Just under half of international travelers have had personal items stolen—cash, passport, jewelry, a camera, or some other tech device—or have 'mislaid' or lost valuable items while overseas. If traveling in a country with a high crime rate, it's almost expected to be targeted at some point, as these petty criminals are totally opportunistic and sometimes work in tandem with a group. Staying on full alert constantly for unseen threats can be tiring, and everyone is guilty of letting the brain go on a holiday in chill-out mode.  This is usually when thieving fingers strike. Being robbed can happen to anyone at any time.

Before you leave home take a few precautions:

  • Travel insurance is a no-brainer—it only takes one episode of robbery to spoil your whole holiday, especially if a pickpocket grabs your expensive camera.
  • Decide how to limit the expensive goodies you pack, wear or carry. Leave the gold and sparkling jewels at home.
  • Take an extra bank card from a different bank with you. Only carry one card on your person, and leave the other one in your hotel safe or in your shoe if traveling solo. If one card is stolen and compromised, you can access cash from a different bank on the emergency card.
  • Everyone loves expensive luggage, but it's a red flag to would-be thieves—take the old battered bag that makes you look like a pauper or invest in tamper-proof luggage that may not create a fashion statement but does stop would-be thieves from running off with your bag at the airport.
  • Decide how you will be traveling between destinations. Remember that if you are on a train in a sleeping compartment, you must secure your luggage when you fall asleep—some backpacks make good pillows.
  • Check online the incidence of theft at your destination and which areas should be avoided.
  • Photocopy your passport and carry it with you on day trips. Leave your original passport safely tucked away in your hotel safe.

The countries where pickpockets/thieves are rife, and it's sometimes hard to spot their suspicious behavior until it's too late, include Greece, the capital cities in Germany, the Netherlands, especially in bustling Amsterdam, and France is just behind Italy for the number of tourists being targeted by sneaky fingers. Anywhere that tourists congregate in large numbers is a hunting ground, so be prepared rather than a victim:

  • Refrain from flashing large sums of money around when paying for an item. Have some small denominations of the country's currency for small purchases.
  • When going out for the day, leave any valuables in the hotel safe and only take what is necessary for the day.
  • Always wear your camera strap around your neck and ensure that it is slash-proof. Never ask a stranger to take your photo with your camera, as it will probably disappear in a flurry of running feet.
  • Keep your mobile phone in a zipped theft-proof pocket of your hand luggage, and be careful how you hold it in public places—it's easy for a petty thief to grab it as he walks by. Better yet, sit down in a café away from a crowd if you wish to use your mobile phone for any purpose.
  • When sitting in a café, never leave your bag under the table or slung over the back of a chair—hold it in your lap.
  • Be extra vigilant in transport and entertainment hubs and never leave your luggage unattended, even for a moment.
  • Never walk curbside on a road, as you will become a target for motorbike thieves who latch onto your bag as they pass.

'Brains on holiday' is unavoidable for many; if for no other reason, take out travel insurance to cover those moments of forgetfulness; leaving your wallet on a shop counter, sunglasses slipping into the deep blue while on a boat, your mobile falling out of your pocket into a rather scummy toilet, or leaving your expensive coat on the hook of the airport's toilet door because you were too busy juggling luggage in your hands.

Not all travel insurance is equal—ensure that you have the appropriate cover for what you take on holidays and check the circumstances for the cover to kick in, as there will always be the fine print of exclusions.

Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.