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Security from pickpockets

So Rick makes a big deal over money belts. I leave tomorrow for Paris with one ready to use but they are uncomfortable worn more or less on the chest under the shirt and hard to access.

I also have tech pants with a zippered back pocket and one other zippered pocket under the front right pocket.

Equivalent security from theft? Thoughts?

Posted by
212 posts

It really depends on your comfort level with uncertainty. Zippers will not stop a pickpocket nearly as well as a money belt, which is harder to access for them, as well as you. You will see people swear they never give it a thought, and have never had a problem getting picked. But all it takes is once. My practice is to use a zippered pocket or equivalent for some small change, and if I really need a card or more money, I fish out the money belt or hit the restroom to get it. The money belt gets easier with practice.

Posted by
809 posts

After you put your wallet in your pocket, put a loosely crumpled napkin in on top of the wallet.

Posted by
7668 posts

Sure, somewhat similar. Lots of views on here about moneybelts and other security measures. For myself, I view a monetbelt as deep storage, accessibility is not an issue if you do not access it but rarely. I like to limit myself to only my phone, and an ultraslim wallet in my front pocket with one credit card and a few euros, and my phone is my principle form of payment.

If I use a neck pouch or moneybelt, that is for a spare CC and my debit card, as well as my passport, but I do not plan on using any of those during the day.

Basically, the more you carry, the more you need to protect, the more others think you have something worth taking.

Posted by
376 posts

I tend to take the view that I don't need much more security while traveling than I do at home, so have never used a money belt. I keep cards and cash in a wallet, in my pocket, the same way I do at home. If I'm in a crowded area, I do sometimes keep the wallet in my front pocket, or my inside jacket pocket as an additional security measure. I don't carry passport/documents around with me, and I make sure I have an additional credit card that I either leave in the hotel, or carry separately.

In my view, fiddling around with a money belt when paying for things tends to mark one out for attention of pickpockets.

Posted by
15580 posts

As mentioned previously, a money belt is deep storage. It is not a wallet to be used for every transaction.

I use the "hidden pocket" type of money belt. It hangs down from my belt inside my pant leg. I hardly know it's there.

If yoy have the one that goes around your waist, try wearing the wallet itself in the small of your back. Under your clothes, of course.

Posted by
4442 posts

I attach a safety pin to the zipper for added protection-yes a pickpocket might tear my pants but that would attract my attention.

Posted by
892 posts

I also have tech pants with a zippered back pocket

Don't keep anything you don't want picked in a back pocket. Zipper offers no security.

Lots of views on here about moneybelts and other security measures. For myself, I view a monetbelt as deep storage, accessibility is not an issue if you do not access it but rarely. I like to limit myself to only my phone, and an ultraslim wallet in my front pocket with one credit card and a few euros, and my phone is my principle form of payment. If I use a neck pouch or moneybelt, that is for a spare CC and my debit card, as well as my passport, but I do not plan on using any of those during the day.

I could have written the exact same thing, this is exactly what I do. My preferred deep storage is a neck wallet, under the shirt.

Posted by
40 posts

Summarizing all of this. If you carry your passport or debit card, auxillary credit card, carry it in a money belt with the intention of rarely accessing anything in it. Your go to credit card with bills that are accessed multiple times a day should be in a wallet in a front pocket preferably with a zipper and preferably under a coat if temperatures permit. Your phone with Apple pay in your other front pocket…….RIGHT?

The key is to avoid using the money belt for routine access…………..

Posted by
381 posts

Wear a crossbody of some sort and store cash, cc, etc deeply. The one my husband carries requires that an outer section is unbuckled then he can unzip the section containing cc, etc. The crossbody is handy for holding a water bottle, a small container of hand sanitizer gel and a reusable bag (many shops are charging for a bag; we always have one with us). It was tough but he’s finally trained to have empty pockets. And he doesn’t carry his wallet. He dropped it on the floor of a cab once. I’ll spare the details but he did get it back, intact, 45 minutes later. He travels with the items he truly needs from his wallet. The punch card(s) for earning a free coffee, etc. stay at home.

Posted by
186 posts

When I was on the Best of Paris tour in 2018, the tour guide was talking the RS party line about using a money belt. There was one tour member from the mid west who insisted he didn’t need one. He had zippered pockets in his pants. Not even 12 hours later on our first subway lesson, you guessed it, his wallet was lifted and gone. He never felt a thing.

Posted by
3208 posts

As a woman, I always use my moneybelt, under my clothes, worn in the small of my back; for passport, second cc or bankcard and some cash.
It stays in there till I am back in my room at the end of the day.
Last year, I bought these teeny locking carabiners for the zips on my crossbody bag.

https://www.amazon.ca/LSBMA-A2-5R7-Locking-Keychain-Carabiner-Assorted/dp/B08BX4RCW8/ref=asc_df_B08BX4RCW8/?tag=googleshopc0c-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=579594755448&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12436165902901184899&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=t&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9001517&hvtargid=pla-943431556002&psc=1

A bit fiddly, but another deterrent against the bad guys.
I really found them useful.
Nothing goes in any pockets except a couple of tissues.

Posted by
14580 posts

I don't use a money belt but rather the Eagle Creek "hidden pocket" On the trip in Paris in July, I pulled it out once to pay the hotel guy since he wanted payment at check-in for the first 3 days of my 6 day stay in cash, otherwise the rate he gave me would be withdrawn. So, right there the hidden pocket came out. Aside form the hidden pocket I use the Eagle Creek neck pouch . I also carry a wallet, some cash is there too.

This summer's trip I had no concerns of pickpockets, other than taking the usual precautions. When I was in Paris, in buses, the normally crowded Metro when I stood, just being out and about among the crowds, I felt the pickpocket concern was overrated. Never came close to it happening on this 9 week trip.

Traveling in France since 1973, I never had it happen, never was picked on the Metro, came close twice, relatively and I had no hidden pocket or neck pouch back then.

Posted by
2575 posts

More important than a tool is to know the tricks of pickpockets.
In Paris the tricks are 90% the same like in Berlin, so here an overview of pickpocket tricks from Berlin Police Department. Translation with DeepL provides best result.

