146 – Pickpocket! Basic security for your possessions

Getting robbed is never fun, but I feel particularly stupid that my iPod was stolen from my bag by a pickpocket yesterday. I wasn’t following any of the security measures that I know I should have been paying attention to … and it’s all basic stuff.

Press play to hear our pickpocket experiences or click to subscribe (free!) in iTunes:
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However, it does give us a very relevant topic for today’s podcast. We’ve talked about security and your Personal Area Network before (episode 68) but I think security, especially from hotel theft and pickpocket activity, is something that can’t be talked about enough.

1. In your main bag

Wherever you’re staying, it’s a good idea to keep as much of your stuff in your bag at all times. If you’re staying with people, this keeps things nice and tidy, and if you’re in a hostel you can lock up your bag. Try to put valuable gear in the same place each time so you know where to find it and so that you’re instantly aware if something goes missing.

2. Hostel safe

If you’re staying with relatives or couchsurfers, your stuff should be relatively secure, just don’t leave valuables in plain sight. In a hostel or hotel though, your best bet is to make use of the safe. Store your electronics and extra cash there, and your passport if you’re in a country where you don’t need it with you all the time.

3. Hidden

chile pucon ferria market

Moroni and Janine in the Pucon outdoor markets

I used a money belt for many years, and liked the feeling of security it gave me. I kept my passport, credit card and spare cash in the money belt. These pouches are really useful but it’s important to keep it totally hidden – don’t keep going into and out of it. Have a coin purse in your pocket with your daily cash in it, and go to the toilet or into a bank if you need to access more. We’ve found neck pouches quite uncomfortable and the strap is a lot more visible.

You can also get belts with a hidden travel money pouch, and it’s always a good idea to have a secret stash somewhere.

4. Your day bag

If you can’t be bothered with a money belt, your day bag is a good alternative – just watch it very carefully. Put valuables right down the bottom, keep it locked if possible, and never put anything of value in the front pocket (this was my mistake). The idea is to make it difficult for a pickpocket or bag-slasher to get your most important items. If it’s a backpack, keep the zips zipped right to the side, not to the top, as a grab and pull could completely open it. You’re usually okay to wear it on your back, but flip it to the front when you’re in dangerous areas. The same goes for shoulder bags – wear them at the front.

Sponsor: WorldNomads.com

This episode of the Indie Travel Podcast is sponsored by WorldNomads.com.

WorldNomads.com provides great value global travel insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online, even if already travelling. All World Nomads get free travel blogs, safety advice and language guides for your iPod. You can also support a Footprints community development project when you purchase online. WorldNomads.com – keep travelling safely.

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Co-written by Craig Martin of Indie Travel Podcast and ex-UN Safety and Security trainer Craig Bidois, this is road-tested safety advice for all travellers.

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7 Responses to “146 – Pickpocket! Basic security for your possessions”

  1. Nomadic Matt March 17, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    you need to be careful in south america. it’s pick pocket heaven!

  2. Christina March 19, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Yes, we were targeted in Quito, Ecuador, but we could tell what they were right away. My husband and I fool thieves by having a “fake” wallet in our front or back pockets. These hold some old or fake IDs and a few dollars. If they are taken…not a big loss. The rest of our money is in the safe place on our bodies. We did see an elderly Ecuadorian man being robbed in the Old Town by a young Ecuadorian man. The young man grabbed the older man’s pants pocket and lifted him bodily up and down a few times until his pocket ripped and he dumped the guy onto the ground. The theif took off with the wallet. We, as well as other Ecuadorians, were shocked. We grabbed the nearest taxi out of there.

  3. Victoria Fenner March 19, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    I can relate .. I just came back from a great trip in Central America. I had no misadventures, but was always aware that something could happen. One thing I was told is that displaying Ipods, cameras etc. make you especially vulnerable. I was told by a reliable source (someone who doesn’t get scared easily) that people using gear in public are taking big risks .. she has heard of people being stabbed for their Ipods. Which meant that there were places where I couldn’t get recordings or photos. Mostly in the big cities .. Guatemala City in particular is a place where you have to be especially careful. It’s a balance .. being careful enough but not so paranoid you can never relax.

  4. tikitravel March 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Stabbed for an iPod, now that’s crazy. I never bring anthing like that out and about with me while i’m touring the city, you don’t really need it when your out exploring anyway. The camera thing can be a pain though. I hate when you just want to take a picture and all of a sudden all eyes are on you checking out your fancy toy.

  5. Charlotte June 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    I guess for me this is the only part of traveling, that I just dislike with an increasing intensity. Almost daily I hear of someone loosing their most important assets whilst traveling. We forget that this is no different than in our own country. I have never felt threatened (to date) or felt that my backpack, or carry bag would be snatched. Yet, I do the same things everyone else does. I forget and leave it exposed, or placed on a table for easy picking. I must remind myself that just because I am getting smiles and friendly gestures that I must continue with my own personal security regime as I would in my home town.

  6. Simon October 18, 2010 at 8:21 pm #

    Also it’s important to be aware that in Asia there are a growing number of incidences of motorcycle bag snatches. In Malaysia we were warned to keep our backpacks on both shoulders or our bags strapped across our chests as thieves would occasionally zip down a busy street on a motorbike and easily strip tourists of bags hanging off one shoulder.

  7. Craig and Linda October 18, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

    Strange to hear that’s back on the rise in Malaysia, but I won’t disagree with you. It’s good advice in every country, just like looping a bag strap around your leg while in a restaurant or café … It’s horrible when they go missing.

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