You can’t prevent it completely, but with these tips you at least reduce the chance that you become a victim of tourist scams. Wherever you go, especially in tourist areas, it happens: robbing or defrauding tourists. Tourists are easy targets. But how do you ensure that you are a slightly less easy target? And above all, how do you ensure that you do not become a victim of theft?
1. Be alert with helpful locals
And we don’t just mean shabby types. No, really, always be alert. In almost all cases of pickpocketing, trading is done in groups. A helpful local distracts you and in a moment of inattention you lose your valuables. It could be anyone trying to distract you. From a sweet old woman to a polite, neat man. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stay away from locals, but keep an eye on your stuff. Every country has its own diversion tricks. Some examples:
Dirt on your clothing
Something is ‘accidentally’ spilled on your clothes, after which they try to help you with cleaning. In an automatic response, you put your bag on the floor to look at the stain. But because of all the commotion around it, it is very easy to rob yourself at such a moment. When this happens, keep your stuff with you and just keep walking.
Offering a rose
This trick can be found all over the world. They offer you a rose. It seems like you get this for free, but once accepted you have to pay for it. Then try to get rid of this without paying. So just don’t accept it, because in some cases you not only lose a lot of money for that one rose after such an action, but suddenly a lot more is missing from your bag..
Showing the way to tourists
When you’re waiting for a bus somewhere or Obviously for your way, the friendly local might just ask you to show you the way. In many cases it is actually genuinely friendly, but unfortunately in some cases it is a diversionary manoeuvre. While you are being shown the way, an accomplice steals your valuables, or even your entire luggage. Again, just keep an eye on your stuff.
When you know it is a trick and feel that something is wrong. Then show that you know it is a trick. Grab your bag a little tighter or protect your trouser pockets and look around you alertly. If the thieves see that you’ve got them, they’ll soon look for an easier target.
2. Be confident
You are in a strange city, so it makes sense that you don’t know the way. Still, it is not always convenient to be in the middle of the street with a map (expanded large) in your hands to find your way. Sure, we all do this from time to time, but it does make you an easier target. Moving around the streets more confidently will make you less conspicuous and not that “helpless” tourist. You can do this by, for example, asking the waitress for directions during lunch at that cafe. Or, in advance, for example on the plane or in your hotel room, you can delve into the map and the public transport system of the city. That doesn’t mean you have to memorize your way, of course, but having some landmarks and street names will help you quickly familiarize yourself with your surroundings. This will quickly make you look a lot more confident.
3. Don’t walk with valuable goods
Actually, every traveler knows this, but it happens often enough that people take to the streets with expensive watches, jewelry and designer clothes. This is of course not a problem everywhere, but in many cases it simply applies, you do not have to show what can be achieved. Of course you want to take a picture every now and then and especially if you have a passion for travel photography, you therefore occasionally take out an expensive camera. But that doesn’t mean you have to hang it pontifically around your neck. Just put your camera away after taking the picture. The same goes for your phone, of course.
4. Distribute your money
Sometimes it is useful to withdraw large amounts. Especially if you have to pay your ho(s)tel in cash, book a tour or go somewhere where you are not sure whether you can withdraw money. Sometimes you just can’t escape it. Besides the fact that every time you withdraw money, it also costs money, of course. So a lot of money in your pocket. Divide this between your pockets and hand luggage. Even put a $50 note at the bottom of your large luggage (for emergencies). And always keep some smaller money loose in your pocket. This way you don’t have to conjure up all those flaps every time you have to pay a small amount. Certainly at street food stalls or at the market, for example, you do not want to have to grab your wallet every time. After all, all bystanders will see where you store it again. Just pulling a note out of your pocket is just that little bit safer. And the big money? Put it in a money belt under your clothes or in a safe compartment (on the side of your body) in your hand luggage.
5. Immerse yourself in your destiny
Every city has its own tourist scams. You would say that every thief or swindler comes up with his own trick, but that is not the case. Especially because there is a lot of work in organized gangs, street crime in every country or area can be summarized in a few well-known tricks. And those tricks are simply described in most travel guides. For example, in the back of the Lonely planet you will always find a chapter Dangers & Annoyances (under Directory) or Safe travel (in the newer LPs). This chapter describes the country’s most famous tricks, as well as where and when to be extra careful. Handy for a quick read! This way you not only know exactly when to be on your guard, but you also avoid ending up in the usual annoying tourist tricks.
6. Check your luggage
Overcrowded buses and trains. Busy stations and bus terminals where the signs cause more confusion than they create clarity. They are places where a wallet, camera or phone can be pushed back in an instant. And not just by taking it out of your pocket. That backpack was also just cut open and emptied. Therefore keep your hand luggage on your lap in crowded public transport. Or when you’re standing, on your stomach. Not between your feet and not above your head. Of course, this doesn’t apply everywhere, but at least it’s always the most secure option. You really don’t have to hold your luggage tightly against you (which is also noticeable), but just make sure that you have it in sight and against you.
And your big luggage? You can’t keep it with you all the time. Therefore, do not put any valuables in it. Yet it remains exciting to leave these in the hold or on the roof of a bus. It can be nice (also for protection) to put your backpack in a flight bag, which you then lock with a padlock. This will not prevent theft, but it will make it a little more difficult to quickly unzip it. Also sit on the side of the window to get a little more view of what’s happening during layovers. But also try to relax a bit, because thieves also know that a backpack or suitcase contains mainly clothing, toiletries and some souvenirs, so that luggage is already a lot less interesting than your hand luggage.
7. Do not work against people but cooperate
As mentioned, you can never completely prevent robbery. You certainly don’t do much against an armed robbery. When this happens, just cooperate. Often people only want money and they are gone in no time. If you argue or argue, things could turn out much worse. It also helps to have some cash in your pocket. Especially in poor countries, the thief quickly settles for this and the drama is soon over.
8. Make backups!
If you are robbed, the damage will always be reimbursed by your travel insurance. So don’t forget to close it before you travel. It will cost you an afternoon at the (tourist) police, because the insurance only covers the damage with a valid police report. So material damage is generally not your biggest problem. It’s worse if you lose all your photos (unfortunately, I speak from experience). No matter how slow your internet is at times, back it up! Before you leave, don’t forget to turn on the automatic backup function of your smartphone. And many new laptops also have such a function. For your camera, this is a different story. You will have to make a backup yourself every now and then. A lot of work, but well worth it.
9. Make copies of important documents
Always carry a copy of your passport and other important documents with you when you travel. If your passport is stolen, you will need a copy for the declaration. It also helps to take pictures of your documents with your phone and save them in dropbox, for example. That way they can never get lost.
10. Don’t be naive and relax
We can’t say it often enough, just use your common sense and listen to your gut. Naivety may be cute, but it makes you a very easy target. So you have nothing on. You don’t have to see a danger in everything either, because then you won’t get anywhere. Sometimes you just have to trust the situation for a while. We all sometimes find ourselves in a situation where we ask ourselves afterwards whether it was so wise and safe. And yet you went along with it, because in most cases your feeling is a very good indicator. So you never prevent it, but you can certainly reduce the chance! We don’t want to scare you with this article. You might as well be rolled in Amsterdam. So it won’t hurt to relax a little. And if things go wrong, don’t let it ruin your vacation. Shit happens!