In general, travel is very safe; however, it does have its share of petty crimes such as purse snatching, pickpocketing, phone grabbing, and just generally getting ripped off because you are a tourist. Thieves tend to target vacationers because they know that we bring a lot of valuables and are in a strange environment. A number one tip I have for travelers to not get pickpocketed or become a victim of theft is to try not to stand out and stay on guard.
Before you go on your vacation, I always recommend travelers to make copies of their passports and travel documents. You should also always bring multiple credit cards and multiple debit cards and leave some in the room in the unfortunate event you are a victim of theft. I also personally bring multiple phones because you never know when you may need a back up whether it is lost, stolen, or it decided to take a bath because I would never drop my phone in the water.
Leave valuables in your hotel or Airbnb
Expensive items like laptops are better off in your room than you carrying it in a bag around the streets. Hotels also generally have safes in the room, or if the item is too large, they will usually have a safe at the front desk. Theft from hotels and AirBNB still happen of course, however, compared to forgetting your bag at a restaurant or being a victim of petty crime, it is much better odds for you.
I personally also prefer to leave my passport in my bag in the hotel and not the safe or with me as I walk (unless the country I am in requires I carry my passport such as China and parts of Israel). I always recommend travelers to leave it in their bag as it is unlikely to get lost or stolen, as you will most likely grab your bag. Just take a photo of your passport photo page as well as the visa or entry stamp in the event an officer stops you or require assistance from a government entity.
Stay Vigilant in crowds & avoid political events
Always be aware of your surroundings one thing most people forget to do on vacation is their street smarts. I remember on one of my recent trips we were a group of 9 heading back to our hotel room, and there was this dark alley that leads directly to our hotel, but it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of you. A group member decided to go through it and was a target of theft. I remember when she insisted it was safe. I told her, “I am from New York; one thing we do not do is go into dark alleyways. I watched Batman as a kid.” and to this day I am proud to say I always have street smarts.
Be on guard when you are in train stations, walking around at night, on city buses, etc as you may sometimes feel a slight bump and nudge and somehow your wallet or your phone is gone. These are things that can happen. Always be on the lookout, and if you see a large commotion somewhere, it is most likely a smokescreen for theft, and the artful thief created a disturbance to distract you; the victim.
If you are a victim, Get over it
One of the most important things if you are a victim of a crime or ripped off, is to get over it. You are currently seeing the world, and the theif is not able to. When you are a victim of a crime, it is important to understand that you let your guard down and became the victim. Of course, it will ruin your day, and you will have to replace your stolen items, and you may be out a week’s wages. However, you are still alive and on your trip of a lifetime. Let them rob you of your material goods but do not let them rob you of your experience as that is once in a lifetime.
A story I always tell my travelers is I have personally been a victim of theft even though I am a well-seasoned traveler and go to countries many people would not even think of visiting, but hey shit happens. I was at a beer garden in Barcelona, meeting up with one of my good friends from Belgium, and we were having drinks when I decided to turn around to say goodbye to the new people we met. My phone was in between my friend and me, and somehow within the 2 seconds I was turned around halfway, my phone was gone. Of course, I tried to find it, but in the end, I just went to the police station, filed a police report, filed a travel insurance claim, and purchased a new phone the next morning. I was then on my way to enjoy the rest of my travel through Spain & Portugal. Sometimes it’s just better to get over it and tell yourself – shit happens. Of course, after this incident, I am even more vigilant with my phone, and I know for a fact I will never let it happen again to me!