While I was studying abroad in Spain, one of the first bits of advice our program directors gave us was over the topic of pickpocketing. Since Europe is such a travel hub people, especially in big cities, can sometimes make a living out of pickpocketing. At the beginning I was a little scared just from how many times we were told to guard our money, know where things are, etc. Truthfully, the crimes aren’t that bad just as long as you are attentive and aware of your surroundings. I have heard several stories of my friends where they felt they were getting pickpocketed but it was too late, or how someone once tried cutting the bottom of their backpack. The troubling part is that once something is stolen it has probably been on three other people’s hands, and your belongings are long gone (Minus the fact of my friend who ran down his stolen wallet one time!)
To ease the minds of all of you who are thinking of studying abroad, traveling, or just want to be extra careful, these simple steps should keep your money where it belongs. Follow these, and let your mind be at ease while traveling!
1. The Back Rule - Always keep things in your front pockets, and never hang your purse or backpack on a chair in a restaurant or cafe. Make sure your bag is between your legs, and don’t let strangers distract you (particularly out of the window), someone else is probably onto your stuff.
2. Distribution - Don’t have all your key belongings in one place, use a money belt, and never carry all your cash with you. The most praised money belt model is Rick Steves’ Silk Money Belt, from $10 on Amazon. Never carry your passport out with you. Keep a copy instead. If for some reason you are carrying loads of cash, keep it in different places — some in your wallet, some in inside coat pockets, some in your sock, wherever.
3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings - Anytime you are in a crowd, on public transit, an elevator with many people, it is an opportune setting for people to pickpocket. Beware of any strangers approaching you and mock situations. People will distract you while someone else is stealing from you. A standard rule would be “Do not engage, act like you belong.”
4. Double Check and Be Safe! - (No I am not referring to the Aaron Rodger’s Discount Double Check TD celebration). Always have your hands feeling your pockets, holding onto your purse, or have backpacks with locks on the zippers. Also, avoid places that look sketchy or are known for muggings!
I hope this didn’t scare you, but helped you. Just remember these few rules and traveling should be a breeze!