Festivals like those in Ibiza and on the beaches of Thailand can be the single motivation for travel. You’ll get music, people making out with strangers, music and great energy, and you’ll get theft. It’s also not your safe(r) homeland. But hey – party on, and the party vibe of a festival makes it ideal for thieves. If you’re drunk, tired, or lost in the music, you’re much more likely to fall victim. Thieves know this, and they profit. In the UK, theft at festivals in 2017 was estimated at around $220 PER PERSON. And who knows what else went unreported.
So how can you prevent your things from getting stolen at a festival, full moon party, etc.? I love a good party and I’m a worry-wart. I wanted to find out more, so I did some research. Naturally, it starts with awareness of where you are and what the potential is for theft. Beyond that, there are a lot of other measures you can take. They include…
- Only take the cash and things you really need
- Keep your valuables with you as much as possible
- Use smart packing and theft-deterring bags
- Choose and use your phone wisely, and prepare it
- Go with people you trust and look out for each other
- Don’t be ripped off by overpriced goods
- Do your part: Turn it in, and report it
Let’s look deeper…
Only take the cash and things you really need
Think about what you will be spending your cash on: some drinks, food, merchandise, transportation. Work out a figure and add on 25%, since these things always add up quickly. And take a bit extra for emergencies.
As for electronics, you’ll probably need a phone (more on that later), basic toiletries, clean wipes, perhaps a poncho. These things are all portable. Check with your friends as well. You don’t need everyone bringing a camera or a ground canvas. Get together and plan it out.
Carry your valuables with you as much as possible
If it’s a daytime event, this is less of a concern. But if you’re camping, don’t leave important documents, electronics, or money in the tent (or out of your sight). Even if you lock your tent, it’s really easy for someone to just slash it and help themselves to what’s in there.
With the portable items, you have carrying options like:
- fanny packs (go on, being a fashion sinner for a day)
- backpacks and small bags
- putting them in your socks, bra, jacket, whatever’s got some storage close to your body
For the rest, it’s quite common for festivals to have bag checks and lockers, like at a concert. These aren’t cheap options though, and you may be queued for a really long time. That’s a buzzkill, especially if you’ve got to pee.
Use smart packing and theft-deterring bags
So as for that stuff you’re carrying, you’ve got options. Whatever you use, aim to put the most valuable things at the bottom of your bag, under or within less-valuable items. And make sure it’s zipped and locked. If it’s wide open, stuff can go flying and quick hands can help themselves.
Money belts, waist wallets, neck pouches
Use these for documents, cash, credit cards. These are something you can use throughout your travels as well; both moving around town and on flights.
Oh yes I did. If you want to rock out like Napoleon Dynamite, your local Walmart’s got a fanny pack for you. These can hold more, like a phone, cosmetics, toiletries. But beware if it’s actually on your backside because that gives easy access to those behind you.
Fanny pack solution 1: Wear it on the front. This gets the job done in most cases.
Fanny pack solution 2: Get a slash-proof, theft-deterring fanny pack, aka “waist pack” (that sounds better) from a company like Travelon.
Backpacks and various other bags
Next step up is the venerable backpack. These, too, can be worn on the front, to deter slashing and theft, but they’re pretty hard to dance with.
A better solution is something like a Loctote bag, which is everything but bullet proof. These things are amazing. They’re not cheap, but you get a pretty cool-looking satchel that virtually no knife can cut through – certainly not the pocketknife or razor blade that a petty thief is likely to use. There are ample slash-proof backpacks as well, from brands like Travelon and Bobby.
But really, get a Loctote. I go on and on about these. They are so totally awesome, and they don’t look like crap.
An added benefit of a good slash-bag is that they usually have slash-proof straps and very secure locks as well. You can lock them to something secure when you sleep or if you leave them in a vehicle.
Be smart with your phone
At Coachella in 2017, one man stole 100 cell phones, which were found in his backpack, another 150 were reported stolen, and over 200 were reported missing.
No one needs 100 phones, so we can safely say he didn’t plan to donate them to charity. The fact that he got that many until he was caught tells you how easy it is. In addition to the smart packing and bag strategies mentioned above, there’s a lot you can do to both keep your phone and keep it functional.
First, make sure it’s set up with screen locking and fingerprint locking, or whatever other feature comes with it. All phones have a host of options. Even if you just want to keep your significant other from snooping your What’s App, this is a must. There’s also…
There’s Google Find My Device (if you’re cool with letting Google track you), Family Locator, and Find My iPhone, among many others. Mostly these rely on GPS. That’s good if you want to know where it generally is.
These will let you activate a kill switch to shut your phone so it’s essentially bricked. Again, Find My iPhone to the rescue for iPhone owners. Access it through iCloud and turn on Lost Mode. Here’s Apple’s instructions.
For Android, you can remotely lock or erase your phone with the same Find My Device as above. Here’s Google’s instructions.
Or could avoid this stress and use an old phone or buy a cheap new or used one and leave your $1,000 iPhone or Galaxy at home. Just put in your SIM card or get a prepaid.
Go with people you trust, and keep an eye on each other
Keep close to your friends. The more eyes, the better. Not only are they more likely to spot someone about to rob you, thieves are more likely to stay away from groups. Good Samaritans are also great if they tip you off to someone, but most people just don’t want to get involved. Get by with a little help from your friends. They got your back. Just be ready to endure a bit of shade about your fanny pack.
Avoid voluntary theft – overpriced stuff
You’re dancing around at Sunburn Festival Goa, and you find yourself getting dizzy and seeking stars. Dehydration. You rush to the stall to buy a bottle of water and it’s $5. In freaking Goa. Staying hydrated is really important at festivals anyway, so if possible, just take a camel pack or some other water container. Read up ahead about what’s available at the festival you’re going to, and if the prices are reasonable.
You can expect to pay a premium, but if they’re blatant ripoff prices, avoid them at all costs (literally). That’s highway robbery right in your face. Pack it in.
Do your part: Turn it in and report what you see
Be a do-gooder. If you spot someone suspicious, tell security. Don’t try and confront them directly, especially not in a foreign country. If you find something, don’t be a jerk and pocket it – turn it in to security!
The only case I’d advise against this is if you’re in a part of the world where security really can’t be trusted and you know they’re just going to keep the stuff for themselves.
In those situations, if it’s a phone, you may be better offer trying to identify whose it is.
If it’s a passport, turn it in to the embassy.
If it’s a wallet or something else, take it to the police, if in fact they can be trusted. One notable example here is Thailand’s superb tourist police. In seedy places like Pattaya, these guys and gals do great work and they can actually be trusted to try and help you out.
But really, have fun!
We get tied up in worry on this site. The real point is to lessen that worry. The real point is that you’re as relaxed as possible and that you don’t get robbed.
Plan your stuff, invest in a little bit of gear, bring your friends, and party hard!