The Ultimate Newbie Guide to Thailand

Pickpocket Safeguards - Hints and Tips

Pick pocketing can happen any anywhere, and Thailand is no exception. Any place with larger crowds, like markets, malls, concerts, disco's, sporting events, a busy sidewalk (pavement), etc. are key areas of concern. Even in buses, shared taxis (tuk-tuk or baht busses), trains or places where you may be attending to something else, even taking a picture. 

Pick pocketing is not something that is rampant in Thailand. in fact, TripAdvisor in 2009 pointed out the top 10 pickpocket cities in the world and none in Thailand made the list, but 8 European cities did (Link). It happens, however, every day and can happen to anyone. It is import to realize that for those that take just a few precautionary measures and stay vigilant of their surroundings rarely are pickpocket.

This page provides you with hints and tips so that you hopefully will be much less likely to be a candidate. Also keep in mind that it is not just Thais that may be the one that target you it could also people that may appear to be a tourist and don't discount that it can be a man, a woman or a child.

Before getting into preventative steps that you may take to reduce you chances of being do realize pickpocket can happen to anyone, so only carry what is necessary and what you can afford to lose.

Use Front Pockets
: The likelihood that someone can get into your front pocket is far less likely than your back pocket. Further items like wallets, currency notes and passports are far more likely to creep up and into plain view in a back pocket than in the front pocket, however, even with the use of a front pocket make sure valuable are tucked as far down as possible and put wallets down sideways and if your pocket allows for it twist it 180. Women may also have their bra as an option. Back pockets are excellent for things like maps and other flat and unimportant stuff.

Pocket Security Measures: Some clothing are available with features that make it harder to access the pockets. This may include zippers, buttons, Velcro and a secondary pocket inside a main (larger) pocket. Some of these features are easy to retrofit for your select holiday clothes and where it may require a seamstress their services are cheap in Thailand and can be found everywhere.
Wallets with a chain maybe an option, specially is the chain is clipped onto a sewn in ring in a pocket; even a large safety pin will do and you do not even have to open the pin (and poke your fingers if the chain has a quick-release. Both should be towards the top of the pocket (possibly all the way through the shorts fabric) so not to turn the lining inside out and drop everything else should a pickpocket pull hard.
Concealed neck pouch (AKA Travel Neck Pouch, Neck Wallet or Neck Stash) is a choice of many experienced travelers. It hangs over your neck and allows you to put it under your shirt in front and hidden from view. Even if someone manage cut the neck strap it would be near impossible to pull it from you. Keep your valuables including larger bank notes in the pouch and only access it when you run out of pocket cash. They can be quite inexpensive, though they are also available in name brand designer versions.
Iron-on pockets are readily available and can be installed in a minute on the inside of a pair of shorts or jeans. In the US a set of two large enough for a passport and a few bill each can be purchased on Amazon for $3.50.
Velcro pocket lining. If you insist on carrying you wallet in the back pocket, an option is to put an inexpensive wallet patches of Velcro cut to the size of the wallet. Glue or sew in the soft side of the Velcro half to the inside of a back pocket of your holiday shorts and glue the rough side to the entire surface of at least one side of the inexpensive wallet. When the wallet is in your pocket it literally has to be pried out and makes it near impossible for a pickpocket to get it out and a little harder fir yourself as well.

Forget the Wallet: Why even carry a wallet? It only makes things more bulky and easier to snatch. Since pickpocket is always a risk you may want to carry money in two (front) pockets or maybe some in an inside pocket where you will have unbutton you pants/shorts to get to some them. If you are carrying cash, credit card, ID card, etc. fold them all up and use a heavy duty rubber band, maybe twice around, that not only keeps things together, but it also makes it progressively more difficult to "ease" the money and cards out of your pocket (if you insist on using a wallet it works here too); besides if they do try the friction makes you feel it more. Bring a few bands from home so you don't have to go looking for them when one breaks.

Cheater Wallet: If you want to make the appearance that you carelessly carry your wallet in your back pocket using an old wallet that you were about to throw away. Put a little bit of money (like a few 20 baht bills), a few receipts, some useless business cards and maybe an expired credit card with an account number that is completely different from any you actually use. That will likely lead a mugger or pickpocketer to believe they got the real thing. If however you keep taking money out of your front pockets to buy something, it is doubtful it will do much good.

On Public Transport: When riding a baht bus or other public transportation be alert. They generally work in teams of three or four and often involve ladyboys and/or lesser attractive ladies. Be particularly aware of anyone sitting unnecessarily close, anyone clutching a bag which they bump into you, people changing seats with no good reason and people asking you to change seats.
If you suspect pickpockets may be riding with you, cover your valuables (hands on pockets or in pockets). A disapproving 'I know what you are up to' type look may sometimes discourage thieves. Perhaps catch the next ride and always take your time when you get off, still covering your valuable.

Ladies Purses: Purses are often easy targets as they are often carried in such way that a good part of it is out of the wears sight. Here are a few things that may reduce the change of being pickpocket when carrying a purse:
*   Make sure the shoulder strap is short enough that most of the bag is above the elbow (best to sling it over the neck).
*   Make sure it has a zipper and the zipper lever is to the front.
*   Carry a bag as small as possible.
*   If possible use a bag with a "Paris Pocket" (a zipped compartment inside the bag for valuables.
*   Never use outside pockets for valuables.
*   Consider changing the strap to a metal strap (if only temporarily) as they are much harder to cut.

At the Beach: If you are going to the beach bring as very little as possible especially if you may take a swim. Bring just enough for things like beach chair rental, ice cream, beverages, etc. If your swimwear has a secure pocket bring a Ziploc bag and put your money there while you swim. A smaller cell phone can be made temporally waterproof by putting in inside a condom and tying a knot (and yes you can still use it that way).

Cameras and Phones: Wallets and money and money are not the only item that a pickpocket would be attracted to, electronic devices are also targets. One big mistake so do when putting a camera that has a lanyard or a wrist strap in the pocket is forgetting to make sure that the wrist all they way inside the pocket and allowing it to be exposed and very easy to grab.

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The Ultimate Newbie
Guide to Thailand