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How to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe — Tips for Outsmarting the Thieves

How to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe — Tips for Outsmarting the Thieves

In the event you’re planning a visit to Europe you’ve undoubtedly been warned concerning the hazard of pickpockets. It is very important be vigilant as a result of hundreds of vacationers are victims of pickpockets annually — and nobody needs to spend their hard-earned trip making an attempt to cancel their bank cards, changing their passport, and discovering various means to entry cash.

Fortunately, there are numerous issues you are able to do to discourage your self from turning into a pickpocketing sufferer. This information will clarify the place pickpockets work, who they aim, totally different strategies they use, and methods to guard your self.

Fashionable Cities for Pickpockets

Whereas pickpockets may be present in almost any metropolis, the most important concentrations are in cities that appeal to probably the most vacationers (no shock there). Here’s a listing of pickpocket hotspots in Europe:

  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Rome, Italy
  • Paris, France
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Athens, Greece
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Florence, Italy
  • London, England
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands

However don’t assume that pickpocketing solely happens in huge cities. I’ve a pal who even had his pockets stolen in a small city in Switzerland.

Who’re the Pickpockets?


Most individuals assume pickpockets are sketchy wanting males, however numerous pickpockets are literally younger women and boys — often round 10-16 years previous. Most vacationers don’t suspect that a younger baby would steal from them, in order that they’re much less defensive round them. 

Moreover, police can’t actually arrest minors, and most don’t journey with any identification, so even when they’re caught the police often should allow them to go. Different occasions, pickpockets are well-dressed and also you’d by no means anticipate them to be thieves.


Pickpockets virtually all the time work in teams. One or two individuals will do one thing to distract you whereas one other member tries to take your stuff. As soon as the theft has occurred, the thief who stole the merchandise will typically hand it off to another person they usually’ll all run in separate instructions. This makes it very exhausting to trace the offender.

The place Pickpockets Grasp Out

Vacationers Points of interest


Whether or not it’s the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Trevi Fountain in Rome, or Charles Bridge in Prague, it isn’t a shock that pickpockets hand around in busy vacationer spots. Naturally, vacationers are extra involved about viewing the sights and taking pictures than taking note of their environment.

Public Transportation


Subways and metropolis buses are prime spots for pickpockets — and after dwelling in Paris, I’ve seen my justifiable share of pickpockets on the Paris Metro. Public transportation is a superb place for a pickpocket as a result of it’s typically very crowded and it’s straightforward for thieves to create confusion. Pickpockets usually goal giant metro/subway stations the place many transit strains converge as a result of it provides them loads of locations to exit in the event that they’re being chased.


Through the summer time, Europe’s hottest museums swell to most capability and there are sure to be a number of pickpockets among the many lot. Whereas the admission worth deters most pickpockets, it doesn’t cease all of them from preying on unsuspecting guests who’re merely having fun with the artwork.

The truth is, in 2013, the employees on the Louvre in Paris went on strike as a result of the pickpockets have been getting so dangerous.

Practice Stations

Trains stations are giant, crowded, and filled with confused vacationers with their arms filled with cumbersome baggage — which is strictly the sort of surroundings pickpockets love.

Eating places, Cafés, and Bars

Many individuals let their guard down once they’re having fun with a meal or a drink, so it’s straightforward for a criminal to sneakily snatch a handbag from the again of a chair or a cell phone from the highest of a desk.

The Seashore

Take note of your stuff once you’re on the seashore. Don’t depart your bag unattended or out of sight as a result of there’s a good probability somebody may snatch it up. The seashores in Barcelona is particularly recognized for pickpockets.

Retail Shops

Clothes and department shops in Europe can get extraordinarily crowded, particularly across the holidays. These are straightforward locations for pickpockets to focus on vacationers who are often carrying some huge cash.

Tips Pickpockets Use to Take Your Stuff

Distraction is the one tactic that each one pickpockets use. They need to distract your consideration simply lengthy sufficient to take your stuff.  The next strategies are well-known ways in which pickpockets and thieves steal from vacationers.


