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Pickpockets/Paris/France

Hello,
I am a 77yr old woman planning a solo trip to France in Sept-Oct. I will be staying in Paris 4-5 days then traveling by rail for 2-3 weeks in France, returning to Paris for a day or two. I have just read on virtual tourist about the aggressive pickpocketers in Paris. Other than stealing my possesions my fear is being jostled and I fall. Also how safe is it for me to walk to Sacre Coure in the evening for the view and then back to my room in the Latin Quarter? Or any of the nightly events? I read that Nice has the same problems. What about the other areas of France?

Posted by
32152 posts

Marian, It's definitely a good idea to consider pickpockets in Paris, as they DO work the main tourist areas (including the area in front of the Mona Lisa). Their tactics typically rely on "stealth" more than "brute force", and the victim may not even be aware that they've lost their wallet. I've never noticed them being particularly "aggressive". Your concern about falling is valid, and I'd suggest wearing good quality, well broken-in and stable shoes, as the cobblestones and uneven surfaces also present somewhat of a "tripping hazard". Be sure you have good medical insurance! I've found that walking in Paris in the evenings has been quite safe, but the risks for a somewhat "larger" male are different than in your case. I'm sure some of the ladies here will be able to provide some good tips. I'd suggest walking with a sense of confidence and be wary of any "distractions" occurring around you. Hopefully you'll be packing along a copy of the France Guidebook, as there's lots of good information there. I haven't found any particular problems in Nice or other parts of France. There will likely be pickpockets and "scammers" in ANY areas where tourists congregate. Be sure to wear a Money Belt! Hope you have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
9110 posts

For Paris, I wouldn't worry about safety, etc. What would give me a bit of concern for you is the distance. It's a good three miles each way with the last half mile going up a pretty/very steep hill. Sunset will be at about seven-thirty and full dark about an hour an a half later.

Posted by
23105 posts

All the discussions about pickpockets/theft must be put in perspective. The people who have had problems are quicker and more likely to post their problems giving you the impression that everybody has problems. Pickpocketing and petty theft is a greater problem in Europe than the US but the vast majority of tourists will have no problems. And you will nearly zero problems is you take some precautions. Use a money belt or some other method to secure you valuables under your clothing and out of site and reach by anyone - including yourself. If you have to carry a purse, make it small with nothing of value in it other than maybe a few Euro for the day. My wife stopped carrying a purse a number of years but we do carry a small day bag with a few things. Then be very much aware of what is happening around you. Walk and look confident. I don't the pickpocket are any more aggressive than any other major cities in Europe. We are only seven years younger and have spent nearly a year in Europe over the past 18 years and have never had a pickpocket problem.

Posted by
9329 posts

We've spent 6 mos in Paris in the past 10 yrs and never had a problem with pickpockets, nor saw anyone else have any problems. It does happen, but no more than anywhere else, including the US, in my opinion. It is highly unlikely you would be jostled if you were to be pickpocketed - more likely, you will never know it happened until you discovered whatever they took is gone. Physical violence in Paris is extremely, extremely rare and I've never heard of it happening to a tourist. Now San Francisco, where I live a few miles north of, it's all too common involving tourists, unfortunately. Follow Frank's advice and I think you'll be fine.

Posted by
10028 posts

We've had a few cases over the years. My (French) husband caught a girl behind him on the escalator at a shopping mall in Nice trying to get his wallet, which she would have then handed to the girl behind her. I caught a guy trying to stick his hand in my purse. My son had other kids try to take his Walkmam on the metro, which tells you how long ago that was. A friend who lived in the 10th had her purse snatch by guys on a scooter Italian style. I watched a student being jumped by other young people for his wallet at 4 pm on a Saturday at Concorde metro. I thought they were friends jostling him. But then in the US, my husband was attacked and almost killed in Los Angeles coming home with ice cream for the family, while kids tried to knock the same son off his new bike and steal it in Berkeley years ago. That said, each case in France could have been avoided--be cautious on escalators. Keep your bag across your body instead of on one shoulder and never carry it on the shoulder nearest the street. As for the Walkman and guy at Concorde, kids are more likely to jump other kids than tourists. On the other hand, the two cases in the States were violent, much more dangerous, and couldn't have been avoided unless you refuse to ever leave your house or ride your bike in a public area.

