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

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If you’re planning a trip to Europe you’ve undoubtedly been warned about the danger of pickpockets. It is important to be vigilant because thousands of tourists are victims of pickpockets each year — and no one wants to spend their hard earned vacation trying to cancel their credit cards, replacing their passport, and finding alternative means to access money. Luckily there are many things you can do to deter yourself from becoming a pickpocketing victim. This guide will explain where pickpockets target, who they target, different methods they use, and ways to protect yourself.

Popular Cities for Pickpockets

While pickpockets can be found in nearly any city, the biggest concentration are in cities that attract the most tourists (no surprise there). Here is a list 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

But don’t think that pickpocketing only occurs in big cities. I have a friend who even had his wallet stolen in a small town in Switzerland.

Who are the Pickpockets?

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Most people assume pickpockets are sketchy looking men, but a large number of pickpockets are actually young girls and boys — usually around 10-16-years old. Most tourists don’t suspect that a young child would steal from them, so they’re less defensive around them. Additionally, Police can’t really arrest minors and most don’t travel with any identification, so even if they’re caught the police usually have to let them go. Other times pickpockets are well-dressed and you’d never expect them to be thieves.

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Pickpockets almost always work in groups. One or two people will do something to distract you while another member tries to take your stuff. Once the theft has occurred, the thief who stole the item will often hand it off to someone else and they’ll all run in separate directions. This makes it very hard to track the culprit.

Where Pickpockets Hang Out

Tourists Attractions

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Weather it be the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Trevi Fountain in Rome, or the Charles Bridge in Prague, it isn’t a surprise that pickpockets hang out in busy tourist spots. Naturally, tourists are more concerned about viewing the sights and taking photos than being attentive to their surroundings.

Public Transportation

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Subways and city buses are prime spots for pickpockets — and after living in Paris I’ve seen my fair share of pickpockets on the Paris Metro. Public transportation is a great place for a pickpocket because it is often very crowded and it is easy for thieves to create confusion. Pickpockets normally target large metro/subway stations where many transit lines converge because it gives them plenty of places to exit if they’re being chased.

Museums

During the summer Europe’s most popular museums swell to maximum capacity and there are bound to be a few pickpockets among the lot. While the admission price deters most pickpockets, it doesn’t stop all of them from preying on unsuspecting visitors who are simply enjoying the art. In fact, in 2013 the workers at the Louvre in Paris went on strike because the pickpockets were getting so bad.

Train Stations

Trains stations are large, crowded, and full of confused tourists with their hands full of cumbersome luggage — which is exactly the kind of environment pickpockets love.

Restaurants, Cafes and Bars

Many people let their guard down when they’re enjoying a meal or a drink so it is easy for a crook to sneakily snatch a purse from the back of a chair or a mobile phone from the top of a table.

Beach

Pay attention to your stuff when you’re at the beach. Don’t leave your bag unattended or out of sight because there is a good chance someone might snatch them up.

Retail Stores

Clothing and departments stores in Europe can get extremely crowded — especially around the holidays. It is an easy place for a pickpocket to target tourists that are usually carrying a lot of money.

Tricks Pickpockets Use to Take Your Stuff

Distraction is the one tactic that all pickpockets use. They want to distract your attention just long enough to take your stuff.  The following methods are well-known ways that pickpockets and thieves steal from tourists.

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“Charity” Worker with Clipboards

This scam is very popular in Paris. It nearly always involves a group of young girls with clipboards. They’ll approach you and point to a clipboard while signaling that they’re deaf and mute. They want you to sign a petition for charity. If you sign they’ll ask for a donation to the charity. Of course the “charity” is fake — in fact, the money often goes to these girls’ “boss” (ie human traffickers). While the tourist is signing/reading the petition there is often an accomplice trying to pickpocket the victim.

Crowd the Metro

The metro (subway) trains can get very crowded. A common tactic is for a group of 4-6 kids to push on a crowded train shortly before the doors shut and crowd their target. They’ll swipe what they’re trying to steal and then they all hop off right as the doors begin to close. By the time the victim realizes what happened, it is too late and the train has already left the station.

Always be wary when a group of people crowd onto an already busy metro car. Also be wary of anyone who is standing very close to you on a train that isn’t crowded, as they might be up to no good.

Metro Smartphone Grab

People tend to zone out while they’re talking or texting on their phone. Be very careful about using your phone if you’re standing near the door of a subway car. Thieves will reach in and snatch your phone right as the doors close.

