Honestly, travelers/backpackers are easy target to be robbed/taken advantage in the eyes of local people, simply because we don’t know anyone there, don’t know where to ask for help. And thieves regard travelers as RICH people as we are always carrying cameras, tablets, and of course quite a lot of cash. That’s why we have to stay alert all the time especially when local people approach us.
Five years ago I had a terrible experience of being smartly robbed by a group of Philippino uncles and aunties. They were friendly to me, brought me to visit touristic site and finally cooked me a ‘traditional meal’. During the dinner, I was made unconscious by certain drugs they added in the alcohol. The next day when I was still very drowsy, they made me speak out the password of my debit card, and took a huge amount of money from my account. I definitely learnt a lesson from that, and now I cannot trust local people that easily (except Couchsurfing hosts whom I contact).
Here are some precautions along with my experiences I want to share with you:
1. Beaware of people who keep pushing you
Since they want to approach your valuables in your pockets, they have to get as close as they can to put their hands to grab your things. In Delhi train station, it was so crowd and I was walking down a staircase, suddenly I could feel somebody kept pushing my backpack, and the next second I grabbed a sneaky hand which tried to steal my money in my trousers pocket. The thief was caught but he ran away and disappeared in the crowd.
2. Beaware of people diverting your attention
If somebody stop you to ask you questions especially with a language you don’t understand, pay extra attention to your belongings, as those thieves work in groups. When your attention was diverted, they could pickpocket or go through your bags.
It just happened to me a few days ago when I took a nap in a park outside a train station in Kazakhstan, 3 suspicious people came to me. First they took my food bag and hided it, I discovered and took it back. Then 2 of them kept speaking kind of Russian, it already annoyed me that they took my things. Then I looked back at my backpack, the third person was going to open it (luckily I had my raincover on, which made it difficult to open). I yelled at them loudly “What are you doing? GO ! or I will find Police”They continued following me until I reach the train station and told the security. Fortunately it was in the middle of a day, I will never walk around the city after dark though.
Sometimes it is an interesting experience to talk with locals, but just don’t forget to keep an eye of your luggage.
3. Prepare fake wallets to be stolen
A cyclist friend suggested me to use this trick to put a fake wallet, which is literally empty, in eye-catching location. It can satisfy the stealing desire of the thieves, and usually before they checked what did they get, you were already out of their site.
4. Put your cash in several different places
5. Don’t leave your belongings unattended, even when you go to toilet.
6. Prepared a scissors or a small knife with you (but remember to put in check-in luggage on the plane)
7. Install anti-theft program in your laptop and smartphone. They are linked to your email and can locate your item via GPS if it is lost.
8. Raise your voice, be strong when you deal with thieves
I understand it totally ruins your traveling mood if you lost anything, even just a fake wallet. But be prepared for the worst, I wish all of you a safe travel!