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Pick pockets in Nice, France

I was just in Nice a couple of weeks ago, taking the #1 Tram from Old Nice to the train station. Very crowded, two wheel chairs, outlooks at the Tran stop (an older couple spotted me taking my ticket out of my wallet, then putting the wallet in the FRONT shorts pocket). When I got off the tram it was gone. Never felt a thing. These guys are good. It's their day job 365 days a year, so be prepared. I had a money belt, but wasn't using it. Several hundred euros, drivers license and 5 credit cards to cancel later, I guess I finally learned my lesson to never be casual about the risks. Hopefully others will also benefit from my experience.

Posted by
4165 posts

Really sorry this happened to you, and thank you for the warning! I hope it didn't derail the rest of your trip too much...

Posted by
9914 posts

Sorry you had this happen to you. It's a difficult learning experience.

I was picked in the Paris Metro one time (did not lose anything important) and not only did I not feel anything I didn't even notice anyone near enough to get at me. Just glad I didn't have to pick pockets for a living as I'm not nearly nimble enough.

Posted by
21302 posts

I was targeted by a trio of young females on a regional train in that area back in 2017. I was lucky not to lose anything; I suspect they were actually training a newbie and thus were not as subtle as usual. I actually did lose a wallet on the street in Veliko Trnovo, Bulgaria, back in 2015. That's one theft in Europe vs. three in my hometown of Washington, DC.

Aside from the importance of keeping things more under-wraps than a front pants pocket, it's super-critical not to keep all your financial resources in one place. I, too, travel with a lot of extra cards--more because I'm careless than because I fear pickpockets. But I leave the extras locked in my suitcase back at the hotel unless I'm on the way to a new hotel, in which case I do use a money belt. I frequently take my daily-use credit card out of my wallet and put it in zipped pocket inside my purse, and my ATM card is always in a (different) zipped pocket. Since the Bulgarian incident, which happened on a day when I had made a $150 ATM withdrawal and hadn't yet returned to my hotel room to stash the excess, I don't ever have much cash with me, and I'm a lot more worried about losing cards than a paltry amount of cash.

It's difficult to fully protect your wallet if you're on crowded transportation and have to stand; you need one hand to hold on to something. Maybe one reason I haven't had more bad experiences in Europe (I've spent about three years there in one- to four-month increments over the years) is that I don't use city transit very much, preferring to walk.

Posted by
1425 posts

Even RS was pickpocketed a few years ago on the Paris Metro when he wasn't using his money belt.

Posted by
3458 posts

I am so sorry to hear about your experience. It's always a good reminder for all of us. I recall our first visit to Italy. We had checked in to our hotel in Rome and a couple of ladies checked in after us. They said their passport, etc was removed from their purses. Terrible inconvenience their first day in Rome. Many years later in Portugal we were warned of pickpockets. Our guide discussed some "obvious clues." The most obvious was folding a coat over an arm to conceal items. We remembered this when we were in Madrid following our Portugal tour. We were walking to a restaurant and I mentioned to my husband that a younger fellow had a coat over his arm. He was walking with a woman who looked like "his grandmother." I told my husband, lets take a slight detour to get away from them. Fortunately we had our valuables safely in our money belt. Long story short, a couple hours later on our walk back they were getting arrested as we walked by. YES!!! Who knows when they were back on the street again. Thanks again for sharing. Hope you still enjoyed wonderful Nice.

Posted by
4370 posts

My daughter was pickpocketed in Barcelona. One of her brothers can be kind of hard on her. She was sure he was going to regale her with all the things she should have done differently. He replied with all the smart people he knew that were pickpocketed in Barcelona and some in other places. His #1 piece of advice was, "do not let it ruin the trip".

I always think about the fact that in most places in Europe, I'm physically safer than I am in many places in the U.S.

And we always wear money belts "in transit" to a new hotel, and when in a city, we do not carry all our cards and cash when we are out and about.

Posted by
39 posts

I am so sorry this happened to you! Everyone has a story and ours is when my husband was swarmed by a group of four ladies carrying wicker baskets as we entered the train station in Frankfurt many years ago, around 1985.

