Ok, I'm getting a little freaked out about pickpockets in Paris. What steps should we take to stay safe? Do we put everything in money belts before getting off the plane, etc? This is our first time travelling abroad and I'm sure we'll scream "tourist". Tired tourist.
we have been several times to Paris, and the key is to be careful and aware of your surroundings. I have a pair of cargo pants with lots of zippers and pockets which are really useful. I put a couple of my credit cards in a pocket with the hardest zipper to open, I carry larger bills (20 euros and above) in a different zippered pocket and finally, I always have change in one of the easier pockets to reach. If I carry a bag, it's a cross-body, that closes with a zipper and a flap, and I always place it in front of me, and hold it the whole time. I have never used a money belt, not sure that I would like to have to "undress" every time I want to buy an ice cream.
from Northern CA.
Thanks for the advise! How about passports? Will we need them once we get off the plane and where should we keep them?
A money belt is for deep storage, not your daily spending money. Use it for passports, credit cards and debit cards. Keep enough cash on you to get you through your day. I also use a crossbody bag with zippers and a flap that goes over the top and clasps. I never take it off except when I'm in my hotel or apartment. That way I won't accidentally leave it somewhere. Never hang your purse or bag over the back of your chair while out dining or whatever else you may be doing sitting.
By law you are supposed to keep your passport with you, but some people choose to leave theirs in their hotel.
If your budget allows, I would take a taxi from the airport to your accommodations so right there you eliminate riding on the RER, which is an area where tourists can feel vulnerable to pickpockets. Frankly, there are a lot of not very good pickpockets in Paris and paying attention to your surroundings and the people around you will alert you to them. My then 15-year old daughter spotted at least 3 at the Etoille metro including the 1 who reached into her pocket only to get his hand slapped. On my day-to-day rounds in Paris to try to avoid the pickpockets that are so good that they blend into the crowd, I carry my iPad or phone, travel debit card (the account that I have that I use mainly for travel expenses and that I can transfer money into online from my main bank account but is not linked to my main bank account), 1 or 2 credit cards and my US driver’s license and about 100 euros with me, which is all the cash I usually need for a day or even more in a closed purse that is either a cross body or a shoulder bag. I always close the bag up right after putting my wallet in and like another poster I keep it on all day. I can’t tell you how many people I see in Paris with unzipped or open top bags and just too much stuff while walking around, which I think are like lures to pickpockets. I try not to carry anything on me that will break my heart if it is stolen because I know that no matter how vigilant I am I can be distracted by my children or some fantastic sight in Paris. Knowing that I have very or relatively little to lose frees me up to enjoy the trip. I happen to hate money belts and the hassle of getting into them when out and about so I don’t use one but if that makes you feel more secure then go for it. As to the passport, some people carry them everywhere with them either for fear of theft from their hotel room or apartment or because French law requires persons to have a nationally issued ID with them. I leave mine secured in my apartment or hotel and I always say that I am going to bring a copy out with me but I always forget, but I do have a photo of it on my iPad and phone that I can use when I make purchases for which I am going to claim a VAT refund.
I am a big fan of wearing a money belt when I travel. I keep the majority of my cash, my passport, and emergency creditcard in it. The one that Rick Steves sells is very comfortable and washes well. Be sure to wear it in the front of your body. One woman in our tour group thought it was OK to wear hers behind her and was pickpocketed of the steps of the Louvre. Thankfully she heard her creditcards dopping on the marble floor and turned around quickly so nothing was stollen, but it was a very close call. I also cary a cross body day bag that I keep my daily spending money in (approximately 100 euros). If I notice am getting low on funds , I just replentish it when I happen to go to the restroom. I suggest one with a zipper and a top flap. There are many different ones to choose from.
In addition to a money belt, you can also use a small pouch that hangs around your neck under your shirt. I use the money belt to stash my cash reserve and credit cards. I use the pouch for passport, spending money and tickets, etc. I also have a hunting vest with an inside zippered pocket that hard to find unless you know it's there. Be prepared and alert and you'll be fine.
The point of informing people about pickpockets and scams etc... is not to make you paranoid - it is to make you aware and to get you to take a few extra very simple and reasonable precautions.
