How To Avoid Pickpockets While Traveling by

How To Avoid Pickpockets While Traveling

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Getting pickpocketed is a surefire way to ruin a good vacation. With a little forethought and preparation, travelers can avoid the sly and stealthy thieves and keep their possessions safe and secure.

We have (fortunately) never been victims of petty theft while traveling – but we have had a few narrow misses. On a crowded bus in Paris, a pickpocket lifted a folded tissue from my back pocket, which he thought was folded money. I only realized what was happening at the very last moment.

In Rome, Kris was accosted by a group of children who reached into his pockets. They were unable to get to his valuables, which were zippered on an inside of his coat. While traveling at night by tuk-tuk in Phnom Penh, a man on a motorbike next to us attempted to snag my crossbody bag.  

Pickpockets prey on unsuspecting tourists and they are really good at their trade. They are often well-dressed and completely unassuming. They sometimes work in pairs. One to distract, while the other sneakily pinches your personal items. Some go to extremes – like slicing right through a backpack – while others blatantly grab items right from your hands.

To help ensure that your trip doesn’t get ruined by a thief, we are sharing a few safeguarding tips.

How To Avoid Getting Pickpocketed while Traveling by


5 Ways to Avoid Getting Pickpocketed

By implementing a few simple deterrents, travelers can more likely keep their valuables in their possession.


#1 Keep Your Stuff Zipped Up in Your Bag

One of the best ways to keep from getting pickpocketed is to simply keep your items stowed away. Do not casually push your phone into your back pocket or slide your wallet into the unzippered side of your coat. Anything – and everything – that is valuable should be kept in a zippered compartment.

When packing for your trip, bring a travel day bag or purse that completely zippers shut. It’s even better if the bag has multiple interior zippered pockets for better organization.

If you travel with a backpack that has multiple zippers for a single compartment, take it one step further and use an small clip to lock your zippers together. It will prevent thieves from getting into your stuff.

Top Travel Tip: Use an Anti-Theft Bag. Specifically designed anti-theft bags are created with a mission to keep your valuables safe. The stylish bags by Travelon are passed through rigorous anti-theft tests and are made with travelers in mind.


#2 Wear a Money Belt, Bra Stash or Secret Pocket

Money belts and bra stashes, which are worn beneath your clothing, are small, zippered compartments. They keep your most important items – like your passport, cash and credit cards – completely out of sight.

The inside pocket of a jacket and a scarf with a secret pocket work in the same fashion. Hip packs and chest bags are fantastic smaller, zippered bags for travelers, too. 

Top Travel Tip: Just be aware of the weather! Wearing a money belt in extremely hot locales can cause a passport to be ruined by sweat. If you keep your goods in your coat or scarf, don’t carelessly take them off and leave them draped on the back of a chair.


#3 Be Conscious of How You Wear Your Bag

While sightseeing in cities and on excursions, we like to wear small backpacks that are big enough to hold everything we will need for the day. That said, in crowded markets and packed tourist destinations, I wear my backpack on my front, where I can see it and hold onto it.

Purses should never just be slung casually over one shoulder. Instead, wear purses and satchels across your body – from one shoulder to the opposite hip. Furthermore, a crossbody purse or a chest bag can be worn beneath a jacket, rather than over the top of it.

Top Travel Tip: Always wear your bag! When riding public transit or sitting on a bench, don’t rest your bag on the seat next to you. Always keep it on your body. If you wear a backpack, wear it on your front or rest it in your lap with your arms around it. If you put in on the ground, put it between your legs and put a foot through one strap.


#4 Pay Attention and Be Vigilant

I know this might seem like a no-brainer, but it must be said: Keep an eye on your belongings! One of the reasons pickpockets target tourists is that they tend to be slightly off balance and out of their element. Jet lag, new environments, foreign languages and dazzling attractions can all be incredibly distracting. Plus, it’s easy to be lackadaisical while on vacation.

However, it’s essential to make an effort to vigilantly tuck away your items. Leaving your wallet, phone or camera on a table at a restaurant or bar makes it all too easy for a thief to swipe it. The same can be said for purses and backpacks strung over the backs of chairs.

