As a tourist, we stand out like a sore thumb, no matter how hard we try not to. (You can read my post here about the time I was almost robbed by a pack of thieves in Lima, Peru.) The dangers are everywhere, and the only way to rise above it is to constantly be aware of your surroundings. In my experience, you will find that there are more GOOD people than bad, so please don't turn into some Emo misanthrope writing eerie poetry in a cafe. Here are some tips that you can use to deter thieves and also to protect yourself.
MAKE FRIENDS & BE RECOGNIZABLE
If you've ever watched Law & Order, you'll recall there's always the bartender or security cop who recognizes the person from the picture who is missing. You need to be recognized by these people. If anything ever happens to you, god forbid, they will be your allies if you are able to come to them, or at least they will be able to be a puzzle piece in the mystery. Given that, befriend the front door staff of whereever you are staying. Wave or offer a greeting to the subway operator at your stop. Or restaurant operator. I always wave at the subway booth at my stop whenever I am coming and going. Besides being polite, the truth is, if I ever come back late, they would recognize me.
I've taken pictures of the taxi driver's license and sent it to my friends. I don't care if anyone thinks it's weird, I'm being cautious. I never leave anything down, I'd rather have it on my body then lose it.
Cardinal Rule #1: Get Travel Insurance. Though you may think you don't need it because you're a seasoned NYer like myself, you thought wrong. I lost my brand spanking new IPHONE 6 within my second month of traveling, and I didn't have any insurance on it. That's $700 down the drain and now I'm back to my old iPhone 4S. Travel insurance can also protect you if you need to go to the doctor, miss or have a flight cancelled or have your luggage lost, so I highly, highly recommend getting this. If you do lose or get something stolen, then immediately file a police report within 24 hours or else the insurance company won't accept the claim. Be wary also that some credit cards provide reimbursement for stolen items if purchased on the card within 4 months. Read the guidelines for your credit card to learn more.
GET BACKUP MEMORY
Obviously, you've heard of the Cloud. It's a mystical sounding platform but basically, it's an automated storage locker for all of your photos, messages, contacts and notes. If you have an iPhone or use Apple, you automatically get 5gb worth of space for your belongings, but this will quickly run out. It's only 99cents per month for an additional 50gb of storage and it automatically loads your photos onto the cloud every time you are connected to wifi. Uploading all my pictures saved all my pictures from my trip when I lost my phone. For Android Users you can use the G Cloud App that comes for free on your phone too. Amazon Prime users also get unlimited storage space now.
I prefer to bring my own medicine since I know what I'm used to and can take, plus it can get pretty hairy trying to describe "Benadryl" to a pharmacist in a country where there is no such thing. Before I left, I made sure to get a checkup from the doctor and get a prescription for antibiotics (a Z pack) and some altitude pills. (Diamox). I brought along Pepto Bismol, Benadryl, Pepcid AC and Tylenol. If you need medicine though, pharmacies are fine abroad to pick up medicine.
GET A WINE KEY
Not just to party with, but get a wine key for protection! People often say to stick your house keys in between your fingers facing outwards but I'm from Brooklyn and I know a worthless weapon if it comes to an attack. If you were to punch someone with the keys, they would eventually slide back into your palm. Instead, use a wine key. The hold is more natural and the pointy tip at the end of the spiral is more than enough to do some damage. Additionally, this wine key will allow you to be the hero at many a party where there is wine to be opened.
ANNOUNCE WHEN YOU ARE PAYING
Announce the bills you are using when you pay a cab or make a purchase. I was once pilfered by a cabbie when I looked away for a second and he switched the bill on me. There was nothing I could do in the end, it was his word versus mine. As you are paying, just count aloud, "Ok, I'm giving you 300 pesos".
SLEEP WITH YOUR VALUABLES
This is only applicable when it comes to hosteling or hiking with strangers. More often than not you will come upon good people, but I have heard one or two horror stories. You could have your phone charging on the bed next to you and it could still get stolen from someone, so be careful of leaving your phone to charge unattended. If you are in a hotel room, you're most likely fine.
USE A LOCK
Always lock your valuables and passport in the hotel/hostel locker. If you are using a daypack or bag, see if you can use a little lock to close the zippers together. If that's too much effort, than use a bag or shirt with an inside pocket to avoid pickpocketing.
Unless you're a snazzy business person or a rude date, never place your phone on the table at a restaurant. Thieves can easily walk by and snatch your phone or distract you with a song and dance. (No, really) They'll then put a basket or tray on the table and pull your phone out from underneath. If you are traveling on a long ride by bus or boat, loop your bag around your foot and lock your zippers. I've heard of people having their bags stolen from underneath their seats during lengthy rides. Beware of paying with large bills, sometimes they will take the large bill and tell you it is a counterfeit and pull out a "real one" to show you. They'll then switch the bills and give you a fake counterfeit bill, taking your real one.
Always get a cab from the airport taxi stand kiosk. This may be a little more expensive but should anything happen to you or should you lose something, you can always call the taxi stand and get the taxi's number. Also, always, always ask for a receipt. When I left my phone in a cab, I had no way of getting in touch with the cabbie because I had no plate or reference number. If you have the receipt you can get their number and the dispatcher can reach out to them. When I did have to catch a cab off the street, I would always ask to see the driver's ID and take a picture of it, just in case!
PHRASES TO REMEMBER
Get to know the staff at your hotel/hostel by name. Smile and ask them about their day. Say Thank you. They are humans too. They will be your biggest ally should you need a late checkout, need to cancel an already booked reservation, lose your passport etc..
Beware of people trying to sell you things, you probably don't need it.
Be wary of strangers who are too friendly in the streets. Sometimes people will be nice to you to ask for money.
Keep a photocopy of your ID and cards in a separate location.
Not everything is worth fighting for. Remember, a wallet is replaceable.
Trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right then don't do it.
If you get robbed, throw your wallet in the opposite direction and run.
Don't Walk Alone at Night, Stay with large groups of people.
And if all else fails.. you can always do what this boy did.