Contrary to one of the above posts, pickpockets are VERY good at what they do. So don't just keep a wallet in a pocket (any pocket: front, back, jacket). Have some way to securely keep your money, cards and passport. A moneybelt is a common way but other ways include a neck pouch, travel purse (NOT a regular purse that is easy to open), or belt-loop wallet. Some people carry a daybag or backpack secured with a travel lock. Different people like different options so pick the one you feel most comfortable with. And if your personal choice is difficult for you to access (like a moneybelt), you can keep some spending cash readily accessible in a wallet or pocket (if it did get stolen, you don't ruin your trip over 50 euro).
If you do these things, you have little to worry about as any pickpocket or scammer that might approach you will have no way to get to your valuables. Violent crime such as strong-arm robbery or muggings are VERY rare for tourists. And certainly don't spend extra money on taxis just to avoid the chance of pickpockets on the RER or Metro.
I wouldn't rely on pockets on cargo pants to keep your money safe. My father had money in a velcro pocket in cargo pants, and it was stolen on the bus.
Since you'll need your passport in the airport, you could keep it and boarding pass in a neck wallet during travel days. Then move it to a waist money belt on non travel days. Divide and protect your assets. Look around on this site for lots of ways to do that. Don't be paranoid. Just be prepared.
I don't want to freak anyone out about cargo pants, but we had a friend who was in Spain (Barcelona, if I recall) and someone slashed his pants pocket on the subway (he must have been standing, them sitting). He lost his passport (and he didn't even notice for apparently a few hours that his pocket had been slashed) and because it was the beginning of a long holiday weekend, they ended up having to spend an extra 5 days before he could get a replacement, delaying them going to Italy. I know thousands of people wear em, and he just had really bad luck, but...
I don't use a money belt, but I do try and be as aware as I can in a crowd, don't carry wads of cash, don't be careless with your stuff (if the women in my town who leave their purses in their grocery carts wide open and turn their backs on them lived in Europe - well, they'd learn the hard way not to do it). When I do carry a bag, it's a cross body with a flap, in crowds and on subway, I keep it in front of me as opposed to on my hip, and any extra money/passports is buried way inside (and hubby's wallet goes in there in crowded areas), with small bills and change in the back zipper against my body. It is a Pacsafe bag, which some people think is overkill...regardless - I like the configuration of the bag and how it is laid out, so that's why I use it.
It's easy for people to say be aware, but 1st time (even 10th time) can be very overwhelming, but that is your best defense. Just don't be super-paranoid or it can ruin your trip...remember, hundreds of thousands of people travel every year with no problems whatsoever.
Check out the tourist scams section for other things to be aware of...
I don't care for a money belt that goes around my waist. What works for me is a neck pouch. What I do is I wear it over one shoulder with the cord shortened up so it hits me just a little under my armpit. Under my shirt of course. I also pin it to my bra strap for extra security, so it can't slip down my arm. It doesn't show under my clothing and it's so comfortable I forget I'm wearing it. If I need to access it I can go into a bathroom. I keep my passport in my crossbody bag while at airports for easier availability.
No surprise, George, as you usually don't buy these particular stories. Next!
Yes, George, pockets on jeans and cargo pants are very easily slit by razor blades. A lot easier than trying to slice through a purse strap, which is what seems to be a huge fear on this forum. I have friends who had their jeans pockets slit open and never noticed it until they got home.
how do you feel about Europeans traveling to gang banger California. Should they be wearing body armour with personal security?
Just so you know, you have to be able to touch someone to be pick pocketed.
Pick up a copy of RS books on Europe through the back door. it will cover the scams that they use.
just remember if they can touch you, you can be pick pocketed. do you watch any of the spy movies? just bumping into you by "accident" or in crowds it can happen.
they can do the "snatch/grab and run" too.