He went in on the East side and I entered on the West. I had all our important items in a money belt under my skirt. He was only pulling a small suitcase. He said he could feel them patting him down as he dashed past. They followed him for many meters until they were certain he had nothing of value.

I simply watched from across the entrance, and we learned the lesson on always having the cards and money in a belt. Until that point, we were fairly certain a money belt was not a viable item and thought we had wasted our money on a luxury item.

Posted by
21302 posts

I've just remembered a story told to me by a Canadian couple I met in Madrid. They had recently been on a Med cruise. During a port day in Crete, they went sightseeing on foot with another couple. Their male friend had his wallet in the lower pocket of his cargo pants. The two couples had lunch together; everything was fine. Later in the afternoon, the male friend needed his wallet for something and found his pocket empty. They had been walking around in a group of 4 and were shocked that a pocket could be picked without their knowing about it. Then they remembered that someone had come up to them with a map, asking for directions.

The pickpockets are pros.

Posted by
1337 posts

Oh man this sucks! So sorry this happened to you. I have taken this tram and yes it is very packed, plus your the windows are so big and lot's to distract you, people getting off on and on, the scenery of Nice itself, looking for your stop etc. My husband puts his wallet in his front pocket, he say's he is fine and that he would feel someone if they went in his deep front pockets, I am going to read him your post.

I have two wallets, my wallet that never leaves my suitcase with my Drivers License (wont need it till we return), and 2 back up credit cards and my back up debit card and extra cash (US and Euros). In my traveling wallet is 100€ and one credit card and one debit card. I basically plan on being robbed every day and my risk of the trip being ruined is low.

Posted by
2490 posts

"I beg of you, monsieur, watch yourself. Be on guard. This place is full of vultures. Vultures everywhere. Everywhere!"

And we all know what happened during that advice.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you all for your replies and concerns. The incident didn't ruin our vacation--fortunately, since Nice was our first stop before going to Provence, the Loire valley, and then to Paris! Gratefully, my wife had a couple of separate credit cards and our daughter had a debit card for ATM/euros. Just a reminder/learning experience that will beneficially inform our upcoming trip to Italy next year. . . .

Posted by
11441 posts

I carry my wallet in one front pocket. It has an "o" ring and it is clipped onto a rubber chain to my belt. If someone tries to slip the wallet out and go, I will feel a tug.

I do the same for my cellphone in the other front pocket.

My moneybelt is on me all the time.

Posted by
258 posts

As we sat down to dinner last night in the 7th Arr. in Paris another couple discovered that the husband’s backpack had been stolen when they were distracted. Wallet, passports, camera, etc. they were devastated.

Posted by
2412 posts

Their male friend had his wallet in the lower pocket of his cargo
pants.

I'm grateful for this warning. I've always wondered if they'll target any pocket. I do carry a money belt and so the only thing I'm worried about is my phone and little bit of cash which I would carry on the side pocket.

I've got these new travel pants from Eddie Bauer that has a zippered pocket below the front pocket that fits my phone perfectly. https://www.eddiebauer.ca/p/12951063/men%27s-guide-pro-pants?sp=1&color=Hazelnut I wonder if a zipper is enough of a deterrent to get the pickpockets to look for a different victim?

Posted by
1128 posts

This raises the question of a small day pack in Paris. I have not been to Paris for many years. In other places I have been able to successfully use a small zippered day pack like a pacsafe or similar. for coat, book, sunglasses etc.

Would a specific one with locking zippers work in Paris? What do people use if they want to carry more than a wallet?

