10 Tips for Avoiding Pickpockets

1) Don’t put anything valuable in the front pocket of your backpack, or in any pockets of your clothing.

2) Be weary of anyone who approaches you asking for directions. As local as you’ve convinced yourself that you look, you’re obviously a tourist and nobody should need your help. Pickpockets might also approach you in a language other than the local one to make themselves seem like innocent and confused tourists. It’s fine to give directions, but never let anyone obscure your view of your valuables (see #3). If you’re holding your phone or wallet when they approach you, hold on TIGHT and don’t put it away in an easy-access pocket without thinking. If they ask you to take out your phone to show them a map, your phone doesn’t have any battery left.

3) A classic technique is to stand with a big backpack or map in front of somebody in a manner that makes it hard for the tourist to see their backpack or purse. Be careful.

4) If you keep your wallet in your pocket, always keep one hand in your pocket and over the opening of your wallet. If you carry a purse and/or camera case, always hold it in a way that allows you to hold the zipper shut.

5) Look behind you when you are in especially crowded places, such as the metro.

6) It’s best to get your metro ticket out before entering the metro area, so that you don’t have to open your wallet in a crowded public place.

7) Always carry a few locks with you when traveling. They can come in handy if you hear the city is crawling with pickpockets and you want to throw one on your purse or backpack. Be sure to put the lock through the holes in the zippers that are closest to wear it zips (like the picture on the right, NOT on the left), or else you will still give pickpockets enough room to reach the valuables you’re advertising by locking your bag.

2014-11-10 12.16.47A thief could still get enough room to fish around, and the lock will advertise that it's worth doing so.2014-11-10 12.20.51

8) Don’t assume that no one would dare to pickpocket you while inside a famous church/mosque/temple. If pickpockets were very religious and felt deterred from stealing by their faith, they wouldn’t have become pickpockets in the first place.

9) Never store all your money in one location (ie put some in your wallet, some in a locked backpack pocket or money belt). It’s best to also leave some locked at your hostel.

10) If you’re carrying your driver’s license, you might want to keep your passport locked up at your hostel. If not, you might want to lock up a photocopy.

15 thoughts on “10 Tips for Avoiding Pickpockets”

  1. Excellent advice! Have not been pickpocketed, but did get scammed in Jerusalem by a local seeming to generously offer to show us around a bit and then demanding money, which we were too startled and embarrassed not to give. YES, you look like a tourist, and YES, no matter where you are, some people will try to rip you off. Too bad, but that’s reality. As you’re showing, you can’t let it get you down. Just take precautions and keep traveling!

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  2. Excellent advice and awareness. I simply don’t trust anyone either as a tourist or exploring my own town. I tend to carry my bag in front of me and not in my back. I keep tickets and stuff in a close pocket so I don’t show my wallet. I cover me camera with a scarf, especially if photographing alone. Avoid be distracted with crowds, simply avoid it. If you are a bit more conscious you can still make the most of your journey

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  3. These are great tips. I prefer to take a backpack when I am traveling, specifically the type that you can secure around your waist. I have very little trouble with those, but they are not appropriate for every locale. One of my friends was carrying a side-satchel in Vietnam and someone drove past her on a motorbike and grabbed it right off… so that sucks. When I’m carrying a normal handbag I try for one that I can wear diagonally so it is more difficult to snatch.

    Once or twice when I was in really dodgy areas I actually wore my backpack back-to-front, as in, over my stomach instead of my back.

    For me the biggest factor in preventing being pickpocket has always been hyper-vigilance. I think that’s the only reason I’ve never been pickpocketed, not even in Long Street, Cape Town (touch wood). You need to constantly be aware of your body, your belongings, and whoever is around you. It’s hard work not getting distracted though.

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  4. If you’re a woman and wear a bra or sports bra, check out Cache Bra or one of the other security pouches that snap to the straps of your bra & tuck inside. It would have to be a mighty brave pickpocket to attack my hooters!

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  5. I was pickpocketed once. I hated how stupid I felt afterword because just had my wallet in a zipped pouch… A major traveller no no. I guess I learned my lesson though. Don’t take chances and try to always be aware of your surroundings. Good post with lots of helpful tips 🙂

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  6. Great tips. Here are another two. We carry images of our passports and other relevant documents on a USB stick that I wear on a lanyard around my neck. Hubby and I both have zippered clothing, making our wallets harder to get at.

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  7. Good tips! A couple of additional ones that has worked for me on my trips… I repurposed a pair of yoga shorts as a sort of comfy, money belt. I wear it only when expecting to be in a crowd. And I always keep my bag in front of me, and hold on to it, if I need to. Happy travels!

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