Just keep your important stuff close to you either in a money belt or necklace pouch and have fun.
also in the 2+ years ive been travling, the ONLY time someone TRIED to pick pocket me was in Brussels late last year. As i said, they have to be able to touch you, and i let my guard down. I have travel pants with zippered pockets and he couldnt get them open. Since i keep my valuables in my neck pouch it wasnt a big deal. But i still keep people at arms lenght if at ll possible. Also, i dont mind fishing about my pouch in public since i dont feel any pick pocket will be able to get to it if im breathing.
on some place you cant keep any space like on subways, but you can do other things.
my couz was pick pocketed in Rome. since shes older and isnt as mobile, someone "offered" to help her onto the bus. her wallet was in her jacket/sweater pocket and they just helped themselves.
Just so you know, the locals live with it every day so its nothing new to them. For you and others it is, but theyve learned to deal with it.
just be diligent as you would in any other place and have fun.
I've lived in Paris for 9 years and have never been pick pocketed (knock on wood). I think the scary stories I read on travel forums about this problem are way over-blown. Yes there are thieves but no more than in any large city. Also, it is extremely unlikely that anyone would harm you physically. In addition to keeping your money & cards in a secure pocket, remember not to put your smart phone on the table in a cafe or use it on public transport. Thieves love these items. Your passport is not really of much interest to them; I would leave mine in the hotel room.
No freaking allowed- been there, done that and you don't want it to ruin this fabulous experience. Know they're there and you'll see some of them coming, but just brush them off with a wave and a "non". I vary between a neck wallet and a money belt, depending on the weather. My two biggest suggestions are: take a taxi from the airport (unless you use a subway at home frequently) and get online and google, YouTube or Rick Steve's videos, Paris. This way you won't be trying to absorb all this new stimulation at once. Street view on Google is a big help.
It wasn't a story about a friend of a friend of a friend - it was a close personal friend...and he's not prone to lying. I don't think they decided to blow off Italy to spend 5 extra days in Barcelona, and the hell he went thru catching his connecting flight thru Chicago to come home to Canada...almost missing his connection because of the replaced passport...don't think he made that up...a razor blade is pretty damn sharp, but you can believe - or not - he just had really bad luck...and I don't think he made the story up to cover up losing his passport...
"...gang banger California." That's right, if these European tourists are walking in downtown Oakland, 13th and Broadway?
Just be aware of the surroundings, be alert. Paris is not the worst pickpocket city in Europe but you do have to be on guard..
cargo pants are worthless -- most pickpockets are teens, usually teams
of teen girls, and they are adept at picking cargo pants -- my BIL had
his wallet removed from what he though was a secure zipped leg pocket
on the Metro.
I am not understanding how someone accessed a money belt worn in
back unless this person was actually not wearing a money belt but
rather a bum bag. Those goofy looking waist pouches worn outside
the clothing are NOT moneybelts. A moneybelt is a body safe worn
under the clothing -- and it is least detectable if worn in back below the waist
under a skirt or pants that are fairly high rise. A jacket or shirt worn
over will obscure the bulge if there is one. A moneybelt is worn under
the clothing and it would take a mugging to get at it. The waist bags
are not only ugly, they are easily picked front or back by skilled
operators. A person is better off with a cross body purse worn
with arm over the top in crowded spots.
If you will take the RER/metro into town it is imperative that
you have your valuables stowed and not in pockets or
backpacks or waist/bum bags. The neck pouches are visible
and I find them uncomfortable but they are more secure
than anything worn outside the clothing. I personally don't
carry a purse and buy travel clothing by scottevest and magellan
and others with hidden pockets inside. And then I only carry
the minimum while out and about e.g. tissues and lipbalm in
pocket, meds in watch pocket of jeans, one credit card and
a little cash in an inner pocket. The passport and cards and
cash are back at the apartment or in the hotel room safe.
My husband who carried his wallet in a deep front pocket
has had it lifted 3 times -- each time he caught the perpetrator --
once when he put his hand in his pocket on the metro, he
discovered a hand was already there. The last time the
guy actually got the wallet and took off through the door
of the metro (this is the usual MO) My husband grabbed
his arm and jumped with him and didn't let go till he threw
the wallet back into the metro car. Once he saw I had the
wallet he let the guy go and got back on -- locals had
held the metro doors open. He doesn't carry a wallet in
his pocket anymore. Which is a lucky thing, because on
our last trip, he was surrounded by 3 men on the steps of
the metro as he carried our bags and basically frisked;
these guys had their hands in his inner pockets and pants
pockets -- they got nothing before being chased off by a
local because he wasn't carrying anything valuable in his
pockets. This kind of thievery is organized crime and is
pretty commonplace in Paris. An acquaintance of ours had
30,000$ charged on his credit card before he was able to call
the company to alert them to the theft; his wallet was lifted at the d'Orsay.
