I have been asked by a bunch of people about the risk of muggings and theft when traveling. I have been fortunate enough (knock on wood) to have not have experienced it firsthand. I would like to think that this is because I practice some tips to avoid being pick-pocketed or mugged. The following is a list of some of the tips I use to protect myself:
- Do not take anything irreplaceable with you and avoid taking expensive items with you so that it’s less of a temptation for thieves
- Don’t carry too much cash, but always have a little – The same goes for credit cards – I brought one credit card and my ATM card for when I was living in Argentina and left my other cards at home. It’s always a good idea to have a little cash in case you need to quickly hop in a cab
- Look up how people dress where you are going to be traveling and attempt to blend in – of course, many thieves will know you aren’t from there, but they might go on to the person who screams tourist with their map and camera out
- Which leads to the next: try not to obviously look at a map. I have done things like look up a route I need to take before hand, write down directions and even put my map in a book or my journal so it’s not obvious that I don’t know where I am
- Be aware of your things! I heard a lot about pick-pocketing and theft in Barcelona, so when I traveled there, I always kept my purse right under my arm and actually slept with it (inside, my wallet, passport and camera) in the hostels. There were some people in my hostel who had things stolen from them and I noticed that they would just leave their things lying around
- Trust your gut! – I’ve had times where I just didn’t get a good feeling from my surroundings or people I was in contact with and got myself out of the situation as soon as I could (this saved my friend from getting her passport stolen in London when these people I recognized from a few blocks back “asked her for a light) She was about to reach into her purse, and I grabbed her arm and we walked away from them. She later found that her purse had been unzipped and her passport was almost out!)
- ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. I am a natural people watcher, so it’s easy to see if people might be acting suspiciously, following me, or watching for potential victims. At night, be sure to travel on well-lit streets
- Unless I can lock up my passport in a safe, I always have my passport on me at all times when I’m traveling abroad and keep it separate from my wallet. I also write down my passport number, the number to call if my passport is stolen and carry a color photocopy (again, separate from my wallet). I usually send this info to my Mom too 🙂
- If you are going to get drunk, be smart about it – for example, make sure you aren’t staggering around drunk and have a safe way home. When I lived in Argentina, I would go out and come home alone a lot. Depending on where I was coming from, sometimes I did walk but would take a cab depending on the situation. I knew a girl who would get really wasted and go home alone. One time, she was mugged! Not blaming her of course, but had she had someone walk her home or taken a cab, perhaps, she could have protected herself from that situation.
- If someone does threaten you or ask you for your money or things – give it to them! Police recommend this because it’s not worth the situation escalating to violence for THINGS – all of which are replaceable
There’s always the risk of theft when you’re traveling, but then there’s always the risk of getting robbed or stolen from at home too. I use most of these tips even at home. And at the end of the day, as long as they aren’t hurting you, it’s just stuff. Hopefully these tips will help you have safer travels.
Do you have any tips for avoiding theft?