You want to have the time of your life on your vacation with no hassles -- or at least as few as possible -- and the last thing you need is a robbery or theft. So with that in mind, I thought I would share some tips and actual crime schemes so you can avoid becoming a victim. You need peace of mind to travel so you can relax and enjoy the ride!
These come courtesy of France's Nice Police, tour guides, victims and my travel experience. All are avoidable with a little planning and care. As a precaution: Always know how to call for help in the local language. Your computer can translate the word into any language for you, and it's always good to know as many words in other languages as possible
Always carry your money in a place close to you that cannot be extracted or lifted by clever pickpockets. A man's wallet in a back pocket may as well be an engraved invitation that says, "Take me!" The same applies if you carry a backpack with a wallet in the outside zippered compartment. If you wish to bury it at the bottom of a backpack, that's fine. But thieves watch for victims, and it is human nature to always pat ourselves where our money is hidden! Did you know that? Not to make you paranoid, just aware.
So, when you find yourself patting your wallet, pat a few other places. (Yes, really!) If thieves think you have an affliction, they will leave you alone for sure. Otherwise, thieves sit and wait for people who are obviously tourists getting off and on cruise ships -- and may opt to follow you unless you keep reading and look, as we say in Hawaiian, akamai or savvy. Always have a purposeful look on your face and hop in a taxi further away from your cruise ship if you also want to save some money.
This next one caught a friend of mine off guard: A child of about 12 arrived with some newspapers for sale as my friend approached the bank. He very politely told the young girl that he now reads the news online. (And one would hope he reads The Huffington Post!) A male passerby warned him to "shoo off" the child, but my friend was kind to her and went on about his business, which was to withdraw cash from the ATM outside the bank.
The child became a pest and approached again and again and he held his hand so that the child could not see the access code he used and finally she stuck the newspapers in his face, much to his objection. Then she was gone. But so was his $400 cash withdrawal. She had used her youthful looks and slight of hand to slip the withdrawal out from underneath the newspapers which may as well have been from 1997 for all the legitimacy of her selling news. Who would suspect a lone child? My friend felt so stupid because he is an accomplished world traveler. But she had tiny fast hands and a face no one would suspect would be that of a thief.
Thieves routinely use children. While the adults shake their tin cups in all the major European cities and seem like they are asking for money, it is the children who are trained to bump into you and lift money and valuables without you ever feeling their violation. It's a terrible shame and a travel turnoff. So leave your real jewelry in a safe or safe place and just wear fun pieces that you can buy on your trip.
A friend and I witnessed this scam in the South of France -- which was later confirmed by my driver and the police -- but it could have happened anywhere. A couple posing as lovers are very "up close and personal" with each other. Her bag has been left wide open in a park for tourists looming like an invitation to thieves. But wait. This looked staged. And it was. The idea: To make the area look safe to leave your things out and about. But we know better, oui? Once our bag is left out or open, they would have nabbed or nicked it!
This one has a double-edge. You might also stop to watch these lovers as they go at things pretty heavily. It's human nature to look. That's what they are banking on. Literally. This is when a third accomplice can hop out of the bushes and grab your bag off your shoulder. A case for a backpack can be made here. Backpacks tend to bump into people -- and I am not a fan -- but they do have an advantage with crime because they are very hard to rip off a traveler's back. And they now even make them in alligator so you can be as stylish as you wish! A fanny pack is iffy: Make sure the buckle is not in a place where a thief can easily unlatch it. Then, it can be a good thing.
So keep your cash and wallets hidden, your spirits high and a watchful eye for yourself and others. Report anything suspicious and know that there is always safety in numbers. Speaking the language, as much as you can, as best you can, goes a long way, too. With our global economy what it is, few places are safe, so do what you can to protect yourself and think smart, act smart and be smart. Happy trails.