How to avoid Pickpockets in Europe – Tips and Hotspots

Pickpockets in Europe are really everywhere, well this is not to scare you but just to keep you aware so that you can plan your trip to Europe.

Pickpocketing is a common crime in Europe, especially in popular tourist destinations. Tourists are often targeted because they are perceived as easy targets.

The crowded streets, bustling markets, and crowded public transportation systems make it easier for pickpockets to blend in and steal from unsuspecting tourists.

It is important for travellers to be aware of the risks and take precautions to protect their belongings while exploring these cities and how to travel safe during your trip.

Who are Pickpockets?

Pickpockets are often part of organized crime groups. They are skilled at stealing wallets, phones, and other valuables without being noticed.

They often work in teams, with one person creating a distraction while another steals from the victim. Pickpockets are experts at blending in with the crowd and can easily disappear after stealing from their victims.

They target tourists because they are often carrying more cash and valuables than locals.

The Most Popular Cities for Pickpockets

Pickpockets in Europe
Pickpockets in Europe

Paris, Barcelona, Rome, and Prague are some of the most popular cities for pickpockets. These cities attract millions of tourists each year and are known for their crowded tourist attractions and public transportation systems.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Las Ramblas in Barcelona, and the Colosseum in Rome are all hotspots for pickpocketing.

These areas are often crowded with tourists, making it easier for pickpockets to blend in and steal from unsuspecting victims.

Where Do Pickpockets Target?

Pickpockets are a common problem in many popular tourist destinations in Europe, and they can be very skilled at targeting unsuspecting victims. Here are some of the places where pickpockets are most likely to operate in Europe:

Tourist Attractions

Pickpockets in Europe
Pickpockets in Europe

Pickpockets are often drawn to crowded tourist attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. These areas are often chaotic and overwhelming for tourists, making it easier for pickpockets to blend in and unnoticed.

Public Transportation

Pickpockets in Europe
Pickpocketing in Europe

Train stations, bus stops, and metros are also common targets for pickpockets. Tourists are often distracted when they are trying to navigate public transportation systems, making them easy targets.

Markets and Open Air Events

Pickpockets also frequent markets and open-air events, where people are often carrying cash and valuables. These areas can be particularly chaotic, making it easier for pickpockets to operate unnoticed.

Restaurants and bars:

Pickpockets may target diners who are engrossed in conversations or paying less attention to their belongings.


Hotel lobbies and elevators are also common targets for pickpockets. Hotel guests can be targeted as they check in, check out, or move between floors.

The dangers of distraction techniques used by pickpockets

Pickpockets are skilled at using distraction techniques to steal from unsuspecting victims. These techniques can be very effective, especially in crowded areas where people are distracted and unaware of their surroundings. Some common distraction techniques used by pickpockets include:

Bumping into you

This is a classic pickpocket technique that involves bumping into you as you walk by. This can distract you and create an opportunity for the pickpocket to steal your belongings.

Spilling Something on You

This technique involves spilling something on you, such as water or coffee. This can distract you while the pickpocket cleans up the mess, giving them an opportunity to steal from you.

Asking for directions

This technique involves asking you for directions while an accomplice steals from you. This can distract you while the pickpocket’s accomplice takes your belongings.

Creating a commotion

This technique involves creating a commotion, such as a loud argument or a fake accident. This can distract everyone in the area, giving the pickpocket an opportunity to steal from you.

Pretending to be lost

This technique involves pretending to be lost and asking for your help. This can distract you while the pickpocket steals from you.

Charity Worker

This scam is quite popular in the lovely city of Paris. Typically, it involves a group of youthful girls carrying clipboards. With friendly gestures, they will approach you and indicate that they are hearing-impaired and unable to speak.

Their intention is to request your signature on a charitable petition. However, if you agree to sign, they will then ask for a donation towards the said charity. Sadly, the truth is that this “charity” is actually a hoax, and the funds raised often end up in the pockets of these girls’ exploitative “boss” – individuals involved in human trafficking.

Furthermore, while the unsuspecting tourist is engrossed in reading or signing the petition, another accomplice will often attempt to steal from the unsuspecting victim.

Metro Smartphone Grab

Be extra cautious if you are talking on phone and when the metro gates are closing as there are cases when they steal for your phone right when the gates are closing for the metro and you can not react at this time.

Using a distraction object

his technique involves using a distraction object, such as a map or a clipboard, to block your view. This can give the pickpocket an opportunity to steal from you without you noticing.

Slashing your Bag

Occasionally, although uncommon, there exist a few pickpockets who won’t even make the effort to steal your bag and instead opt to swiftly slice it open with a blade. To provide additional protection, Pacsafe offers a collection of bags that are impenetrable to slashing.

