Why you should never relax about security when you travel

I was once the victim of pickpockets – almost. Only the intervention of my wife, who had been standing a little way away, was able to stop the thieves in their tracks. She’d seen the situation developing. We were in busy Barcelona, and I was in a bustling shop, when three men, one with a partly-open umbrella, got a little too close. She shouted, and they moved away.

The incident came to mind when we were watching a stage show by Swedish ‘Pickpocket King’ Bob Arno, who makes his living as an entertainer. One piece of his advice that stuck in my mind (amongst many, I might add) was to carry a decoy wallet in an obvious pocket. It should contain, he said, an expired credit card and a few scraps of blank paper, so that if it were stolen nothing was lost because most of your valuables were stashed away safely in a more secure pocket.

A lot of Arno’s advice involves leaving valuables in a hotel safe, but it’s worth remembering that safes aren’t necessarily thief-proof. It’s not impossible to open one with a little technical effort and a small amount of equipment. Better to strip down what you take away to the barest minimum.

Before going on holiday, or on a business trip, we suggest running through this mental checklist.

SafeDo I really need all this jewellery? Probably not. Don’t expose it to risk by carrying it around the world.

Will my credit card be safe if I leave it in the room safe in my hotel? Not necessarily. The data on it could be read. Better to carry it with you in a secure pocket or a pouch, for preference inside your clothing, and as tight as possible. When my daughter spent spend a year backpacking, her papers were with her round the clock, inside her clothing. It took several weeks in the UK for the habit to wear off, so ingrained had it become – but she was never robbed.

What would I do if my valuables were stolen? Make a note of the numbers you’d need to alert banks and credit card companies as well as how to lock your mobile phone. Scan your passport and other ID documents, as well as flight tickets. List the numbers on your travellers’ cheques, if you’re using them. Email it all to yourself, then, if the worst comes to the worst, all that information is as close as the nearest place you can get on line. Also, keep your laptop back ups somewhere safe (It is all backed up regularly, isn’t it?). And finally, find out where the consulate is, and note its phone number. Depending on the circumstances, you may need their help.

And finally, a couple of thoughts about security in your hotel. Don’t keep the electronic room key in the little card wallet reception will invariable give it to you in. That’s more than likely to have the room number written on it. Lose them both, and an opportunist thief will know which room to ransack. If the electronic key has a
room number printed on it, complain and ask for one without, for the same reason.