“Charity” Employee with Clipboards

This rip-off could be very widespread in Paris. It almost all the time includes a gaggle of younger women with clipboards. They’ll strategy you and level to a clipboard whereas signaling that they’re deaf and mute. They need you to signal a petition for charity. For those who signal, they’ll ask for a donation to the charity. In fact the “charity” is pretend — in truth, the cash typically goes to those women’ “boss” (i.e., human traffickers). Whereas the vacationer is signing/studying the petition, there’s typically an confederate making an attempt to pickpocket the sufferer.

Crowd the Metro

The metro (subway) trains can get very crowded. A standard tactic is for a gaggle of Four-6 youngsters to push on a crowded practice shortly earlier than the doorways shut and crowd their goal. They’ll swipe what they’re making an attempt to steal after which all of them hop off proper because the doorways start to shut. By the point the sufferer realizes what occurred, it’s too late and the practice has already left the station.

All the time be cautious when a gaggle of individuals crowd onto an already busy metro automotive. Even be cautious of anybody who’s standing very near you on a practice that isn’t crowded, as they may be as much as no good.

Metro Smartphone Seize

Individuals are likely to zone out whereas they’re speaking or texting on their telephone. Be very cautious about utilizing your telephone when you’re standing close to the door of a subway automotive. Thieves will attain in and snatch your telephone proper because the doorways shut.

Assist with Your Bag

Some metro stations have numerous stairs so “good samaritans” will seize ahold of your suitcase that will help you carry it up the steps. This often takes individuals off guard somewhat and that is when their good friend reaches into your purse or pocket. There are literally lots of good individuals who will supply to assist carry a heavy suitcase, however they’ll ask you earlier than grabbing onto your bag.

Bump and Carry

If you’re surrounded by crowds, it isn’t unusual to by accident stumble upon different individuals. Nevertheless, this can be a widespread transfer carried out by pickpockets, so if somebody bumps into you, it is perhaps sensible to take a fast stock of your belongings.

Escalator Backup

Escalators are one other space that pickpockets goal as a result of it’s straightforward to create chaos. With this rip-off, there might be one or two individuals in entrance of the goal and some behind the goal. Somebody close to the highest of the escalator will cease proper once they get off and it will create an enormous backup of individuals making an attempt to get off. Because the backup happens, the individuals behind the goal will attain into the goal’s bag/pocket and hand off the products to certainly one of his buddies behind him. I’ve additionally seen it the place they’ve handed off the products to somebody on the other escalator, so it’s virtually unattainable to chase them.

Newspaper/Map Distraction

A standard pickpocket tactic includes utilizing a big map or a newspaper to cowl the goal’s line of sight in an effort to take issues out of their bag. They’ll typically shove the map in your face, level to part of the map, after which their pal will attain beneath the paper so you’ll be able to’t see what they’re taking. This can be a quite common means that folks steal cell phones from tables.

ATM Confusion


All the time watch out when utilizing the ATM — particularly whenever you’re alone. When you’re within the means of withdrawing cash, a gaggle of beggars will strategy you from behind to attempt to get your consideration. They could pull in your arm or shove a bit of paper in entrance of the display. When you flip towards one of many thieves, one other one will slip in from the opposite aspect and press the button for the max amount of money. Then they’ll swipe the cash and run off.

Additionally make sure you cowl up your pin code once you enter it. Some thieves will attempt to see your code (some even use hidden cameras) after which they’ll comply with you round for an opportunity to steal your card.

Ticket Machines Dupe

All the time be just a little leery of people that attempt that will help you at ticket machines. I do know some individuals who acquired scammed in Paris from a well-dressed man who “helped” them purchase Metro tickets. The guests needed to purchase two 5-day passes, which value about 30€/every, so the person provided to make use of his bank card as a result of he informed them Australian playing cards don’t work within the machines. He stated that they might simply pay him in money.

