Europe is a continent that has an array of cultures, cuisines, and… pickpockets. So, let’s talk about the art of avoiding pickpockets in Europe specifically.
The Pickpocketing Index
Our discussion begins with a study by Quotezone.co.uk, which revealed a surprising trend. Italy, France, and the Netherlands topped the countries with the most pickpocketing incidents. Italy, with its stunning attractions like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Duomo di Milano, led the pack with 1,906 reports of theft. France followed suit, with most incidents concentrated in the city of love, Paris. Despite being the ninth most visited country, the Netherlands secured the third spot.
Spain, known for its vibrant culture and beautiful beaches, ranked sixth, primarily due to Barcelona’s reputation for pickpocketing. As Greg Wilson, founder and CEO of Quotezone.co.uk, aptly put it, “Theft can happen anywhere, and tourist hotspots are convenient places for criminals to target people’s wallets and purses while they are busy taking in the sights.”
A Closer Look at Pickpockets in Europe
Let’s delve deeper into the pickpocketing situation in the top three countries on our list.
Italy: In Italy, pickpocketing is most prevalent in tourist hotspots like Rome, Florence, and Milan. Thieves often operate in groups, using distractions to their advantage. Be cautious in crowded places like the metro, buses, and famous landmarks.
France: In France, Paris is the epicentre of pickpocketing. The Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and the metro are common targets. In my experience, the Champs des L’Esyees is particularly a concern. Pickpockets often pose as tourists or use tactics like asking for directions to get close to their victims.
The Netherlands: In the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a hotspot for pickpockets, particularly in areas like the Red Light District and during significant events or festivals. Thieves often use the crowded and bustling environment to their advantage.
The Art of Staying Safe
So, how did we navigate through these pickpocket-prone areas? Here are some tips we picked up along the way:
Awareness is Key: Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to get lost in the beauty of Europe, but don’t let that distract you from keeping an eye on your belongings.
Choose the Right Bag: Opt for a crossbody bag or secure backpack. These are harder for pickpockets to access without you noticing.
Intelligent Storage: Keep your valuables in your pockets or a money belt. Avoid putting anything valuable in easily accessible pockets.
Blend In: Avoid screaming “tourist!” with your attire. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry and distribute your valuables in different pockets or bags.
Travel Light: Only carry essential items for the day. The less you have, the less you stand to lose.
Crowd Control: Be extra cautious in crowded areas. Pickpockets often use the chaos of crowds to their advantage.
Beware of Distractions: Pickpockets are masters of distraction. Be wary of any unusual incidents or people trying to divert your attention.
Invest in Anti-theft Accessories: Consider using anti-theft accessories like RFID-blocking wallets. These can provide an extra layer of protection for your belongings.
Trust Your Gut: Trust your instincts if someone or something feels off. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Knowledge is Power: Familiarize yourself with standard pickpocketing techniques and scams. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.
We reached out to local authorities and travel experts for their top tips to avoid falling victim to pickpockets:
Use a Decoy Wallet: Carry a Decoy wallet with small cash and expired cards. If you’re targeted, hand over the decoy.
Use a Money Belt: Money belts worn under your clothes can keep your valuables out of sight and reach.
Secure Your Bag: Use a bag with secure zippers and always have it in your line of sight.
Avoid Showing Off Wealth: Flashy jewelry or expensive gadgets can make you a target. Keep them out of sight when not in use.
Be Wary of ‘Bump and Lift’: This is a common tactic where the pickpocket bumps into you and lifts your wallet during the confusion.
Be Cautious with Strangers: Be wary of strangers who approach you, especially if they seem overly friendly or create a distraction.
When You Become the Victim of Pickpockets in Europe: The Next Steps
Even with the best precautions, sometimes the unthinkable happens. If you find yourself a victim of pickpocketing, here’s what you should do:
Stay Calm: It’s natural to feel violated and upset, but try to stay calm. You’ll need a clear head to take the following steps.
Report the Theft: Contact the local police and report the theft. They may not be able to recover your belongings, but the report can be helpful for insurance claims.
Cancel Your Cards: Contact your bank or credit card company as soon as possible to report the theft and cancel your cards.
Contact Your Embassy/Consulate: Contact your country’s embassy or consulate if your passport was stolen. They can help you get a replacement.
Check Your Insurance: If you have travel insurance, check your policy. You may be able to claim the stolen items.
Secure Your Accounts: If any devices were stolen, change your passwords and enable two-factor authentication where possible.
Remember, the most important thing is your safety. Items can be replaced, but you can’t. The goal is to enjoy your European adventure without falling prey to pickpockets. So, stay alert, stay safe, and let the journey continue!