Posted by
3 posts

First I had a slip of the finger, I am 67 not 77! So sorry about that. I have traveled to Paris numerous of times 20-30 years ago but I don't remember the pickpocket or gypsy situation. I did have some encounters with gypsies in Italy and Spain walking and on the trains but they were easy to shoo off way back when. My concern is when I have my one piece of carry on luggage on the metro from the airport to city center. That is where I heard that you can be pushed at the turnstile to distract you and run off with your belongings. That is where my fear of falling is because I do have a slight equilibrium problem. Then there are the electronic thieves. After reading warnings about using ATM's or having your info scanned with readers I am leary of taking credit cards or debit cards. Would it be wiser to take only pre-paid credit cards loaded with$1,000 each instead of bottom less cc's? I would really like to take the evening walks to see the lights at the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and from the boat ride. Is it safer to walk on the main blvd or to take the metro?
Thank you all so much for your responses I am starting to get my confidence back after reading the danger sites.

Posted by
1806 posts

Marian: As for being worried about having your ATM or credit card info captured by thieves, I would suggest you only use ATMs that are affiliated with a physical bank while in Europe, and get cash from an ATM only during banking hours. Before you leave, you will need to make sure your Texas bank knows that you will be travelling in Europe by giving them the dates of travel and telling them what countries you will be visiting. This way, the bank/credit card company does not think there is any fraudulent activity taking place on your card when you make a purchase or a withdrawal. As for "bottomless credit cards", most cards that have unauthorized purchases made on them after they are lost or stolen will only hold you responsible for about $50 once you report the loss/theft. The magnetic strips on U.S. credit cards can be a hassle at some places in Europe as they are using a chip & pin system over there. Mostly the hassle is at ticket kiosks and self-serve gas stations. I have been to Paris several times travelling solo and have never felt unsafe walking around or taking public transit late at night. Do stick to walking on the busy, well-lit streets. Sacre Coure is a very long walk back to the Latin Quarter. If you aren't comfortable with taking the Metro at night alone, I would suggest you get a taxi or take a bus back to your hotel. As for taking the train from CDG into Paris, everytime I have done that I have always seen a lot of police hanging around near the ticket windows and kiosks out by the airport. Unless you are heavily loaded down with bags and the police are MIA, I don't think you will have any problem being jostled at the turnstile.

Posted by
977 posts

Marian. Have you considered booking an organised Paris by Night Tour? That would solve all your problems.

Posted by
23105 posts

Marian, where are you getting all of this wonderful, scary information? You are reading/listening to the wrong people. Yes, everything you have mentioned could and probably has happen to someone in Europe and probably in Dallas. A commonly reported problem is cutting open you bag as you carry it -- of course, it always happens to a friend of friend of a cousin's best friend. Recently someone posting a question asking for people to response if that had directly happen to them. No one responded with direct experience but a couple posters said to happen to friends of friends. Sure, there are credit card scams - my credit card was recently taken in downtown Denver - but it is rare. But for us we use almost all cash via a debit and ATM which limits the risk to the credit card. We have been hitting Europe since 72 and I personal don't feel that a lot has changed with regard to pickpockets. In those days we had to carry huge batch of travelers checks. Fortunately those days are gone. Let me give one more thing to really worry about. The greatest risk for personal injury to you will occur on the drive to the airport. Yet you don't think twice about it. Use the same level of precautions that you would use going to Houston or New York and you will be fine. Relax, you are not entering a den of thieves.

