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Don't be afraid of pickpockets in Europe

Just returned on Saturday from two weeks in Europe starting in Rome, then Venice, Lucerne, Paris and London. After reading many different websites about my trip for over 6 months I was almost paralyzed with fear about pickpockets and gypsies ruining my vacation. Off I went to Europe with my tripled locked Travelon handbag, waistbelt for my husband and spare neck wallet just in case. Taking photos of passports and credit cards and being generally paranoid.

Then I got off the plane in Rome was was picked up by Rome Chauffeurs and off we went on a wonderful vacation where we had a great time. By the end of the trip, I only had main section of my handbag with the security latch on, leaving the two outside pockets for other things like my glasses and lipstick. Just keep my credit card for the day and some cash in the middle with my phone.
We travelled on the dreaded Rome subway, the Paris metro and RER lines, dared to travel through Gare Du Nord, went to the Eiffel Tower and the Colesseum and NOTHING HAPPENED. I never felt nervous or threatened.

The key to everything was being aware, being prepared and being alert. We got lost, we didn't worry. We just had fun. We met lovely people in every city. The French were very nice to us as we made a small effort to speak a few words to them.

I was very worried about what to wear. Here is a tip: wear whatever you want. No one cares what you are wearing. Are you comfortable? Then you will be fine. I saw all kinds of fashion styles everywhere. Lots of Converse sneakers, ripped skinny jeans and scarves. I am 53 years old. I had a great trip. Be prepared by reading up on how to avoid pickpockets. Don't be paranoid. Just be sensible and have fun. Enjoy!!!

Posted by
18823 posts

This must have been tragically disappointing for you. You expect gangs of thieves and instead find friendly, happy people. I know, I guess it happens to everyone who spends too much time on forums, or reading the police blotter in the local newspaper. Reality can be so refreshing. Our best experience in Paris was running into the ring scam twice! Talk about laughs.

Posted by
7897 posts

I'm with you about the people in Paris. The more you smile, the nicer they are back to you.
That gentleman in the Paris Subway that tripped at the bottom of the escalator was so nice after we piled on top of him. He pointed to my billfold on the ground and in perfect English said, "Is that your's?" There was nothing missing except a little U.S. currency.
We couldn't even get the Information Booth people in the Gard du Nord to speak English.

Now, I carry nothing in any pockets. The billfold is gone, and my 1 credit card is hidden. When we're in cities famous for pickpockets, we're overly observant. When we get into tight places like escalators, my wife walks close behind me. Heaven knows she carries nothing worth stealing. And if anyone gets into my space, I'm now a complete jerk. And at 6'3" and 230 lbs., nobody messes with me.

Posted by
11503 posts

I totally agree one should not be paralyzed with fear over pickpockets or thieves.. but just today a post was on one of my forums.. a lady had her suitcase taken while buying tickets at train station.. and she was very surprised.. she had never been on forums before and had not read a lot of warnings.. to her loss unfortunately .
So there is a balance.. be prepared.. keep your stuff secure .. but also relax.. remember regular local people live in these cities too.. and they all aren't running about with purses with metal bar straps etc..

I also agree that when it comes to what to wear.. wear what is comfortable and hides dirt.. lol

Posted by
524 posts

We started out very concerned, also, and relaxed more as time went on. I think once you're prepared, then you realize you are no longer a target and can relax. DH wore a waist wallet the entire time and I had my Travelon bag locked at all times worn cross body. As we walked in a crowd, my hand was setting even on that. I never took it off even at a nice restaurant...I would keep it on my lap, and the strap around my lowe back. We would never take our hands off our suitcases. I think the key is knowledge and once you have that you're good.

Posted by
3134 posts

kgreenoz, I agree with you, paranoia is overly stressed on this website, and probably others. Large cities in Europe are no different than any large city in the US. We have pickpockets in touristy places as well, but a lot of Americans don't go to the touristy places in their home town or to major cities...or I don't think there would be this type of discussion. So they go to Europe and are afraid and have no common sense. There is no reason to be afraid or overly paranoid when traveling , but just aware, as one should be at home. I've used my security radar more in the USA than in Europe. Granted, in Europe I try to not wave my tourist flag around, but on occasion I do without intending to do so. At home I would never hang my purse on the back of a chair, sit my suitcase out of sight, etc. so I certainly wouldn't do it anywhere else. If in a crowd, I will rest my hand on my purse and keep my daily money easily accessible on the outside of my purse, but close to me. I have a pacsafe that I used for commuting on the subway. I like it for its organization more than security, because it fits so much in a small space, but on a crowded subway, I have, on occasion, locked it so I have two hands to hold on. I travel to Europe, and I think I took it once. What I'm saying is, this behavior for watching one's belongings should be an everyday behavior if one lives in any kind of interesting environment, but it should not be talked about as if something bad is inevitable and you need to go overboard to isolate oneself. Isolation is boring. Enjoy the scams; i.e., ring, bracelet…challenge them at their own game, I do. And any man that carries their wallet in their pocket, IMO, is asking for trouble, because it's easy pickings (still working on my DH as he's moved it to his front pocket). And David, if you only had some cash taken why isolate yourself from now on by being a jerk…your words…just shift you wallet, step out of your bubble, and enjoy any future attempt! Wray

Posted by
2560 posts

I act like I do when I venture from my little town of Alameda into the hustle and bustle of downtown San Francisco--heightened awareness of my surroundings but certainly not in full purse-clutching mode. On my trips to big cities in Europe I realized that the locals are out and about with open tote purses and such and seem totally unconcerned, which leads me to the conclusion that traveller paranoia is due to the fact that if we lose our money and cards it's going to be a big hassle to replace and could potentially ruin a trip.

Posted by
9 posts

Lovely, joyful description of your experience. Thanks!

Posted by
1059 posts

I just returned from spending 19 days in Italy and never had any problems with pickpocketers. Only one person on our tour felt a hand near her pocket. No one lost anything. I strongly recommend having a money belt so you are not worrying about losing your money or passport.

Posted by
2224 posts

Don't be afraid, just alert. I had one friend pickpocketed in Rome. Another was in Poland when a fellow tour member detected one who my friend grabbed and slammed against a wall ( former Green Beret ). I was at the curb at Laguardia when another traveler realized that his camera case disappeared when he wasn't paying attention.

Posted by
104 posts

Just have a healthy understanding of how pickpockets work and the area that they operate in, and be aware of your stuff - and you'll be fine! Watch some YouTube videos of say, "Paris Pick Pocket" and understand how they work. Ad for myself, I only carry a "Travelon" slashproof neck wallet so my stuff is always "right there"