Beijing is relatively safe compared to many big European or American cities. However, pickpockets are quite a big issue and shouldn’t be underestimated. Many of the people I have met since coming to Beijing have told me stories of how they got robbed of their phones or wallets without even realizing it. A few months ago, I myself was robbed of my beloved iPhone.
These stories are all similar. In my case, I was walking in Sanlitun Village with some friends around dinner time. I had one of those bags without a zip, so it was slightly open; when I looked around for my phone, I realized it was not in my bag anymore. Maybe I bumped into the thief, but didn’t notice.
Another friend got robbed on the subway last week. He was listening to music when all of a sudden the music was gone – along with the phone.
Being a foreigner in China can make you an easy target for pickpockets; it’s harder to blend in with the crowd. But as long as you follow some simple precautions, you can minimize your chances of being pickpocketed.
Don’t show off your belongings.
This does not mean wearing a trash bag and keeping all your money hidden in your pants. Just try to be more mindful in public. After paying for something, put your wallet back into your bag or pocket right away. Don’t count money in public. If you are taking photos, put the camera back in your bag once you are done. Don’t let it hang on your neck, especially if you are in a very touristy area; it’s like a neon sign for pickpockets.
Be particularly careful in crowded, touristy places such as the subway and the bus.
Pickpockets usually gather where tourists are, but also anywhere they know to be many foreigners. That means bars, restaurants, and shops; be particularly careful in the areas around Sanlitun Village and Gongti – both during the day and night.
Don’t assume anything.
Pickpockets are not always beggarsor homeless people. It’s actually quite common for them to dress smartly, maybe in a suit and with a small suitcase to easily disappear into the crowd once they’ve robbed you.
Keep your bag under your arm.
Purses or bags should always be shut. Pickpockets are adept at lifting wallets from open bags in the blink of an eye. Get used to keeping your bag underneath your arm or in front of you, especially on the subway and bus.
Don’t put anything in your back pocket.
Sometimes, we are just too busy having a chat with a friend, speaking on the phone or being lost in our thoughts to pay attention to what is happening around us. In these situations, it’s very easy for an experienced pickpocket to take your wallet from a back pocket. Get used to keeping your wallet and phone in a front pocket.
For more tips, read: How to Prevent Being Pickpocketed
Photo from Wikimedia Commons