Does everybody have a getting-robbed-while-on-vacation story?
What happened to my wallet? Did you see something? Did you feel something? Maybe we left it at the restaurant? Maybe if we go back, it’ll be laying around somewhere in the park in front of Gaudí’s fantastic Cathedral…
Has this ever happened to you?
Oh, my God, I’m such an idiot! I’d heard the stories of pickpockets all over Europe, but surely, SURELY, this was not going to happen to me! Am I not a practical and experienced traveler?
So after getting over the utter shock, I start to list in my mind what I had in my wallet and I start to think about what I could’ve done differently.
Prevention against a pickpocket is key, try these 5 tips!
You need to remember that sightseeing on holiday is a different activity than your ordinary life back home, so you don’t need most of the stuff you regularly carry in your handbag, just the essentials, not only because it’s much more comfortable to make the long walks without extra weight, but because if you fall victim to a pickpocket, you want to lose the least possible and avoid bigger problems.
In Europe pickpocketing is almost an art, you are just not going to realize you’re being robbed which is kind of reassuring.
In other areas of the globe, you need to be a little more careful and aware so that you don’t get mugged, but that’s another issue altogether.
In this post I want to give you five tips to make sure that if you get pickpocketed, it won’t be so painful.
Tip 1: Carry a lighter, smaller wallet.
Yes, don’t carry your bulky girly wallet with all of your stuff and money. No, have a thin, easy to hide away wallet that can hold some money, one credit card (if the urge to splurge comes a’knocking) and a photocopy of your passport. This wallet should be thin enough to carry in a pocket or a small bag.
Check! I do have a small flat fabric wallet that can only hold so much and that I use for all my travels.
Tip 2: Do not carry your passport with you.
Instead, make a photocopy that shows the basic information and your visas, fold it, and put it in a small plastic bag, so that you can use it as ID.
My mistake: For some reason I got distracted that day and brought my local ID (useless in Europe), two credit cards and two debit cards. No-no… no. Wrong, wrong and… wrong.
Tip 3: Don’t bring a lot of money with you.
Carry only the amount of money you expect to spend that particular day and have a bit more hidden in a pocket of your pants, in case of emergency.
My mistake: For some reason, I put a lot more money than we needed in my wallet that day, about four times the amount needed. Ouch! That was money I wasn’t expecting to lose, there goes my museum gift-shop shopping!
Tip 4: Don’t carry debit cards or credit cards.
Except for that one you may use for shopping if the need arises. Otherwise, leave all your plastic money at the hotel.
My mistake: Carrying all my plastic money with me, as if I needed it. Did I tell you I got distracted for some reason?
Tip 5: Don’t carry a whole lot of stuff you’re not going to use.
The business card of your hairdresser, your library card or your company’s ID are not goint to be much good to you abroad. Leave them at home.
My mistake: I brought my driver’s license from home, which I wasn’t planning on using in Europe. Why rent a car when you can go anywhere on the metro?
• Small wallet.
• Photocopy of passport and visas.
• Money for the day.
• One credit card, if need be.
• Public transportation card (if you have one).
That is it!
The money belt
Rick Steves (Whom I talked about in a previous post) recommends using the money belt, a small silk flat pouch that you can wear around your waist, under your clothes. Many people find it very useful! (Click here to read more about Rick’s money belt and his recommendations).
To me it has felt uncomfortable and cumbersome when I want to take some money out, I have to lift up my shirt and make sure nobody’s watching… so. I stick to my thin wallet hidden in a deep pocket or in a small bag that I can keep my eye on all the time.
What to do after getting robbed
First thing to do is to keep calm and accept the fact that you’ve been robbed. After the initial shock, try to list in your head the items that are missing, so that you can act accordingly.
In my case I had to call home (yes, international call) at a locutorio (in Spain, a call shop) and block my credit and debit cards and then just surrender to the idea of paying and going through the process of issuing new local ID and driver’s license back at home which is always a pain.
Fortunately I blocked the cards on time, so there were no illegal purchases, but I was uneasy the rest of my trip thinking that I didn’t know if the travel health insurance plan would cover me without my cards and that they were my emergency money.
In the end I didn’t need the health insurance and I didn’t need emergency money, thank goodness, but don’t let what happened to me, happen to you. Follow my 5 tips above and lessen the pain, if you do get robbed during your travels.
What’s your getting-robbed-while-traveling story?
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