Pickpocketing is a common occurrence in every touristic city of Europe. Especially in popular destinations such as Paris or Rome and port cities like London and Barcelona. If you love travelling and want to keep your valuables safe – here’s a list of 10 pickpocketing capitals followed by advice on how to keep your wallet untouched.
10. London, England
How to distinguish: Chileans are the most professional thieves in London, according to uncover Metropolitan Police officers who pursue pickpockets in the West End. They will look like a family or group of businessmen to fit in because they specialize mostly on wealthy targets.
Where to be careful: Public restaurants and hotel lobbies are the places to keep an eye on your valuables. Robbers walk through high-end places unchallenged and behave like regular customers. They wait for the right moment to quickly grab your purse or wallet. Afterwards they make a fast exit with pricey gadgets and luxury bags.
9. Rome, Italy
How to distinguish: Stay clear of gypsy looking little boys. They may work in groups or separately. Others dress like tourists to gain target’s trust. When you’re asked a direction – hold your personal belongings tight People who “accidentally” dirtied you by food or mud are probably may pretend cleaning you, while their hands can wander into your pockets.
Where to be careful: Favourite trick of local pickpockets is boarding the metro while the door is open and exiting at the moment it’s closing. Stay on full alert in crowded areas such as the Termini station, subway cars or touristic places like Trevi Fountain especially during the high season.
8. Lisbon, Portugal
How to distinguish: You won’t see any suspicious groups here. Lisbon pickpockets look casual which makes them hard to distinguish. Our advice would be to look out for people wearing clothes unsuitable for the season (i.e. baggy pants and sweaters in hot weather).
Where to be careful: Historic trams 12 and 28 are pickpockets gold mine. While riding them make sure you sit – it reduces pickpocket risk plus you get to see through the windows. Crowded buses are also a place to be careful. Never have the wallet in an unsafe place while in regular buses. If you wanna go to the airport, always use the air bus. Pickpocketing on the metro here is not as bad as it is in Madrid and Barcelona.
7. Madrid, Spain
How to distinguish: Some say that pickpockets in Madrid are very slick and they will rob you blind. The real professionals are Arabian, Cuban, Romanian, South American and African. They will often run various pickpocket scams in syndicates. Also watch out for groups of young girls and children, as they have very talented thumbs and fingers. The majority of these types of criminals are foreign, including Madrid’s prostitutes who come from as far as South America.
Where to be careful: Puerta del Sol is the most notorious area for pickpockets as well as the metro subway. They also strike in hotel lobbies, so watch your wallets, bags, laptops etc when you check-in/check-out at your hotel. If you get robbed in Madrid, you need to go to this police station and file a theft report at address: Calle de Leganitos 19.
6. Prague, Czech Republic
How to distinguish: Many of them are skilled “professionals”. If you’re male, watch out for the aggressive female prostitutes who approach you on the streets – that friendly grope is most likely aimed at your wallet rather than your crotch.
Where to be careful: When you visit Old Town Square and are staring up at the clock tower to see the figures on the astrological clock – you are vulnerable. The other location you should be very careful with is the Charles Bridge. Lately pickpockets have been working the parking lots of Prague shopping centres such as the one at Tesco Zlicin. Another area is the Astronomical clock on the hour when everyone is looking up. They watch for women to put their purses on the roof of the car while loading up the boot. They post small children who crouch low and snatch your purse before you know what happened. The park around the station is known by Czechs as Sherwood Forest is Prague’s mugging centre so be careful there.
5. Athens, Greece
How to distinguish: Pickpockets in Athens operate usually in groups of 3-5 persons. You can possibly recognise them if you are ethno-savvy. They are mostly Albanians, Romanians (some of them gypsies), Bulgarians, Georgians. While waiting the train or the bus they stay separate, so don’t expect to see a group of crooks.