Posted by
15580 posts

Wayne F....you got it. Only carry what you need for the day. Everything else is in the money belt.

Posted by
9009 posts

Well, I live over here and when I travel to certain cities, guess what, I wear one of those silk money belts under my shirt. I don't wear it in Frankfurt because the pick-pockets are not bad here, but I certainly wear one in Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Milan, etc. and when I walk the Camino. Phone, small money and a debit card are in my messenger bag worn cross body, but that is what I wear every day in Germany.

If you like, wear a hip pack, but wear it cross body and then you fit in, cause that is what everyone in Europe is doing, at least in Germany and Spain.

Posted by
892 posts

What do you do in your home country or American state/city? Some of you come from American cities with a less pleasant reputation than Europe. Why your obsession with European security???

Pickpocketing is virtually non-existent here in the US; I don't know anyone here who has been pickpocketed here, but I know at least a dozen people who have been pickpocketed in Europe, usually a wallet lifted from a hip pocket. Easy pickings...

I obviously can't speak for all Americans, but for me It is not an "obsession with European security". at least not broadly speaking, but it is a concern to thwart pickpockets by taking simple measures. At the very least, I would advise anyone to never leave a wallet in your hip pocket when in Europe, particularly Paris, Barcelona, etc.

Posted by
15580 posts

To be a good pickpocket you need skills. You have to practice. American thieves don't want to do that. Instead, they get a gun, point it in your face and say "give me your money."

I wear a money belt in Europe to protect myself from pickpockets. I wear a moneybelt in the USA so the muggers don't get everything.

Posted by
911 posts

JoJo Rabbit - I have been pickpocketed on the 151 bus on Michigan Avenue, Gold Coast, Chicago. Luckily, my valuables were far down in the bag and weren't easily accessible. So, nothing more than an opened bag. I knew something was "off" but was standing on a crowded bus and distracted by my toddler. Defenses just weren't sharp enough.

Stretching the definition of pickpocket a tiny bit, there are tricks that are used in the US similarly to Europe. Watch your exit from escalators as the back-up crunch of people or a staged accident that backs up the line can provide opportunities - WaterTower Place (Chicago) has known that kind of thievery. Hotels have had instances of purse snatching on elevators. Distract, grab, and bolt as the door is closing sort of thing.

Sadly, I have to agree that guns and direct mugging seem to be the preferred method currently.

Posted by
7842 posts

Mrs. Jo is right, I haven't found a that pickpockets are a big issue in Germany or Northern Europe, as well as the British Isles.

However, if in Spain, France, Italy or Portugal it is best to prepare and wear a money belt and only keep a small amount of cash for the day (perhaps one credit card) in your front pocket.

Barcelona is a serious place for pickpockets, but Rome, Paris, Madrid, etc. also are a problem.

Posted by
1625 posts

Awareness is your biggest deterrent for pickpockets. Be aware of your personal space and if someone is too close, don't be afraid to be rude or to offend anyone. Cross the street, stop and go in a store, or sit or do something to change your movement pattern and let the perceived threat move on. We don't store anything on the back of us, my crossbody goes in front of me and hubby has his wallet in his front pocket.

We do not use money belts, we agree that they are uncomfortable. We carry what we can afford to lose, which is maybe 100€ between the two of us. We each carry a debit card and I carry one credit card. If we get pick pocketed we have back up debit cards (from another bank) and back up credit cards in deep storage in our suitcases and cash. Never have I had to access our deep storage cards.

Posted by
14580 posts

Getting picked.....overrated, overblown...exactly.

Would I wear the hidden pocket and neck pouch in US cities, say Washington , DC , Boston, Chicago, etc as I do in Europe? Most certainly nowadays. When I was in DC in 2016 and Boston in 2017, I did exactly just that.

Posted by
892 posts

JoJo Rabbit - I have been pickpocketed on the 151 bus on Michigan Avenue, Gold Coast, Chicago. Luckily, my valuables were far down in the bag and weren't easily accessible.

Just curious, was the bag on your person, like hanging from a strap, or in an overhead rack? Was it really a "pickpocket" which I think of someone removing something from my person, like my actual pocket. Certainly your private property was violated, also curious how you knew someone had gotten into your bag? Did you see it happen, or surmise it happened after the fact?

Related to my question, I am not a fan of the "crossbody" bags and using backpacks to hold/store valuables; I prefer an under the shirt neck wallet which offers more protection than an external bag.

Posted by
18572 posts

I also have tech pants with a zippered back pocket and one other
zippered pocket under the front right pocket.

There obviously are a few pickpocket hot spots in Europe and in the world in general. Some statistics do exist, but they are sketchy at best, at least what I could find. Read the travel hype articles and they condemn entire cities and in a lot of instances entire countries. Well, that just not true. Its creating fear to sell internet advertising.

One of the worst places you will read about is the Paris metro. There will be something less than 10,000 reported "thefts" on the Paris metro before the year is out. Thats all theft. Sounds pretty bad, except there will be 1.5 BILLION trips on the metro this year. Someone check me on decimal points, but I think that means that less than 1/1000% of the riders? Of course not the entire system is bad (I suspect), and I am guessing the tourist sections are where the problems exist so it may be 10x more dangerous on those tracks 1/100% of the riders?

So, sure, pickpocketing being a theft of opportunity if you reduce the opportunity you reduce the odds and a zippered front pocket should do that very well (they will hit the American next to you with his wallet in his back pocket). I wear zippered pocket pants often as I worry less about something falling out of my pocket. Hard to replace things on the road.

Watched a guy today putting his hand in his pants to retrieve a credit card. Good thing things are contract free these days.

Then if you stay away from the top 10 pickpocket zones in Europe I suspect that 1/1000000% of all the tourists are victims.... but the zipper still not a bad idea ......

