6 Travel Tips to avoid scammers and pickpockets

During my last travel, well meaning friends and family warned me about the dangers of travelling alone and the scams and stuff. It’s all good, but they didn’t tell me how to avoid it other than a, “Thats why you shouldn’t travel by yourself. Why don’t you go with your friends?”

My answer would usually be this, “Because, if I were to wait for them to make their decisions, I’d missed out on great deals and promotions”.

Anyway, this is just a short post about how to avoid scammers and thieves. If you have any more tips, maybe you could share it by leaving a comment? I’m sure my other readers would greatly appreciate it. 

1) Sunglasses and Earphones

I’d keep my earphones on without turning on the music. This way,  I don’t have to deal with people trying to sell me stuff that I don’t need and tours that I’m not interested in. I’m really bad at saying no sometimes.  

The same goes for sunglasses. Just like in Malaysia, there are scammers out there who would approach you when you make eye contact with him or her. Wearing a sunglasses helps me in avoiding eye contact. If strangers try to approach me, I’d just walk away. The combination of these two means that I won’t look like a basic tourist.

2) Crossbody bag / Backpacks

I hate Tote and handbags. First of all, they put too much pressure on your inner elbow or shoulders. Second, they’d make me an easy target to snatch thieves. Thirdly, I noticed this trend among my friends. I’m not sure whether it is because they felt safe because we are together or what, but they often forgot to zip their bags. I’d lost count of the number of times I “stole” stuff from their bags. It was pretty easy to do. 

Although, truth be told, even with backpacks, I don’t feel safe enough, especially in cramped places like buses or trams. I’d “pickpocketed” my friend’s iPad a couple of times from his backpack until he stopped putting it in the smaller pockets. Usually, I’d put my valuables in the inner compartment of the largest area, the one that would be the closest to my back. This way, I’d feel it if someone tries to take something there.

I’d also put a razor or two in the smaller pockets, the one that’s usually furthest away from my back. Anyone who tries to steal from there would get nicked. Legally, I’m allowed to travel around with a razor in my bag (I think). I started doing this when I realized that the smallest pocket on my bag often “unzipped” themselves. First time, maybe I forgot. Second time, I might have accidentally unzipped them without paying attention. Third time? I don’t think so, mister. Lucky for me, I only put pennies and low denomination coins there.

In order to prevent/delay people from opening up the zips to my laptop compartment, I’d also tighten the side straps and I’d make sure that the zips are at the bottoms rather than at the top.

3) Maps

Erm. Easy target much? Use GPS. This is what I do. I’d turn on my mobile data, quickly go to Google map and key in the places I want to go. Then I turn off the data and the GPS would still follow me wherever I go. The Google map app would keep running in the background as long as you don’t clear it. It would be a good idea to screenshot it, in case you accidentally clear it.

In order to preserve battery power, I’d look at it for a few seconds, paying attention to which point to turn, then put my phone to sleep mode. I’d do this every few minutes until I reach my destination.

4) Money

I didn’t bring a lot of cash with me when I was travelling in Europe. The withdrawal charges adds up quite substantially if you only take small amount at a time, but it still beats losing the money to thief. A few euros or a few hundred euros? You decide. As a general rule, I’d carry about 5-7 days worth of cash. The cash that I do have with me, I’d keep them in various pockets. But I always keep 20-30 euros in my front pocket. Its not an amount large enough that I’d cry about if I were to fall into the hands of pickpockets, and its not small enough that I’d have to keep digging into the other stash and alert whoever is targeting me the position of my precious money.

5) Waterproof bag

I didn’t do this last time but I intend to do it for my next trip. A small waterproof bag is great for winter, summer and rainy season. Plus, for a budget traveler who relies greatly on cheap hostels, this  would come in handy especially when you are travelling alone and don’t want to leave your belongings for too long. 

I’d put all my important belongings and my bath products in. This way, if someone asked, I can just say that it’s easier to carry all my bath stuff in a bag than using my hands. Also, you’d looked less awkward compare to bringing your normal bag into the shower area with you. Saying your clothes are in there does not make it less awkward.

6) Padlocks

Get a sturdy one. While most hostels provide lockers, not every hostels provide padlocks. Even if they do, I’d be cautious about using it as someone nefarious in the hostel might use the spare keys and help themselves to your property. 

My advise is to put things that aren’t important in lockers – like bag of clothes and shoes. Never put money in there. If you really have to, use your own padlocks. You could use it on lockers AND to lock your bag to the bed so that no one can steal your bag when you are sleeping or too drunk to notice it.

tallinn-carry-on-backpack-perfect-for-easyjet

This was my main backpack during my last travel. It was one of the cheapest backpack I’d find without compromising on the quality. It might not be the coolest bag out there but it does its job. I also like the fact that I can carry this bag on its side. The front pockets are pretty small, but they are the perfect size for ticket printouts and brochures. I found this bag when I was looking for a carry on bag online. According to the website description, this backpack was created for carry on so you don’t have to worry about it being too big. However, this would not be the backpack you want if you intend to hike or walk for hours. You need a bag that would provide proper support for those kind of stuff. If you merely need something that would keep your belongings together while you fly using budget airlines, you may consider buying this. I’ve also included a link below in case you are interested. 

Cabin Max Tallinn – Flight Approved Backpack for EasyJet & BA hand luggage

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