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Posts Tagged ‘moneybelts’

Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Link to article: One in eight young backpackers has been a victim of theft

A British travel insurance company has found that 12 percent of young backpackers have been a victim of theft while traveling. Another 5 percent of British backpackers polled have been mugged in foreign countries.

Other findings:

  • Male backpackers are more likely to be mugged than females.
  • 7% of male backpackers have been mugged, versus 2% of females.
  • Likewise, 12% of male respondents have been victims of theft, versus 11% of females.

“For many young people, going traveling is the best time of their lives, but it’s all too easy to forget that some places are full of unscrupulous people who are waiting to prey on backpackers,” said Perry Wilson, founder of InsureandGo, the company behind the study. “Young people shouldn’t be put off having fun, but they should take care not to put themselves in dangerous situations and they should plan their trip as carefully as possible (i.e. buy expensive insurance from me).”

Personally, I don’t know if we should necessarily take advice from guys named Perry.

Despite the known risks associated with backpacking, a considerable number young adventurers go without travel insurance, as has been previously reported (see 22. Scooter accidents). InsureandGo noted that 37 percent of respondents “do not always have travel insurance while away,” and one in five (20%) “rarely or never have it,” and would therefore not be covered for any stolen possessions or medical bills resulting from being mugged overseas.

As a male backpacker who has never bought travel insurance and who has indeed been a victim of theft (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed and 16. iPod Thieves), I confess that I will continue to forgo travel insurance, not eat my vitamins, put my mean face on in public, and take whatever shit comes my way. Bring it on, gypsies! I’m ready.

6. Getting Pickpocketed

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

If you’ve never been pickpocketed before, you just wait. Perhaps you’ve heard stories, but it’s like they say on MTV: You think you know, but you have no idea. This is the story of getting pickpocketed.

Moneybelts suck, but more on that later. Your wallet is in the back pocket of your jeans. Your cellphone is secure in that trusty backpack strap pocket. You are now a target. It’s that simple. Pickpockets are watching you. You’ve been marked before you realize it; you likely won’t realize it until it’s too late.

They wait in train stations and crowded tourist areas, near signs reading “Beware of pickpockets.” As an innate response, people immediately touch their wallet locale upon reading such signs or hearing such announcements over the intercom. Pickpockets watch for this and therefore know where you’re hiding the goods.

But you’re a seasoned vet. You’ve traveled everywhere and heard all the horror stories. In Europe, you watch out for gypsies. In poor countries, you watch out for everybody. Consider the following scenario: A common pickpocket’s ploy is to approach somebody left watching a number of bags. As a backpacker, you’re often stuck with more than one bag to protect: either you’ve got two (Note: Double packers - huge one in the back, small one out front like a pregnant lady - are retarded.), or you’re watching somebody else’s while they take a shit, wait for train tickets, book a hostel room, etc.

Since pickpockets rarely work alone, a decoy will come up and ask you a benign question (e.g. Excuse me, what time is it? Do you know where the nearest ATM is? Where did you get that t-shirt?). In the millisecond it takes you to look at your watch/the ATM/your shirt, an associate has already snuck in from behind and snatched a bag. The decoy attempts to make small talk and holds your attention until the job is done, then graciously thanks you and continues on his way. You’ve been had.

No matter how prepared you think you are, you will not be ready: These people are professionals.

Nevertheless, I’ve attempted to break down the elements of a pickpocket heist, from personal experience (beenou), as a sort of cautionary tale:

