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Travel Safety: preventing theft

Preventing theft while traveling can be pretty straighforward, with a little planning and a few basic rules.

Plan your trip with an eye to safety
Choose hotels or tours that locate your activities in reliable areas and include knowledgeable local guides who avoid visiting areas of concern. Many popular destinations are a magnet for pickpockets and other petty thieves, but knowing when, and how, to visit properly can make a real difference.

Know if the area around your hotel is safe at night, and plan accordingly. If dining out, always have enough local currency to take a taxi back if needed. If you walk or run outdoors for exercise, ask the front desk for good routes, and bring a map so you won't get lost.

Plan what items to bring (and those to leave at home) carefully.
When you travel, leave expensive jewelry and watches, and other potentially expensive items at home— especially if you are traveling outside the U.S.

If visiting a lesser-developed country, bring clothing and accessories that do not feature large logos or other brand markings, which could identify you as an affluent tourist (and potential target).

Travel light and low-key—and when possible, learn in advance the style that locals choose for attire. Europeans generally dress more formally than Americans, with fewer logos, visible brands or school/team affiliations on clothing.

Choose the proper luggage and accessories
Suitcases that lock, and a small day pack or bag that closes securely are essential. Pickpockets are prolific in many foreign cities, so anything you can do to secure your wallet, ID card, and other valuables is important. Bring only the credit cards you need for the trip, and consider a special wallet, just for travel. It should be small, light, and easy to carry. If possible, choose a travel wallet you can wear around your neck, or secure in a front zippered pocket. If you must carry a purse, make sure it has a secure handle, and fully zips closed. Jackets with inside pockets that button or zip are also a great choice. Your goal is to keep valuables out of sight and avoid being an easy mark for thieves.

Use the safe in your room
Keep passports, extra cash, and any electronics inside your room safe (if available).

If your accommodations do not provide an in-room safe, many travel experts recommend the PacSafe Travel Safe portable safe, a mesh, tamperproof bag and cable that can secure to plumbing or other non-movable items in your room.

Pay attention while in transit and when touring
Keep your belongings with you on planes, trains, and public buses. Snatch-and-grabs occur when travelers relax and pay less attention to their surroundings. If you decide to nap while in transit, put your bag under you, with the zipper on the inside and the straps through your arm. Don't leave your phone in your back pocket, or your wallet—and in a restaurant, never put your bag or purse over the back of your chair, on a chair next to you or on the table. Put your foot through the strap and keep it between your feet.

When in a crowd, pay attention to who is around you, and what they are doing. Some thieves work in groups, where one person distracts the target while another lifts valuables. So beware of unwanted offers of directions, pushy street vendors or aggressive beggars. A little caution when things do not seem right is a very good thing. If someone makes you nervous, move to another location. If in a group with a guide, alert the leader. If solo and something does not seem right, alert a guard or other staffperson, or local police if they are nearby. You may save yourself (or someone else) an unpleasant experience.

Plan ahead, pack only the essentials you need for your trip, and stay alert. Your trip will be a relaxing and rewarding experience!