One of the things that I worried about when my family travelled to Italy was how to avoid being the victims of thieves and pickpockets. I did my research and would like to pass on a few helpful tips on keeping your valuables safe when travelling this summer to places that are notorious for petty crime (looking at you Barcelona and Rome).
Leave your Flashy Items at Home
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have heard about people losing their most precious treasures such as engagement rings and other costly items while on a trip. Simply do not bring them. Instead of taking any expensive jewellery, bring some costume pieces along. Use “regular” luggage instead of fancy, designer bags. In other words, don’t travel with items that may draw unwanted attention. Also, keep your other valuable items such as your laptop, tablet, camera, etc. in the safe in your hotel room when you are not using them. On a recent trip to London, my daughter placed her father’s cool, vintage sunglasses on a counter to pay for a drink, only to have them stolen when she looked away for a brief moment. (She squinted a lot after that but luckily her father wasn’t too angry.)
Be Vigilant in Crowded Areas
There is no better victim than the one who is unaware. Be especially careful on the day that you arrive in your new place – often you are dazed and confused due to jet-lag. Be aware of where you are and who is around you, especially in places that are flooded with tourists, such as the popular museums, churches, markets, public transit, etc. One of the tricks that thieves use is to create a distraction – someone falling, bumping into you, an argument – and then grab your stuff when you aren’t paying attention. Last May, friends were on a guided tour of the Colosseum and at the end of the tour, a woman in their group was looking for her wallet to tip the guide and guess what? Wallet gone. Money gone. Credit cards gone.
Make Copies of ALL of your Important Documents
Make two sets of photocopies of your passports and credit cards, and any other important documents. Take one set with you (leave it in your hotel safe) and leave the other set with a trusted family member, friend or neighbour at home. You could also take pictures of the documents on your phone, but this won’t help you much if your phone is then lost or stolen.
Secure your Stuff
Wearing a money belt is a great idea. It can get a little awkward lifting your shirt up to pay for something. For women, using a cross-body bag with a zipper closure, and keeping it in front of you is also better than a tote. Make it difficult for someone to get into your bag. Also, if you are renting a car, do not leave any of your belongings in your car, and especially not in clear view of any passers-by.
Get Travel Insurance
Just choose wisely depending on the items that you plan to take with you, and read all of the fine print to ensure that your valuables are covered. Most policies have a single item or valuables limit and the less expensive, more attractively-priced policies may have very low limits.
PS – My intent is not to send you into a paranoid panic. If you stay aware of your surroundings, you and your valuables should be just fine!