Posted by
9329 posts

Paris is very, very safe - much safer than Dallas, Houston, NYC and SF. I agree with Frank, pickpockets are not more of a problem than they were in the 70's when I lived there. I have never been jostled going through the doors (I don't recall ever seeing turnstyles) with or without luggage in the Metro. The only time I've been jostled in the Metro is when the Metro cars are packed liked sardines with people. Just wear a money belt, as Frank said previously. I feel very safe alone at night everywhere in Paris in the 1st through the 16th arrondissements. In the Sacre Coeur area, I would feel less comfortable at night. I always have my ATM card with me and use it all the time in Europe. Have never had a problem and I don't believe there is any greater risk of a problem there, than here in the US. I agree with others, relax. You are physically safer there than here.

Posted by
1035 posts

Marian, you should consider taking the Roissy Bus from CDG to Paris. It is an express shot, full of other tourists. Very nice and clean bus with lots of room for luggage. It drops you in central Paris at Opera. From there you can walk underground to the metro or catch a cab. The cab fares from there to most places are pretty reasonable. I think you will find this a much lower stress option than trying to figure out the RER/Metro as soon as you land.

Posted by
1357 posts

I'd second the recommendation for the bus. I don't like taking my luggage on the subway if I can avoid it. I feel like it makes me more of a target. When my husband got pickpocketed in Prague years ago, it was getting on the subway with luggage. Moneybelts are always a good idea. I carry a small purse when I travel, and only keep my money for the day, along with things like chapstick, bandaids, and tissues. If you're worried about being jostled, I'd also avoid the metro during rush hour.

Posted by
10028 posts

The bus is an excellent suggestion. In fact, Air France runs buses directly to several different areas of Paris (Invalides, Champs Elysee, etc.), in addition to the Roissy Bus to the Opera area.

Posted by
719 posts

Hello Marian,
While you're being very prudent to be wary of pickpockets, you should be fine if you take a few precautions. First wear your money belt! This will virtually eliminate any chance of a pickpocket. And they're pretty stealthy, so they're unlikely to know you over when they perform the act (again, money belt = no attempt). As for getting bumped at the turnstile and running off with your belongings? I've never heard of this happening to anyone, although I suppose it's possible. If you look confident while you walk, you're less likely to be targeted. As for the credit card, I would take a "bottemless" one, since you will have liability protection, and often will have 24h replacement anywhere in the world (again, money belt = ....). If you see a sketchy guy watching you at the ATM, then move to a different one, and let him know that you noticed him (obvious look vs. confronting him). Again, unlikley to happen. Travel aware but unafraid and you'll have a great time. I like the idea of a night tour, too, by the way.

Posted by
2315 posts

I agree with the bus versus Metro. I thought it was very safe to walk around Paris, just be smart, do the things you would in Austin, not walk down side streets at midnight, etc. and you will be fine.

Posted by
12 posts

I'm an American living in Paris. I don't want to panic anyone but pickpocketing has become more frequent and aggressive in recent months, especially on the metro. I have had more friends than I can think of who have had their phones (usually iphone) grabbed out of their hands while using them. So a word to the wise: keep your smartphones in your pocket while using public transportation or while in busy/crowded public spaces. Also, tragically a young woman recently died when a pickpocket fleeing the metro bumped into her while running up a flight of stairs - she fell, hit her head and died. I have been warning my kids ever since to hold the railing and stay close to the wall when going up and down the stairs of the metro. There has also been a lot of theft in local parcs from bands of gypsies. Just be on the lookout for them and keep your bags close to your body when in high tourist areas. Marian: the walk from the Latin Quarter to Sacre Coeur is quite far. I'm at least a generation younger than you and I personally wouldn't do it! Take a bus from the Latin Quarter to the right bank and then a connecting bus to Montmartre. The bus system in Paris is very good and efficient! Enjoy your stay!

Posted by
141 posts

I used to take the bus or other public transportation from the airport to my hotel. After being awake for almost 24 hours straight, feeling a bit disoriented and traveling by myself, now I budget for the luxury of a taxi cab to my first hotel. It's not that public transportation is unsafe - it's just that I'm tired, not as alert as I'd like to be and I don't convey my usual air of confidence at this time. This is a luxury for me that is worthwhile. Once I've checked into my hotel - it's public transportation all the rest of the time. The walk from Sacre Coure to the Latin Quarter is a long walk - you may wish to shorten the walk by using public transportation.

