A public advertisement brings attention to pickpockets in the area and warns tourists and locals alike to stay alert.

When you travel in Europe you are generally safe when it comes to violent crimes, but petty theft is incredibly common…and almost entirely preventable. If you aren’t constantly on guard, the chances of having something  stolen go up exponentially. It may sound like common sense, but some people think they are secure and then forget to stay alert and stay on guard. Here are a few tips to protect yourself and your travel companions against the con artists that roam Europe’s city streets looking for an easy target.

Wear a money belt

A money belt is a small fabric pouch that is zippered and attached to an elastic strap. It can fit around your waist, under your pants or around your neck. It may seem uncomfortable and unnatural, but it is a sure-fire way to keep track of smaller items, like money, that you really don’t want to lose. You will have full control over who accesses this belt and if anyone attempts to reach it, you will know.

Leave your valuables at the hotel

You will probably have to bring at least one expensive item on your holiday—be it a laptop, camera, smartphone, or jewellery. The best bet for the safety of these items is to leave them in your hotel room if at all possible. Hotels often have safes in their room or at the front desk, and they can act as a source of great comfort if you are worried about leaving your valuables behind as you explore the city. Theft does happen, but it is very rare, and it’s in the hotels best interest to not let a pattern of theft continue. That being said, don’t tempt any sticky-fingered staff that may come through your room to clean. Keep all valuables and important technology well-hidden and out of sight.

Secure your bag

Never ever leave your bag hanging on the back of a chair as you sit down to lunch or dinner as this presents an easy snatch-and-run situation for even the most novice of pickpockets. Instead, do anything you can to keep contact between yourself and your bag. If you are sitting down, loop a strap of your back around your arm or leg. If you are sleeping in a public space, like a train, fasten your pack to the seat you are in. Even the slight inconvenience of unhooking your bag from the seat will deter most thieves. The point of this exercise isn’t to make your bag impossible to reach, it’s to make it harder to access than the next guy’s.

Avoid crowds and commotions

A common technique used by pickpockets is to cause a diversion (like a loud fight) or to take advantage of a natural diversion (like a tourist destination, i.e. the Eiffel Tower, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) to move through a crowd and pick up the goods tourists are momentarily distracted from. Crowds anywhere are great cover for bad guys looking for opportunities to clean up, so keep your wits about you and stay vigilant as you navigate through a thick crowd.

Trust your gut and say something

If your sixth senses are going off and saying that something or someone isn’t right, don’t wait to speak up. Say something when you feel uncomfortable and check that you have your belongings before everyone parts ways. It is the best way to protect your assets, garner support from those around you and be sure you have all of your items when a difficult or uncomfortable experience occurs.

Remember, in almost every case, the crimes suffered by tourists are nonviolent and avoidable. Use the tips in the post above to keep your guard up, your eyes peeled and your vulnerabilities limited. Compare travel insurance plans from Cover-More New Zealand and pick the plan with the right protection against technology, luggage and personal belongings that fits your travel style.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul Joseph