How To Pick The Pockets Of Pickpockets

Sadly, the world is not as nice as how it used to be and as much as we want to believe that nothing horrendous can touch us, there’s still that slight chance that something might just happen. In this case, I am not being a pessimist. This is reality and because I want my fellow travellers to not go through the same horrors that many have gone through, I will be sharing some useful information that you should keep handy while on your backpacking trip.

Pickpockets and Thieves (They’re The Same Banana)

definition: a person (or group of persons) who steals from the pockets or bags of others in public places

pickpocket page

So you think you’re untouchable, huh? YOU ARE WRONG. No matter how seasoned you think you are, you are doomed to encounter them (if not directly, through another person at least). Every backpacker is a target. These rascals watch in train or bus stations and in all other areas that are crowded with tourists. Usually, you’ll find them near signs saying “Beware of Pickpockets” and as an innate response to what you have just read, you will unknowingly touch your money locale, hence, giving yourself away. You have been spotted and now they are eyeing you to be a potential walking ATM machine.

But don’t worry, I did not write this article to tell you how things get worst after that; in fact, we are not going to talk about what happens next. We will discuss how you can be categorized under a pickpocket’s ‘difficult target’ because I assure you, this might just be your best weapon. I would even bet on saying that this may possibly be the closest you can get to beating them before the game even starts.

Here are some things you can do to be branded as a ‘difficult target,’ hence pickpocketing the pickpocket!

Remember Your Purpose

Why where you there in the first place? What was your itinerary? Bear that purpose in mind and keep moving. If you walk around with a confused look and a visible map, hesitating here and there – then you’re in for it. It’s a vacation so take your time, most specially before leaving a safe zone (safe zone examples: train or bus platform, restaurant, your guesthouse). Make sure that you have checked your surroundings and have noted the directions of the place to where you are going next. (If you don’t have an itinerary and you are one of those, ‘where ever my feet will take me’ sort, then at least just pay attention to what is happening around you.)


What I usually do is write a few indicators or landmarks on a small piece of paper for quick reference and when there’s a need to consult my map, I would stop somewhere with my back to a wall or in a wide open space where I can see anyone who was approaching my direction. A word of advice, don’t be afraid to walk into an establishment to ask for directions. Asking questions is fine for women but for men, this will be quite a handful. (So Penises, you might try considering this.)

Try Not To Be Too Eager To Answer Questions From Strangers

I know, I know – it’s a vacation, you’re supposed to be friendly and should be meeting people. Take note though that you are a potential target where ever you go (chances are, they already know you are a tourist and your backpack is already a clear giveaway). Give a quick answer and move along because distracting you is one of the things that pickpockets are pretty good at. The next thing you know, you’re not wearing clothes anymore (just kidding!); what I meant is, your wallet may not be where you have kept it last. We all want to win new acquaintances or be compassionate to strangers who have questions, but when you are vulnerable – you have to think of yourself first. Stop, answer, smile, and keep moving.

If you are worried that you might be missing out on a probable holiday romance, stop fretting. If that person is not as shady as how you thought he initially was, you’ll meet him again somewhere else where you are less vulnerable.


Assign A Lookout

This advice is not applicable to those who are travelling alone; but for duos and groups, this is very effective. Take turns in sitting it out and keeping an eye out while the other goes for a quick toilet visit or asks for directions. Remind your backpacking buddy to not get distracted. Whether it’s a cute dog or a cute shirtless guy with photoshop-ed abs, your buddy should ALWAYS stay focused and alert.

That photo below is a perfect example of a distracted backpacking buddy!!!DSC_0021

Make It Difficult For Them

Keep valuables where it is out of a pickpocket’s reach. If you want to give them access to something, make sure it’s not as important as your wallet or passport. As a joke, what I do, I put my underwear (the dirty ones) in the outside pockets. Not that I do not consider undergarments important, they’re just something that I can easily replace.


Also, have a sling bag or money belt to separate important items and so that you’ll have easy access to them if the need arises. Actually, I am not a fan of a money belt but many travellers have vouched for its usefulness. I like to stick to the old-fashioned sling/messenger bag that has a single, central zipper with a flap. Keep your bag in front and not on the side nor at your back so that you can keep an eye on it all the time.

Lastly, avoid putting your bag or purse on the ground or hanging on the chair behind you; especially when you are drinking or dining outside. Put it on your lap. I understand that it’s uncomfortable but trust me when I say that it is not as uncomfortable as watching your bag being forcibly towed by a stranger.

NOTE: Pickpockets are not just the ones that you need to watch out for when you are backpacking. There are other sorts such as scammers, airport hagglers, and shady immigration officers but I’ll write about them some other time.

Stay safe, Lovies!

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