Posted by
1872 posts

I’m sorry this happened, and I admire your aplomb. Thank you for posting your experience in an effort to help others. Yes, they are pros and it can and does happen anywhere and everywhere. In San Juan as the four of us happened to be standing shoulder to shoulder at the counter, an arm appeared from nowhere and snatched Dad’s wallet off the counter in the blink of an eye (except nobody had blinked) in the two seconds he laid it down while handing the clerk his money. Two teenage girls flew out of the shop while we were still trying to figure out what happened. We watched on a Rome subway as the woman told her husband “He just stole our camera” pointing to the well dressed middle aged perp and her husband’s now opened cargo pants pocket. Denial, then argument, then victim reached into perp’s pocket and pulled out his camera! I’d never have had the nerve. Our friend’s purse was stolen from where she hung it on the back of her chair in a restaurant in Paris and didn’t know until time to (not) pay the bill. ( She also lost her passport and the two day experience with the US embassy was not a happy one). We chatted with the guy on the Lisbon tram AND the adorable 7 year old who stole his wallet. There’s no pattern I can discern other than the need to be vigilant and proactive. I carry nothing in my pockets except tissue and used Metro tickets. Everything is in the neck pouch. We each carry varying cards from different bank accounts and never take them all at any one time, leaving some under lock and key or in hotel safes. I have added the precaution of always having a personal email or phone contact to bank branch employees or managers as well as the usual 800 phone info after an ATM problem in Amsterdam unrelated to theft We are not paranoid. We’ve been lucky so far. Thanks again for taking the time to warn fellow travelers. Safe travels to all.

Posted by
9914 posts

"Would a specific one with locking zippers work in Paris? What do people use if they want to carry more than a wallet?"

@Aimee, I don't like a back pack-type purse because you can't see the zippers. The best advice was on my first RS tour when the female guide told us to have a cross body bag with the zipper ends in front of you and with your hand over the zip tabs when in a crowd. I didn't do that when I got picked BUT I have since "installed" some split rings (from Michaels) in the inside of my purse to tether my small toiletry bag and to use a caribiner on the inside zippered pouch to keep it closed. I also use caribiners on the exterior zipper to slow them down.

If you come to the next CdA meet up (Jean coordinates and puts up a meeting notice here on the forum) I'll bring my purse and show you what I've got!

Posted by
1128 posts

Thanks Pam, i’m not a purse person, so I don’t have a cross body bag, although I could look at some backpack-style.

On days where the weather might be volatile or we might be walking alternating with long periods of sitting we might want some additional layering if it’s chilly. We will be traveling in the fall and while the weather is decent, it’s probably just enough that an additional layer might be necessary on some days. Plus we plan on doing some picnicking and I guess it would be convenient to carry some things inside of that rather than holding onto a basket style bag/shopping if that makes sense.

Posted by
5149 posts

I wonder if a zipper is enough of a deterrent to get the pickpockets to look for a different victim?

Allan, the short answer is "No."

I once had a pickpocket in Paris get into my zipped bag. I will say that this was early in my traveling days, and I foolishly - naively - had the bag slung behind me, riding on my hip. I now wear it as a cross-body, with the bag in front, and, if possible, one hand over the zipper.

Posted by
49 posts

So sorry this happened to you. We came close to being scammed/robbed a few years back in a Paris train station. We’ve read a lot of horror stories like these and decided to purchase new backpacks.
We both plan on carrying these when we are in Italy starting 9/17.

We purchased backpacks that have “uncuttable” wire or metal in the straps plus it has locks on each zippered pocket. These straps are supposed to prevent anyone from cutting the backpack off of you , especially from behind. Then there is an uncuttable cord that hooks around your waist. I’m sure it’s not perfect but hopefully would prevent an all out robbery!

Posted by
1128 posts

FWIW I think in crowded places, or on say the Metro, if I decide the daypack route I will wear mine backwards so the bag is in the front.

Posted by
165 posts

I always do crossbody and wear tightly in front. Also have used a small carabiner thru important zipper pull to the ring in strap…One more way to make it harder to unzip. My husband does a money belt. He argues he could feel if someone would try to get in front pocket and I show him posts on forum that prove differently. I have watched a tourist on a bus in Rome going thru his cash to count/organize and put back in pants pocket. I wanted to cry. I did not say something…hard to keep mouth shut.

