I have just gotten back from a week long girls trip from Malaysia with my mum, Grammy and sister. We stayed at THE FACE Suites in Kuala Lumpur for a few days and had been out exploring the city.
If you haven’t been to KL, as it is usually referred to, before then I must tell you that the roads here are set up in the craziest way. As a general rule in the city there are big solid dividers in the middle of the street separating the two directions of traffic, similar to what you’d see on a freeway. Essentially you cannot turn right in the middle of the street into a drive way or entrance. You have to keep going and make a u-turn ages away or make three left turns and hope for the best.
The Malaysia Incident
Our taxi driver was struggling to get us to our hotel drive way so he dropped us at the end of the block and we had a 25m walk to our hotel driveway. I was in front carrying a big white Uniqlo bag that has some new clothes and my phone and camera in it. My sister was a metre or so behind me followed by my mum and grandma who were both carrying handbags.
As we turned into the driveway of our hotel a young guy on a scooter turned in too and drove past us. He then turned his scooter around and was staring at us. Not super unusual as we are 4 westerners travelling through a Muslim country without any men. He then took off really fast so I moved right out of the way. After passing me he then drove full speed at my sister who he dodged at the last minute.
My mum panicked as he was swerving side to side. She didn’t know what way to go to avoid him. He came straight at her and as he passed her he reached out, grabbed her neck and ripped her necklace off her, his fingers scratching her neck and leaving her bleeding in the process. By the time the security had realised what had happened he was gone. A perfectly executed crime.
I am lucky to have never experienced anything being stolen before with the amount of travel through SE Asia I have done. It goes to show that how quickly something like that can happen. There is little you can do in the moment to prevent a drive by robbery in Asia. But there are certain things that you can do to minimise yourself being a target.
Tips to prevent getting robbed on holiday
- Don’t show wealth. At the time of the mugging my mum was wearing an expensive watch, reasonably sized gold hoop earrings and her gold chain necklace. She was also carrying a large handbag. My sister and I had no jewelry on and no handbag. Essentially, we didn’t scream money. This is usually how I travel, and may be why I haven’t been the victim of this yet. If you don’t look like you have anything worth stealing, they won’t pick you over the person sporting an assortment of gold jewelry. Unless you really, really need it leave the bling at home.
- When you are carrying a bag or camera make sure you carry it with your arms through it. Hold on to it and where possible wear it on the front. It’s not unknown for people on motorbikes in Asia to cut the straps on your bag to snatch it. It’s harder to do that if you are holding the bag and it is in your line of vision. Keep your belongings where you can see them at all times.
- Don’t carry your phone or wallet in your back pants pocket. I’m not saying you have to go to the extremes of wearing a secret money bag under all your clothes. The back pocket is the easiest one to pick pocket out of and it will be gone before you know it.
- Don’t carry all your cash around. And don’t show people how much cash you are carrying. Keep it in different places on your person and leave some at your hostel in a safe if possible. Keep some spare change in a handy pocket to pay for food and drinks at markets and on the side of the road and avoid showing anyone how much money you have. If they see you have enough worth stealing then they are more likely to rob you.
Being a smart traveler
My dad always insists on double checking he dead bolted the locks on every door in the house. He always said “Jaime, you don’t need to make your house a fortress, you just need to make it harder to break into than your neighbours”. I’ve applied this theory to how I travel (sorry fellow backpackers that are easier to rob than I am).
Nothing we ever do will ever totally guarantee that we won’t experience being robbed overseas or at home. But we can do things to minimise the the chances And for everything else, there is travel insurance. At the end of the day, all we lost was a necklace which is covered on insurance. We were lucky no one was severely hurt and nothing was taken away that can’t be replaced.
If this does happen to you, I recommend letting it happen and not trying to fight back. It could make things a lot worse and you could end up hurt as well as robbed. ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Make sure you file a police report immediately so that you can claim your items. And remember that just because it hasn’t happened to you yet, doesn’t mean it won’t so don’t become complacent.
Big thanks THE FACE suites for looking after us and helping get our reports completed after the event.
Stay safe and look after each other when you travel.
Have you ever been mugged when travelling? Share your story or tips below so we can help look after each other.