Having your things stolen on a trip is never fun. Here are nine ways to protect your stuff while you’re travelling — leaving you to concentrate on making amazing memories instead of figuring out where the nearest Canadian embassy is.
1. Don’t Carry More Than You’re Willing to Lose
A pickpocket cannot take what you don’t have. If your bag or wallet gets pinched, mitigate the impact it has by following this golden travel rule: don’t carry more than you’re willing to lose.
That means carry only the cash you plan to spend that day. If you aren’t planning to drive, you’ll also want to keep your license — and any other ID cards that are a hassle to replace (hello, passport) — at your accommodation.
2. Use a Money Belt, but Not All the Time
Money belts are useful during those potentially vulnerable moments where you have to carry all of your important stuff — passport, travel money and more. Wear one at the airport and on the way to your accommodation — then you won’t need to pat yourself down every five seconds to make sure your precious things are still there.
For day-to-day sightseeing, you shouldn’t be carrying your important things with you (see point 1 above) so you shouldn’t really need to wear a money belt constantly.
3. Keep Your Bag Close…
If you typically keep your wallet in your back pocket, don’t! It’s too easy a target for pickpockets. By the same measure, if you’re enjoying a drink or bite to eat at a sidewalk café , it’s a smart idea to loop your bag’s strap around your chair leg. Or keep it safe in your lap. Don’t just let it hang off your chair.
Similarly, when you dine, keep your phone in your hand or in your bag rather than leaving it exposed on the tabletop.
4. …and Use a Practical Daypack
Sling bags look good, they sit close to your body, and you won’t have to be the person wearing their large backpack on the subway.
Whatever bag you choose to wear, you’ll at least want one with a zipper rather than a drawstring-style opening. And if your pack has inside pockets, use them!
5. Dress Plainly
It might be impossible to blend in completely with locals, but you can always draw less attention to yourself — and, crucially, your gear. Have a fancy SLR camera? While you’re not using it, keep it stowed in your bag rather than slung casually around your neck.
Similarly, you might love costume jewelry or your impressive-looking watch, and it may not even be worth much, but if it looks valuable, it can draw the attention of potential thieves. Leave it at home.
6. Stay Alert to Your Surroundings
Trust your gut. If something about the street you’re walking down doesn’t feel right, don’t feel guilty about it. Just turn back.
Also keep in mind that busy train stations, shopping districts and tourist attractions are popular spots for pickpockets to work.
If you can help it, on the subway stand clear of the door. Gutsier pickpockets will grab purses and phones straight from people’s hands as the doors are closing. And, if it’s an option, use ATMs that sit inside banks. They’re less likely to be targeted with skimming devices that scan your banking information and you’re less exposed to pickpockets waiting around to scheme.
7. Find Out About Unexpected Cons
If you know the surprising cons in the destination you’re visiting, you’ll be more likely to see it coming if you’re targeted. Especially in major European cities, pickpockets might try the following ways to distract you:
- Wiping a spill (that they caused!) from your shirt while swiping your wallet at the same time.
- Jostling you on the metro and taking your phone while they’re at it.
- Splashing you with a substance that looks like bird poop, then ‘helping’ to wipe you down.
- Asking you to sign a petition. While you’re read the brochures or adding your signature, your valuables might be getting sweeped up.
- Using child victims, some as young as eight, to pickpocket. In some cities, a group of children may gather around you talking, shouting, and begging for money. It’s another distraction that’s used to take your things.
8. Know the Value of Things
If you know that local taxi drivers are legally obliged to have their meter on, you can feel confident when you state that to the driver who’s refusing to switch theirs on or claiming it’s broken. If you know the cost of a taxi journey from the airport to your hotel is meant to cost €20, and your driver quotes you €40, you can stand up for yourself before getting in the car.
Having a good idea of the value of the local currency will also help ensure you don’t get a bad deal at markets where goods don’t have fixed prices.
In the same vein, always ask for restaurant receipts! That way you can check you’re not being charged an extra €6 for those breadsticks you never ordered.
9. Be Prepared
Before you go, organize travel insurance. Take photos of your gadgets in case you need to make a claim. Split up your valuables and make copies of important documents like your passport.
Keep your back-up bank cards in a secure place at your accommodation. If there’s no safe, use your own travel lock or leave your things securely with reception. Last thing: keep emergency money. American dollars can be converted in just about any destination, and $100 should cover you in the event that you need to make emergency calls home or find your way to an embassy.
Travel is an amazing experience, and by following these nine simple steps you can feel much more confident on your next trip. Bon voyage!
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.