He did purchase them tickets… however he purchased them a one-way baby’s ticket (which appears similar to a 5-day cross) that prices about 1€ and he pocketed 60€ in money from them.

The Useful Vacationer

Don’t let pickpockets benefit from your good nature. On this rip-off, one of many scammers will drop one thing in entrance of you and when you’re serving to them decide up the mess, the opposite pickpocket will swoop in and raise one thing out of your bag. That doesn’t imply you’ll be able to’t assist your fellow man, however simply watch out about your personal stuff whereas doing it.

Slashed Bag


Some pickpockets don’t even hassle making an attempt to steal your bag and they’ll merely slash it open with a knife. Pacsafe makes a variety of slash-proof luggage for additional safety.

Turnstile Stall


Busy turnstiles are a standard space for pickpockets to strike. As you’re approaching a turnstile, one individual will minimize in entrance of you after which proceed to cease (they could fake that the machine isn’t working) and their companion will come up behind you — primarily trapping you between the 2 of them. The individual within the again will carry one thing out of your bag or pocket whereas his companion within the entrance is fumbling with the turnstile.

Scooter Snatch and Run

Whereas not tremendous widespread, some thieves will drive up on a scooter, snatch a bag from the sufferer’s shoulder, after which journey off into the sundown. I wouldn’t be too apprehensive about this system, however it might occur.

Road Performances

There are numerous road performances that collect giant crowds of vacationers. These giant teams of vacationers draw pickpockets too, so beware.

Pretend Struggle

A big group of males may begin a “struggle” round a vacationer, and in all of the commotion one of many males will try and pickpocket the goal.

Who Do Pickpockets Goal? 


Anybody could be a potential goal of a pickpocket, however they do have a tendency to focus on sure forms of individuals. Pickpockets will all the time search for the simplest goal as a result of they don’t need a confrontation.


Vacationer = cash, within the thoughts of a pickpocket. In the event you seem like a vacationer, you’re routinely going to be singled out.

Individuals With a Lot of Baggage

In case you are pulling alongside two suitcases and have a backpack, you’re going to be a primary goal for a pickpocket. You gained’t be capable of watch over all of your issues since you’ve a lot stuff.

Guests from Asia


Asian guests (particularly the Chinese language) are a best choice for pickpockets as a result of most of the Chinese language who journey are very rich. Moreover, numerous Chinese language residents don’t have quick access to credit score and debit playing cards, in order that they’re recognized to hold giant quantities of money — and thieves know this.

So even in the event you’re not Chinese language, however have Asian heritage, you may need to be particularly cautious.

Individuals Who Flash Valuables

Strolling alone at night time whereas utilizing your iPhone? Don’t be stunned if somebody takes it from you.

Trusting Individuals

From all my travels, I’ve not often met a extra pleasant bunch than the Australians. I’ve additionally by no means met one other group of people that’ve been victims of pickpockets extra typically than Australians. I feel the individuals who assume everybody else round them is good and useful are those who get taken benefit of most frequently.

The best way to Shield Your self from Pickpockets 

In the event you’ve made it this far, you may be considering that there are literally thousands of pickpockets making an attempt to rob each vacationer in Europe. However that basically isn’t the case, and also you’ll not often have any issues in case you take a number of additional precautions. Additionally it is essential to keep in mind that precise violent crime is absolutely fairly low in Europe, so so long as you’re vigilant, you’ll be completely protected. On this part, we’ll speak concerning the steps you’ll be able to take to keep away from turning into a sufferer.

Pickpocket-Proof Journey Clothes

Corporations are beginning to make journey clothes security measures which are nice for deterring would-be thieves.

Our favourite model is Bluffworks — they’ve journey denims, journey pants, and, a journey vest even a journey go well with which have useful hidden-zippered pockets. And, better of all, all their merchandise seem like regular garments bug are made out of high-tech material.