Help with Your Bag

Some metro stations have lots of stairs so “good Samaritans” will grab ahold of your suitcase to help you carry it up the stairs. This usually takes people off guard a little and this is when their friend reaches into your purse or pocket. There are actually a lot of nice people who will offer to help carry a heavy suitcase, but they’ll ask you before grabbing onto your bag.

Bump and Lift

When you’re surrounded by crowds it isn’t uncommon to accidentally bump into other people. However, this is a common move performed by pickpockets, so if someone bumps into you, it might be smart to take a quick inventory of your belongings.

Escalator Backup

Escalators are another area that pickpockets target because it is easy to created chaos. With this scam there will be one or two people in front of the target and a few behind the target. Someone near the top of the escalator will stop right when they get off and this will create a huge backup of people trying to get off. As the backup occurs, the people behind the target will reach into the target’s bag/pocket and hand off the goods to one of his buddies behind him. I’ve also seen it where they’ve handed off the goods to someone on opposite escalator, so it’s almost impossible to chase them.

Newspaper/Map Distraction

A common pickpocket tactic involves using a large map or a newspaper to cover the targets line of sight in order to take things out of their bag. The’ll often shove the map in your face, point to a part of the map, and then their friend will reach under the paper so you can’t see what they’re taking. This is a very common way people steal mobile phones from tables.

ATM Confusion

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Always be careful when using the ATM — especially when you’re alone. While you’re in the process of withdrawing money, a group of beggars will approach you from behind to try and get your attention. They might pull on your arm or shove a peace of paper in front of the screen. If you turn toward one of the thieves, another one will slip in from the other side and press the button for the max amount of cash. Then they’ll swipe the money and run off.

Also be sure to cover up your pin code when you enter it. Some thieves will try to see your code (some even use hidden cameras) and then they’ll follow you around for a chance to steal your card.

Ticket Machines Dupe

Always be a little leery of people who try to help you at ticket machines. I know some people who got scammed in Paris from a well-dressed man who “helped” them buy metro tickets. They wanted to buy two 5 day passes, which costs about 30€/each, so the man offered to use his credit card because he told them Australian cards don’t work in the machines. He said that they could just pay him in cash. He did buy them tickets, but he bought them a one-way child’s ticket (which looks very similar to a 5-day pass) that costs about 1€ and he pocketed 60€ in cash from them.

The Helpful Tourist

Don’t let pickpockets take advantage of your good nature. In this scam one of the scammers will drop something in front of you and while you’re helping them pick up the mess the other pickpocket will swoop in and lift something from you bag. That does’t mean you can’t help your fellow man, but just be careful about your own stuff while doing it.

Slashed Bag

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Some pickpockets don’t even bother trying to open your bag and they will simply slash it open with a knife. Pacsafe makes a range of slash-proof bags for extra security.

Turnstile Stall

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Busy turnstiles are a common area for pickpockets to strike. As you’re approaching a turnstile, one person will cut in front of you and then precede to stop (they might pretend that the machine isn’t working) and their partner will come up behind you — essentially trapping you between the two of them. The person in the back will lift something from your bag or pocket while his partner in the front is fumbling with the turnstile.

Scooter Snatch and Run

While not super common, some thieves will drive up on a scooter, snatch a bag from the victim’s shoulder, and then ride off into the sunset. I wouldn’t be too worried about this technique, but it can happen.

Street Performances

There are many street performances that gather large crowds of tourists. These large groups of tourists draw pickpockets too, so beware.

Fake Fight

A large group of men might start a “fight” around a tourist, and in all the commotion one of the men will attempt to pickpocket the target.

Who Do Pickpockets Target? 

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Anyone can be a potential target of a pickpocket, but they do tend to target certain types of people. Pickpockets will always look for the easiest target because they don’t want a confrontation.

Tourist

Tourist = money, in the mind of a pickpocket. If you look like a tourist, you’re automatically going to be singled out.

People with a lot of Luggage

If you are pulling along two suitcases and have a backpack you’re going to be a prime target for a pickpocket. You won’t be able to watch over all your things since you have so much stuff.

Asians

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Asians (specifically the Chinese) are a top choice for pickpockets because many of the Chinese who travel are very wealthy. Additionally,  a large number of Chinese citizens don’t have as easy access to credit and debit cards, so they often carry large amounts of cash, and thieves know this. So even if you’re not Chinese, but have Asian heritage you might want to be more cautions.

People Who Flash Valuables

Walking alone at night while using your iPhone? Don’t be surprised if someone takes it away from you.

