Avoid car break-ins - also whilst on holiday in a hired car
Every year, many tourists get a nasty surprise when they return to their hired car or their own car if they are on a ‘road trip’ from home.
There is no guaranteed method of avoiding break-ins, but you can minimise the risk by paying attention to the following:
Always lock the car
Always lock the car, and make it a habit to check for the ‘double blink’ or check the door handle an extra time to check that the car is definitely locked.
This also applies when stopping for 5 minutes at a petrol station, kiosk or a rest stop where you may pull over to stretch your legs. A professional (or very desperate) thief only needs a couple of seconds to ‘visit’ your car and even steal it with the key in the ignition.
Always lock the car from the inside when driving
Most cars have a central locking system which can be activated by ‘clicking’ the door handle from the inside. More expensive cars often have a separate button to serve this function. Make it a habit to do this at all times when driving abroad.
A sun roof should always be closed when you leave the car – even if it is just for 5 minutes.
Avoid stopping in a hire car in rural areas in the dark
Most tourists are not familiar with the area when travelling abroad. It is therefore impossible to know for definite whether a certain rest stop or a car park is a high or a low risk area when it comes to theft. As a rule of thumb avoid desolate areas, particularly in the dark. Look for places where there are other people and cars.
If you spot broken glass in a car park, it is likely to be from a car window. If possible move on and find another car park as thieves often return to places where they have been successful previously.
Remove all effects from the car
A car with no visible personal effects is less likely to have a break in than the car next to it where these are on display. Even a plastic bag where the contents cannot be seen can be interesting for a thief, particularly if there is a holder for satellite navigation in the windscreen.
Never leave a satellite navigation system, camera, computer, Ipod, mobile phone, DVD player for children or any other easily removable electronic equipment in the car.
Avoid leaving designer clothing visible in the car.
A very careful tourist will always remove all visible personal effects from the car such as clothing, bags, empty bottles (this indicates tourist)etc to make the car as anonymous as possible.
A break in can often be avoided simply by making the car look less interesting than others. A good example of this is using a steering wheel lock which if nothing else will indicate to the thief that the owner of the car is careful and vigilant.
Absolutely everything should be removed from the car overnight and taken to the hotel room. A thief has plenty of time when operating at night and will often take advantage of this.
A good tip is to leave the luggage curtain open in an estate car when leaving it for the night. You can even leave the (empty) glove compartment open when leaving the car.
If it is possible to park the hire car in a locked and secure car park you should take advantage of this. The alternative can turn out to be much more expensive, not to mention the inconvenience it can lead to.
Always choose a hotel where the car park is secure from the public, particularly in south and Eastern Europe. At least make sure that the parking area is monitored if the above option is not available.
It is important to be aware that in some countries it is imperative that vehicles are removed from the public roads at night as theft is such a regular occurrence – this is true of parts of France and Italy as well. If the locals seem to have removed all the newer cars from the street, you can be pretty certain that you should do the same.
Car break ins in car parks and by tourist attractions
When visiting tourist attractions abroad it is advisable not to bring any valuables and/or passport in the boot of the car to the car park. This advice also applies if you park the car to go for a stroll in Paris or Madrid.
If you need to get something from the boot, do it BEFORE you park the car. Thieves (or their culprits) are watching to see where there may be items of interest. Leaving your passport in the luggage in the boot of the car is almost an invitation for thieves to have a go.
Even the clumsiest of thieves can figure out how to ram a screwdriver into the lock of a boot lid and turn it.
Avoid problems following theft of a passport and documents
You should of course never leave a passport, money or vehicle documents in the car.
Whichever measures you may take to prevent it, in principle anything can be lost. Therefore it is advisable to always have a copy of your passport as well as a copy of the most important vehicle documents in a separate bag or suitcase. It will make the rest of the holiday a little easier if you have got copies of any lost documents.
Make sure you have got money and credit cards in different places, even divided between persons, in case of theft.
Use a money belt, neck pouch or other concealed pouches.