Posted by
18572 posts

Odds are the same that some government official will ask to see your passport but you wont have it because you read on the RS forum that being asked for a passport never happens and you end up in a Turkish prison. (outside about 10 pickpocket hotspots in all of Europe)

Posted by
575 posts

The worry about losing valuables on a trip is the inconvenience. If I’m at home I don’t take the same precautions as I can replace the basics fairly straightforwardly.

Just today, tour guide Sarah (well known and former one for RS) posted on IG that she thwarted a pickpocket after her phone which was in a neck holder. She is in Barcelona and is pretty well a more experienced traveller than most of us here.

Posted by
111 posts

Claire, I like your comment. Makes good sense to me especially when traveling solo. I safeguard my valuables more overseas because there is no one else to depend on and it would be more of a hassle to deal with than at home. Sort of the idea of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Also, unlike some travelers who report no pick pocketing incidents, I have been with someone who was pickpocketed on the metro in Rome ( they got only a very small amount of spending money since their deep storage was not accessible or left back in their room).

Posted by
585 posts

I’d agree with the person who reported that a former guide for RS had her phone snatched out of her hand by a guy on a bike going by but luckily had it on a strap. If someone who travels Europe for a living has these problems (hey she took precautions!) then to say “just be aware of your surroundings” doesn’t make sense to me. She said the Barcelona bellhop delivering her luggage to the room gave her a lecture on safety and at the time she thought it was weird. Unfortunately turned out to be true.

Posted by
14580 posts

One of my relatives in his early 20s went to Paris during the holidays from Christmas to New Years, I told and urged him to wear at least the hidden pocket when out and about and , in particular, riding the Metro as a precaution. He scoffed at the idea, would have none of it.

Would I have done likewise at his age, except he is far more street smart and quicker , so to speak, than was I at his age. When I returned after this 2 week trip in France, his view was that the pickpocket situation was overrated and exaggerated... OK, his view, I didn't really believe him.

After my days in Paris this time totaling about a month , his assessment is right. I had figured that his chances / odds of getting (barring super back luck) were slim or unlikely. It is overrated.

Posted by
18572 posts

Fred, there are always places and situations that call for concern. The examples above are Barcelona, which I have come to believe is a place I will just avoid. I push back on "when in Europe you should ... " Doubt that a money belt is doing you any good in 99% of Europe.

Still, I like my trousers with the zippered pockets. As mentioned above, it can be a real inconvenience losing something so far from home. And if I get on crowded public transportation, even in Budapest, where pickpocketing is as rare as rocking horse poo, I put my hand in my front pocket and hold my money clip. It's habit and doesn't hurt.

And I do leave my Global Entry card (i figure it's good ID if simething happens to my passport) a spare ATM and credit card and mini laptop in my luggage.

I may have been pickpocketed once in 1976 in DC or I just lost the travelers checks. And there was a foiled attempt to open my backpack in 2009 in Paris. But that in maybe 3 years of time on the road over 40+ years.

Posted by
692 posts

I do think that the problem of pickpockets is a bit exaggerated, but I'm not going to be dismissive of one's own concer for their own personal security. However, travelers as a group are concerned with fitting in avoiding standing out, yet never seem to consider their tells that screams "I'm a tourist".

Do you wear a money belt daily in your normal life? If not, then it's not part of you. You're not accustomed to it, it's uncomfortable, and you may not realize it but you keep touching it. You're reaching for your waist and you keep adjusting it. Wearing a hidden pocket hanging in your trousers from the belt? If so, why is your shirt tucked-in?

Do you carry a cross body bag or backpack/day bag regularly? When you don't carry regularly you display a discomfort and awkwardness when you suddenly make the bag part of your travels. It is early in the day and when you leave your hotel is your bag stuffed? Are you carrying bags from your day's shopping and a backpack? Why are you carrying valuables in your bag?

Technical clothing? Why? Do you wear such clothing in your daily life? Why are you wearing it where it's not the normal fashion? Why is your technical clothing so new, clean and freshly pressed?

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Mister E....One does what one is comfortable and feels secure with as a visitor or tourist. I got tourist written all over me. In France even more so, more blatant and far more obvious, much less so in Germany and Austria, quite the contrary there.

What you listed I don't do at all, except maybe putting my hand in my wallet pocket to cover my wallet to allay my paranoia feelings when I going through a crowd. I've not been to Barcelona, all I know is that the place has a reputation for pickpocketing similar to the Paris Metro. This time in Paris I wasn't concerned about being picked other taking taking the usual precautions. When I'm asked here why I have the hidden pocket and neck pouch on here, it's just force of habit.

Posted by
9009 posts

Yes, I do wear a messenger bag cross body all year round. I hate back packs and dislike getting constantly hit by them on the trains and in stores. The fact that you have to take them off any time you want something out of them and put it back on seems like way too much work.
As for the money belt, I don't feel it at all, and certainly don't touch it all day when out walking. Why would I?
Are the odds in my favor of not getting pick-pocketed? Sure, but who wants to be the one person who does? That is the same thing as not wearing a seat belt because there are a billion car trips a year and only 1000 people would be killed. Not much fun if you are in that 1000 #. That is some odd logic.
There is a reason why certain cities have a pick pocket reputation and it is not just guide book or forum hype.
Oh, and Turkey, as much as it wants to be, is not Europe. So I doubt I would end up in a German or French or Spanish prison because my passport is in my hotel and not on me. I follow the rules of the country and I do not need to have it on my person in Germany. If I did, that would be a huge pain, since I live here.

Posted by
18572 posts

@ Mister E....One does what one is comfortable and feels secure with as a visitor or tourist.

Absolutely agree Fred. I would never criticize anyone for doing what makes their trip more enjoyable. Of course what makes people feel comfortable is a result of the perception of reality. So I will argue reality a bit. But its all academic really doesnt matter if one is enjoying the trip.

Funny coincidence about an hour ago. I was in an outside cafe in Budapest and began talking with some Canadian tourists sitting next to me. I had already asked for my bill so my money clip and cell phone were both sitting on the table while i leaned backwards a bit to talk to the tourists. It occurred to me this thread. No, not a good habit in any location.

