How to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe

Simple Tips to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe

This is a guide for how to avoid pickpockets in Europe.

Unfortunately, pickpocketing in Europe is a real problem.  We’ve been very lucky that we’ve visited Europe several times at this point and never had an issue.  But we know the struggle with petty theft is real.  And if you’ve ever been a victim of theft you know how serious it can be.

If you want to learn how to avoid pickpockets in Europe, we’ve got some handy tips for you!


Invest in an anti-theft bag.

Please don’t store your valuables in your pockets.  No matter how deep they are, they’re still easy targets.  Invest in a quality anti-theft bag with secure zippers to keep your stuff safe.  This is the number one way to avoid pickpockets in Europe.  I was wearing my favorite Travelon Anti-Theft backpack in Rome one night, felt a slight tug behind me, and turned around to a gentleman standing way too close.  He looked me square in the face and said “That’s a really nice backpack you have”, scoffed, and walked away.  I’m fairly sure he had tried to access my bag and couldn’t.  Impressing + deterring a would be thief = a worthy investment!

I’ve collected quite a few anti-theft bags in the past few years.  Travelon is without a doubt my favorite brand as they are portable, have great features, and are reliable.  Not only do they make the best purses for international travel but they also make the best backpacks for international travel as well.

Best backpack for international travel:

Best purse for international travel:

You want a bag with secured zippers [make sure you use them], anti-slash straps, and RFID protection.  Opt for a crossbody over a shoulder bag so that it isn’t as easily snatched off your shoulder.


Zippers are your friends.

If you opt to use a regular handbag, you can still avoid pickpockets in Europe.  Just make sure it has a zipper closure.  Bonus points if it zips closed and then has a flap that goes over it.  Be sure your handbag is zipped at all times and check the zipper periodically.  Avoid handbags with a velcro closure or ones that are completely open at the top.


Be aware of certain areas.

Be cautious everywhere but there are certain areas where you’re more likely to run into a pickpocket than others.  The most common places where pickpockets seem to gather are:

  • The metro
  • Popular tourist attractions [including popular transit streets like La Rambla in Barcelona]
  • Train stations
  • Markets and malls
  • Beaches

Also, please note that pickpockets don’t wear a name tag saying “Hi, I’m here to rob you.”  Meaning, they aren’t always easily identifiable.  Lots of times they are women and children, someone that looks like a tourist, a group of teenagers, someone that appears to be in distress, etc.


Don’t be afraid to look silly.

If a scenario feels a little sketchy — or even if it doesn’t — don’t worry about looking silly.  Just protect your stuff!

  • Clutch your bag to your chest in a crowded area.
  • Wear your backpack on your chest instead of your back.
  • Wear your coat over your handbag.
  • Sit on your suitcase instead of having it next to you.
  • Use yourself and your friends to form a body barricade around your suitcases with you guys on the perimeter and your personal items on the inside.
  • Keep your purse on your lap when seated — even in a restaurant or bar and even if they have hooks nearby to hang them.
How to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe wear your backpack to the front
Me in Spain looking silly but avoiding pickpockets in Europe

Keep your eyes on your belongings – no matter what.

This one might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how tricky it can be to avoid pickpockets in Europe that use distractions.  If a stranger stops you to speak to you, ignore them and check your surroundings.  This is often a ploy to distract you from someone behind you accessing your personal items.  And yes, this applies to strangers that are men, women, or children!  Unfortunately, pickpockets in Europe come in all shapes, sizes, and forms.  Please don’t set your items down or take your eyes off them.

Hide your money and other valuables.

To my fellow ample-bosomed ladies, your bra is more than just a crumb catcher.  If you’re looking to avoid pickpockets in Europe, use it to your advantage.  Your bra is a wonderful place to hide our Euros until you need them.  For the gentlemen [and the ladies who can’t/don’t want to use their undergarments], invest in a money belt to wear under your clothes.  Keep all of your essentials items like your passport, extra money, credit cards, etc. there.


How to Avoid Pickpockets in Europe
Guess where my Euros are? Hint: not my purse!

Keep it moving.

Try not to stand still in a busy area for too long.  Pickpockets use the hustle and bustle of a busy area to brush past you and take your things.  Pause, take your picture, and move on!  If you need to stop for a few minutes, find a seat and keep your bag in your lap.  You can also lean against a wall with your bag between your body and the wall.


What are your best tips for how to avoid pickpockets in Europe?

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