Tips – Avoiding Scams and Pickpockets

The rewards of independent travel are many but it also requires you to be ‘street wise’ to look out for yourself and your belongings as you make your way around.

Taxis

It’s good to have an idea how much you should expect to pay in advance for taxi rides. Ask at the airport or hotel.  If a meter system is generally used insist that it is turned on and reset at the start of the trip.  If not, negotiate a price for the trip before setting off to avoid surprises and inflated charges at the other  end.  You can always try negotiating with other taxi drivers to get the best rate.  Try to have small or correct change on you as many taxi drivers are unlikely to carry much change.

Hotel touts / commissions

If catching a taxi to a hotel some taxi drivers may try to steer you to another hotel where they will receive commission.  If asked whether you have a confirmed booking with your hotel always stick to ‘YES’ and insist that you’re driven to your selected hotel. Scams include trying to convince you that your hotel has closed down, been booked out or that their suggested hotel is better or cheaper.

 Avoiding Pickpockets

The first rule with valuables is not to take anything travelling that you really wouldn’t want stolen!  The more valuables you have with you the more of a target you make yourself for opportunistic theft.  I wear a cheapish plastic watch, little or no jewellery and a pair of cheaper sunglasses when I’m away travelling.

If carrying a daypack or handbag around ensure all zips or closures are facing in towards your body. Avoid wearing packs or bags on your back where zips are out of your sight. I tend to sling my daypack over one shoulder and tuck it into my side, under my armpit.  Don’t ever put valuables in ‘easy to access’ outer zip pockets.

I wear a money ‘belt pouch’ that hangs off my belt and ‘flips’ down the inside of my trousers. The bulk of my cash and credit cards is always hidden ‘down my pants’. I also wear a small bumbag or ‘fanny pack’ facing forwards which contains a wallet with a small amount of cash for easy access.

Pickpocket Scams

Bag theft can happen quickly if you put your bag or daypack down and it’s not in your grasp.  I always hook my foot through a strap if I put my daypack down on the ground.  Other pickpocket scams usually employ the distraction of a collision or spilling something on you – while someone is jostling or wiping you from the front, another accomplice is opening zips or into pockets or bags from behind.  I have developed a ‘pickpocket reflex’ that whenever I’m jostled or ‘contacted’ my hands go straight for my bumbag and daypack to be sure I know where my valuables are.

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