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Heed Pickpocket Warnings in Portugal and Spain

Heed pickpocket warnings in Portugal and Spain.

Two weeks ago I was in Lisbon, Portugal, and decided to take Tram 28 to see the Alfama, the city's historic sailors' quarter. Prior to boarding the tram, I got my wallet out of a bag I was carrying to retrieve a viva viagem card, which allows users to board trams, buses, funiculars and the subway. Momentarily lazy, I decided to put my wallet in my pants' front pocket, rather than returning it to the bag, figuring I could keep an eye on it. The crowded tram stopped, there was jostling, and then the vehicle moved on. I looked down to see an empty pocket. My wallet was gone.

It disappeared only 15 minutes after being transferred to my pants. Two Visa credit cards, a debit card, the equivalent of $100 and other stuff were in the wallet. Fortunately, most of my cash and my passport were in a money belt.

After I got off the tram in the middle of downtown Lisbon, I frantically dialed Visa's international emergency telephone number. My cards were cancelled, and the operator verified that there were no fraudulent charges on them. Then replacement cards were ordered to be delivered to my next hotel in Seville, Spain.

Later, I went to Lisbon's tourist police station to report the theft. It was only 10:30 a.m., yet there was already a line of people waiting to report thefts that morning. I overheard a British family tell a police officer that they had lost 1,300 euros. Two French gentlemen were laughing as they told me that they had lost some camera equipment and other items. A Spanish woman was there to report a theft. When it was my turn to talk to a policeman, he dutifully took my statement and said I would be called if my wallet was found, adding that it was unlikely to be seen again.

Later in my trip to the Iberian peninsula, I was in Barcelona, Spain, where I decided to wash my clothes one evening in a laundrette. There, I met an older couple from Cincinnati. The husband said his wallet had been lifted that same morning on The Ramblas, Barcelona's picturesque downtown boulevard.

In his guidebooks, Rick Steves notes that theft is a problem in Portugal and that Barcelona's The Ramblas is Europe's No. 1 location for pickpockets. I even saw signs in selected locations warning visitors of lurking pickpockets.

If you are planning to go to Portugal and-or Spain, heed these warnings on pickpockets. I wish I had done the same, even though my losses were relatively minor.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
4301 posts

Thank you for reinforcing the warnings and sorry for your experience.

As a further note, your story points out something that not all here or in general believe. That a wallet in the front pants pocket is just as vulnerable as one in the rear pocket.

Posted by Lo
2678 posts

Okay, guys, and this does seem to be a guy thing, why do you need to carry a wallet at all when you travel? Isn't there some less obvious way to carry the very few cards you need for a trip? It seems to me that wallets group things together in a nice, easy-picking package and increase the size and profile of that package, no matter how slim the wallet is.

Posted by The Madster
Southern California
3 posts

While in Rome using their subway, I noticed people (locals) pad themselves down after getting on/off the subway - so it happens everywhere and to anyone who isn't careful.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9314 posts

Good argument for keeping credit and debit cards in a money belt properly worn.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
18268 posts

The bigger point is that you never have anything that is easy to get to. If it is easy for you, then it is easy for someone else. AND why carry everything in one place? Why make it that easy? I never carry a billfold in Europe. I have a money clip with upwards to a hundred Euro in one secured pocket, a small leather carrying case for one credit card (or debit card if needed that day, and the passport in a third secured pocket. That is it. Second, I believe that most pickpocket id their target in advance because of your behavior. For example, cbarner1 has his billfold out in public view, put it in a front pocket so there is no guessing as to which pocket to hit, and, of course, "Nobody can take anything out of my front pocket without my knowing it." How well did that work? Of course, they can.

But thanks for the posting. I am copying parts of it into my collection of experiences of losing stuff from the front pocket. The collection is a growing. And I only have one posting of someone losing anything from a money belt and that was mainly because of improper usage of a money belt.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9314 posts

Frank, you probably remember from some years ago, there was the traveler who had things stolen from her money belt, which she had left on the bed in the hotel room.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
18268 posts

Again, improper usage of a money belt.