ABOVE: The Basilica di San Marco in Venice is
a happy hunting ground for pickpockets, who--like politicians--know how to work
Pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and petty theft
Most tourist crime involves theft of property. For example:
- Pickpockets frequently work in airports, train stations, subways, and
other crowded public places, just as they do in many other countries. Gangs
of child pickpockets can also be a problem. (I recently met an American
tourist who had two narrow escapes with picketpockets during a group tour:
In Paris, he reached into his pocket and found a stranger's hand; in London,
a thief tried to open his backpack.)
- Purse-snatchers may grab handbags, video cameras, laptop cases, etc. and
escape on foot or by motorscooter.
- Street thieves may break into cars, stealing luggage and other valuables.
Crimes such as muggings, armed robbery, and rape are far less common, although
it obviously makes sense to avoid questionable neighborhoods late at night.
- Hotel thieves may slip into guestrooms, stealing money, cameras, jewelry,
How to protect your belongings
Common sense will go a long way toward preventing theft. Here are a few basic
- Watch your wallet. If you're a man, carry your wallet in a deep side
pocket of your trousers or an inside pocket of a zipped jacket. A lump in
your hip pocket is an invitation to pickpockets. (Better yet, wear a travel
shirt with a zippered pocket in front. Ex Officio and REI sell men's shirts
with this design.)
- Use strong shoulder straps. A heavy leather strap or, better yet, a
cable-reinforced strap will make it harder for grab-and-run thieves to cut
through the strap and make off with your handbag or camera.
Consider buying a secure bag. PacSafe makes
lockable fabric backpacks and courier bags that incorporate a hidden slashproof layer of steel mesh. See
of this article for more pictures and a link.
- Guard loose belongings. Don't hang cameras or purses on café
chairs, and keep your suitcases close at hand when you're at a ticket
counter or hotel registration desk.
- Wear a "neck safe" or money belt. Stores that sell
luggage and travel accessories offer a wide variety of pouches that hang
from the neck, fit around the waist, or wrap around the ankle. Use one of
these for your passport and the bulk of your traveler's checks and credit
cards. (Also remember to keep photocopies of your passport's main page and
the receipts for your traveler's checks in a safe place in case the
originals are stolen.)
- Check small valuables. Leave jewelry, cash or traveler's
checks, and other easy-to-steal valuables in the hotel safe when you don't
need them. (Be sure to get a receipt.)
- Be careful with your car. Don't leave valuables where they can
be seen, and don't store luggage in the trunk overnight. Park in public
places where thieves are less likely to risk breaking into your car.
Useful Web sites
Continued on page 3
Daypack photo copyright © PacSafe. Used by permission.
"Best of the Web"
Forbes and The Washington Post
Our most popular topics:
Need a car in Europe?
If you live outside the EU,
a tax-free Renault or Peugeot tourist car lease can be cheaper than renting
for visits of 21+ days. Minimum driver age is 18, there' s no upper age
limit, and rates include insurance.
For car rentals under 21 days:
Traveling by train?
Get free schedules, maps,
and guides for 50+ European railroads. (Residents of North and Central
America can buy tickets and rail passes online.)
From Durant and Cheryl Imboden:
About Europe for Visitors