Tips for Avoiding Theft while Traveling

(The above photo was taken in Barcelona, said to be one of the worst places for theft and pickpockets in the world. You have to always watch your back and belongings when you travel but especially there.)

Unfortunately theft is something that all travelers have deal with either directly or indirectly when they travel. Knock on wood a million times I haven’t really had anything stolen from me on my travels, but there have been some close calls and I have sadly witnessed it (unknowingly) happen to others.

In August of 2009 when I was traveling in Spain with my camera man Cam we had our video camera set up on a tripod. He looked away from it for a second, and when he looked back a man had his hand on it about to take it. While on that same trip after the La Tomatina tomato fight I stood with our camera and gear 20 feet from the outdoor showers while Cam rinsed off and I saw a spanish lady near the showers bend down and pick something up and walk away. Two minutes later a guy who had been in the shower as well started searching for his camera that he had left on the ground and I immediately realized what that lady had done and she was long gone. I felt horrible about it because I literally watched it happen without knowing.

I think I’ve been able to avoid theft while traveling so far because I’m very cautious with what I do with my belongings and if need to put them down somewhere I always keep a careful eye on them, clearly that poor guy hadn’t. However I don’t know what good that camera can be to that lady with out the power adapter… some people can just be so mean.

The only time that I can think of where something has been stolen from me on my travels was at a hostel in Australia where someone stole some of my food out of my designated cubby hole. Not cool. Maybe they were a poor traveler and needed the food? But honestly how did they not know that I was or wasn’t in that same situation?

Some tips that help me keep my things safe on the road (yes some are obvious):

Tips for Avoiding Theft while Traveling

1. Always know where your passport is. I am constantly tripple checking where I put it (even though I try to always keep it in the same place in my purse), especially at the airport when you need to keep taking it out.

2. Protect your valuables on airplanes. I’ve always felt very safe and secure on planes but have heard a few stories of things being stolen on them.  Don’t just stick your passport, ipod or other valuable item on your seat or in the seat pocket when you get up to stretch your legs or use the washroom, always hide them in a bag so they are harder to get at or take them with you.

3. Pack all of your valuable items in your carry on. A friend of mine was traveling in South Africa and his checked bag was riffeld through and his camera and a few other things were stolen, but he still got his bag with his clothes back.

4.Try to not carry more money on you then you absolutely need. I always stick $20 in my pocket for quick access for food and other small things while I walk around and I hide the rest of my money in my zipped purse. (Some people even go as far as having a fake wallet to give up if forced to do so.)

5. Be wary and alert of every nice person that you meet. The people you meet as you travel can be extremely nice and helpful but unfortunately I always fear that people who start talking to me out of the blue have alternative motives for doing so. I always watch my stuff when this happens to make sure that they aren’t attempting to distract me while their friend walks off with it. I know that is an unfortunate way to act but it is better to be safe than sorry. When I was in Barcelona I met a couple at a hostel and that exact thing happened to them when they were on the beach. They put their fanny pack next to them on the beach that had all of their money and passports in it (why the heck did they take their passports to the beach!?!?) and someone came up and spoke to them, distracting them while his friend walked away with their stuff.

What about you? Have you ever encountered theft on your travels? Did you loose something or have it stolen? Do you have any other tips for people to prevent theft? I would love to hear your stories!