This is a petty annoyance but you are likely to get dipped
if you are a walking buffet so don't be. After customs at the
airport head for the restroom and stow valuables in that money
belt for the transit when you are tired and vulnerable and then
stow the stuff in a safe at the hotel. Or if you are a woman have
a purse that is in front and you keep under your control in crowded places.
George, I'm eying a nice pair of Kevlar-lined socks with dual front and rear reversible zippers with internal spikes to discourage theft. I hope this is enough!
WOW! We've gotten "ugly" on here! Be careful. Went to Paris, my friend placed her Iphone on the table of an outdoor café, we had some little kids (oldest probably 8) who put a piece of paper on the table asking for money for food, and when they left, the phone was gone too! Met up with our former French exchange student who spent two summers with us as a teenager, and the day we left, his wife -- a life-long Parisian, also had her Iphone stolen from her pocket in the bakery.
Yes, some of it is luck, and some of it is carelessness. You will very unlikely be mugged, shot, raped anywhere in Europe, but being pick pocketed is a very real possibility. Just take some precautions, don't panic.
George Common sense is not always functional.
Americans fear muggers but most Americans don't
fear pickpockets because they are rare in the US.
People think they are using common sense when they
put things in a bum bag and think of it as a money belt and
others thing it is common sense to zip things into
It isn't rocket science but it is important to make yourself
pick proof and how is not totally obvious to people for whom
this is not a normal day to day risk.
I prefer to not be a walking buffet by not lugging a lot of stuff,
using hidden pockets and taking only what I can afford to lose on any
one excursion. I don't even use a purse here at home because
while I am unlikely to be picked in Chicago, being mugged or purse
snatched is a local hazard.
PIckpocketing is organized crime, pretty aggressive and quite ubiquitous
in touristy sites in Paris and most other European cities. If you don't take
precautions you are likely to be a victim of it. It isn't hysteria to suggest what
those precautions are.
Don't forget to be careful in the US as well... just heard the statistics today that 1.6 million smartphones were stolen last year in the US:)) nothing wrong with being a little diligent ,just not paranoid. After more than 30 trips to Europe (I don't wear a moneybelt, I use a small crossbody purse) never a problem. Gold ring scam was tried on me but woman left when I took out my camera and took her photo. Millions of people travel safely every year and chances are you will be one of them. Do what you feel comfortable with...
Thank you, everyone! Knowing what to possibly expect and how to prepare has made me feel more at ease already, and I do plan on enjoying this trip!
If I may kindly add the postscript to everything that has been said. (And much of it has been said very well.)
I have recently returned from a nice trip to Paris and Normandy. It was my 41st pleasure trip to that great continent. All of my trips have been on my own. I have also recently retired from 27 years of work in Chicago, in the so-called notorious public housing projects. I am NOT an expert on either European travel nor crime but I do have a few things to offer on both subjects.
I have never had a violent confrontation in all of my European trips. As, I suppose, a rather adventurous traveler I have gotten into many a circumstance that indeed seemed questionable at the time. All had positive outcomes. Perhaps "common sense" has indeed become a cliche.
I have had more difficulty coping with the scams. How can you walk by a seemingly destitute woman holding a small child and not feel guilt? When approached by a seemingly very sincere person with the most believable sad story how can your eyes divert in the direction of the nearest policeman? These are the only real difficulties I have personally encountered on a regular basis.
As to pickpockets, on a busy Lisbon train a group of 4 or so lads entered. Very cleverly they pushed down my wife. Of course I quickly came to her aid to protect her and in this process bent over. My wallet quickly disappeared, the train stopped at the next station, and the 4 lads exited. It all took place in approximately 30 seconds or so.
