We all think it can never happen to us. But believe me- the danger of pick pocketing is real. Especially in Europe. People make a living off of preying off of unsuspecting, happy as can be tourists. Here are a few tips Tips To Avoid Being Pick Pocketed and What To Do If You Are:
Try not to stick out like a sore thumb
Meaning try not to look like a tourist. Leave the crazy neon colors and bright sneakers at home. I like to research on local fashions before heading on vacation. For instance- the Italians hate athletic sneakers and tend to wear more neutral colors (which is more than likely true for many European countries)
Limit the amount of cash you bring-
This is a biggie. I usually only have $50 dollars worth of currency on me or less when I venture out each day. I have 1 credit card on me and leave the others + my debit card in the hotel safe. That way if I am pick pocketed I am only out $50 and have a way of getting more cash if needed. To boot, I have another credit card to last me the trip (while I cancel the other). Make copies of all of your cards just in case you need the information to cancel.
Be aware of your surroundings
I know we all want to stop and stare/take pictures when in a new city. But when in a crowd try to hold it until you are away from hoards of people and more aware of who is around you. This especially holds true when you are on public transportation. You may want to take in the views or read up on your travel guide book on the sites you are about to see, but don’t. Public transportation is one of the most frequent places to get pick pocketed. You are more than likely in a crowded space and crammed up against people, making just the slightest nudge by a stranger, normal.
Cross body, zippered bags are your friends-
The more zippers and pockets the better! I store my valuables not only in a zippered bag but in the inside pocket of the zipper bag- making it tough for pick-pocketers to go through multiple layers of purse to get to the goods. Also try to go for a cross body purse to keep everything in front of you. I know I am contradicting myself with my favorite travel backpack but its just a risk I take. (My camera stuff is too heavy to wear in a cross body all day- but I keep all my cash and cards in the inside zipper pocket and my camera around my neck at all times)
Never bring your passport on your person
Please don’t do this. Leave it in the hotel safe or hidden in your luggage. It is true you need some sort of identification when walking around in a foreign place but a copy of your passport should suffice.
Limit jewelry + other pricey items-
Try to leave the flashy jewels at home. Hate to say it, but maybe think about leaving your engagement ring at home if at all possible. Even if you are not mugged for your jewelry you may be targeted as prime pick-pocketing real estate by criminals.
Have Travel Insurance-
I swear by this. Travel insurance is good for a whole slew of reasons (which I will get into in another post) but one main benefit is recovering some of your losses if pick-pocketed. Although cash probably won’t be covered (if you find a travel insurance company that does cover this please let me know!) you should be able recoup the cost of your purse, wallet, phone, etc.
Travel insurance will also help you with costs associated with being pick-pocketed. Meaning if you needed to reschedule your flight home because an appointment was not available at the Embassy to get a new passport before your departure and simply the additional cost of getting a new passport. (your new passport will be around $150ish dollars but is good for 1 year after it is issued and when you apply for another passport that cost is also covered.) Whatever you are submitting a claim for, your travel insurance company will need a copy of your police report so make sure you get one!
Know where your US Embassy or Consulate is-
This is huge and one that can actually cause you a great deal of stress. Many locals will not know where this is to point you in the correct direction. Note the address and phone numbers of the Embassy/Consulates in each city you travel to, before you leave. Keep one copy on you and one back at the hotel.
Know where the local police station is-
Many locals will be able to show you where the nearest police station is, however you may want to also note the address before leaving on your trip.
What to do if you are pick pocketed and your money is gone or worse if your passport is stolen
Now, let’s say you reach down and find that your wallet, purse, etc has been snatched. Being pick pocketed can feel extremely violating and upsetting. Hopefully, if you followed my tips from above the items lost will not be of much significance and will not put a huge damper on your trip. With a little bit of pre-departure prep work you can make this travesty not so bad. The stress of not knowing what to do is worse than being pick-pocketed in many cases. Here is what you should do:
Call your credit card company/bank if a card was stolen
This is where a copy of your cards come in handy. Less stress about finding the number for the bank + you will have your account numbers ready for the customer service assistant. Calling your bank/credit card company first thing should help reduce the risk of fraudulent charges not being refunded to you.
If your passport is taken- stop everything and call your nearest US Embassy or Consulate-
You will want to schedule a time slot to get a new passport. If only a Consulate is near you they may only be open/take passport renewals certain days. Also many Consulates will not have a photo booth to take your passport picture.
Head to the nearest police station-
Tell the police what happened, what was taken, where, when and file a police report. This report will help you if you have issues at the embassy, airport or if you need to file a claim with your travel insurance.
Go get your passport picture taken-
This can vary from country to country or even city to city. In Italy for instance (and I have heard in many European Countries) passports are lost frequently- even by locals. Unlike in the US, passport photos are no big deal and cities will have fun looking photo-booths on sidewalks that also take official passport photos for about 10 Euros or so.
Get your new passport and store it safely-
Leave your new passport in the safe at the hotel, ask for the Embassy to make you a scanned copy to carry around with you and/or take a photo with your phone.
Repeat everything I said in the first part of this post to avoid being pick-pocketed again!-
No seriously. Just do it. You don’t want to have to go through this a second time.
Put the past behind you and enjoy your trip!-
You paid good money and are spending precious vacation leave to be here. Try not to dwell on what happened and have fun. It can happen to even the most experienced travelers.