Top Travel Tip: Phones – especially newer model iPhones – are a hot commodity. Brazen pickpockets will grab it right out of your hands. They wait for that moment when you are engrossed in Google Maps, ordering an Uber or reading restaurant reviews. It’s best to use a tether for your phone so no one can just snatch it. At the very least, don’t stand out in the open with phone in hand. Try to be discreet, stand with your back to the street or go inside a shop for a moment.


#5 Don’t Wear Your Best

Designer bags, high-end clothing, flashy jewelry and pricey phones are all quick to catch the eyes of pickpocketing thieves. Travelers who can afford expensive things are perceived to have a lot cash in their wallet, too.

While you don’t have to look disheveled while on vacation, a more understated wardrobe is a better choice for deterring pickpockets. When traveling to a high-risk destination, it might even be wise to use an old phone rather than the latest model. 

Top Travel Tip: Depending on the destination – and the monetary worth of your wedding ring – it could be a good idea to leave it at home. For your vacation, wear a simple band or cheaper ring instead. 

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Travel Hacks to Overcome Pickpocketing

We have shared some of the best ways to help travelers avoid pickpocketers, but thieves are tricky – and even a well-prepared tourist can fall victim. Therefore, we are sharing a few ways to counteract the unpleasantness of getting pickpocketed while on vacation. Implementing these hacks will minimize the inconvenience.


Organize and Document Your Credit Cards

A few days before your trip , clean out and organize your wallet. This way, you will know exactly which credit cards you have with you.

Before leaving on vacation, take photos of the front and back of all the credit cards you are taking on the trip. Keep a hardcopy at home (where family or friends can access them in an emergency) and a copy in locked luggage or your hotel safe.

Likewise, it’s smart to make copies of your passport. We recommend making two copies; keep one in your wallet and one in your suitcase.

Travelers can also download the bank apps to your phone for all of the credit cards you take on vacation (but don’t stay logged in!). With an app, it’s easier to report a stolen card.

Top Travel Tip: In order to report the theft immediately, it is essential to have a secure internet connection. We recommend using an eSim (for unlocked phones) or a Pocket WiFi Device.


Limit What You Carry

During the trip when you are out exploring, limit how much cash and the number of credit cards that you carry with you. That way, if someone does snag your wallet unsuspectingly, you are not left without any money.

Keep some cash and cards in your wallet – but leave some in the hotel safe or locked in your luggage in your room. Some travelers even divvy up their cash and stash it in a few different places Just remember where you put it!

Additionally, friends traveling together might want to each bring two credit cards – and swap one with each other. If one person gets pickpocketed, the friend will still have your backup card.

On that same note, if you travel with a debit card, only keep a small amount of money in the account tied to that card. Move money from a secondary account into your debit card account as needed. If someone does get ahold of your debit card, they won’t be able to completely clear out your bank account.

An alternative way to limit what someone might steal is to use a temporary travel credit card. They may be available directly through your bank, credit card company or with brands like Revolut or Wise. Then load a set amount of money on the temp card and top-up as necessary. These cards can also be used via mobile apps, Apple Pay and Google Pay. Just be sure to get your account set up and learn how to use it before your trip. 

Top Travel Tip: Consider also keeping your money and passport in separate places. Either on your person (passport in money belt and cash in zippered compartment in day pack) or altogether separately (passport in hotel safe and cash in locked suitcase).


Don’t Panic

If you do get pickpocketed, try not to panic. Take stock of what was stolen, cancel any credit cards as soon as possible and make a police report.

Some trip insurance policies – like World Nomads – cover stolen goods, but a police report will be essential.

Try to regroup and stay organized. Hopefully, you have backup funds (credit cards and cash hidden in your hotel room) that will get you back to enjoying your vacation in no time. 


More Travel Planning Tips

Planning a trip can be a big undertaking – but we have heaps of tips that will help make the process a breeze! Stay organized during the planning process with our Printable Travel Planner!

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