Trusting People

From all my travels I’ve rarely met a more friendly bunch than the Australians. I’ve also rarely met another group of people who’ve been victims of pickpockets than Australians. I think the people who think everyone else around them is nice and helpful are the ones who get taken advantage of most often.

How to Protect Yourself from Pickpockets 

If you’ve made it this far you might be thinking that there are thousands of pickpockets trying to rob every tourist in Europe. But that really isn’t the case and you’ll rarely have any problems if you take a few extra precautions. It is also important to remember that actual violent crime is really pretty low in Europe, so as long as you’re vigilant you’ll be perfectly safe. In this section we’ll take about what steps to take to avoid becoming a victim.

Limit What You Carry

Pickpockets can’t steal what you don’t have — pretty simple. That is why I prefer to carry very little while I’m sightseeing. I especially recommend not carrying a lot of cash.

Wear a Money Belt

A money belt is one of the most secure ways to carry valuables like extra money and your passport. However, many tourists make the mistake of thinking that they should use their money belt like a wallet — but it isn’t intended for that. Ideally, you should keep the money and debit/credit cards that you’re going to need for the day in your wallet and then keep all extra cash and maybe a backup credit card in the money belt. The money belt should be worn under your clothes and should be fairly inconvenient to access (to deter thieves).

There a multiple styles of money belts available:

  • Around the Waist — This is the traditional style of money belt. You wear it under your shirt and around your waist.
  • Around the Neck — Money belts that hang around your neck are another good option. These are a lot easier to access (especially if you wear it under a button-up shirt).
  • Hidden Pocket — These hidden pocket money belts are nice because they tuck into your pant leg and I think they’re more comfortable than one that goes around your waist.
  • Belt with Pocket — If you just want to stash some cash you can use a belt with a hidden pocket built in.

Secure Your Bag/Backpack

Your bag or backpack is probably the most vulnerable area that pickpockets love to target. Backpacks are especially vulnerable because you can’t see if someone is trying to get into it. Here are some tops for securing your bag.

  • Wear it Backwards — When you’re on crowded public transportation a lot of people will wear their bag backwards because this allows them to keep on eye on it.
  • Lock The Zippers — At a minimum you’ll want to lock your zippers. You don’t need anything fancy — a simple luggage lock will work well.
  • Sling Backpack — Sling backpacks are nice because they stay close to your body and they can be slung over your chest easily if needed. They do tend to be small, so you’ll have trouble if you plan on carrying a lot of stuff with you. Here is an example of a sling backpack but there many styles available.
  • Secure it to an Immovable Object — When you’re at a restaurant loop your bag’s strap around your leg or the leg of your chair so someone can’t come by and swipe the bag. Similarly, it is smart to secure your bag to a chair or luggage rack while you’re on a train — especially on overnight trains. A retractable cable lock will provide enough protection to deter most thieves.

Pickpocket Proof Bags

pacsafe

If you want to be extra safe you can get yourself a specially designed “pickpocket proof” backpack, bag, or purse. The most popular anti-theft bags are made by Pacsafe. Their bags have tamper-proof zippers, cut-proof straps, anchored straps, and a slash-proof metal mesh sewn into the bag.

Pacsafe has a large variety of styles and sizes of handbagsbackpacks, and travel accessories. Travelon is another company that makes anti-theft bags.

Zippered Purse

Make sure your purse has a zipper and don’t forget to actually zip it up. Keep valuables in internal zipped compartments if possible.

Wallet in Front Pocket

A lot of guys keep their wallet in their back pocket, but this is an extremely easy target for a pickpocket. And that is why it is advisable to keep your wallet in your front pocket. I highly recommend getting a super thin wallet because a bulky wallet feels very strange in your front pocket — and it looks kind of dumb. The Big Skinny Multi-Pocket Bifold Wallet gets a lot of great reviews for having a low profile.

Keep Your Phones Off The Table

Smartphones are a super popular item for pickpockets to target. Many people will simply leave it on the table while they’re eating and someone can come up and snatch it up.

Split-up Your Valuables

Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket so if you are pickpocketed you’ll limit the amount you’ll lose.

Final Thoughts

Traveling through Europe is an amazing opportunity and it shouldn’t be spoiled by a nasty pickpocket. As long as you follow a few of the guidelines from above, you’ll be just fine.

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  • CruiseMagic

    Lots of great tips here! I know I’ve had my phone on the table while at a restaurant and I’m going to stop doing that.