That evening we were leaving Lisbon and visiting a small record shop. We ordered a CD as a souvenir and I noted the two young clerks were putting 2 CDs into the bag. I inquired as to what was going on and was informed that the 2nd CD was entitled "Portugese Love Songs" and was a gift from the owner who was just being nice for the sake of being nice.
Tell me, in terms of our Lisbon experience, should my thoughts be of the 4 punks and my lost wallet or should they be of the shop owner who wanted us to have a nice remembrance of his beautiful city?
Sorry this is so lengthy but, again, all responding to your concern deserve thanks, even those "tongue in cheek" remarks.
My advice is simple. Be alert but not to the extent that it confuses your comings and goings. I predict with 99% certainty that on the plane ride home, your memories and dreams will be pleasant.
Hi Tammy. I do use a money belt for deep storage, in addition to using the hotel safe. I do use a pacsafe purse, a smaller one, that can go under my rain jacket. It suits me. My sister uses a pacsafe cross body which is a bit larger, that works for her.
My own experience in Paris, I have seen the gold ring trick a few times, and I shook my head, and walked on. In Venice on a busy crowded pedestrian bridge was my closest call, I hadmsomething squirted on my hand, supposedly meant to be pigeon poo, and someone coming the other direction pointed at my hand. I kept,going, moving with the traffic and when there were very few people around, I stopped and used kleenex and a handwipe thingy to clean my hand. I had read of some similar experience, so I did not stop, which is what I assume was meant to happen, so that someone behind me might go into my pockets. In Italy, I saw many more 'beggars', who often travel in groups.
My opinion is to use a. Product that will be right for you. Walk with purpose, especially in crowded spaces. Use common sense, do not carry large amounts of cash in one spot without some protection, for instance, an extra clip (carabiner type) between the 2 zippers on your purse, so there is an extra step to get inside it.
Enioy Paris, my favourite place in the world.
" Thank you, everyone! Knowing what to possibly expect and how to prepare has made me feel more at ease already, and I do plan on enjoying this trip!"
Thats the idea. Not to be afraid, but to have the "knowledge" so you can prevent or minimize any troubles.
I agree - sometimes people think that the replies are fearmongering and making people worried about Europe. I have only had 3 trips to Europe, but not once did I feel unsafe that I can remember, and we've been to Rome and Paris. It is good to know what to look out for so you aren't tricked into losing your hard-earned vacation cash. I am learning not to give money to 'beggars' and such after witnessing the amazing transformation of a perfectly normal older gentleman by Sacre Coeur into a moaning and shaking beggar. (That was interesting to watch). I'm guessing these people 'earn' as much as or more in a day then I do. (Which was fairly easy when I worked retail!). I like to think of it as being informed...I wouldn't travel to cities in the US or Canada without knowing what areas to be careful in...even the closest city to us, Halifax, there are areas I know to avoid at night and would let anyone know who was coming to visit. (But you are more likely here to be beat up for your iphone or money or smokes instead of having it lifted from your pocket without your knowledge and with no violence...happens far to often).
A year ago, I had iphone taken from a flap pocket of cross-body bag, worn close to body at front. I thought I would feel or see anyone touching it, but I didn't - because teen girls stuck a clipboard under my nose asking me to sign a petition. They were all over the place and the police said it was a popular ruse. Two in my small group lost phones in mere seconds. The bag had all the protections - couldn't be cut, couldn't be scanned, had locks for zip closures, But it was my fault for having the phone is a more convenient spot.... the velcro flap gave too easily. A lesson learned. Won't make that same mistake when we travel again in a couple of months.
@richard - lovely story about Lisbon and the CDs! That is the experience I would remember - a cherished memory. :-)
Pickpockets usually hang around bus and train stations , the airport, and tourist attractions. Choose a hotel who will send someone to shuttle you to the hotel. This is the safest method. When out and about, use a money belt that is in front and under your clothing. Beware whenever there is a commotion and don't mistakenly believe someone who looks like a tourist can't be a pickpocket. Also beware that older adults and little kids are sometimes part of pickpocket teams. We lock most stuff in the hotel safe when we will be out. Don't carry along any big purse or bag. Just carry along what you will need in your money belt. You will look less touristy this way.
