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.