I will never forget the day that one of my best buddies from work sat me down, looked me straight in the eye and told me it was time to have ‘The Talk’.
My friend then proceeded to enlighten me (that while I travelled abroad,) with excellent suggestions to help protect myself and my family from con artists, gypsies, thieves, and pickpockets.
He then launched into a bizarre narrative of his experiences when he traveled to Paris with his niece.
What he described to me was terrible and sounded like something out of a Stephen King novel.
The pointers that he gave me were valuable and worth passing on to you.
So here in a nutshell, are some basic rules when you find yourself in a strange location filled with people and all kinds of diversions that can easily separate you from your money and valuables.
1. When deciding what purse or bag to wear, it’s important that you choose one with a long strap so that you can place it over your head and around your shoulder, like the travel bag pictured above. Try not to just drape your bag over one shoulder. One good tug from a stranger and you’ll never see it again.
2. Whenever you find yourself waiting in line, have someone you’re traveling with, stand behind and watch your back. Chances are, that when you get to the front of the line you will be distracted by your task at hand and easy prey to anyone with slippery fingers.
4. Before leaving on your trip, purchase several discrete moneybags, that you wear underneath your clothes. If you need to carry around all your cash, passport and credit cards keep them in there for safekeeping.
4. Before you leave your hotel room for the day, only keep in your purse and wallet what you think you will need for your immediate expenses. These expenses would include meals, souvenirs and tickets. Keep everything else in your hidden money bag.
5. Try to keep your bag or purse zipped up and closed as much as possible. If you must open it, make sure there is somebody watching over you while you are distracted. Even better, lock yourself in a phone booth away from reaching arms and groping hands.
6. Look as plain as possible. You don’t want to be attracting any attention.
7. Trust no stranger. If someone starts talking to you out of the blue there’s a reason. They want something from you.
8. If someone tries to hand you something, a flower, an umbrella or any package do not accept it. By taking it into your hands you are telling the vendor that you want it. At that point they will pester you, chase you down the street, and very quickly ruin your day.
9. Be aware that if you give any beggar a handout, that immediately makes you very shiny to the other beggars nearby. They will now chase you down the street knowing that you give handouts. They will not take “No” for an answer. At that point you have two choices: Hand over some money just to get rid of them or, do what I did: Turn around and yell at them very loudly to leave you alone (which should scare them away) or just scream for the cops.
10. If anyone dressed in costume approaches you and implies you should have your picture taken with them, before anyone raises their camera ask their price. If they don’t answer the question, immediately turn and walk away. One photo can cost as much as €10 each. Not worth it.
For more information, travel professional Rick Steves, has an excellent video on protecting yourself abroad. Look him up online or check your local library or bookstore for his DVDs and books.