Street Performers

Street performances often draw a significant number of tourists, and unfortunately, this can also serve as a magnet for a considerable amount of pickpockets, who, on occasions, collaborate with each other.

This happens a lot in Paris around Eiffel Tower.

Who Do Pickpockets Target?

Pickpockets are skilled thieves who target unsuspecting victims, often using distraction techniques to steal their belongings. They are drawn to individuals who appear to be unaware of their surroundings, easily distracted, or carrying valuables. Here are some of the common types of people who are most commonly targeted by pickpockets:


Pickpockets in Europe
A crowd of people walking down a street

Tourists are often unaware of their surroundings and may be carrying valuables, making them easy targets for pickpockets. They may be distracted by sightseeing, navigating new surroundings, or dealing with language barriers, making them less attentive to potential threats.

Distracted Individuals

Pickpockets are adept at identifying individuals preoccupied with activities like using their phones, carrying multiple bags, or engaging in conversations. These distractions can divert attention away from personal belongings, creating opportunities for theft.

Lost or Confused Individuals

Individuals who appear lost or confused may convey a sense of vulnerability, making them attractive targets for pickpockets. Their disorientation can hinder their awareness of their surroundings, making them more susceptible to theft.

Carriers of Valuables

Pickpockets are drawn to individuals carrying expensive jewelry, cameras, or large amounts of cash. These visible valuables serve as beacons, signaling potential targets. Pickpockets may also target individuals who are flashing their money or valuables, making their intentions clear.

Intoxicated Individuals

Individuals under the influence of alcohol or drugs may exhibit impaired judgment and reduced awareness, making them more susceptible to pickpockets’ tactics. Their intoxication can cloud their judgment and make them less vigilant, increasing their chances of falling victim to theft.

Elderly or Physically Disabled Individuals

Pickpockets may perceive elderly or physically disabled individuals as more vulnerable and less able to defend themselves, making them potential targets. Their perceived weakness may make them seem like easier targets, attracting pickpockets who seek opportunistic thefts.

Public Transportation users

Pickpockets often frequent public transportation hubs like train stations, bus stops, and subways due to the concentration of individuals and the inherent distractions associated with these environments. The crowded and chaotic nature of public transportation can provide cover for pickpockets to operate unnoticed.

How to protect your belongings while using public transportation

If you’ve come this far, you might be under the impression that Europe is crawling with thousands of pickpockets, all eager to rob every tourist they come across. Fortunately, this is not the case, and you will hardly encounter any issues as long as you exercise a few additional safety measures.

When using public transportation, it is important to keep your belongings close to you and in sight. Avoid putting your wallet or phone in your back pocket, as this makes it easier for pickpockets to steal from you without you noticing.

Instead, keep your belongings in a front pocket or a bag that you can hold onto tightly. Be aware of your surroundings and suspicious behaviour.

If someone is standing too close to you or acting strangely, move away and find a different spot on the train or bus.

Let us read more about how to avoid Pickpocketing in Europe

Pickpocket Safe Travel Clothes

  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing that can easily be unzipped or unbuttoned. Pickpockets are skilled at taking advantage of loose clothing to steal belongings unnoticed.
  • Opt for clothing with secure pockets, especially inner pockets or zippered pockets. This will make it more difficult for pickpockets to access your valuables.
  • Consider wearing a scarf or sarong that you can wrap around your body to create a barrier between your belongings and potential pickpockets.

Pickpocket Safe Travel Bags

  • Choose a bag that is difficult to open or pickpocket, such as a sling bag or a backpack with a secure closure. Avoid carrying large, open-top bags that make it easy for pickpockets to reach inside.
  • If you are using a backpack, wear it in front of you, where you can keep an eye on it. Avoid carrying a backpack on your back, as this makes it an easier target for pickpockets.
  • Consider using a luggage lock or other security device to deter pickpockets from opening your bags.

Zippered Purse

  • A zippered purse is a great way to keep your belongings secure while you’re on the go. Make sure the purse has a strong zipper that is difficult to open.
  • Avoid carrying a purse that is too large or bulky. A small, compact purse will be easier to manage and less likely to be targeted by pickpockets.
  • Keep your purse close to your body at all times, especially in crowded areas.

Wear a Money Belt

  • A money belt is a great way to keep your valuables out of sight and secure. Money belts are typically worn under your clothing, making them difficult for pickpockets to access.
  • Choose a money belt that is made from a durable material and that has multiple compartments for storing your valuables.
  • Make sure the money belt is comfortable to wear and that it fits snugly around your waist.

Carry only What you need

  • Only carry the essentials with you when you are traveling. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables that you don’t need.
  • If you are carrying a lot of electronics, consider investing in a travel pouch or case that can help to protect your devices from pickpockets.

