How to avoid being pickpocketed, according to Rick Steves

How to avoid being pickpocketed, according to Rick Steves

Pickpocketing can be a real issue when traveling anywhere (even within your own country), and no one is immune. Even experienced travelers like Rick Steves, who have been traveling to Europe for decades, has been the target of a pickpocket scheme. Below are Rick Steves’ tips for avoid pickpocketing.

Steves wrote a blog post about the subject after being pickpocketed in Paris during the summer of 2019.

“It was my own fault. I wasn’t wearing my money belt — a small pouch worn at the waist under your clothes. I lost my driver’s license, credit cards, and some cash,” Steves said. “I went back to my hotel, referred to the ‘in case of emergency section’ in my Paris guidebook, and set about canceling my credit cards. My experience just goes to show that, sooner or later, if you’re not on guard, wearing a money belt — or at least keeping everything properly zipped and buttoned — you’ll likely be a victim.”

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Steves has been preaching about using a money belt for decades. He went on to explain that thieves target tourists because “We’re the ones with the good stuff in our purses and wallets.”

Pickpocketing should not overwhelm you, or stop you from traveling, because there is a good chance it won’t happen to you. But you should be vigilant. Here are Rick Steves’ tips to avoid pickpocketing:

Be Prepared

This includes making copies of documents, password-protect devices, and don’t bring your most expensive luggage.

Leave Valuables at Home

Leave all your valuables at home if possible. For the things you have to bring, like your passport, Steves recommends leaving it in your hotel room. He explains that “Your valuables are most likely to be stolen when they are with you on the street.”

Hold on Tight to Your Belongings

Whether you are walking, sitting, or standing, make sure your bag is always looped around your arm, leg, or something like a table leg. You can also use something like a paper clip or key ring to make sure no one is unzipping your bag without you knowing.

Steves said, “The point isn’t to make your bag impenetrable, but harder to get into than the next guy’s.”

Be Vigilant in Crowds

The worst part about crowds is a thief getting in your bag feels the same as someone walking by and bumping you. Not only do thieves scout large crowds, because they know that is where tourists are, but it is easier to pickpocket a tourist without them knowing.

Don’t Carry Large Amounts of Cash

Okay this was not one of Steves’ tips, but it’s one of our tips. Some people, especially new travelers, think they need to arrive in a foreign country with all the cash they will be spending on their trip.

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But with ATMs and other helpful technology, you should be taking out a little amount at a time. Credit cards, passports, and other documents are replaceable — but money is not. You do not want to be left in a foreign country with no money and no options.

What To Do If You are Pickpocketed

If the worst does happen and you end up losing valuables or worse, your passport, there are some things you can do. Here are the steps we would take after being pickpocketed:

1. You will want to file a police report first and foremost.
2. File an insurance claim.
3. Call your credit and debit card companies right away to cancel your cards.
4. If your phone is stolen, you will want to suspend your mobile service right away.

The police can help direct you to your embassy in case you need to get a new passport.

Just remember, if you are pickpocketed it’s not the end of the world, although it probably feels like it at the moment. Just take it one step at a time and you will get your stuff back, hopefully with very little damage.

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