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How to protect yourself (and your bag) from pickpockets

Being pickpocketed can quickly spoil a holiday... but thankfully, it is avoidable with the right precautions. Read on for our tips.

Being a tourist in a new place can be one of the most exciting experiences. From soaking up warm weather to taking in the picturesque sights, it’s easy to get lost in the magic of travelling…until you check your pockets and find your wallet missing that is. Whilst Europe is bursting with great weather, incredible history and fabulous experiences, it’s also a hotspot for petty crime like pickpocketing. Pickpockets particularly target tourists who are often distracted, carrying valuables and unfamiliar of their surroundings.

But don’t let the prospect of being pickpocketed ruin your holiday. The good news is that there are ways to avoid falling prey to pickpockets, keep reading for all of our tips.

Always be aware of your surroundings

Being acutely aware of your surroundings is a simple way to lessen your chance of being pickpocketed. This is particularly important in crowded places like markets, train stations and tourist locations where there’s a high density of people and loads of distractions.

Holding maps, looking confused, having oversized bags and other classic markers of being a tourist can also put you at risk.

Another tool in the pickpockets arsenal is the art of distraction. From accidentally bumping into you to creating a commotion and even street games, pickpockets will use a range of distracting tactics to keep you busy while they covertly steal from you.

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Consider getting an anti pickpocket bag

One of the best ways to protect yourself against thieves when travelling is to opt for an anti pickpocket bag or a money belt. Though they’re not always the most stylish travel accessory, anti pickpocket bags and money belts can help you avoid a world of strife if your passport, wallet or other valuables are taken from your bags.

Pickpocketers are highly skilled at stealthily being able to unzip your bag or reach inside your pockets without you even feeling it. This is especially true for backpacks because the wearer often can’t feel or see if anyone is ransacking it. An anti pickpocket bag typically has straps that cannot be slashed, lockable zips and is thin enough to be worn discreetly and out of the watchful eyes of pickpockets. This anti-theft messenger back from Strand Bags has strong straps that can’t be slashed and an RFID protected pocket.

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Travelon Anti Theft Messenger Bag

from $129 at Strand Bags

Always put your bags in a safe place

The overarching philosophy of pickpockets is that they’re looking for quick wins, not epic heists. This means that if they can easily snatch your bag or unzip it without you noticing, they’ll most likely make a beeline for you. 

Whether it’s your luggage or a backpack, the best way to deter pickpockets is to always put your bags in a safe place. If you’re sitting at a cafe, loop the straps of your bag through your foot or the leg of the chair to prevent someone from snatching it. Or, better yet, loop it through your arm and keep it on your lap.

If you’re in a crowded place, wear your backpack on your front instead so you can keep an eye on it. The same advice goes for luggage, make sure to always keep some form of physical contact between you and your bags.

Leave ‘big ticket’ items at home

You can have all the precautions in the world, but unfortunately the reality is that even with all these tips, you may still be pickpocketed while travelling. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that all of your ‘big ticket’ items like laptops, jewellery, passport, travel documents and anything else valuable in your hotel room. This means that should you get pickpocketed, your most important valuables will be safe in your hotel room. It also means that you’ll be less likely to be targeted by pickpockets if you’re not draped in expensive cameras, jewellery and handbags.

Whilst it’s true that on rare occasions, things can also disappear from your hotel room, it’s much safer than having your valuables on you out in the streets.

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