Secure your Bag

  • When you are not using your bag, make sure it is secure in a safe place. Avoid leaving your bag unattended in public areas, such as restaurants, cafes, or tourist attractions.
  • If you are leaving your bag in a hotel room, make sure to lock the door to your room. You can also consider using a luggage lock or cable lock to secure your bag to a piece of furniture.

Keep your wallet in Front Pocket

  • Keep your wallet in your front pocket, where it is more difficult for pickpockets to reach. Avoid carrying your wallet in your back pocket, as this makes it an easier target for pickpockets.
  • Consider using a small, compact wallet that will not be bulky or noticeable in your pocket.
  • Avoid carrying a lot of cash in your wallet. Only carry the cash that you need for the day.
  • What I like is using my Wise Travel Card during my trip because I don’t have to pay any conversion fee for the currency.

Budget Tip: You can avoid ATM Fees by using a Wise Travel Card. You can check more about that in our in depth review.

Keep your phone off the table

  • When you are eating at a restaurant or cafe, avoid placing your phone on the table. Pickpockets are known to target phones that are left unattended.
  • If you need to use your phone, keep it close to you at all times. You can also consider using a phone case with a lanyard or strap that can help you to keep track of your phone.

Split your Valuables

  • Don’t keep all of your valuables in one place. This makes it easier for pickpockets to steal everything if they are able to get their hands on your bag or wallet.
  • Instead, split your valuables up into different pockets or bags. This will make it more difficult for pickpockets to steal everything if they are able to target one of your belongings.

The benefits of using a money belt or hidden pouch

A money belt or hidden pouch can be a valuable tool in protecting your valuables. These items are worn under your clothing and can keep your cash, passport, and other important documents safe and out of sight.

  1. Concealed Storage: Keep your valuables out of sight and make it harder for pickpockets to target you.
  2. Secure Protection: Secure closures prevent unauthorized access to your belongings.
  3. Discreet Convenience: Wear them discreetly under clothing or conceal them in your luggage.
  4. Peace of Mind: Focus on enjoying your travels without worrying about your valuables.
  5. Organization and Accessibility: Keep your belongings organized and easy to access.
  6. Versatility: Store cash, passports, credit cards, and other essential items.
  7. Minimize Theft Risk: Reduce the chances of pickpockets and opportunistic thieves stealing your valuables.
  8. Stress-Free Travel Experience: Safeguard your belongings and enjoy a more relaxed and enjoyable trip.

How to secure your valuables in your accommodation

When staying in a hotel or hostel, it is important to take precautions to secure your valuables. Use the hotel safe to store your passport and other important documents.

  1. Utilize hotel safes: Dedicate the hotel safe for storing your passport and other essential documents, ensuring their protection from theft or misplacement.
  2. Secure unattended valuables: When not in use, keep your valuables locked within your suitcase or backpack. This simple measure prevents opportunistic theft and enhances security.
  3. Invest in a portable lock: If your accommodation lacks a safe, consider purchasing a small travel lock to secure your belongings within your suitcase or backpack. This self-protective measure provides an extra layer of security.
  4. Maintain digital backups: Store copies of your passport and other critical documents in a separate location, such as an email account or cloud storage. This precaution ensures access to these vital documents even if the originals are lost or stolen.

The importance of keeping your phone and wallet separate

One way to protect yourself from pickpockets is to keep your phone and wallet in separate pockets or bags. This can prevent a thief from stealing both at the same time.

If your phone and wallet are in the same pocket or bag, it is easier for a pickpocket to grab both and make a quick getaway. By keeping them separate, you reduce the risk of losing all of your valuables in one go.

How to handle a pickpocketing attempt

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel someone trying to steal from you, it is important to stay calm and try to keep your belongings in sight. Do not confront the pickpocket directly, as this can escalate the situation and put you at risk.

Instead, try to make a scene and call for help. Shout loudly, attract attention, and let others know what is happening. This can deter the pickpocket and increase the chances of catching them.

Hotspots for pickpocketing in popular European cities

While pickpocketing can happen anywhere, there are certain hotspots in popular European cities where it is more common. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Las Ramblas in Barcelona, and the Colosseum in Rome are all areas where pickpockets are known to operate.

These areas are often crowded with tourists, making it easier for pickpockets to blend in and steal from unsuspecting victims. It is important to be extra cautious in these areas and keep your belongings close.

Final Thoughts: How to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe

Pickpocketing is a common crime in Europe, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Be aware of your surroundings, keep your belongings close, and use a money belt or hidden pouch.

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables and be cautious of distractions. By taking these precautions, you can enjoy your trip without worrying about becoming a victim of pickpocketing. Remember to stay calm and alert, and always report any incidents to the local authorities.

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