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When you’re travelling in Europe, pickpockets are everywhere so we’ve created this guide to give you some tips on how to stop them. Pickpockets are one of the biggest let downs when you’re travelling. There is nothing worse than working hard for your items and someone takes it from you. Whilst pickpockets are everywhere in the world, they are even more prominent in Europe. There are now even more elaborate scams to try to pick the pockets of unsuspecting travellers and tourists alike.
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Whilst they don’t always look the most attractive, they do really help. They are great for when you are at the airport too! You can keep your passport, money and boarding passes at hand. There will be less shuffling at the check-in desk and gates. Moneybelts are an easy way to keep your valuables secure and hidden from prying eyes. The best way to use them is to have them underneath your t-shirt. Only ever open it when you’re in a safe place and can do so without someone trying to take something.
2. Travel scrunchies
For a female, these are a great find and a way to hide money in case of an emergency. You just wear them on your wrist or in your hair. There is a secret zipper for you to store some cash or small items. Amy had one of these with her whilst she was travelling in Mexico. It came in handy more times than she can count. If you are in a situation where you have been pickpocketed then we can guarantee that they won’t know that you’ve got money stored away here. It’s one of our favourite travel hacks.
It might seem like an obvious suggestion but taking at least 2 padlocks away with you whilst you’re travelling is how to stop pickpockets especially when you’re in Europe. If you’re staying in a hostel then you will need to have a padlock for your locker to prevent anyone stealing from within the hostel. However, it is always handy to have a secondary padlock for when you’re out during the day. If you’re like us and often carrying camera equipment then the last thing you want is someone trying to get into your backpack. We usually have the bag padlocked for when we’re walking around during the day. This will at least prevent most pickpockets because it makes it much harder to get to your belongings. This is especially true if you’re visiting tourist sights or crowded areas.
4. Wear your backpack backwards
By wearing your backpack on your front, this means that you will have more control over who comes near your bag. If you’ve also got a padlock on the bag then you will reduce the risks of being pickpocketed. In fairness, if you’re backpacking and have your large rucksack on your back, you’ll find that the easiest way to carry everything is to have your smaller backpack on your front. If you keep your valuables in this smaller backpack then you will have more control over them and be able to see anyone that may be trying to pickpocket you.
5. Leave valuables in your room
Even if you’re staying in a hostel, you can easily store away your valuables in a locker. As we already mentioned, having 2 padlocks will make sure that you keep your items safe at your hostel or room and also whilst you’re out for the day. It is best to not take all your valuable items out with you every time you’re sightseeing. Crowded places are one of the most common places for pickpockets so you don’t want to have all your valuables on you at once. If you are pickpocketed, this will prevent at least all of your items being taken at once. However, if you follow all of our tips, this will prevent you being pickpocketed completely.
6. Don’t keep your valuables all in one place
When you’re travelling, one of the worst things you can do is have all your valuables together because if you are pickpocketed you will lose everything. It is best practice for you to have multiple travel cards so that you can keep one with you in person, one stored away in your room / locker and preferably another one hidden away in your belongings such as in your shoes or clothes at the room. The same can be said for cash as well, spread out the money that you have in cash in multiple places so that you don’t have it all on you at once.
When you’re travelling from place to place, it can be hard at times not to have your belongings in one place because you’re going from one destination to another. However, it is still worth splitting your valuables between your bags and hiding them. The best places to hide small items are in your shoes, the travel scrunchies that we mentioned in tip 2 and hidden amongst clothes. If anyone tries to go through your belongs whilst you’re travelling from A to B then it will at least make it harder for them to take everything.
7. Familiarise yourself on common pickpocket tactics
As Europe is common for pickpockets, it can be hard to know which tactics to be on the lookout for and know how to stop them too. Every country is different so before you travel to each destination, make sure that you research what common tactics are used by pickpockets to gain access to your valuables. There are some common tactics that are used in nearly every country such as bumping into people which is when they take your items. Another common tactic is by coming up behind you at a restaurant when you’re distracted eating or ordering and slipping something out of your pocket or bag. Keep your bag firmly between your feet when you’re at a restaurant and make sure that you have deep pockets or a money belt to store your valuables so that pickpockets can’t reach to take your items. Most importantly, when you’re at a restaurant, don’t leave your phone or purse / wallet on the table as enables someone to easily take it.
8. Look out for elaborate tactics
Pickpocket scams are becoming more and more elaborate now which means that it isn’t always easy to notice when you’re being scammed. Paris can be a very common place for pickpockets so destinations like this you need to be on the lookout constantly.
One of the most common tactics that we’ve seen in Paris is that people will pretend to be charity workers. Whilst doing this they will try to force you to sign a petition. Whilst you’re distracted by these workers getting aggressive and trying to persuade you to sign this fake document, another one of them will be trying to pickpocket you. This is a dirty tactic that is used and they can get a little bit aggressive. Be firm and say no! Keep your items stuck to you and get yourself out of that situation as quickly as you can. Another common tactic is by using a newspaper or a map to distract you and have this close to your face so that you can’t see someone trying to take your stuff from behind the map.
There are many different tactics and it is important to stay vigilant at all times. Don’t trust anyone (until they’ve proven that you can anyway). The Savvy Backpacker has broken down a lot of different common tactics here. Make sure that you do as much research on your specific destination before you travel.
9. Stay vigilant especially at ATMs
ATMs are the one place where you will feel the most vulnerable. You’re taking out money and will have this on display whilst you put the withdrawn cash away. The best thing you can do is have your backpack on your front so you can put the cash away quickly. If you have a money belt then its even better! It’s easy for you to personally access and store your card and cash.
Always have a look around you to see if someone is a bit too close and may be able to see your pin number or get to your money easily. Whenever you’re entering your pin number, cover the keypad just to be safe. If you’re travelling with a friend then ask them to stand next to you with their back to the ATM. This will ensure that they can look out for you when you’re a bit more vulnerable.
10. Pickpocket proof clothing
There is a lot of clothing that you can buy that prevents pickpockets. This means that there are deeper or secret pockets so that it prevents people getting access to your valuables. Amy has one light jacket that has 2 deep inside pockets. It is great for storing her passport and money because no one else can get access to it. There are plenty of different pieces of clothing that you can buy that prevents pickpockets from boxers, jackets, backpacks and hoodies, you will have a lot of choice for what suits you. This doesn’t mean that you need lots of pockets. You just need at least one really secure and potentially hidden pocket to prevent anyone knowing where to target.
Some Final Tips
We hope that these tips will help you to stay careful when you’re travelling in Europe. Some destinations within Europe are more prominent for pickpockets than others. If you find yourself visiting a capital city then there will be areas that are hotspots for pickpocketing. Stay vigilant on public transport and busy areas that are highlighted as common for pickpockets. Before you visit any destination, in Europe or elsewhere in the world, make sure you do your research! There are areas that are best to avoid and there will be a reason for that. Listen to the advice and follow these tips.
If you’ve been a victim to pickpocketing then make sure that you report this to the local police and always take out travel insurance. Most travel insurers will need a police report so that you can recover the cost of the lost items so it’s best to do this just to be sure even if the police don’t catch who done it.
We hope that you keep yourself safe on your travels! If you’re travelling solo then be sure to check out our tips for staying safe as a solo traveller!