Pickpocket-Proof Luggage


If you wish to be additional protected, you will get your self a specifically designed “pickpocket-proof” backpack, bag, or purse. The preferred anti-theft luggage are made by Pacsafe. Their luggage have tamper-proof zippers, cut-proof straps, anchored straps, and a slash-proof metallic mesh sewn into the bag.

Pacsafe has a big number of sizes and styles of purses, backpacks, and journey equipment.

Travelon is one other firm that makes anti-theft luggage.

Zippered Purse

The most effective methods to maintain your valuables safe is to have a handbag/bag with a zipper. Hold valuables in inner zipped compartments if potential.

Put on a Cash Belt

A cash belt is likely one of the most safe methods to hold valuables like extra cash and your passport. Nevertheless, many vacationers make the error of considering that they need to use their cash belt like a pockets — however it isn’t meant for that.

Ideally, you must hold the cash and debit/bank cards that you simply’re going to wish for the day in your pockets after which maintain all additional money and perhaps a backup bank card within the cash belt. The cash belt must be worn beneath your garments and ought to be pretty inconvenient to entry (to discourage thieves).

There a number of types of cash belts out there:

  • Across the Waist — That is the normal type of cash belt. You put on it beneath your shirt and round your waist.
  • Across the Neck — Cash belts that grasp round your neck are one other good choice. These are so much simpler to entry (particularly when you put on it beneath a button-up shirt).
  • Hidden Pocket — These hidden pocket cash belts are good as a result of they tuck into your pant leg and I feel they’re extra snug than one which goes round your waist.
  • Belt with Pocket — In the event you simply need to stash some money, you need to use a belt with a hidden pocket inbuilt.

Restrict What You Carry

Pickpockets can’t steal what you don’t have — fairly easy. That’s the reason I choose to hold little or no whereas I’m sightseeing. I particularly advocate not carrying loads of money.

Safe Your Bag/Backpack

Your bag or backpack might be probably the most weak space that pickpockets love to focus on. Backpacks are particularly weak as a result of you’ll be able to’t see if somebody is making an attempt to get into it. Listed here are some ideas for securing your bag.

  • Put on It Backwards — On crowded public transportation, lots of people put on their bag backwards as a result of this enables them to maintain on eye on it.
  • Lock The Zippers — At a minimal, you’ll need to lock your zippers. You don’t want something fancy — a easy baggage lock will work nicely.
  • Sling Backpack — Sling backpacks are good as a result of they keep near your physique and they are often slung over your chest simply if wanted. They do are typically small, so that you’ll have hassle should you plan on carrying a variety of stuff with you. Right here is an instance of a sling backpack, however there’re many types out there.
  • Safe It To an Immovable Object — Once you’re at a restaurant, loop your bag’s strap round your leg or the leg of your chair so somebody can’t come by and swipe the bag. Equally, it’s sensible to safe your bag to a chair or baggage rack when you’re on a practice — particularly on in a single day trains. A retractable cable lock will present sufficient safety to discourage most thieves.

Pockets in Entrance Pocket

Numerous guys hold their pockets of their again pocket, however that is a particularly straightforward goal for a pickpocket. And that’s the reason it’s advisable to maintain your pockets in your entrance pocket. I extremely advocate getting an excellent skinny pockets as a result of a cumbersome pockets feels very unusual in your entrance pocket — and it appears sort of dumb. The Massive Skinny Multi-Pocket Bifold Pockets will get a whole lot of nice critiques for having a low profile.

Maintain Your Telephones Off The Desk

Smartphones are an excellent well-liked merchandise for pickpockets to focus on. Many individuals merely depart it on the desk whereas they’re consuming, which makes it straightforward for somebody to come and snatch it up.

Cut up Up Your Valuables

Don’t maintain all of your eggs in a single basket in order that, in case you are pick-pocketed, you restrict the quantity you’ll lose.

Last Ideas About Pickpockets

Touring via Europe is a tremendous alternative, and it shouldn’t be spoiled by a nasty pickpocket. So long as you comply with a number of of the rules from this text, you’ll be simply positive.

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Thanks For Studying! — Susan and James

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