Posted by
914 posts

When I use a daypack, I put very little in it so that it’s “mashable” and I wear it on one shoulder so that I can tuck it under my arm/pull it to the front. I also wear a money belt.

Posted by
12980 posts

That's the main reason I never use a backpack especially for the purpose of putting all the valuables (wallet, pass port, plastic, cash, etc) in there, only to have it stolen or picked.

Posted by
4370 posts

My fashion consultant (daughter) says "fanny packs" are back in style. However, she says they are worn cross body, with pack in front, instead of around the waist, which seems relatively safe. I'm not sure that works for me, but it may be a solution for some.

Posted by
1888 posts

My friend and I were walking to Termini Station in Rome, all secured, bags worn crossbody, watching who was near us.
A teenage girl reached out and tried to actually drag my friends crossbody bag from her body.
I yelled at her at the top of my voice telling her she should be ashamed of herself, and to go to school to get her education there instead.
She just smirked and shrugged at me, as if to say "I'll get the next one."

Posted by
165 posts

My thoughts are these pro thieves are more desperate than ever with less tourists since covid. More reason to be extra wary and very cautious! Sad!

Posted by
40 posts

Rick Steves always warns against pickpockets at Metro turnstiles. I had put all my valuables in my Rick Steves money belt and my front cargo pant pockets which were buttoned but my travel notebook was in my back pocket. Who would take a small notebook?

In Paris, on a Saturday morning in the Vaneau metro station in 6th Arr, my wife and I were headed out for the day. Besides us there were only two guys standing near the closed ticket booth looking at a schedule. The station was deserted. As I got into the turnstile, I felt my Travel notebook leaving my back pocket. I was stuck in the turnstile and turned around quick enough to see the pickpocket with my notebook in his hand. He smiled at me and said you dropped this and handed it back to me. He turned around and left.

My travel notebooks are valuable to me. Now my Travel notebook is in a front secure pocket. I use them to communicate to keep track of things that interest me and details where we are going. It is also great for my memory months and even years after the trip.

All other times we used the Paris metro including a weekday from the airport to the hotelAnd traveling around Paris day or evening we felt safe in the metro.

Also the pickpocket made us rethink our using the Metro on Sunday morning which was likely to be as deserted as Saturday morning. We were going to be taking luggage and heading to the airport. We decided to add another level of caution and took the airport shuttle.

Our next stop was Venice. Rick also warns about pickpockets on the vaporetto, the water buses. Several times I warned guys about their unsecured wallets
In their back pockets about my experience.

Posted by
5149 posts

Tom Shorewood, the time a pickpocket got into my bag played out much the same way, although even better: What he took from my bag was a fabric shopping bag that zips into its own pouch, making a tidy package, about 2" square. When the fellow realized that what he had wasn't valuable, he tossed it on the floor behind me, then came up and tapped me on the shoulder, pointing to the dropped bag. He didn't say anything, but he mimed my having dropped it. That's when I realized that the zipper on my bag had been breached.

And this was in the Paris metro, at a time when it was almost empty. In fact, I don't remember seeing anyone there at all, until this fellow tapped me on the shoulder.

Posted by
12980 posts

I use the Eagle Creek "fanny pack"/waist belt but don't wear it across the chest, as I have seen quite often.

It's worn the old fashion way around the waist below my belt, wouldn't feel right without it. The passport and CDC card do not go into this waist belt.

Posted by
11441 posts

Thirty years ago I was walking with friends in Florence. As we were walking some shop owners starting pointing and gesturing to us. We thought they wanted us to come into their shops. No, they were warning us a kid had gotten into the middle of our group and had already unzipped one of the girl's waist belt. (They were popular then.) If the shop owners hadn't warned us, the kid would have gotten away with something.

A few years ago at the Vaporetto ticket machine at the Venice train station, a group targeted me. Luckily, all the zippers on my bags were closed with a cable key ring. All but one. While I was distracted to my left, the guy on my right opened the zipper. Luckily, the pocket was empty. I told the group where they could go and they just shrugged and moved on.

The key is don't make it easy for them. They look for easy targets.