How to Outsmart a Pickpocket

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Staying safe on the road is one of the biggest obstacles aspiring travelers must overcome. Pickpockets are so common in some cities, that petty theft can become a tourist’s greatest fear. If you want to protect your belongings, arm yourself with these 6 essential tools.

The right bag

Ladies, leave the expensive shoulder bag at home and invest in a more practical purse for your travels. Gents, get out of the habit of leaving your wallet in your back pocket and pick up a day bag to carry on holiday. The best way to carry your belongings is in a cross-body purse or messenger bag. Wearing a long strap across your torso, instead of just on your shoulder makes it much more difficult for someone to snatch your entire purse away from you. TravelOn and Pacsafe make great bags with cable-reinforced straps and strong mesh linings so you can also avoid becoming a victim of the bag slashers common in more dangerous parts of the world.

A travel lock

For your suitcase or backpack, make sure the zippers are lockable. MasterLock and Lewis and Clark produce a variety of handy travel locks to deter opportunistic thieves. Make sure you use a model that’s TSA-friendly, so airport security agents can unlock your bag for inspection as necessary. Budget travelers taking lots of overnight bus and train rides might want to pick up a retractable cable lock, which you can use to secure your bag to your seat. If you don’t want to spend money on a real lock, you can secure your zippers with twist ties.

A decoy wallet

Never keep all your money in one place. If you do, and that bag or wallet gets stolen, you’ll be in a worst case scenario. If, instead, you divvy up your funds between your wallet and a few strategic hiding places around your bag, a thief can only set you back by so much. Keep a few small bills and expired credit cards or gift cards in a decoy wallet. If might throw a pickpocket off course, and if you’re held up by a thief, you’ll have something you can throw away easily.

A money belt

There are lots of ways to conceal larger stashes of cash. Some people get really creative and clean out sunscreen bottles and lip balm tubes to tuck away bigger bills in case of emergency. Other travelers feel more secure wearing a money belt. If you fall in that camp, keep a few things in mind. Money belts can sometimes look more conspicuous than a regular purse or wallet. Make sure yours fits well and wear clothing that fully conceals it. Only use your money belt for larger amounts of cash. Keep what you’ll need for the day’s expenses more readily at hand. If you have to lift your shirt or unbuckle your belt to dip into your money belt throughout the day, you’ll just draw more attention to yourself.

Common sense

No amount of travel gear can substitute for common sense. Always remember that pickpockets work best in crowded settings. Be on your guard at popular tourist attractions and on public transportation. Keep an eye – or better yet, a hand – on your purse. This is very easy and can even look natural if you carry a cross-body bag. When sitting down at a restaurant or café, keep the strap looped around your wrist or ankle. Staying aware of your surroundings goes a long way. You don’t need to be the most difficult person to steal from. You just need to not be the easiest target.

A positive attitude

Most importantly, you have to remember that petty theft does happen to travelers. Sometimes, you can do everything in your power to protect your belongings and still come up against a wily thief. Don’t pack anything on a vacation you truly can’t bear to lose. And if your belongings are stolen, try to keep things in perspective and don’t let it ruin your trip.