Travel experts - Tips for protecting passport and wallet from pickpockets

In just over 60 days I will be making my first overseas trip — to England, for two weeks, with vists to Bath, York, Canterbury and London. My wife lived in England for several years, but that was back in the 1970s, and I’m sure it’s changed a great deal.

After extensive readings of guidebooks, I am clued in about “Minding the Gap,” pub etiquette and the like, but I’m still concerned about pickpockets and possibly other scams foisted on tourists. This is a barebones trip (spent seven years using a certain credit card to accumulate the air miles, we’re renting lowcost rooms rather than a hotel, etc.) and being ripped off would be a serious pain in the backside.

Any suggestions? Money belts? Wallets with chains? What’s been tried and what works?

Thanks, folks. Anything you can shere will be most welcome to this very Hometownboy

Traveller’s pocket – little bag that hangs under your armpit, held by a string harness. Hidden under a jacket, it’s far more secure than your pockets.

Pickpocketers are still a problem?

I’m not often in an area where pickpockets flourish, but on the few occasions where it was warranted, I used my front pocket to hold my wallet.

The risk is one much exaggerated I think. However, those traveller’s pouches are OK but they are hard to get at and you quite often need to access your money and ID. I second DMC, assuming that they are meaning the front trouser pocket (which is as I understand it hard to pick) and not the front jacket pocket, which I understand to be all too easy to pick

And of course above all don’t be so rude as to fail to chat cheerily and in a loud voice to the person next to you on public transport.

Yes, I should have clarified that. I do mean front trouser or jean pocket. Unlike the rear pocket, you’re not getting it out of my front pocket without me knowing about it, no matter how good you are.

Sorry about the triple post, but the other thing is (and you’ve probably thought of this) a redundancy policy. Take two credit cards, take a copy of your passport, tickets etc and store them in different places. One in your luggage or with your travelling companion, one on you. Spread it around and you’ll survive the loss of one thing.

The places you mention are pretty much the height of civility anyway. Your chances of being bothered are next to zip.

Outside London I wouldn’t have thought that piskposkets would be that much of a problem. Also, IMHO, there is less of a problem with ‘scams’ than other European countires. I’m guessing you should be more vigilant on the routes to and from the airport tho’.

For your passport take a photocopy (colour if poss) of the information pages and carry that with you - leave the original in a locked case in your hotel room. UK citizens don’t have to carry id and I’m not aware that we expect foreign nationals to either (things may have changed recently but let’s assume you look like tourists and will be treated accordingly).

Wallet - I think the front pocket of your trousers/jeans is the safest place (if it is deep enough), you are more likely to feel a wandering hand and you probably won’t be absent mindedly leaving your trousers over the back of a chair in a pub as you might do with a jacket :wink:

Personally I often forget the whole wallet - especially if I’m going out of an evening - and take just the single credit card and some cash, the cash is split between diffrerent pockets. Mrs Hometownboy might want to make sure her handbag can be slung across the body rather than just off one shoulder if it means peace of mind.

The kids will be back at school in six weeks and English language summer schools will be over so you shouldn’t find the catherdrals crowded with bored noisy brats. Hope you have a good time and - please reassure the missus that the food has improved - for good British food you can’t do better than pub grub!

(ParentalAdvisory if you ever go to Barcelona you’d be amazed at the number of distraction techniques used by pickpockets. We’re not talking snotty faced Oliver Twist type kids but seemingly well meaning adults.)

Im slightly shocked that you are worried about pickpockets. Especially, as has already been pointed out, in the cities you plan to visit. London is the only place of any concern and then only in certain areas. To be honest I think your much more likely to have someone threaten you for money rather than pickpocket - not sure if that helps, sorry.

An amusing possibly false anecdote I’ve heard:

Seasoned pickpockets hang around the London tube station next to the “beware of pickpockets” signs. Whenever a tourist sees one of those signs, their hands instinctively go to where their wallet is to check it’s still there. Thus, giving the pickpocket precise knowledge about how to steal it.

Sounds very false indeed, Shalmanese. It’s easy enough to find out where somebody’s kept their wallet, by watching them buy a ticket!

As said above, pickpocketing really isn’t a big deal. Exercise some caution when in touristy areas or on crowded transport, and exercise the general common-sense behaviour already mentioned, and you’ll be OK.