Posted by
3208 posts

My husband had his wallet removed from his jacket which he put on the back of his chair in a cafe here at home in 🇨🇦
My friend had an attempted pickpocketing in Rome till I screamed at the young girl to back off.
That same day I was scammed at an ATM.
I met a family from Russia who had been “had” in Florence, and had to go to Milan to get new passports.
I sat on a plane next to a woman whose husband put his backpack on the ground to look at a map in Rome.
Gone, when he looked up.
This is all within the last 8 years.
So yes, it does happen, it might happen, and I don’t want to be the person it happens to next!
Scoff if you like.

Posted by
6635 posts

Theft is a low-probability, high-consequence event, worth taking reasonable precautions to prevent. I find money belts uncomfortable so I wear a neck wallet with the important stuff. That's in Europe, Latin America, or Asia. Americans don't seem to have the manual dexterity to make much of a living as pickpockets. Maybe because we have so many guns that crooks don't need other skills.

Wayne, I'd say your zippered shirt front pocket should be safe enough, but your back pocket, zippered or not, might as well have a "steal contents" sign on it. Just keep your shirt on, stay aware of where you are and what's happening around you, and try to remember that a distraction by another person could be a set-up. And have a wonderful time in Paris. Since your post is three days old now, you must be there and hopefully still have all your possessions. ;-)

Posted by
203 posts

Pac-Safe and Travelon purses were all I would bring to Europe until recently. Now I bring regular leather handbags that go across my body with a small wallet that I hook to an inside pocket zipper. I keep my left hand on the bag. Traveling with luggage requires extra vigilance- on the Metro hang on my suitcase and stand between my bags and the door.
If I were a pickpocket, I would scrutinize those with "secure", visible accessories looking for points of vulnerability elsewhere on that tourist!

Posted by
892 posts

If I were a pickpocket, I would scrutinize those with "secure", visible accessories looking for points of vulnerability elsewhere on that tourist!

All a pickpocket has to do is look for the typical American male tourist with his fat wallet literally sticking out of the hip pocket of his baggy jeans - I see these guys all the time when I am in Europe, particularly in pickpocket hotspots like Paris, and I frankly am glad they offer a much easier target than I do, further decreasing any likelihood a would be pickpocket will bother with me...knock on wood, I have never had anything picked or stolen from me in over 40 years of travel, but I have always taken simple precautions that I first learned about prior to my first trip to Europe in the early 80s (probably read this stuff in the first Rick Steves book I bought back then, not sure)...

Posted by
14580 posts

"I see these guys all the time when I am in Europe, particularly in pickpocket hotspots like Paris...." How true and looking pretty clueless usually.

Posted by
12172 posts

Situational awareness solves a lot of issues. Keep your eyes open and anticipate issues. Don't use an outdoor ATM on an alley at night. If you're in a crowd, or crowded public transportation, be extra careful. Be ready for someone to stop at the bottom of a crowded escalator (as a hand from behind probes your pockets). It's okay to take a longer, lighted way back to lodging at night. If a crowd of kids surrounds you, or strangers approach you, be extra careful and clear out quickly.

Don't look or act like a target. Don't wear expensive jewelry or carry shopping bags from the Galeria. Even if you're completely lost, keep your game face on until you can get out of the crowd, find a place to sit and calmly consult a map/app to find yourself. Don't have so many things you can't keep track of them. Even if you're shopping, reduce your load to one bag so it's not easy to separate you from loose items.

I use a neck bag for things I don't want to lose (extra credit cards, passport, etc.). I keep it under my shirt, under an arm. I've tried money belts, knee wallets and others. I'm most happy with the neck wallet. I put cash for today and one credit card in a front pocket. If it gets crowded, I put my hand in my pocket.

Posted by
2764 posts

Pickpocketing is virtually non-existent here in the US; I don't know anyone here who has been pickpocketed here, but I know at least a dozen people who have been pickpocketed in Europe, usually a wallet lifted from a hip pocket. Easy pickings...

That’s because they’re just going to pull a gun and hold you up for what they want in the United States. Trust me, been there, done that, got the T-shirt. (and the police report ). I would be much happier if pickpocketing was our crime problem rather than out-of-control, gun violence.

As for these purses and phones on security cords so somebody can’t grab them. I’m playing the devils advocate. If somebody grabs a phone from you and it doesn’t come off your body and they drag you into the traffic and you’re hit by a car at least you still have your phone (that’s nice you’ll need it in the emergency room. ). And actually, I’ve never seen a slashing, and I’ve seen a grab once, and it was in Naples, and it was a guy on a motorcycle who grabbed something off a pedestrian. Yeah that person would have been drug on to the street if she locked her stuff to her body (oh, and by the way, she was a local)

I’m an early 60s solo female traveler who has never been pickpocketed. If I am they get €20 and one credit card. I’ll recover. If they steal my phone I’ll go to the Apple Store and buy a new one. Everything‘s backed up in the cloud.

I wear a money belt when I’m going between hotels or changing cities, etc. otherwise my valuables stay in the safe at the hotel and I have very little on me. Now I don’t do that at home, and I have actually had to spend time at home because I did lose my wallet (see paragraph 1). . It takes forever. I just don’t really want to spend a day of my limited vacation calling credit card companies, etc. etc. I travelled with a woman once who lost her passport between the airport and the train station. (We think she left it in the bathroom.) It took her a day at the US Embassy. So yes I probably am a little more cautious in Europe. Time is money as they say.

Posted by
40 posts

OK I started this thread and now I can advise……………WALKING NEAR THE Paris Eiffel Tower (from Bair Hackeim station to The tower) at night my friend in front of me got picked. Wallet and iPhone in front pockets. Two guys working together picked his front two pockets. He grabbed one a demanded his stuff. He dropped the iPhone and then offered to return. Started to walk away. We shouted police and ran toward him. He dropped the wallet.
I had zippered front pocket with wallet , no problem.
Learning value - the route from metro to Eiffel takes you through thickest crowd at night. It might be best to view from across the river. Also, open front pockets are as inviting as rear.

Posted by
18572 posts

Wane F, yup, welcome to Paris. One of my favorite places except for that.

