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International theft hotspots unveiled

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Tips to avoid petty theft in the world’s most light-fingered destinations

Aussies travelling overseas this year are being urged to protect themselves with travel insurance, as comparethemarket.com.au reveals six top holiday destinations that are havens for pickpockets and petty thieves.

The popular comparison website – that features 27 travel insurance brands – sourced feedback from Travel Insuranz on tourist theft claims from the past 12 months. The most common items claimed for by Australian travelers – in order – are mobile phones, cameras, sunglasses, cash, iPads, laptops, electronic storage and charging devices, wallets, spectacles, passports, and jewellery.

Abigail Koch, spokesperson at comparethemarket.com.au said: “It’s important for Australians to know where petty theft hotspots are when travelling as well as the common methods that thieves use, as it varies by country. While extra vigilance is required, it’s a travel insurance policy that will enable Australians to avoid forking out a large sum to replace items if they’re caught off guard.”

She adds: “Basic cover can cost from as little as $36*, an insignificant hit to the pocket when compared to losing $2000 worth of electronics to theft, not to mention invaluable items such as passports and travel documents.”

Abigail adds: “Australians should in no way be deterred from travelling for fear of being targeted. When armed with a little local know-how, many of the pitfalls that lead to someone being duped can be avoided.”

Comparethemarket.com.au reveals the top holiday hotspots for ‘petty theft’ and offers advice to travellers intending to visit these destinations.

  1. Paris – The city of lovers has many beautiful sights to distract visitors, hence its popularity with pickpockets. The city’s train network is a particularly vulnerable spot.

Abigail says: Beware of packed trains, as they are offer a great hunting ground for pickpockets who know it’s hard for you to keep a close eye on your belongings. If you’re in doubt, wait a few minutes for the next train to come along.  A quick tip is to take copies of important documents, such as your passport, hotel bookings, flight details, and keep them in a separate place from the originals. This will save you a lot of time and hassle should you lose the originals or have them stolen.

Another common trick in France is for tourists who are reading a map to be approached by someone to ‘offer assistance with directions’. While you’re distracted listening to their directions, their accomplice will snatch your bag or other items of value.

  1. Rome – The eternal city is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, boasting famous attractions such as the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum.

Abigail says: If you’re enjoying a latte at an outdoor cafe, don’t leave your bag hanging off the back of your chair or under the table – keep it in sight at all times. Be aware also that a lot of basic cover travel insurance policies do not include theft of cash, so if you decide to take out basic rather than comprehensive cover, check exactly what you are covered for.

Another common trick you could fall prey to in Italy, is when what appears to be a homeless adult or child holds up a piece of paper with a message on it to your face while you’re dining. They use this as a distraction to snatch whatever items are on the table – typically mobile phones, wallets or sunglasses.

  1. Cambodia and Thailand – Both of these countries have high incidences of bag snatches from people riding past on bikes.

Abigail says: When walking along the street, walk on the inside of the pavement, not the kerbside, so it’s more difficult for your bag to be snatched by a passing thief. Similarly, if you are on a motorcycle or a scooter, always store your bag and other valuables under the seat.

  1. Philippines and India – Theft from homes when travellers are staying with family or friends are the most commonly reported tourist crimes in both of these countries.

Abigail says: If you are staying with family or friends in either of those countries and you are going out for the day, either store your valuables in your host’s safe, or hide them somewhere that will be difficult for an opportunist thief to break in and grab. Don’t leave anything of value lying around in plain sight.

  1. Bali – Theft from handbags and trouser pockets in restaurants and bars is the most prevalent form of tourist theft in Bali.

Abigail says: Pickpockets in Bali often target people who may not be fully focused and alert, and on any typical night in Bali there are plenty of tourists who fit that description after a few drinks. Be careful and never carry large sums of money around with you – only take out what you think you will need for the evening.

Related: If you’re looking for protection when overseas, read our guide to Bali Travel Insurance.

  1. Peru – Bag snatches from busy terminal locations such as bus depots, airports and taxi ranks, are the most common places to be relieved of your possessions, as you make your way to Lima, Trujillo, or Machu Picchu.

Abigail says: In Peru, the thefts are typically a little different to the usual snatch and grab in that the bags are generally at a person’s feet and the theft is not noticed immediately, so don’t leave anything lying around.

While a travel insurance policy is imperative when heading overseas, travellers must also be aware of when claims may become invalid. “When it comes to ‘petty’ theft, it is important to note that cover may be declined if your items were left unattended, or if you failed to report your loss to the local authorities. Also, placing valuable items (such as laptops, cameras, or cash) into your checked baggage rather than your carry-on luggage on a flight also typically falls outside policy coverage.”

* Based on a 30 year old male travelling to Bali for one week, with baggage and personal effects coverage of up to $2,500 and lost passport coverage of up to $125.

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