All I remember was that I got bumped and my purse probably – um, definitely – was open. But my wallet was gone – the same one with my driver’s license, credit card, and thankfully just $30 in cash. And it happened in a place that I wouldn’t even think of being pickpocketed in – a cathedral. Nonetheless, the possibility of being robbed while traveling is what any beginner or expert traveler needs to keep in mind. It could happen, but what you do to prepare in advance for the possibility and how you react to it makes all the difference. Here are some tips on reducing your chance of being pickpocketed and how to prepare in case it happens.
Having copies of travel must-haves like your passport, credit/debit cards, and driver’s license will aid in the process of replacing them if they’re stolen. Scan and save copies as PDFs. You can email them to yourself or - for more security - save them in your RoamRight mobile app. Also, print out and bring hard copies with you by packing them in a secure place.
Ask a trusted relative or friend if he/she can be your main contact in the case of an emergency. If so, give him/her an extra copy of your paperwork plus your itinerary and lodging information so they can send you what you need. Write down their phone number and email, in case if your smartphone gets swiped you can still reach them (plus ahead of time get the right international code to call them from wherever you are – and make sure your call can go through).
When I let my credit card company know my travel plans ahead of time, they give me a separate number to call from my destination. I write it down and so should you. I used it to contact them and cancel my card ASAP when my wallet was stolen. They can also issue a new card to be sent to your hotel, if permitted. Also, with overseas travel, find out where your country’s nearest embassy is, in the case you need help with situations such as a stolen passport. The U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program lets U.S. citizens and nationals provide information on their trips abroad with the nearest embassy or consulate.
It’s easy to get distracted when you’re taking in the local scenery, but a potential thief also takes notice. Especially in crowded areas such as train/bus stations, public places, and top visitor attractions, pickpockets tend to slip in largely unnoticed or might distract you with tactics such as spilling items on your clothes or bumping into you. If you need to pull out a map or do something that requires your attention, do it in a place where others can’t pry.
There are clothing/accessories companies that design merchandise with anti-theft deterrents, including pants and jackets with hidden compartments or pockets or items that can be worn under clothes like a money belt. Others involve bags with supposedly slash-proof materials. Combination locks or other metal-based locking equipment can also help secure bags.
Especially with money, don’t put everything you need all in one place. Consider using a money belt or another security product to keep your cash, passport and cards safe. Some travelers I know use everything from empty shampoo bottles to socks to hide small items. And if it’s something you really don't have to bring, but can’t afford to loose like jewelry, leave it at home.
Though it’s easier said then done, maintaining a level head can help you from making irrational decisions. Take a deep breath and focus on getting help.
Get to the nearest police station and request to file a report. Although the police might not be able to do much to help, the documentation is an asset with providing proof of any stolen materials, such as if you need to file a travel insurance claim. If you’re not sure how to find the police, go to the closest place where a manager can be found, such as a hotel, restaurant, department store, tourist office, or museum.
As mentioned before, use the information that you have about your banking/credit cards to cancel them, plus order new ones. If your passport is taken, contact the nearest embassy or consulate. Their staff can assist in providing needed documentation to prove your identity.
If you end up getting physically injured, it might be best to see a doctor in the case of any injuries. Any check ups now will care for in the future. If staying at a hotel or hostel, ask the front desk for the nearest place to or ask them to contact them for you.Even better, call your travel assistance provider's 24/7 emergency help line to get help from a pre-screened, quality medical provider.
Remember, with the right travel insurance policyany loss from a theft might be protected, so save all of the official documentation you receive from the police and file a claim with RoamRight as soon as possible.
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As a kid flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines, Michele Herrmann became hooked on learning about new places and cultures. As an adult, she's turned her love for writing and passion for travel into a career that's been full of adventure and surprises. Her work has appeared on Yahoo Travel, The Lost Girls, The Points Guy, ShermansTravel, Epicure & Culture, and Budget Travel. She also posts about travel from her own perspective on her blog, She Is Going Places. Follow Michele on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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