Money belt for your passport and big bills/credit cards!
In Italy this past spring, we watched them work a crowd around the Duomo by selling trinkets, scarves, toys to tourists' kids, etc. Several "sellers" were working with a team that observed where the buyer put their money. They did the same to me, and my wife some distance away watched them, since she knows I never buy that stuff. I had some maps etc in a back pocket which they zeroed in on but left me alone since they'd hoped for a careless billfold. The sellers stood up close to the tourist's front, distracting the tourist, while their partners, one of whom acted like he wanted to buy some stuff too, further distracted them. I never did see them lift a wallet but they kept at it all day I'm sure as the crowds from the cruise ships swamped the place.
Happened to us on the Metro. Although the Metro was not crowded at the time, as we got on, two girls were getting off and brushed up against my aunt as they departed. Knowing what to look for, I caught one of them with a sweatshirt draped over one arm and the other arm unzipping her fanny pack (don't wear a fanny pack). It happened in the blink of an eye. These people are professional thieves. Let's just say the "ugly American" got really ugly. I can swear like a drunken pirate. KEEP A SENSE OF YOUR PERSONAL SPACE. I can't emphasize this more. That push, bump, or brush could very well be an attempt to get at your goodies. Watch out in places where there are large numbers of people gathered (The Louvre) or packed closely together (Metro or Eiffel Tower elevators). Don't stand where you can be accessed from all sides if you can avoid it. Only keep on your person an amount of cash that you think you will need for the day and one credit card, and certainly no more cash than you can afford to lose. By all means, use a money belt or similar. If you are observant, you will notice fairly well dressed people, many are young girls or women (wearing sunglasses), aimlessly meandering about where groups of people are gathered. They are casing the crowd looking for an easy mark. I am usually very good at spotting them.
Fanny packs are awful and not safe at all. They should not be used as a money belt. I agree number one thing is not to let people get into your space. In metro do not stand by the doors.. try to get to a wall to put back against or a seat. Standing by the door makes you attractive as thieves can jump on, get your stuff and get off at next stop before you realize it.
I would also suggest that using the official taxi stand is PERFECTLY safe and pretty well guaranteed to be cheaper then any hotel sent car (normal rate range into Paris is 45-55 euro give or take 5 euros.. but I have seen hotels charge as much as 100 euros which is simply another form of legal pickpocketing as far as I am concerned.. !)
I wear the money belt in the small of my back and I have no idea how it could be accessed, or even noted, by a thief. (Of course I don't wear tight fitting clothing). In probably close to 20 trips I have never had an issue If course I also use some common sense
When I take the RER to Paris I go into an airport restroom after immigration and customs and move the passport, debit cards, credit cards etc...to the money belt. Yes, I then have to pull it out when I get to the hotel, but I know that I am tired and potentially vulnerable when I get off that plane so I go with the "better safe then sorry" method :)
I honestly have never had a hand in my pocket (although thinking about a lot of my clothing doesn't even have pockets) or had an issue with the ring or signature people. (Pushing them off quickly with a sense of "I know where I am going" or laughing at them seems to keep them at arms length).
I recently went to France by myself, have been overseas before but this was my first time on own. I was worried what would happen if I lost anything. I did not have anyone there to help me out if I lost something. Here is what I did.
Money belt for most everything- with RIFD blocking
Pacsafe bag's awesome, check them out I got a sling bag and felt really sure nothing would happen. They have lots of safety features just for traveling. Razor proof, locks so you can wrap your bag around a chair handle. Zippers that hide or latch on to something. I would even wrap the strap thru my camera strap before putting wrapping it to chair so they could not steal that either while eating.
RIFD blocking? New passports and now credit cards have chips on them. People can scan your bag or wallet walking by. The RIFD blocks there scanners and keeps your information safe.
Carry the min stuff in your bag you need. One credit card, money for the day. The rest staying in money belt.
I will my passport in my bag at airport. You can alway's slip into bathroom to put it back into money belt after going thru passport control.
Keep hold of your bag even in cab. I have heard of bikers reaching into cab and stealing bags that are just on the seat.
Good Luck, Travel safe, Have fun.