is at all times.
  12. Pay attention to your instincts.  If someone’s appearance or actions strike you as even miuldly suspicious, put as much distance between them and you as you possibly can.
  13. Finally, assume that you will be pickpocketed rather than assuming you won’t be.  A little paranoia can be a good thing sometimes.  🙂

The ones I did right:  1, 6, 10, 11

The ones I did wrong, or not at all:  2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13

What it cost me:  $400, my drivers license, the airport parking lot ticket, and my credit card.  Not to mention all of the time spent calling Visa that could have been spent seeing the sights!

One comment

  1. Thank you for posting this. Hopefully, it will save someone else a lot of the trouble you had.

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