One risk of traveling out and about is pickpocketing. It may sound like such a foreign concept. It’s something that you may causally think about in the back of your mind, but not actually take it seriously. Well, I am here to tell you that it definitely does exist, and it happened to me while I was in Krakow, Poland.
Don’t think though that I writing this post to warn you specifically about Poland or scare you away from traveling abroad. Pickpocketing can happen to anyone, anywhere, so be aware and please do take it seriously—to minimize your risks and enjoy your travels.
The scariest thing about pickpocketing is that it can happen in the quickest and slyest moment. Pickpockets are basically trained professionals. I always thought it was impossible that I wouldn’t be able to feel my purse being unzipped and a heavy wallet being pulled out of it, but that’s exactly what happened, and I had no idea.
A couple of friends and I were on the city tram headed to the train station. The tram was already jam-packed, so we could barely fit with our backpacks. We were getting pushed around as people aggressively tried to get on and off at each stop. We were on the tram for only 10 minutes. After getting off, we were walking towards the train station, and as I reached for my purse, I realized my wallet wasn’t in there.
My initial thought was that I must have dropped it. Then my friend checked her purse and her passport was gone. That’s when we knew we had been pickpocketed! I literally didn’t do anything. Was this even real?! I didn’t panic, cry, or say anything. We were about to board a train to Lublin, so it was a really inconvenient time to be dealing with this situation.
I definitely learned a lot from this experience. Thankfully I was able to get everything sorted out and fixed. Based upon my experience, I want to share my tips with all of you fellow travelers to help you protect your belongings and minimize your risks of being targeted. And, just in case it happens to you, be prepared to deal with the situation in as calm and collected a manner as possible.
1. Pay attention while you travel.
Pay close attention to your belongings at all time. Just because your bags are on your body doesn’t mean they are safe. Keep locks on your backpack zippers. Keep your purse IN FRONT of you—not on the side—so you can see it at all times.
2. Be cautious.
Be cautious of people who are constantly bumping into you. Often times pickpockets work in pairs or groups.
3. Don’t keep your things all in one place.
Keep your money and personal information hidden in different locations, rather than having it all in one easily accessible location. For instance, keep your credit card and driver’s license in your wallet, then keep another credit card, cash and your passport somewhere more secured.
4. Don’t panic!
Being all worked up never solved problems any easier or faster. Take a deep breath, process what just happened, then start to figure out what you need to do, and who to call first.
5. Have international calling.
You want to be able to call whoever you need with no problem. Trust me, not being able to contact my mom or my bank made things much more stressful.
Don’t let the possibility of pickpocketing frighten you away from travel after reading this! It’s just part of the risks we take every day, so it’s wise to be prepared—especially when traveling to other countries. It is important to be smart, alert, and observant. Do your research and know which countries you need to take more precautions in, and know your emergency contact numbers. I wish safe and happy travels to all of you!
While pickpocketing is something to look out for, rest assured that AIFS is committed to ensuring the safety and security of our program participants: our top priority is the well-being of all of our students. Our programs include 24-hour emergency service in the U.S. and abroad – as well as on-site Resident Directors and support staff – to provide guidance and assistance throughout your entire experience.
This post was contributed by Alexa Nofsinger, who is studying abroad with AIFS in London, England.