My first trip decades ago now, the taxi from Nord was taking us on a joy ride so I made him stop and just let us out while I had money left. Sitting across the street from the arc de triomphe I felt a tug on my backpack, my now estranged wife pushed the young woman in the long skirt away before she actually got her hand in the backpack. The young woman simply laughed and walked slowly away.

The next morning at the Eiffel Tower we sat at a park bench just outside the footprint of the tower and watched the show. In the center directly under the tower two young women in long skirts were fighting, yelling and clawing at each other. Surrounding them were a hundred tourists. Surrounding the tourists were about a dozen young women in long skirts lifting the wallets of the distracted tourists. Surrounding the young women were a dozen French police officers armed with automatic weapons; like us, simply watching the show.

At the end one young woman in an skirt walked right past us as she pulled money out of a wallet and then tossed the wallet in the bushes behind us. The police officer a few feet away saw what we did. No action taken.

Like good real estate, its about location, location, location.

A few nights back I sat at an outside cafe with a few RS people in my adopted home town. Throughout the meal my phone sat on the table (looking around that was pretty common) and at the end of the meal my credit card sat on the table for a few minutes while waiting for the check. The exact same behavior that i practiced in my Texas home town. Not extremely prudent behavior, but not ultra high risk in either hometown. In Paris, in many neighborhoods, both would have been gone in seconds.

I do have a question. What do they do with Cell Phones? They can be traced, they can be wiped clean, they are generally protected by a pin and half the time they are locked for one carrier only. Seems like a lot of risk for not much reward? Or do I not know something?

Posted by
6364 posts

Sure, it’s rare, but does happen. We’ve been picked twice in the Paris metro, once when the station was almost empty! That was a “lesson learned” for me about how to carry my fully zipped daybag.

And we’ve had two attempts on Stan’s zipped and twist-tied day pack, once in Palermo (I have a good story about that one) and again just last week in an almost empty public men’s bathroom in San Sebastian! At the urinal, evidently. Now, that was bizarre.

Posted by
14175 posts

"Learning value - the route from metro to Eiffel takes you through thickest crowd at night. It might be best to view from across the river."

Actually, instead of getting off at Bir-Hakiem stop, my suggestion is to go to the Ecole Militaire Metro stop on the far end of the Champ de Mars which although is at a busy intersection is busy with a lot of folks who live in the neighborhood mixed with tourists but you are out in the open fairly quickly.

Jane!!!! Poor Stan, lol!

Posted by
6364 posts

Pam, yes! And when I urged him to tell the guide, he stammered, explaining what he was doing when the bag was tampered with. I’m sorry, but I did laugh. Imagine the police report had we needed to file one.

“And what were you doing at the time of the crime?” “Ummmm…”

Posted by
14175 posts

Oh Jane!!! The policeman's day might have been made by your report.

Posted by
40 posts

I AM NOW A TRUE BELIEVER
WALLET TAKEN AT PARIS MONTPARNESE STATION YESTERDAY.

Now I was following the typical recommendations. ALL identification, passports, auxillary credit cards in money belt. What was taken was one credit card and $75 euro in the wallet. When on the train, I immediately locked the card and cancelled later yesterday.
I was carrying the wallet in zippered closed right front pocket.

Learning value - Yes to money belt. I may use a front pacing Fanny pack for incidentals or carry some cash and card in the front pocket without wallet

Also, possible I was distracted by someone sitting in our seat on the train and then someone shoving past.

What I need to do is NOT LOSE MY LOVE FOR TRAVELLING AND PARIS OVER THIS!

Posted by
40 posts

We are passing back on Metro Saturday at 10 AM. gare Montparnese to Gare de Nord. All ID money in money belt and my wife’s inward facing front wearing pouch. But we have 3 carry ons.
We will get a taxi Vs the metro in view of incident. Appears to only cost about 25euro for the two of us.

Posted by
14580 posts

When I go from Gare Montparnasse to Nord, as I did a few times this trip, I don't use the Metro, I take bus # 91, a direct connection between these two stations. I wear the fanny/waist pack too.

Posted by
18572 posts

As much as I love Paris, I travel for relaxation and enjoyment and it appears that maybe Paris wont provide that any longer. Maybe it hasn't in many years. And the frustrating part is that it doesn't have to be so bad. I have watched the police watch the pick pockets and take no action to stop it or detain the criminals. A real shame.

Last night, in a different European city, I went out with a few local friends and we hit a couple of wine bars. What was universally evident was purses hung under the bar top and phones laying next to the drinks all night. No different than if I were home in the States. So, Paris isn't universal in Europe.

Posted by
5058 posts

Remember that RickSteves himself lost his wallet to pickpockets on the Paris Metro a few years ago!

Posted by
4174 posts

My favorite pickpocket story...

1983 on the Paris Metro. My friend Joan from Chicago and I are sitting on the little flip down seats next to an entrance door. My eyes were at about the same level as the purse of a fashionably dressed French woman. She's facing toward the door. It's very crowded, but a guy steps on right in front of her with his back to the doorway.

I see him start to open her purse and say in very loud and bad French, "Madame, votre sac!" She looks down, catches him trying to get her wallet and prevents that from happening along with a few choice words. He's busted and backs off before the doors close. She then thanks me profusely. I say, "Comment s'appelle la?" Her response? "Le pickpocket."

We got a good laugh out of that, but Joan admitted she would never have said anything for fear of being knifed by the guy. I didn’t grow up in a city like Chicago so I just reacted without thinking.

Pickpocketing may not be the oldest profession, but it's probably close. 😉

Posted by
2764 posts

I’m really sorry to hear people have decided they can’t go to Paris because of pickpocketing. I go every year - I’m going twice this year and this is not something that reduces my enjoyment or otherwise changes anything. I’ve never been pickpocketed but if I am they’re going to get €20 and a credit card.

I honestly don’t think pickpocketing is that much worse now then it was the first time I went to Europe, which was before the invention of the Internet. I think the big difference is the invention of the Internet. My first trip to Europe was a high school trip, and one of the chaperones got pickpocketed on the Madrid subway.