  • Marek

    You’re so right! Example of mine: bus station next to train station, Rome. Me and my girlfriend, a backpack put down by the bus post, we look at the schedules, look at the backpack, its gone;) I ran through the whole area for 3 minutes only to understand that the thieves snatched the backpack and got on a bus next to us, it got them 3 seconds. Happy to have lost only the clothes not our valuables, we spent unnecessary time that Sunday shopping for primary clothing… Beware of the bus snatch!

  • Fatma

    Now im scared

    • http://thesavvybackpacker.com James

      No need to be scared. As long as you pay attention you’ll be fine. Go travel!

    • savvybackpacker

      No need to be scared. You just need to be aware of your surroundings.

    • European Fascade

      I felt more safe among the bears and wolves of Yellowstone then I did around the thieves of Europe.

      • noddy

        poetic!

  • Laura

    In the little bit of traveling me and my sister have done in Europe we found that to lock our book bag is to get mini carabineers that twist open and close, they are cheap (you can get them at REI or other outdoor gear stores for about $1 each) and it takes time to undo them, hopefully giving you enough time to notice if someone is trying to get into your bag, especially if you make sure they are tightened really tight

    • savvybackpacker

      Thats a good idea. Thanks for the tip!

  • raluxia

    Hey!

    Thanks for sharing these tips and trick about the pickpockets. There is also another trick I’ve seen in Paris last year. They are faking the finding of a wedding-ring. I don’t know what happens next because a lady who saw the whole scene told me about this trick.

  • Luv2runmurphy

    Thank you! Great advice!! :-)

  • hollywood

    If you were to catch a pickpocket in the act what would be the repercussions of beating the crap out of them?

    • savvybackpacker

      I have no idea. I would be cautious if you want to resort to violence.

    • Cecilia

      I would never risk having to try to prove your innocence in a foreign country! And their laws may not be similar to yours- in which case your embassy can only help you to a certain extent. In any case, I would think detaining someone until police arrive is okay, but perhaps hold of on resorting to violence to retrieve your things.

    • John

      It’s not like here in the US with our self-defense laws, some European countries are very liberal. You’ll probably be the one going to jail.

    • litesp33d

      Firstly you would have to be confident you would win. These people carry knives and practice fighting amongst themselves as a hobby. Secondly they are never alone, even if they appear to be so. So with a shout and a minute you can be surrounded. Also if you start the aggression you justify a response. The end result being a potential severe beating and whilst they are doing this taking all your stuff. So, if you live, you spend the rest of your holiday in hospital having long distance phone calls with your family and insurance company.

      Don’t be paranoid just look after your stuff and then you will not need to get into a fight to get it back. Be cautious, be aware at all times, don’t get drunk and incapacitated unless you are in a safe place.

  • Mia

    Great tips!
    I am often in Oslo and are often in the area where pickpockets happends most (like the sentral station) and I know how to act, My favorite thing to do when im on the treinstation and dont feel completly safe are going to army people (they are there most in the weekends when they are off) and talk with them. But I am always aware of what I keep with me and I never have to much cash.

  • spyros

    since Romania and Bulgaria become members of European union, Europe is not safe as used to be……….they went all over Europe and they win a lot of money….they use metro system and buses…they work as a group of 5-6 persons.they don’t speak eachother ,as you do not understand that they are friends..they are all of them around you,and they push you or they close the exit in metro station or in bus…….they take you everything from your bag……please my friends,you must use moneybelt,put your money ,cards and passports,in this moneybelt..no wallets………..Albanians start doing the same to win money…..

    • John

      I agree. It was a huge mistake to include those countries into the EU. My friends would tell me stories of visiting Europe decades ago and how lovely and peaceful it was. Now it’s all about commercial tourism and pickpockets.

    • Gabriel Mihai

      Since Romania and Bulgaria has many Gypsies who’re so similar to Greeks, it’s a problem on every European country. First, you Greeks should pay debts and stop borrowing money from hardworking Europeans, you lazy Turko-Gypsy Greeks.

  • Rene

    The title confuses me. Are pickpockets in f.e. the US using different methods?

    • oslo

      You rarely find pickpocketers in U.S

    • John

      Pickpocketing here is nowhere as popular as in Europe.

  • Nick

    Just a heads up, I believe the Pacsafe products are not waterproof, so if people plan on backpacking they should consider other products.

  • James

    Another trick that groups operate – they spread out in a busy tourist attraction or shop and one shouts “thief!” and pretends they have had something stolen. Then, as everyone in earshot instinctively checks to see they still have everything, the others watch to see exactly which pockets you are keeping your most valuable items.
    In this situation I’d suggest avoid panic checking for your valuables and walkaway before giving your pockets a sly pat.