Where to be careful: Athens is rattled by demonstrations every second so hold your belongings tight while getting through crowds. Pickpocketing will not happen on the top of Olympus Mt. where only you and Zeus are, still it can happen in metro, buses, all means of public transportation. In subway trains prefer the very first door, first wagon is the least crowded. The easiest places to get pick-pocketed is on line at the acropolis. Don’t use cash-points or ATM machines in or near the metro stations, especially Omonia, Metaxourgio, Monastiraki or Syntagma.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
How to distinguish: Underage pickpockets tend to operate in groups. Romanian pickpockets are so over-represented in Amsterdam that police officers from have been flown in from Romania to help patrol the streets during the 2014 King’s Day celebration. In the Netherlands children under the age of twelve cannot be prosecuted. Besides tiny pickpockets and blunt-force muggers there’s another phenomenon you will have to take into account. In recent years, many tourists (and a few locals) have been mugged by fake policemen.
Where to be careful: The area between Centraal Station and Dam Square is very busy with train travelers passing the time before their next connection and tourists alike. This area is known for petty thieves who lurk in the dark alleys. It is never a good idea to carry a traditional wallet when touring the pubs, bars or coffee shops in Amsterdam. To carry money more securely use a wallet or belt wallet which stays on your person. De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Little Streets) is a quaint and favorite shopping spot for pickpockets.
3. Florence, Italy
How to distinguish: Beggars (gypsies) in Florence are widespread and will come right up to you. Treat it as you choose, but just be ready for it. They pass over a baby or a doll to distract you, and also they use the little children to steal and pickpocket from tourists who are busy looking at other things to notice. In some cases you might be approached by South American (Peru or Chile) women in their thirties.
Where to be careful: The San Lorenzo Market is in one of the most beautiful blocks of central Florence. Unfortunately this block is becoming the dormitory of gipsies. Near the bridge , Ponte Vecchio you should be extra careful. Be attentive in the Ponte Vecchio area, especially in or near crowds of tourists. When you are near the train station, or near santa Maria Novella — watch for little girls, they grab anything and pass it along. As soon as you grab one the other gets away with your belongings. One street that’s particularly subject to pickpockets is Via Del Cerretani (from the train station to the Duomo). In this area, little children, usually gypsies, are what you need to look out for. During the summer, one way to avoid their incredibly quick hands is to walk on the sunny side of the street. Pickpockets usually use the shady side because they have to “work” all day.
2. Paris, France
How to distinguish: French are creative and french pickpockets – twice as creative. They usually dress as tourists and ask you for directions with a map in their hands. While you’re distracted – they pull out your wallet. Two or more people will approach you and ask you to take their picture. While you are being explained how the camera works – another person is picking your pocket. Recent tactics include people walking up and asking for directions while someone is using the ATM. You may also be surrounded by group of teenagers trying to make fool of you by starting ” you know english” or showing you a paper to sign some petition or donate some money or even ” is this ring yours”.
Where to be careful: The crowds around Eiffel tower are a good opportunity to pickpockets. Stay away from overcrowded shops and supermarkets – french police keeps receiving reports from these places. Avoid taking the métro during commuter hours of heavy useage when the cars are crowded. Be careful visiting main tourist areas of Paris: Notre-Dame, Champs-Élysées, Trocadéro, Champ-de-Mars, Louvre-Rivoli, Palais Royal and butte Montmartre. Recently pickpockets have turned to other parts of the capital such as the Jardin des Tuileries, Place du Palais-Royal, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Quais de Seine and the bridges (Solferino).
1. Barcelona, Spain
How to distinguish: Robbers work in groups, they are often young girls around 16 to 18 and their main tactics is distraction. Look out for magicians, moving statues and any other kinds of street entertainers – they are often cooperate with pickpockets and can rob you blind.
Where to be careful: Barcelona is known for it’s high pickpocketing rates therefore you must be careful everywhere you go. Pick pocketing and bag snatching is especially common on the Ramblas, at rail stations, on the beaches and on the metro (subway). Pay particular attention while watching street shows.
Although it is impossible to be on full alert all the time there are some basic safety measures that will lower your risks of being pickpocketed. And make sure you use the latest technological anti theft devices to protect your valuables. Travel safe!