The Internet is great, but it also creates a culture of fear in my opinion. Pickpockets, bedbugs, riots, etc. Between the media sensationalism and social media Clickbait, it sounds like Paris and Europe are the most dangerous places in the world. When 90% of us actually live in the United States. - And as often say people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Posted by
40 posts

Your perception changes when you have been pickpocketed especially when you thought you were taking precautions. (Zipped front pocket, coat worn, use of money belt for back up cards, passport)
It has certainly increased my perception of the skill of these folks…….but also their targeting. An older American couple with smaller suitcase and backpacks……perfect target if they see some semblance of a bulge of a wallet.

I now plan on high security level when on public transport to the degree that my wife characterized as paranoid until it happened.
I recall a conductor on a Swiss train coming through indication she had found a tossed wallet in the trash, money gone but with credit cards.

I refuse to give up on personal European travel…….I AM ADMINISTRATOR OF A FACEBOOK GROUP TO SHARE DIY IDEAS PRE OR POST VIKING CRUISES and I don’t want to post something that SCARES folks from striking out on their own……..SO I’m search for what to tell my 1000 subscribers……..

I guess it is stow your wallet on arriving in Europe. Put one credit card and a little money in a zipped pocket with no bulge/no wallet.

Everything else to the money belt incl passports.

I may go with front worn pack with inward facing zipped portion for money and cards.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS?

PS Carol……totally agree that this is not a physical danger thing but at least for me a high probability of an issue if not prepared…………

Posted by
396 posts

Wayne it's 2023 not 1993, no one carries a wallet mate (well obviously you do or did).
If somebody wants to take your money, cards and passport ensure that they will have to physically assault you to do so.
No pickpocket wants confrontation.

Posted by
2145 posts

My neighbor Bob was in Malta in June, sitting on a pew in a cathedral. A man slipped into the pew and bumped Bob slightly, saying excuse me. Both sat there a while, and then the man left. When Bob stood up to leave, he realized that his wallet had been removed from his front zippered pocket. Those pockets are really no protection. But mostly I’m amazed at the brazenness of that pickpocket to lift the wallet & then stick around!

Posted by
892 posts

A man slipped into the pew and bumped Bob slightly, saying excuse me.

Somebody "bumps" into me, be it here in the US or abroad, I immediately assess if I have been picked...I honestly can't recall the last time anybody bumped into me anywhere, but because it is such a rare occurrence, I sure as heck take immediate note of it.

Posted by
14580 posts

I went to Paris the first time exactly 50 years ago as a backpacker, behind the backdrop of Nixon as president and Watergate, that stay of 5 full days forever hooked me on always going back to Paris and France, regardless how daunting it was, far more then than now. Then it was said Paris was a hot bed for pickpockets.

Twice prior to the 21st century I came close to being picked in the Paris Metro, ie, close means the attempt was frustrated, thwarted.

All the trips since 2001, re: getting picked , never happened. Never came even close on this trip 50 years later traveling as a senior citizen, the first post-pandemic trip, of a month or so in Paris and France, the last one was in 2018.

This time I made it a point of exploring the other train stations, St Lazare, Montparnasse, Lyon , Austerlitz (even exploring a few crowded , heavy-duty, Metro stations, eg, Chatelet , now that they have been refurbished, expanded, (except for Austerlitz, still underway), some of which I hadn't seen in years.

The crowds were certainly there in July and Sept. I have on only the waist belt worn below the pants belt , right up front, (even though I've been told personally that having the waist belt at all only invites the bad guys to that temptation, ... not interested..., the hidden pocket and that nuisance of a neck pouch,.... no zipped front or side pants pockets. I always carry cash, credit cards, (all 3) and the actual passport on me. The usual perfunctory precautions are enough.

Posted by
14580 posts

I do carry a wallet with some reserve cash in $ and Euro there too.

Posted by
1869 posts

I disagree with the idea that zippered pockets do not offer security. IMO completely adequate if you have the right ones.

Lululemon ABC pants the rear zippered pocket is tucked inside the regular rear pocket. A thief would have to reach inside your pocket, and then unzip,and then reach into the next pocket.

Ain't going to happen. You will notice that. At least i will. The pickpocket even if they wanted to would move on to a softer target.

Aviator travel pants set up similarly.

Also shirts with heavy pull zippered chest pockets are secure. Literally right under your. If you are conscious a pickpocket will move along.

All bets off if you forget to zip your zippered pocket!

And not all zippered pockets are created equal. Some are going to be much easier to manipulate than others.

Honestly I feel secure with my "day wallet" in a deep, tight-ish, carpenter style front pocket (aka not a vertical slash). Nobody is getting a hand way down my pants w/o me knowing. If people are crammed up against you in any situation for any reason just be strongly on guard and you will be fine with well-designed zippered pockets containing passport, big bills, back up cards etc.

Phone is a different matter if you use it actively and often like I do. I could see my phone getting boosted for sure! It steals my attention right when I need to be paying attention, and I can't break the habit of absent-mindedly setting it down when I need a free hand. I'm pretty sure one day it will take a vacation for me when I'm on vacation in Europe :)-

Posted by
1869 posts

I also disagree with the notion that a sturdy crossbody bag as a good place to store valuable essentials. Invites a rougher kind of robbery by generally more violent and robust thieves. Grab that strap, pull and spin, smash you to the ground. Grab that strap and get a knife or razor blade waaaay to close trying to cut it. Do it from the speeding moto etc.

If I used that sort of bag I'd want it to break away easily and wouldn't keep anything essentially in it.

Posted by
14580 posts

"...it sounds like Paris and Europe are the most dangerous places in the world." In regards to getting picked in Paris, the chances of that, etc, etc, I see that occurrence as a myth.

Posted by
4174 posts

I have a cousin who experienced something like Hank described:
"...a sturdy crossbody bag ... Invites a rougher kind of robbery by generally more violent and robust thieves. Grab that strap, pull and spin, smash you to the ground."