  1. Crowds - The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Khao San Road in Bangkok and Las Ramblas in Barcelona are typical pickpocket havens. Naturally, if people are bumping into each other, it makes the job easier. And unless you grew up in downtown NYC or Tokyo, you’re pretty uncomfortable in a sea of bodies ebbing and flowing through the street. Pickpockets are like hyenas - they quickly single out the weaker prey. For example, if you’re wearing baggy pants, you could be in trouble (I was).
  2. Diversion - The main purpose of the diversion is to get into your field of view. Often, they catch you off guard with old women selling bouquets, children selling maps, or blind beggars stumbling into you. It may be as insignificant as a light shove in a packed subway car when the train sways unexpectedly. In my case, it was a gypsy/beggar dropping a handful of change in a mosh-pit-like crowd.
  3. Teamwork - As mentioned before, pickpockets rarely work alone. As the change - we’re talking pennies here - hit the ground, I was both baffled and surprised. I thought, “Why pennies?” Then, “This dude is dirty and scary looking, with piercing yellow-green gypsy eyes like the Afghan broad on the cover of National Geographic. I should get out of his way.” As I tried to step aside, he grabbed the base of my pant leg, insisting my foot was on some of his change. He started yelling in a foreign tongue. I shook my head and struggled to free my foot, but he twisted the material tighter and yelled louder. He refused to let go, so I reacted violently, punching him in the shoulder a few times.
  4. Forcing You to Make a Choice - I braced myself for a counter attack, expecting him to hit back. Instead, he let go of my leg and sprinted off. Again, I was confused. Then it hit me. I reached back to feel my vacant back pocket. They got me. I wasn’t forced to make a choice, but in cases where only one of your many bags is stolen, you may be. Chase after the thief, and you risk leaving your bags unguarded. Stay with your bags, and the stolen one is gone.
  5. The Aftermath - I went to the police station to file a report on my stolen wallet. A few days later, it turned up. Most pickpockets just take the cash out and ditch the ID, bank cards and credit cards with the wallet. Just another example of criminal ethics, like how rapists and child molesters get their asses kicked in prison. At the police station, there were so many similar pickpocketing cases, it felt like a support group. People were crying, consoling each other, and comparing elaborate pickpocketing scenarios. Cops shrugged and told us there was nothing they could do. I spoke with people who not only lost wallets, but bags containing cameras, laptops, passports - everything. Those people were going home. Their trip was over. So remember: Even when you think you’re in dire straits, there’s always somebody worse off than you.

3. Where are the Hot Girls?

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

dreadsNot backpacking, that’s where. It’s a known fact that hot chicks don’t rough it. Granted, there are exceptions to every rule, but make no mistake: The vast majority of good-looking women will refuse to strap on a massive rucksack and throw caution to the wind. The ladies you meet on the backpacking circuit are of two predominant types - more on that later.

So why don’t the hotties pull a Sir Edmund Hillary? Come on. Think about it. The prospect of spending months overseas, on a tight budget, sleeping on shoddy trains, ferries, buses and dorm bunks, washing sparingly, shaving legs and armpits rarely, abandoning make-up, hairspray and nailpolish, trading designer handbag (or clutch) in for cumbersome moneybelt and being away from Facebook for inordinate periods of time simply doesn’t appeal to sexy bitches. Oh and I forgot to mention getting hit on FULL TIME by a constant lineup of desperate, broke, smelly dudes. And getting harassed by local pervs at every turn, who, in some countries, will go so far as to masturbate as you walk by in your bikini. Happy trails.

That’s bullshit, you say. There are plenty of babes out there backpacking. Yeah, there are. With their boyfriends.

Hot chicks travel with luggage. Rolling luggage. They drop the S out of the word “hostel.” They take cabs, not rickshaws. They don’t like being away from essential amenities and services, namely Starbucks (although it’s basically integrated with backpacker culture nowadays; see 5. Multinationals), a 12-lb. make-up crate, a blowdryer and hair straightener, and real-time gossip technology. They prefer rich, well-dressed, groomed men. They choose luxury over practicality seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Most of them pretend to care about world issues, politics and poverty, but they really don’t give a shit. They do, however, know everything about The Hills.

Yet some exceptions do exist. Consider women in the military or lady cops. Not a lot of hot ones. It takes a certain mental constitution to really get dirt under the fingernails, to tear the meat off the bone of traveling. Backpacking is like farting. It’s raw, curious, savage and, at times, inhumane. It’s generally more of a guys’ thing.

Indeed, some hot chicks are adventurous. Some will brave the aforementioned perils (and let go of their familiar comforts), without a b.f. in tow, to try something new. And that something new is Europe (see Star Picks Backpacking Over Work or Taken). Or Australia. The developing world? Sure, but preferably with a girlfriend or two… and expect tension if not a mid-trip parting of ways. Yeah right, a smokin’ hot broad rolling solo in the developing world. Now, you’re really pushing it.