  • Alex

    The “ticket machine dupe” recently happened to me. Me and three other family members were buying tickets from a machine in the metro and were having some trouble. A man walks up to us asking if we needed help buying the ticket then proceeds to help us. He acts like he bought the tickets we needed, with his credit card, but only bought one way child tickets. He then stands with us for a few more minutes asking for money back for the tickets. By this point my parents were suspicious and went off to find help. A few moments later he scurried off to another part of the metro. Advice: always trust your instincts around people you don’t know.

  • Madi

    I am going to Spain, France, and Italy in three weeks so this will definitely help seeing it is my first trip to Europe! Thanks!

  • Cecilia

    So true about Australians! We’re not used to the level of crime abroad, and we go out into the world with an attitude of “everyone is a friend”. Unfortunately it’s that attitude that led to me getting my bag stolen in the US. Aussies- we love to travel and everyone’s a mate, don’t give up our great values but PLEASE remember that Europe (while amazing) is a little more dangerous than home, watch your stuff ALWAYS!

  • Jennifer

    I lived in Poland for 16 months and never had a problem (though some friends of mine did). My #1 rule was a “double barrier”. Anything valuable had to have 2 layers of protection. I.e. my coin purse was in my back pack in a pocket that was zipped inside another pocket that was also zipped. I figured…reaching into 1 layer is quick, it takes more time to peruse extra levels and gives me more time to feel something.

  • Adam

    I’m new to the international travel scene. I was looking at the Pacsafe line and wondered about airport security and possible metal detectors in museums. Has anyone had any problems carrying these products?

    • savvybackpacker

      I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ll have to xray the bag at the airport and museum metal detectors aren’t an issue.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for all these tips, I have a question maybe you can just give a suggestion. I have a dSLR camera that I’d like to be walking around with around my neck, would you say this is a bad idea? If I keep it in my hands in front of me the entire time? Tuck it in my coat maybe? Would a potential thief try to rip it off my neck? Basically I’m asking how aggressive a pickpocket can be… if you have any suggestions about this. Thank you in advance.

    • Caliban

      Carrying it around your neck and keeping a hand on it should be okay for most destinations. The real problem is when you carry a camera bag, easy to spot and easy to snatch, when it’s not around my neck, I usually keep my camera in my camera bag IN my “day bag”, two layers of protection, just be sure to always keep a hand on your backpack too! 😉

    • Jo

      I had a near pickpocket experience with my camera in Rome. I stopped to take a picture of the Trevi fountain and a guy came up to the rail right next to me, hand on the rail next to my (thankfully empty camera bag/purse). My husband noticed and cut between him so we were fine… I guess my suggestion is have fun with your shots but definitely be aware of what else you are carrying when you take the picture.

  • Silvia

    This year one of my guests was pickpocketed in Florence (Italy). She had things nicely split and the pickpockets only got to her driving licence. This lady was Australian and in a group tour…..

  • km

    Thanks for the advice

  • http://boomerinas.com/ Tina Boomerina

    I’ve never been pickpocketed but I’ve had the ladies try to dupe me with the “gold” ring trick and I’ve had men approach me in Montmartre Paris. I’ve heard someone yell that he was pickpocketed on a Paris bus, and the police were there within a minute to apprehend the guy. I was in Eastern Europe with a tour group and I kept telling women not to let the guys wear baseball caps, because it makes them look like clueless Americans. It may be okay to wear a baseball cap if you’re a thirty year old (or younger), but these guys were in their 60s and 70s… just clueless. When the tour bus stopped at a McDonald’s one of the baseball-hat guys had his wallet lifted. He had it in his back pocket of his jeans… like he was in Kansas… not the Czech Republic. On the other hand, no one is going to shoot you in Europe. They’re just going to take your money if you’re old and clueless and think you’re oh so cool in your silly jeans and baseball cap. Try to look EUROPEAN.

    Tina

  • http://budgetinn-artesia.com/ Kevin hart

    We must be always alert

  • Melanie

    When I was in Rome a few years ago a guy tried to distract my husband and I with a bracelet trick. We where going up some stairs when he came up next to me. He said “here’s a bracelet for good luck, I’ll just put it on your wrist and you’ll be lucky and happy,” while trying to grab my hand. I snatched my hand away and looked at my husband and saw another man coming down the stairs towards him. I made eye contact with the man coming down the stairs then he just changed direction and went straight down the stairs.
    Last summer in Paris some survey girls with clipboards tried to catch my husband. They wedged themselves between my husband and I and tried to cover his front pockets with their clipboards. He had to practically shove them away they so aggressive. He is frequently targeted by pickpockets but they haven’t succeeded yet. He’s also Japanese.