She was with other women (don't know how many) who asked her to carry their passports in her bag (don’t know why). She agreed (also don’t know why). My cousin is not a small woman. She's about 6' tall and at the time was young and strong.

They were going down the steps of Sacré-Cœur when a guy grabbed her cross-body bag and tried to pull it off her. He managed to get the strap over her head and almost knocked her down. She held onto the bag and fought him for it, but he succeeded in getting it away from her. I don't know what else was in the bag except maybe her personal stuff.

Speaking of personal stuff, I'm another person who never carries a wallet and wonders why anyone would, especially on a trip. I'd guess that many people carry many things in wallets that they don’t really need at home, much less in Europe.

I'm also a firm believer in carrying minimal cash (even less these days) and only one credit card, both securely but readily available and not together in the same place. I followed the advice to not put all my travelers checks in the same place on my first trip trip to Europe in 1977 and the concept stuck. I didn't take a wallet way back then, either.

I've never found a zippered pocket on my pants unzipped, but I have found zippers opened on two of my cross-body bags which are both quite small. Nothing was taken, probably because there was nothing there to take or because my movements thwarted the thieves. I certainly didn’t feel them do the unzipping. 🥴

Posted by
3000 posts

For me it's front pocket. A thief would have to first nearly sexually assault me to get to it. If in a crowd I simply put my hands in my pocket, which is not unusual when I'm walking anyway, and I have deep pockets. Easy sleazy as the saying goes.

Posted by
9009 posts

I have been wearing a cross body messenger bag for a couple of decades in Europe, mainly Germany, but I wear it in other countries too, including the USA. It zips across the top, then has a flap that goes over this that you can fasten at the bottom in 2 places. Pretty sure a pick-pocket can not get into this. I have seen bags pulled off of women before, but never one worn cross body. I have seen thieves opening back packs without the person noticing it until I yelled at the thieves.
No, I do not carry a wallet. In some cities, I do wear a money belt, including when I fly.

Violent crime with knives and such is such a rarity here, that it doesn't even cross my mind as something to watch out for. Does it happen? Probably, but not very often. Not often enough for me to worry about it.

Posted by
1514 posts

I think that one important factor in personal security is behaving in a very consistent manner. I don't want to wear a money belt or neck wallet. I have attempted to do this many times and just ended up carrying the money belt in my bag. If someone is going to physically, violently batter me to get my stuff, then they are going to have a good chance of winning. Otherwise, my system to thwart pickpockets has worked so far. I am at some risk of losing my phone just because I use it so often.

I wear on my body a Tom Bihn medium size cafe bag. The bag goes on my body prior to leaving the hotel room and doesn't come off until I am back in the hotel room. I wear it while seated at a restaurant, no problem. I carry my passport with me always. It resides in a leather case in a zippered compartment so it sits low in the bag. The compartment is under the bag's flap that has a click closure. The zipper is secured to the bag with a safety pin. I don't open that zipper when I am out unless I need to show my passport, which is seldom. If that happens I do not walk from that spot until everything is put back in place. I have two Tom Bihn "wallets" which are zippered, flat containers with clear plastic on one side so I can see the contents. They are clipped inside my bag. I have money and cards split between the two of them (again, always a particular item is always kept in the same pouch). When I am paying at a busy counter, the pouch stays clipped so it can't be left behind. I try to always make sure everything is put back before walking away. I recall once, however, where I didn't do that, so the pouch was hanging on the outside of my bag, but under the flap that I did have clicked close, so no disaster happened. I usually put my phone in the outer flap of the bag, but if I get into a crowded space I put it into the main section of the bag. Again, this is where I might let myself down, but so far, so good.

Posted by
3243 posts

I use travelon or pac safe bags all the time at home and away. I love their organization, particularly. I have learned to not take my crossbody bag off anywhere, but at home/hotel. I don't understand all the warnings about don't hang your purse on the back of chairs. Who does that? Crazy. It's just on me, always. Could I get attacked to have it manhandled off of me or me dragged along? Um, possibly...anything is possible. However, I'm thinking that's extreme and unlikely, but I'm willing to risk that or will, more likely, just let it go. I like the secure zippers which protect me from pickpockets, but more importantly from myself. I'm like Vandabrud in my system. I don't want to lose it.

I've been traveling, often alone, since 1975. (Wow!) It was only after reading this site that I got into money belts (leg wallet) but I've recovered. I just separate my stuff and move on. That's not to say I won't use a money belt or such for organization, but it is not an absolute by any means. All my organization is to fight my absent mindedness or distraction, not pickpockets. Be organized and know where you stuff is. My husband keeps his travel wallet in his front pocket in that zipped inner pocket. When there are people around, he will put his hand in his pocket. Also, separate your items so they don't get it all. I do keep a credit card, PP card and debit card in my hotel room as backup...or in a separate zipped pocket.

In 2000 I brought my daughter (15) and step daughter (30) to Italy. At the gate in Boston, my step daughter pulled her money belt out of her purse and waved it around. "I have my money belt". I told her it wouldn't do any good in her purse. She put it on. Hours later as we were leaving Termini station in Rome, I saw she had the RS book in one hand and her purse in the other. Classic mark. At that moment, I thought I am not going to nag this 30 year old all over Italy, so I let her leave in that fashion. We weren't even across the street when she'd been surrounded by little old ladies and her purse opened by them, spilling the contents. A handsome young man then helped her pick up her stuff and asked her if she had her money. She patted her stomach. I imagine, he was looking where she had her money. All they got was her address book (no idea why she had that. LOL). Anyway, it is a fun story. My point is just thinking a bit will keep you from being a mark. She was an obvious mark. Other than that story, I've never seen a pickpocket. In fact, I never saw the old ladies as she was behind us. When we rest on park benches, my H and I have often looked for pickpockets in the crowds. We don't see them.

Amidst my verbosity, I am trying to say, have a system and stick to it, whether at home or in other countries. Pickpockets are not everywhere or swarming. You will be fine. Just try not to be absentminded.

