How To Outsmart Pickpockets In Europe’s Biggest Cities
Travel3 Minutes Read

How To Outsmart Pickpockets In Europe’s Biggest Cities

February 2, 2022 Share

ACCORDING to a survey by TripAdvisor, eight of the top ten cities in the world most notorious for pickpockets are in Europe, with Barcelona, Rome, Prague, Madrid, Paris making up the top five. These urban areas are steeped in history and have countless hidden gems to explore, but with significant numbers of tourists comes those who attempt to exploit them.

In London alone, which doesn’t even make TripAdvisor’s top ten, there were 80,000 thefts over a two-year period beginning in 2019. While most of these cities have relatively low violent crime towards tourists, there are plenty of people trying to grab your phone, snatch your purse and generally rip you off. So what can travellers do to protect themselves?

Las Ramblas, Barcelona, was number one on TripAdvisor’s list of European pickpocket locations – Credit: Jorge Fernández Salas

The biggest word of caution is to always remain vigilant and develop situational awareness when in transit, especially when moving through large crowds. Being mindful of where your belongings are, how easy it is to access them, and who is doing what in your immediate vicinity, is an important step to preventing your phone or passport from going missing.

Money belts are another way to keep your cash out of sight, but they also speak to the more important point of appearing modest. Pickpockets will profile who they think will be the easiest and most lucrative mark, so if they see a tourist with an LV luggage bag, Gucci sunglasses and expensive jewellery, needless to say, they become an immediate target.

Unbranded clothing helps tourists blend in whilst out and about – Credit: Egor Myznik

It might not very conducive to a relaxing holiday if you are constantly scanning your periphery and on edge the entire time, but pickpockets will prey on the moment you drop your guard. Knowing where the danger spots are is half the battle, so keep an eye out near famous landmarks and in crowds, but also on public transport, in parks, at restaurants or on beaches.

Thieves may target beaches like this one in Barcelona – Credit: Federico Giampieri

Be conservative with your belongings when going out for the day. If you’re heading to the beach to catch some rays or to get some drinks downtown, you probably don’t need your $2,000 MacBook. Pack only what you need for the day to avoid that sinking feeling after it needlessly goes missing.

The phrase ‘modern problems require modern solutions’ applies to thieves as well. So-called ‘E-pickpockets’ are on the rise as fewer people carry cash on their person, who may try to snap a photo of your card as you take them out to buy something.

Keep an eye on your surroundings when taking out any cards – Credit: Clay Banks

Rumours of thieves using contactless machines in order to scan your card while it’s in your pocket are also a cause for concern, so keeping your pockets empty and storing cards and phones in a secure zipped bag is the safest way to avoid digital pickpocketing.

A good pickpocket will have some understanding of human psychology and use tricks to distract a tourist, leaving their valuables up for grabs while their attention is elsewhere. Watch out for scams like someone offering to help you buy a ticket on the metro, or someone claiming you dropped something that isn’t yours.

These tips are of course transferable to any city in the world, not just Europe. But it is worth remembering that your holiday could be tarnished by a split-second lapse of concentration, and remaining vigilant is your best tool at your disposal when making sure all your belongings are still yours by the time you head home.

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Author: Tom Cramp