Posted by
360 posts

Marian, I'm also in my late 60s and have been traveling to Paris by myself for about 25yrs. I take the Roissy bus into Paris & then transfer to the metro for the remainder of my trip. It's easy & has never been crowded when I've been on it. I usually have the hotel arrange a shuttle to get back to the airport. I did take the RER once & was approached by someone 'wanting to be helpful.' I was uncomfortable but not afraid. The RER involves a lot of walking which is something to think about. My wallet was taken out of my purse by a pickpocket (in London eons ago). I never knew it at the time - they don't want you to know it! I carry a small crossbody bag with only the days money in it. My atm & charge card remain in my moneybelt or the room safe if I have one. I've never stayed anywhere & not had an ATM very close by. I get money either before I start for the day or later after returning to the hotel. I take out the card before leaving my room, get my money, & return to the room where I can put everything away again. I get as much as I can each time. I'm xtra careful because I'm by myself & the ATM is my only source for money. As insurance, I also bring my husband's card, but I've never had to use it. I walk around at night by myself. I'm not fond of the area around Sacre Coure - I'd suggest going earlyish & taking the metro as you'll probably have been walking all day. But as long as there's lots of people around, you'd probably be comfortable by yourself. I stay in a quiet area & sometimes get spooked because there's no one out but me & the occasional passerby. I love Paris & it's beautiful after dark.

Posted by
1170 posts

Doesn't anyone take a taxi anymore? If one is so concerned about being mugged or pickpocketed, just spend the money and take a taxi (to and from) and then you won't have to worry about anything but the taxi driver. Problem solved. You're welcome.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks to all of you for your responses, I am so happy to have found this site and reading all the first hand experience. You have all given me much information to help me with the logistics of it all. Ken, thank you for the info on insurance. I am still working and I checked with my company, I am covered out of the country. Interesting to find out that Medicare does not provide coverage. This was a surprise to me. Ceidleh, thanks for the details with ATMs. Definitly will use your suggestion. Judy, night tours, of course didn't think about them. Definitely are on my list. Frank, you sound like my husband he always says it is more dangerous to drive to the airport than to fly. We don't want to get into my fear of flying! Taking the bus, I like that idea and will probably take the bus because it sounds so much easier not to mention perhaps safer. For those of you that sent private messages with your suggestions and experiences, I really do appreciate it all. It is good to hear that other older women, even the married ones like myself are out traveling and exploring!! I don't mean to leave anyone out but all your comments, suggestions and ideas are going to be well taken especially since they come from those in the know!!
I am more confident now and will definitely have a great time.

Posted by
295 posts

We spend 8 weeks each summer in Europe. We started in 1975 and I have never been pickpocketed; I use the Rick Steves money belt that fastens to your belt flips into your pants. Returned last night from 3 weeks in Berlin and 5 weeks in Lyon. We took a side trip to Paris for 4 days and (at last) went up the Eiffel Tower. When I purchased the tickets for the upper landing I left my money belt out for about two minutes. Two minutes! In that time they unzipped it and got the 100 Euros I had in it, but I had some kind thieves who left all my credit cards and ID (the passports I always leave in the apartment safe). We could afford the loss and thought it an interesting and enlightening travel experience. Remember: they can unzip your money belt in seconds without your even feeling it and clean you out. Make sure you have it with the zipper facing inward if you wear one that goes around your neck.

Posted by
9088 posts

Dennis you weren't using your money belt properly. It's not meant to be used as a wallet, and rule number one is that it should never be accessed in public areas. If you need to take cash out do so in private like in a bathroom.