    • John

      Unfortunately, they can’t distinguish between the different Asian peoples so they target us all. It’s the Mainland Chinese that come to Europe with their wads of cash. I was pickpocketed in Paris few years back. All they took was my credit cards and 200 Euros. Luckily, I had a backup card and most of my cash in my bags. Now, I’m extra cautious when I go back to Europe. Bought anti-theft bags, clothing and all. Until tourists boycott Europe, nothing will change.

  • Margret

    Since when are Aussies nice? Look at that statement you made, nice people arent as conceited as the Aussies!

  • zach

    cheers for the info very helpful but one question…
    What do I do about leaving my phone, camera, ipad and whatever else i may take that will need charging on charge overnight staying in a hostel? all the devices will be plugged into my one powerboard so makes it nice and convinient to just take the whole lot in one swoop..
    Any solutions?
    cheers

    • litesp33d

      “all the devices will be plugged into my one powerboard so makes it nice
      and convinient to just take the whole lot in one swoop..”

      I am sure any thief would agree with that too. If you leave stuff on charge and you cannot keep an eye on it all the time it is being charged ensure you have the data backed up to the cloud and a good insurance policy.

  • John

    As a victim of pickpockets in Paris, I suggest do not keep your wallet/phone in any pocket that is easily accessible to even yourself. The logic behind this is if you can get to it easily, so can they. These POS are very good. They even use small children to rob you. I strongly suggest getting an anti-theft bag or pants with hidden pockets. While violent crime is nothing like here in the US, pickpocketing is a major problem in Europe.

  • Allen

    Reading this made me scared. Plus, I am Asian which makes me more scared of travelling to Prague alone for a convention.

    • John

      I wouldn’t be afraid. I traveled from Prague to Amsterdam alone for 15 days and didn’t run into any problems. And I had a rolling suitcase, a backpack and a camera bag to lug around train stations 4 times during this trip.

      Like many have said, just pay attention to your surroundings and it will be no different that being in any other big city. Don’t keep anything in your back pockets and don’t put yourself in a crowded situation. It is likely that you’ll spend most of your time in completely safe and enjoyable situations, and the only time you really need to be on guard is when you use public transportation or hang out in very crowded tourist traps.

      Prague has plenty of areas that aren’t crowded – it’s a beautiful city and worth exploring off the beaten path! Some of my favorite times in Prague were NOT in the so-called must-see places.

  • Rebian

    Find this article interesting but also amusing – all you have to do is act and think as if you were walking about NYC or any other large US City. Simple as that. Europe is no different and actually most of it has lower crime rates and much less gun crime.

  • Cats?

    I went to Brussels, and the gypsies were trying another trick I saw a group almost fall victim to:
    There was a fake dog fight, they had two dogs, and if you know dogs, you knew they were just jumping around and excited. They were clearly pumped up. The owners were yelling, and arguing and these children, maybe around 6-8 years old, were going up behind distracted groups and were trying to take what they could.
    Another I heard my guide talk about was some mom had a small child who was on the ground, as if they had been injured or abused, and another kid will come up to whoever pays them any attention and try to snatch something.
    that being said, Brussels is ugly anyways, so besides chocolate and lace, why go?
    Paris was prefectly fine for me, I had a HUGE bag, no main zipper, and a wallet that was too big for my own good. And I’m sure I looked like a tourist, I did go in July, and there were crowds everywhere. But I only carried about 200€ a day, and in 3 spots. My wallet, a little zip up coin purse, and another zip up pocket on my purse. Amsterdam was nowhere near as bad (we stayed by the Bulldog and at the American Hotel) and it was a little packed, but we did a walking tour, and there was no way they had a big pickpoket “colony”.
    Stay safe, enjoy your trip, because while nobody in my group of 40 got pickpocketed, there is still a chance you might. But no need to get paranoid. (From someone who usually is)

  • anna belle

    Just rent a car, don’t use public transport. You’ll get far more out of it and don’t have to be anxious when you board a train or bus or whatever. It’s pricier but hey, luxury + less worries about your wallet being stolen. Still be extra aware of your stuff when you’re city strolling. I usually avoid very populated places, I don’t feel great when there so many people around me. Try to blend in with the crowd and don’t look like a tourist and you wouldn’t be an “easy target”.