The most common scams at the moment are distractions at cash machines (ATMs). Things such as one person tapping you on the shoulder, and as you turn around another takes the card from the slot. Just don’t allow yourself to be distracted in this way, and you’re sorted.

Another word of caution, particularly in cheap hotels - beware the light-fingered cleaning staff! Don’t leave big wads of cash lying around in visible places. And one thing suggestion - before leaving home, make a list of all the (international) phone numbers you would need should cards be stolen (or mislaid).

If you know someone who has a sewing machine and knows how to use it, you can always have a ‘secret’ pocket inserted into your favorite jacket.

It’s not difficult sewing, very simple construction will do. And having your valuables in a spot no pickpocket could possibly locate brings immeasurable confidence. I have always done this for myself and for several family and friends.

Of course, where ever you stash your stuff, you need to have handy cash in your front pocket, so you are not constantly going to your safety stash thereby revealing it’s location.

Have a great trip ! Ta Ta !

I’d stay clear of street urchins singing production numbers.

Seriously, how 'bout a wallet with a chain? (The trucker type.) Attach chain to front of belt, it’s a hard thing not to notice someone fiddling with. If you can either stick the wallet itself into a buttoned pocket or non-baggy jeans it should be hard to simply remove.

I’ve been to large parts of the developing world & this has served me well, I imagine that for the UK that should be sufficient.

My preferred method is to use a belt loop money holder. It is a fabric wallet, about 3”x4” with a zipper and a loop to place on your belt. I use it for the passports, spare credit card (emergency back-up) and plane tickets or e-ticket information. It can be stuffed into a front pocket of inside the waist band of my pants. These travel wallets can be found a many travel stores or at Target in the luggage department.

When I am in a crowded area, I like keeping my wallet in my front pocket, or will even forgo the full wallet and just have a money clip in the front pocket with cash, credit card and US drivers license (for ID if necessary).

I just got back from 3 weeks in Scotland and England. Great time! Have fun.

Just for the record, my wallet is always in my front, pants pocket (I won’t mention which lest there be pickpockets amongst you). It’s just a lot more comfortable in general, and my wallets last a lot longer than they had in the past. Also, remember the Seinfeld episode with George’s wallet-induced back injury?

The easiest way to avoid losing your wallet to a pickpocket or some other way (like leaving it somewhere) is to NOT carry it! When you’re seeing the sights, just carry enough money and, maybe, one credit card, and some photo id. Like others have suggested, carry a copy of your passport and leave the original in a safe place. After all, you only need the passport when you enter or leave the country. When you’re traveling from one city to another, keep your wallet in a secure place on you such as in one of those traveler’s pockets as people have already suggested, or some place that’s velcroed (best choice), zippered, or buttoned down well. Just have enough cash to use during your trip. It’s also good to distribute your money in multiple hiding places on you, your travel mate, and luggage, but don’t forget where you hid it! One thing I’d suggest during your travel is to watch where you laid down your backpack or travel bag when you’re out and about. Keep them securely zipped up and always in sight.

On a related note, you will rarely need a passport in England except when signing into a hotel. So most times you can keep it in your room or in the Hotel safe. The only issue might be if you may look under 18 and want to buy alcohol, in which case your passport could prove your age.
Always have a complete photocopy of your passport and keep that safely within your luggage separately from where you keep your passport, this can be of great use should your passport go missing.
Pickpocketing does happen in London, and often against unsuspecting tourists. The most common target would be Women’s purses left on chairs and the like when eating. Always try and keep your purse with you, and keep any wallet in an inner pocket, not your back pocket or a outer coat pocket. Theft from cars is fairly common, so never leave anything valuable visible inside a parked car. I am surprised how casualy Americans in California might leave jackets or purses in a car, you would never do such a thing in UK as you would as likely or not return to a car with a broken window and stolen valuable.

Oh and a very general travel tip for travelling cheaply. You’ll be spending a fair amount of time walking/standing so bring Hydrocolloid plasters with you to deal with blisters. Don’t get really drunk as drunks are easy targets, and bed and breakfast staying in private homes is often very cheap and very pleasent (especially if you are the sort of person who gets allong with others easily).

The only time I traveled to Europe, I was with a school group. Our sponsor required us to get these pouches that were flat and designed to hang around the neck under your shirt. They were just the right size for a passport.

I admit, they were a little cumbersome and if you wear tank tops or similarly light clothing, they might not be an effective means of hiding anything.