I recently had two pick pocket attempts made on me in Athens - one on my back pack in a very small church and one when I was on the Metro, on a smaller purse, hanging around my neck, resting on my stomach. Luckily, I realised in time what was happening and nothing was stolen. But it was a simply awful feeling.
It got me thinking about how to make things more difficult for these creeps.
Firstly, put a crunchy, noisy plastic bag in the top of your back pack, so when they unzip your bag and reach in for your purse, they make a noise and alert you.
Secondly, clip the end of your zip to your bag strap, which will make it extremely difficult for anyone to quickly and quietly unzip your bag without your knowledge.
Any more suggestions, as we will be travelling to South America next year and pick pockets are notorious in that country?
I've only been successfully pickpocketed once, on a minibus in rural China, where a thief cut my right front pants pocket to remove a wallet that was secured by a chain. Problem was, there was a fabric loop connecting the wallet to the chain. He sliced through that. So I no longer carry a bulky wallet (you won't feel the blade cutting away). Instead, I use a money clip. I also anticipate my cash needs for the day; and stash that money in a shirt pocket secured by zipper or Velcro. I like clothing with lots of pockets, especially "hidden" ones with zippers. Your best bet to avoid being a victim is being alert; and having your wits about you. If you're distracted, you could be targeted. Know that you will be especially vulnerable in places popular with tourists and on public transportation. Pay close attention when boarding trains. Many thieves work in teams. Your most valuable possession is your passport. Guard it at all costs. If it isn't necessary to have it on you, leave your passport in a hotel safe and carry a photocopy. No passport, no travel. In some countries, you won't be able to get a room without it. Hope this helps.
Thanks Berner256. Clothing with lots of zipped and hidden pockets is a good idea. I never carry our passports unless we need them. They are always locked in the hotel safe. Your reply has given me a lot to think about and plan. It has now become my quest to outwit pickpockets!
Here's my dos centavos...
"Robbery" and "Pick-pocketing" are two separate issues entirely. (Although pick-pocketing is of course a form of robbery.)
1.) Robbery is when a thief physically confronts you and forcibly steals your purse, bag, wallet, jewellery, watch, etc. It's a horrible thing to experience, very traumatic and there's the very real danger of being physically harmed.
2.) Pick-pocketing is off course the exact opposite situation... if the thief succeeds you don't even know you've been robbed until after the fact.
You can't 100% protect yourself from being robbed, but you can certainly control your appearance and actions to make it a VERY unlikely occurrence. Common sense and street smarts can (almost) completely remove you from falling into the role as victim - and if you do get robbed you can minimize the loss to almost nothing.
Pick-pocketing on the other hand is 100% preventable. A pick-pocket doesn't have superhuman powers... they can't somehow magically teleport your belongings from your body into their possession, they have to physically get their grubby thieving hands on your stuff in order to steal it. Velcro, zippers, buttons, inside pockets, money belts, etc. etc. etc... there are LOTS of ways to easily make yourself pick-pocket proof.
I’ve been robbed a couple of times in more than 40 years of travel. Since then, I’ve learned several lessons. One is to not invite trouble by flashing valuables, such as jewelry and cameras. In urban areas, I carry a compact camera in my pocket; and only take it out when ready to use it. It’s in a specially-made velvet bag instead of a bulky commercial case. If I’m walking with others; and they bring their large cameras along, I might consider taking mine, too. Usually there’s safety in numbers. I shy from carrying a daypack – or any bag for that matter – while exploring cities. I store a map, snacks and a crushable hat in my pockets (the REI Sahara River Cap is a favorite). I also avoid crossing borders in remote areas since I was robbed at knife-point in 1974 in the no man’s land near the Chaman border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan. If I find myself in territory that I’m uneasy with, I try to find public transportation out as quickly as possible. It pays to be smart; and trust your inner voice.
If you're female, your bra is your best pickpocket-thwarting friend. Money and cards can go straight in there, nobody will even think to look there - and if they do, you have a much bigger problem on your hands.
If you're going anywhere crowded (market, bus station, etc.) or notorious for its pickpockets, then, as much as possible, ditch the backpack. A shoulder bag, while slightly less practical, is much safer in that respect. If you simply have to keep your backpack with you, make sure you don't actually put anything valuable in it (ie only jumpers, umbrellas, drinks etc.).
Your phone and compact camera can go in your pockets. It helps to wear a shirt long enough to cover your pockets, and most importantly in crowded areas KEEP YOUR HANDS IN/ON YOUR POCKETS. There's no such thing as paranoia at a market or crowded site.
If you're carrying photo equipment in your backpack, I'd advise getting a backpack with 2 zips and keeping them tied together with a small padlock.
I've also tried and tested the "fake pick pocketing wallet", and if anything it's immensely satisfying: keep a cheap wallet in your back pocket, outer pocket of your bag or somewhere equally visible and accessible. Any pickpocket will go for the easiest option and generally tend to leave you alone once they've gotten something, so I find a decoy wallet works pretty well. You can even leave a little note inside saying something like "Better luck next time!". Knock yourself out!
Having been pick pocketed a number of times over the years, I now carry a raffia style shopping bag with various things in, including my notebook. Anyone who tries to steal from that will be very obvious, and will get my boot in their head.
I do tend to keep away from strangers which helps.