Posted by
10028 posts

@ Dennis WOW
@ Michael, I'm a bit behind on this but could you explain what a money belt is for exactly and how to use it. I bought one for each of us for going to Anatolia, but it seemed like too much trouble to use. We left them in the suitcases. What goes in them? I put my passport and bills. How can you pay for items if you should open it only in private. You can PM me if you want. Bets

Posted by
23105 posts

In all my postings about using money belt I always use the phrase - properly worn money belts. Also I frequently state, If it is easy for you to get to, it is easy for someone else to get to. Love it !!! Dennis just proved my point in spades. His comments are now a part of the class handouts that we do from time to time in our travel course. A money belt is NOT a hidden wallet. Cheap lesson at a 100E. Bets, have you not followed any of the near other daily discussions about money belts? A money belt is like a safety deposit box. You don't get money out of it every time you buy an ice cream cone. I have all my extra cash, back up credit/debit cards and other critical items in the pouch. I wear it under my clothes and in the small of my back above the waist line. Very comfortable and not noticeable. We both wear shirts and pants with secure pockets. In one pocket is my cash for the day, another pocket a credit card, and a third pocket generally my passport. If I need cash, I will have the debit card in a pocket but otherwise it is in the money belt. Remember pickpockets are not random, you will be observed, and set up 90% or more of the time. That way, if I am observed all they see is one credit card, or a small amount of bills in a secured pocket. Not an attractive target. I am sure they were very happy when the saw Dennis exposed money belt and a 5 second distraction was that they needed.

Posted by
9088 posts

With a money belt one still uses a regular wallet/purse....you keep just a day's spending money, and perhaps one credit card if you have multiple cards. This way if you're robbed your losses are minimal and won't ruin your trip. Money belts don't prevent one from being robbed....it just minimizes the loss to a day's spending money. Money belt 101: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/moneybelt.htm

Posted by
10028 posts

Thanks Frank and Michael. You do a better job explaining it than the website because the website never states that you keep your daily money and one card handy. Got it now.

Posted by
1068 posts

Marian - you are getting lots of good advice, and probably no need for me to chime in, but.... I think you may have been reading VERY SCARY stuff and gotten yourself into a bit of a tailspin. My mother (76) and her sister (69) traveled to Paris a couple of years ago and did not have problem ONE. Neither has an equilibrium problem, but my mother was almost 10 years your senior, and her sister is rather portly (well, OBESE) - enough to make her look like she might be an easy mark. They did what you're being encouraged to do - not worry, enjoy themselves, and take sensible precautions. Don't flash money or ATM cards around. Be aware of your surroundings. Use a money belt - and wear it properly. (I hate to say it, as I am part of the anti-money-belt crowd, but I have read enough on this board to think it would be a great option for you, as long as you do it the RS Approved way.) I will echo what others have said - if you are by some horrible chance pickpocketed, you will likely not know until later - or at least until after it has happened and the pickpocket has fled. That's how they do it - by stealth. Remember "Oliver?" And please try and stay positive! I hate to think of you trembling in fear and looking around you anxiously the entire time you are in Paris. It is a WONDERFUL CITY. It is glorious. It is friendly. You will LOVE it. But you should concentrate on (1) doing your homework on less frightening websites and then (2) RELAX. Happy travels! Oh - and YES, the bus is an awesome idea. It seems always to be filled with elderly folks and kiddies, and you can sight-see while you are traveling!

Posted by
73 posts

The most common pickpocketing scheme we encountered in Paris two years ago and that my teenage daughter encountered in April was a woman (usually of Indian or Gypsy descent) coming up and asking if we spoke English. The intent was to get us to read a pamphlet or something and while we were doing that, her companions would steal whatever they could. We were wise to the scheme and did not even respond to the question, and they left us alone. If you look confident, rather than clueless, you should be fine.

Posted by
588 posts

My travel partner wa pick pocketed on the Metro on day 2 in Paris. She had a cross body bag and small one. She usually kept her hand on her bag but when the train started it jerked and she had to crab the both with both handsl A quick hand unzipped the top pocket and took her change purse. Not many euros but one credit card. Thanks to my iPhone we were able to connect to her bank and stop all transactions. Always keep the zippered side inside next to your body. Across the body bag is better than Rick's day bag where zippers are exposed and easily accessed.

Posted by
2091 posts

@ Audrey: Rick's day bags (actually any bags) are no problem if padlocks are used. Moneybelts are also a way to keep credit cards safe which is where mine are whenever I take the metro.