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BellaOnline's Cruises Editor

Protecting Against Pickpocketing And Theft

Pickpocketing and theft is a concern for many cruise passengers. Stories circulate weekly about travelers who have been robbed while taking public transportation from the airport to their cruise terminal or sightseeing at a popular tourist spot. While this can easily happen, there are multiple ways to guard against pickpocketing and loss.

Recently weíve received a number of questions about pickpocketing, particularly with regard to international travel. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions along with some general tips:

How can you protect yourself against pickpocketing?

One of the most important things you can do is think about safety while preparing for your cruise and plan ahead. Here are some steps to take to help protect against potential loss:

* Make copies of important documents, such as your passport, medical cards, travel itineraries and boarding passes, and other items. Keep copies with you in several places and leave one set of copies at home with someone who could fax them to you if needed.

* Keep a carefully protected list of any credit cards you are taking with you on your trip as well as phone numbers for reporting them if stolen. Also know how to block your cell phone from making expensive calls if stolen and know how to report the theft.

* Donít carry a lot of cash at any one time. Itís better to find some other way to get cash, even if it means added fees. Use an ATM or use travelers checks and cash them on the ship.

* Invest in trip insurance protection. Trip insurance provides coverage against lost or stolen items. Depending upon the type of insurance purchased, it can provide cruise passengers with coverage for thousands of dollars in lost or stolen baggage, cameras, valuables, and other items Ė although it typically doesnít cover stolen cash. Travel insurance companies can also provide a travel concierge to help you in the event that youíre pickpocketed, your baggage is delayed or lost, or if other unfortunate events occur.

* Hang onto your things. Sometimes travelers put their bag down to take a picture of something, let go of their suitcase to look at a map, or hang their purse over the back of their chair while theyíre at a restaurant. Keep a firm hand on your valuables at all times.

When arriving at your departure destination or when you're out in port, are there things to look out for or avoid?

Be aware of your surroundings and expect the unexpected. Try not to get startled or flustered. Think of what could happen in advance and prepare yourself. Here are a few tips:

* Avoid crowds if possible. Packed places are areas where itís easy to get jostled and pickpockets can quickly blend into the crowd. Pickpockets often work in groups. Watch for situations where someone spills something on you, asks you to look at a map, comes up to show you some interesting item they want you to buy, or crowds you & blocks your way.

* Be particularly careful in train & bus stations and in major tourist areas. Barcelonaís Las Ramblas and Romeís Trevi Fountain are some that definitely come to mind. Itís important to remember, however, that pickpocketing can happen anywhere Ė even in your home city.

* If youíre arriving at your departure destination after a long overnight flight, be particularly careful. Itís easy to become disoriented and lose or forget things because you are overtired. On that day, you may want to consider purchasing the cruise lineís transfers or taking a cab to the portís cruise terminal.

* Donít flash your money, credit cards or wallet. Count your money in your hotel room or cruise stateroom. If you need to take a credit card out at a restaurant or store, immediately put it back in a safe place as soon as it is returned to you.

Is there a certain way to dress to avoid pickpocketing?

There are a number of ways to reduce your chances of becoming a prey for pickpocketers. Here are a few suggestions:

* Leave all your designer clothes and jewelry at home - even if the gems are fake. Thieves aren't likely to know the difference and it sends the wrong message.

* If youíre carrying a purse, choose a cross-body bag and donít put anything valuable in the outer pockets. Take a look at the Pacsafe handbags. They have a slashproof strap and outer slashproof safeguards, lots of inner pockets with smart zipper security and more. They also make anti-theft backpacks, camera cases and other items.

* Many men wear money belts or put rubber bands around their wallets and keep them in their front pockets or in secret pockets. Do not keep anything in your back pocket. Thatís a popular spot for pickpocketers.

* Take a look at the pickpocket-proof pants and shorts sold by Clothing Arts. These combine a great pair of pants or shorts with hidden money belts and secret pockets.

* Try not to stand out in any way. If youíre going somewhere where youíre particularly concerned about pickpocketing, donít wear bright clothes. Try as much as possible to not look like a tourist and blend in with the people around you.

What tips do you have to protect yourself against pickpockets and loss?

While losing valuables to pickpockets is a concern, itís actually more likely that youíll lose items or leave them behind if distracted or disoriented. That happens frequently. In addition, thieves can use other methods than pickpocketing to rob you of your cash. Here are some tips:

* Select your ATMs carefully. Use ATMs that are enclosed within a reputable bank where ever possible. These provide you with the most protection and are less likely to be units that have been compromised.

* Take only what you need. Bring a minimal number of credit cards on your trip and let the rest stay at home. Leave whatever you donít need for your excursion in your stateroom safe or in your hotel room.

* Donít bring your passport out on shore excursions unless absolutely necessary. Use your driverís license as your picture ID if one is required.

* Back up your pictures periodically. If your camera is stolen, youíll still have most of your pictures to remember your cruise.

* Double check your surroundings before leaving. While itís easy to focus on getting pickpocketed, people often simply leave something behind. Youíre in a strange place, youíre tired, and itís easy to get distracted. Just remind yourself to check around you before departing Ė and then check again.

* Be alert, but donít be terrified. Donít let your entire vacation be dictated by fears. Be savvy and move forward.

Remember, you can do everything right and still be pickpocketed. If it happens, donít berate yourself. Have a back-up plan in place and move on. It can happen to anyone Ė and it sometimes does. Just be prepared, relax and have a positive attitude. While pickpocketing is unfortunate, donít let it ruin your vacation.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Nancy Schretter. All rights reserved.
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