    • savvybackpacker

      I don’t agree. Having a car in any big European city is a huge hassle.

      • litesp33d

        I agree. Having a car in most European cities is a pain if you are doing a lot of tourist sites. Not only that but if you leave your stuff in the car it most likely will not be there when you get back. Just a pile of glass. Having traveled with Americans in the US they leave stuff in cars all the time and don’t lock them and mostly it is still there. Only Japan has less stuff stolen making the Japanese big victims in Europe. When traveling with Americans in Europe by car they were exasperated by my simple security measures but we did not get anything stolen and I learned that the hard way.

        • Kate

          Hi..I just have to say, I’m not sure what tiny mid-western city you visited in the US but having lived in California, the Southwest, and parts of the Northeast, you never, ever leave anything of value visible in your car (and in some areas you remove the radio) and always, always, always lock your car here because break-ins are, in fact, common. (parts of the Arabian peninsula, however, do do what you described “typical Americans doing” with regard to leaving things in cars and unlocked – as it does tend to be safe).

          • Kate

            ^ I mainly wanted to clear this up just in case anyone is thinking of visiting the US, rents a car, reads your post, and actually thinks that it’s typical to be so disregarding of common sense.

  • Chris

    It’s interesting you note that Australians are the most common victims of pickpockets. I suspect this has to do with the fact that these kind of things very rarely happen in our major cities and we generally have no reason not to trust strangers. It’s a shame the rest of the world can’t be more like that. I just hope I can keep a hold of my wallet and laptop!

    • savvybackpacker

      Stop being so nice :-)

    • avconsumer2

      Lived in Sydney for a couple of years, lost wallet twice – had it returned both times, with minimal cash still inside. Heh – wish they’d at least kept the cash for a reward. Great folks Aussies.

  • nancy wilson

    I was pickpocketed twice within 15 minutes in Barcelona. I had my 6 year old child with me, lots of luggage, AND a huge Mickey Mouse stuffed animal tied to my back. Yes, I looked very helpless, honest and touristy. First they robbed me of my 3000.00 bag of 3 cameras incl precious memories from our luggage cart as the “generous” man offered to give me directions, then 15 min later (could be same group, not sure) followed us into the subway (did not trust taxis) and were almost robbed in the elevator going down to lower level, but I asked what man was doing, and he said “Nothing!” as if I offended him. Elevator door opened and we stayed clear from these 2 on the subway platform, but still the younger one managed to come into the same subway car (another door), taking my wallet out of my purse against my body. I was careful and still did not feel it. The subway doors were about to close as an older Spanish lady showed me with her finger to look at my purse. I felt my purse’s zipper which had been opened, and could not believe my wallet was gone. I held open the almost closed subway doors, screaming at the subway to stop, as the pickpocketer ran up the escalator. I continued screaming, people stopped him at the top of the escalator, and a man brought back my wallet, as the subway waited. I was so grateful and entered the subway, and we were on our way. As shaken and relieved as I was, I thanked the lady sitting down, smiling at her, but then thought to look inside my wallet. It was then I realized he took all the cash (must have been while he was running up the escalator before throwing wallet in the air). I was about to go on a Mediterrean Disney cruise minutes later, but without my almost 2000.00 dollars + 3000..00 of cameras but very very grateful that I had my credit cards, passport, and most of all — my child…that nobody had stolen my child. Some countries steal children, but here they stole my possessions. As we boarded the cruiseship, another 2 families we met had been pickpocketed as well. One family could not board because they didn’t have their passports, missing their cruise, while the 2nd family (a psychiatrist and his wife robbed night before at ATM by fake police officers) had their own story to tell. If picketpocketers can rob me twice in 15 min and a psychiatrist for his PIN and card, you must beware. Following year we travelled to Paris France, but this time very aware, and had whistles on our wrists, always aware of our surroundings. The pickpocketers could see us communicating, pointing and looking at them as they targeted us. The whistles were for each other to “mommy watch!!”

  • http://www.janaleemiller.com/ Jana

    before I traveled in Italy-I sewed a pocket inside the waste band of my jeans. It was large enough to hold my passport and extra money. Yet thin enough to not notice even in skinny jeans. Cheap-easy and we cut them out when we got home. We didn’t have any problems in the three weeks that we traveled around.

    We met some older ladies that were well dressed and had crossbody bags-gucci brand-not a great idea. They were taken over on a train by several women and when they realized what was happening-they kicked the women and yelled. It’s best to leave the fancy stuff and jewelry at home.

