Tips for Avoiding Theft while Traveling

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!

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Seattle Dredge
    April 19, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Great post! There’s so many stories out there.. I hope they never happen to myself, or anyone I know. Unfortunately a good friend of mine was dragged behind a motorcycle in Tanzania, by her purse :(
    And I was very cautious in Barcelona too, I tried not to carry anything at all!

  • Reply
    Abbey Hesser
    February 12, 2011 at 12:11 am

    I had my only stealing incident in Barcelona (damn those tricky Spaniards). But fortunately, I caught the guy in the act (as he had his hand inside my purse) and smacked him pretty hard. I’m sure he wasn’t phased and went and found someone else to steal from minutes later, but I felt good and he looked surprised. Good tips!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      February 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm

      It’s crazy that Barcelona is one of the worst cities for theft around. Honestly its not the best way to run a business, if I was a thief and I knew there were a lot of thiefs in one spot I would go somewhere else where there were less so I could steal more! hahaha

  • Reply
    Candice
    February 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Solid advice, woman! I’ve never had anything stolen from me yet, which is an absolute marvel. Oh wait a second. My wallet and phone in HALIFAX. GODDAMMIT.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      February 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      hahaha I wouldn’t really say your phone and wallet were stolen from you…. they may have been drunkenly lost ;)

  • Reply
    jade
    February 8, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Luckily, I have never had anything stolen from me (cross my fingers that I’m not jinxing myself). We try to be really careful- but I like what Ayngelina said… it’s not the end of the world and being scared that it’s going to happened isn’t going to stop it! Great tips though!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      February 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      thanks Jade!
      My fingers are crossed for you too! :)

  • Reply
    Pete
    February 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    We have been very fortunate because we’ve only had 1 thing stolen from us, a jacket from the upper compartment on the Quito-Baños bus. It was a stupid mistake, and of course when you let your guard down, that is when it happens. We tend to be quite aware of where our things are and our surroundings, but you can not be 100% of the time. Our passports are what is key, everything else, painful as it is, can be replaced quite quickly.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      February 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      It’s true and as anoying as it is all things can be replaced. Doesn’t it ever amaze you though of the things that people will steal? Like what really are they going to do with your used jacket? If I was a theif I’d go straight for the wallets every time! haha

  • Reply
    Christy @ Technosyncratic
    February 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I’ve actually been really lucky – never had anything stolen! But when I was at a hostel in Rome I met two backpackers who had their backpacks (with everything, including their passports) stolen when they were sleeping in the train station.

    Even though I haven’t had any bad experiences, I’m also still wary when someone approaches and wants to chat! Hmmm…. they seem friendly, but… you never know. :)

    • Reply
      Cailin
      February 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      It’s true I always think the worst of people until I feel comfortable with them not wanting to steal my stuff haha

  • Reply
    Ayngelina
    February 7, 2011 at 9:12 am

    3 times!

    The first in Vietnam, motorcyclists cut my bag off me with a knife.
    The second on a beach in Nicaragua at night – okay that’s my fault.
    The third I was with my sister in Quito and they pushed her and ripped her camera out of her hand.

    The biggest thing I learned was that theft isn’t the end of the world. Unfortunately it happens and sometimes you can prevent it (don’t be stupid enough to go on any beach at night) and sometimes you can’t.

    I don’t worry about it anymore, being afraid doesn’t make you safer.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      February 19, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      I’ve always heard about people having their purses cut off of them! I was hoping that it was just an Urban Legend! :(
      What kind of purse was it? a Nice bag or was it a cheapo leather one that was easy to cut off?
      I love your last line its very true “I don’t worry about it anymore, being afraid doesn’t make you safer.”
      I feel like you would make a great travel partner! :)

  • Reply
    Rachael
    February 7, 2011 at 8:55 am

    While I actually am a *very* careful traveler (especially after the first time I had my purse stolen in Thailand — camera being the hardest loss, since they actually mailed the purse back, sans camera and money — a week later!) I unfortunately have been robbed three times!

    The second time was just two weeks later in Indonesia. I had just bought a new camera so I was super careful about keeping it in my sight. We were on a night bus and I was careful to use my purse as a pillow, trying to keep my hand on the zipper when I fell asleep. Somehow, still, a thief managed to get in my (and my other two companions’) bags and steal all of our cameras and ipods, replacing them with juice boxes of similar weights so we didn’t notice until after we’d switched buses. Obviously he was a professional.

    The hird time, in Jordan, was a pretty long, ridiculous story (http://girlunmapped.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/the-story-of-the-theft/) where we actually caught the thieves but unfortunately they had dumped our stuff already. This was of course the one time they got EVERYTHING, including both my and my boyfriend’s passports, my camera, etc. and we were just leaving our hotel to go to the airport to fly home, so that didn’t happen.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      February 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      Rachel thanks for sharing!!
      that is such a crazy story! You are also crazy for chasing them! Its also a pretty amusing story with that piece of evidence that they had too haha

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