Practical advice to avoid theft and outsmart pickpockets and scoundrels while traveling in Europe.
So you’re on your romantic weekend break to Paris with your partner and everything’s going so well you can’t believe your luck. You go to an ice cream parlor to treat yourself, but as you reach into your back pocket, you realize your wallet is gone! You get that awful feeling of dread, frantically look on the floor around you and even start to walk back from where you came, but to no avail. You’ve been targeted by a pickpocket and your cards and money are long gone!
Thieves prey on tourists as they know they won’t be as savvy as the locals and they will be distracted by all the pretty sights around them or trying to find their way on a map, but this doesn’t have to be the case! Be on the lookout for any pickpockets and scoundrels and know how to protect yourself from their games.
Here are my personal tips on how to outsmart these sneaks so hopefully this fate won’t befall you:
- Be alert
It sounds obvious, but it’s so easy for your thoughts to be elsewhere in a foreign city rather than on your belongings. You can’t always avoid being in close proximity to people, for example, in busy shopping centers or on public transport, but if someone bumps into you be suspicious as it might not be as innocent as it looks!
- Don’t feel for your possessions
Some clever thieves will actually place ‘beware of pickpockets’ signs around because it’s instinct for us to pat ourselves to make sure everything’s in place when we see these signs. This signals to the criminals exactly where your valuables are!
- Don’t wear a fanny pack
You couldn’t scream ‘tourist’ more if you tried! Even though they are probably safer than backpacks due to the fact that they are in front of you so you can see them, it will just make you an easy target. Many pickpockets use razors to cut open bottoms of bags. If this happens to your fanny pack you’ll lose all the contents.
- Leave your most valuable things behind
Only have the necessities in your wallet and leave your cards back at the hotel if you can. Don’t go round flashing your jewelry – you’ll be less likely to be targeted if you have less to offer. If you really have to take documents out with you, make sure you have a copy of them in case they go ‘missing’. Store your valuables in the safe in your room or in the main safe at reception.
- Don’t keep all your money in one place
If all your cash is in one pocket and that happens to be the pocket that gets targeted you’ve then lost all your cash. Spread it around different pockets so you’ll still have some funds if some cash is stolen from one place as robbers won’t have time to search multiple places.
- Don’t leave your phone out anywhere
When some people are expecting a call they’ll leave their phone out on the table for quick access. This is a bad idea as there’s a well-known scam where children come and place something on the table to get you to read it. When you tell them to go away, they will do, but not without taking your phone with them as they lift their paper up.
- Take out a travel insurance policy
In case your valuables do get stolen you should hopefully be able to receive money for what you estimate they’re worth so that’s one thing off your mind if the worst case scenario happens.
I’ve unfortunately fallen victim to pickpockets myself whilst getting on a bus in Oslo, but luckily they just took my wallet, which was practically empty anyway, but that’s not the point! I reported it to the police, but they see it so often that there wasn’t much they could do. Maybe if I had been following my own tips it wouldn’t have happened.
Don’t let the worry of being a victim of pickpocketing put a dampener on your trip or stop you talking to locals – just make sure you’re extra careful when you do.
About The Author: This has been a guest post by Will Thoms, blogger extraordinaire including for hungryhouse, the UK’s leading online takeaway platform that features restaurants across the country including Birmingham, Nottingham and Brighton.
Photo Credits: Flickr cc: #1 matiasjajaja, #2 Xurxo Martinez, #3 ann-dabney