    We also had a carabiner that clipped out backpacks to our rolling luggage even though we didn’t carry anything valuable in our backpacks.

  • eric

    Any recommendations as far as using either a money clip or a bifold wallet? I cant decide and wondering if one would be better then the other.

  • Christian

    I’m planning on backpacking around Europe next summer (2016) solo for 3 months or so, and I am probably going to be spending some time in busy cities. Since I will most likely be carrying around a larger backpack that is used with the backpackers, is there a good way to protect yourself from pickpockets when you don’t have a hostel or somewhere safe to keep your bag and belongings? I’m not sure I will have a secure place to put my belongings every minute of the trip, so what is the best way to protect my stuff? I’ve been abroad to Europe a few times already, so I know the general “feel” of crowded cities, but I’ve almost always had either a hotel or hostel to put my stuff or someone else to watch my bags. Any help is appreciated! Thanks!

    • savvybackpacker

      I’ve always been able to store my bag at the hostel or hotel. Many larger cities should have luggage lockers at the train stations.

  • Mike

    What this article states happens regularly in Europe to them i say try travelling in Mumbai and u will know the true meaning of how to be safe from pick pockets!!! And if u thought the metro in paris is full of pick pockets try boarding a local train in Mumbai and all foreigners will get their shit stolen everyday !!!!!!!!!!

  • Allie H.

    Never flash your cash if you’re standing in line out in the street waiting for a coffee or a quick sandwich. Wait until you get to the register. I suggest investing in a good jacket that will suit the climate with layering for colder days that has inner pockets. Keep your wallet, passport, hotel key, phone, everything valuable in your inner pockets while you’re on the move, and if you’re carrying a bag I suggest you make it something like a cross-body so that you notice any movement and it’s hard to slip off your shoulders like a purse with one strap short enough to only keep on one shoulder. If you’ve got a backpack and you’re going on the metro, just wear it in front of you (which looks pretty normal if you’re lucky enough to get a seat) and just odd if you’re standing, or stand so you keep an eye on each other’s bags. Just be hyper-aware any fairly crowded places.

  • TD

    Pretty good article. Very informative.

    Same applies to Asia, as well. For example, when I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I got disoriented on the Sky Train and ended up going in the wrong direction. I looked lost, as I was constantly peering out the window to try to get my bearings.

    Well, lo and behold, it was my luck that this attracted the attention of a team of at least 3 pickpockets in the very same Sky Train car I was riding in (it was a family). They waited ’til I decided to disembark at a certain stop (since I determined at that point I needed to go in the opposite direction) and ‘crowded’ me as soon as I stood up and went over to the door before it opened, just as other passengers got up from their seats and began to cluster at the door, as well.

    Smart technique on their part. Naive tourist move on mine…

    They did the ‘pretend-to-drop-a-key-and-fumble-on-the-ground-next-to-the-victim’s feet’ trick just before the door opens. When I felt one of the girls quickly ‘brushing’ my lower calves to distract me as she was pretending to find her ‘lost’ key, I knew something was wrong, but by then it was too late. Her accomplice had already ‘lifted’ my open pocket (I had zippered pockets but I left one of them carelessly open for some reason…).

    Fortunately, they got nothing of value. Had it been my OTHER pocket, well, let’s just say I would have had a very, V E R Y bad day……:-/

  • TD

    Also, I’d like to mention that after that incident, I decided to invest in a small but rugged hip pack with lots of zippered pouches (I replaced the cheap plastic buckle it came with, which broke after a month or so, with a sturdy, metal carabiner. Makes for an excellent fastener for these types of travel packs. I highly recommend doing this from the gitgo if you plan to invest in one. Don’t wait ’til it breaks on the road somewhere…).

    I used it to store passport, wallet, camera, small locks and keys, loose coins, etc, etc. It would often only be visible as a bulge above the lower fringe of any shirt I was wearing, too. Provided peace of mind for every country I visited after that!

  • Erin Skelly

    I’ve been to Italy twice without problems. I purchased a PacSafe bag specifically for the trip, and that was a great investment. But the most important thing is being aware and educated; if you’re smart about it, you’ll be fine. My passport, credit cards (save one), and most of my cash stayed in my money belt; when I was out and about, I kept one credit card in my bag (in an RFD sleeve, in a locked zipped interior pocket),

    And my spending cash… went deep in my bra. I’m pretty well-endowed. No one’s going to pick-pocket my bra. NOBODY. Lol!