Posted by
545 posts

My husband resisted the idea of a money belt until he was pickpocketed some years ago. He was walking through a busy outdoor market in broad daylight in a nice neighborhood when his wallet was removed from his front pocket. He neither saw nor felt anything suspicious. Losing cash was unfortunate. Worse was dealing with stolen credit cards and his driver's license. Fortunately we had all the information (card numbers and emergency telephone numbers for outside the USA) needed to "freeze" each of those cards. We also had emergency replacement available on one card but the company required us to file a police report and then provide the company with a copy. Filing a police report in a foreign country when you don't speak the language was an adventure all by itself. The emergency replacement card was guaranteed within 48 business hours. The theft occurred on a Friday and Monday was a local holiday so we were without a credit card for a few days. We were due to leave our hotel Saturday, purchase train tickets to travel to our next destination, then pick up a rental car, and check into our next hotel. All those transactions required a credit card and the car rental company wanted to see my husband's now missing international driver's license. I had my driver's license and we had used a credit card to reserve the car. However, the rental company wasn't accepting my US driver's license and of course the credit card we used to reserve the car was no longer active. Again, not speaking the local language undoubtedly made all this more difficult and convoluted than it would have been in our own country. The moral to the story is that we lost money and valuable vacation time dealing with an avoidable and very frustrating situation.

Since that event, we travel with money belts to secure passports, credit cards and larger amounts of cash. A small fabric money belt worn correctly just below the waistline is not uncomfortable and it can be opened discretely if absolutely necessary. We divide cash and credit cards between us and we each carry information about the other's credit cards. As others have suggested, we keep smaller amounts of cash or a single credit card more accessible for each day. My husband usually has his wallet zipped into the interior pocket of a jacket. Pickpockets are looking for easy opportunities to steal when someone is busy or distracted. To me, a simple money belt provides an easy way to protect my valuables while I'm out and about.

Posted by
1869 posts

Violent crime with knives and such is such a rarity here, that it
doesn't even cross my mind as something to watch out for. Does it
happen? Probably, but not very often. Not often enough for me to worry
about it.

Ms. Jo I think you're completely right. That said, in my younger days of European travel, I've been threatened with a knife three times. Amsterdam, Barcelona 2x. Of course I was rolling through the scummiest areas of town. Back then in all cases my first impulse was to arm myself (a couple of bricks, a big Opinel picnic knife) and say all right then, let's see what you got today. They all seemed quite surprised and backed off, but so stupid! I grew up in a bit of a fighty culture, which in retrospect doesn't really serve one so well.

Only one altercation in Germany, fist fight against neo Nazis on the Berlin metro in 1989. They were picking on a squat punk who we'd made friends with a couple days earlier. No weapons, thank goodness.

I totally agree with you though that Europe is generally safer from strong arm violent crime with weapons than the US. One does have to keep their head up in my home city unfortunately.

Still, nowadays when I travel in Europe, I tend to favor smaller places. I've seen all the big places plenty, and when I'm on vacation lately, the less I have to think about what various dirtbags might or might not be up to the better 🙂

Posted by
1514 posts

I am sure there is also a non-zero number of people that think they were pick-pocketed that just simply lost their stuff instead.

Posted by
1869 posts

Vandabrud I had the exact same thought.

I know I've done it before - misplaced things when traveling and been like oh no I got ripped off. If I didn't then find the things and realize I was just an airhead, I would have continued forward with the idea that there were some really slick thieves in the area.

Posted by
18572 posts

Hank I am going to guess that is a significant portion of it. That and people pulling out their wallet when they pull their hand out of their pocket. Except in Paris where the pick pockets are so gifted that they can unzip a pocket, put their hand 4 inches down your thigh and pull out a fat American wallet without being noticed.

Posted by
40 posts

I added the following to the Viking travel forum on Facebook I am administrator of;

In many European cities but particularly Prague, Paris, Rome around crowded tourist spots, subways, train stations.

BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS if you go out on your own. Carry extra credit cards and passport in a money belt. DO NOT CARRY A WALLET. Instead carry some bills and one credit card in a zipped front pocket. Wallets in even zipped pockets are a target (these folks are very good) An alternative is using a front facing fanny pack with zipper that faces the body (my wife smartly used this)
DON’T BE PARANOID. No risk of physical danger and if you follow these precautions you will be fine!

Posted by
1869 posts

If a front zip pocket can supposedly be unzipped and robbed unnoticed as one moves through a train station, how does the front zip fanny pack do better? The zipper is in roughly the same area, but farther away from the body and so less sensitive to touch. It seems like it would be easier to get in the front zip fanny pack then a front zip pocket, not harder.

Plus a front zip fanny pack is clipped on the back. Seems easy enough for a pick pocket to do a bump/jostle excusez-moi, squeeze the clip, walk away with the entire thing. With zippered pockets no one is walking away with your pants.

I'm curious actually, because I see a lot of fanny packs worn to the front. Anybody ever had one stolen? It seems pretty easy but for some reason I doubt it ....

Posted by
454 posts

Hank, I think the advice was to wear the fanny pack reversed so its zipper is up against your body not facing outward. Actually a pretty good idea, I’d say, if you’re up to wearing a fanny pack.

Posted by
14580 posts

I go everywhere on my own, (Paris, Vienna, France) day or night (until 10:00 PM or so.) as I did on this trip. True, about the fanny/waist belt. One sees them almost everywhere in Germany and in France.

I wear that waist belt facing outward, obviously, below the pants belt as it's supposed to be worn, have been doing that on every trip since since 2001, never ran into getting picked, even in crowded Montmartre this time. One is most vulnerable standing in Metro train packed like sardines/herring but some of that can be avoided by taking the bus as the paper Metro ticket is valid , ie basically familiarizing yourself to the numerous bus lines. Almost exclusively the bus passengers are locals, some European tourists, no Americans.

Re: the wallet....it just would not feel right if it wasn't on me.

Posted by
9009 posts

Waist packs are worn with the pack in front, not in back. Mostly people are wearing them cross body and not around the waist at all.
Do be aware that in the UK and a few other countries, using the word fanny will cause giggles as that is a slang term for something completely different. Use hip pack, waist belt, urban belt, etc.