Some of my friends just returned (safely, thank you) from a trip to Tulum, Mexico. One of the most common thoughts travelers have regarding trips to Mexico is, unfortunately, about safety and security.
To be fair, the same friends lost items from their coat pockets while touring the Palace of Versailles in France with the classic ‘stall’ technique. Luckily, they only lost a hand-knit hat and a nice pair of gloves.
Turns out, my friends are in good company. Plenty of expert travelers have had run-ins with despicable thieves. For example, Rick Steves got pickpocketed in Paris (just like my friends) and Dan and Bailey were mugged in Brazil. These expert travelers learned from the experience, and you can too!
The US Department of State information to tourists who want to visit the country of Mexico typically warns travelers about violent crime and lists the places not to travel, but the truth is that planning a trip to Mexico is like many places in the world.
Be honest: Would you refuse to travel to New Orleans or Chicago because of the crime warnings?
The answer is probably not because the travel rules are, for the most part, the same:
If you’re planning any trip, what do you need to know to avoid getting robbed while traveling? Read on understand how to avoid pickpockets and muggers anywhere in the world.
Pickpockets work in teams. Usually, one person will cause a distraction, allowing their accomplices to grab items from unguarded pockets, purses, or backpacks.
Some of their most heinous actions include:
Rules to follow: Be cautious about anyone who wants your help or wants to help you because thieves play on compassion (it’s disarming), and they work in groups.
A successful pickpocket is a magician. They have an arsenal of techniques that work beautifully for just a few seconds because that’s enough time to pilfer your things.
Things to be aware of include:
Rules to follow: Be cautious of any situation, piece of technology, or person (especially those that look official) when you simply try to go about your day. Calmly observe the situation and your surroundings, and be willing to ask questions politely.
Pickpockets work in high-traffic areas where locals avoid and where tourists are more likely to be. Not only are tourists focused on navigating and seeing the sites, but they’re also more likely to have plenty of cash.
Crowded spaces offer a pickpocket the perfect scenario: a crush of people and built-in distractions.
Here are the most common high-traffic areas where pickpockets thrive:
Rules to follow: Keep your phone and wallet hidden securely off the table. The more crowded a place is, the more careful you should be.
Zippers make a thief’s life hard. They’re difficult and time-consuming to deal with, especially in crowded areas where speed is a thief’s friend.
Of course, zippers aren’t the only theft deterrent a savvy traveler uses.
Strategies that deter the common pickpocket include:
Rules to follow: Secure valuable things, like your passport and wallet, in the pockets of a zippered jacket, purse, or backpack.
Pro tip: Travelon bags and backpacks have slash-proof straps and locking zippers (disclaimer: Travelon is not a sponsor, but a brand that friends and family recommend).
Thieves, especially muggers, will fall for decoys. It’s that need to get away quickly that inspires them.
An old (well-loved) wallet with an expired card or two and a couple of dollars is an excellent offering to a potential mugger in a hurry.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.