Pickpocket prevention safety tips

So many adventures to blog about when your parents visit you in Europe from India for the first time. The latest adventure was a pick-pocketing incident that happened at the most unlikely time ever. Do not be fooled by the “European Garden” experience travelers, Pickpockets in Europe are as prevalent as pickpockets in a Mumbai local train! But with the Travel safety tips discussed below you will be able to avoid theft and have peace of mind while travelling. In this blog post, I first discuss my own experiences with pickpockets and thefts in Europe and then present some pickpocket prevention strategies that will surely be useful to fellow global nomads.

Travel Story: Saved from pickpocket by mysterious Italian train staff

The pickpocket scheme was well planned by the team of two young female thieves who set eyes on unsuspecting foreign tourists traveling as a family. The devious two would have got away if it was not for the mysterious train ticket collector who disappeared before we even realized that we were robbed. Luckily we were saved that day, with my dad’s wallet lying untended on the little train table. Not every day do you win over a pickpocket that too in Europe.

I had to open it to check whose it was to find the ever-precious Indian 100 Rupee notes stacked with some important cards you would not want to lose while on vacation. The embarrassment was brief, as we immediately decided on travel safety measures for the rest of our trip in Italy and beyond.

I was living in Italy for over 6 years when this incident happened. The most sinister pickpocket cases I heard about were from tourists visiting Barcelona. I could name 4 people right away who have faced this in Spain. A few years later, I traveled to Barcelona to experience it firsthand.

But to have something happen in Milano Centrale after passing the new security system on the train stations was rather unexpected. We had just got on our train to take our seats when the young ladies tried to get us confused in translation. They started claiming one of our seats as theirs. Not wanting to be rude, I tried to explain to her in Italian that the seat was ours showing the seat number. They quickly muttered something in Spanish and I am quite sure one of them said “Meera”. My spider senses kept tingling and I should have gotten more alert here.

Importance of vigilance while traveling

I had my guard up, with my portofoglio or wallet tightly secured inside my jacket. I thought I was impenetrable as I had already taken enough precautions to travel light that day.

Unfortunately, my parents were also distracted by the charade. As soon as the irritation in my tone rose with suspicion, the girls made an announced realization that they were mistaken and started making a way towards the exit.

I sighed with a victorious look towards my parents. Quickly letting them know that the girls were probably some scamsters aiming for something I didn’t understand. The way one of them acted confident about her interpretation of my ticket had me baffled for a minute. They tried to go away but then they were forced to return to silently drop a wallet on our table.

The ticket collector was standing at the entrance shouting portofoglio (wallet in Italian) as one of the girls returned the wallet and disappeared in thin air. I turned to find the wallet full of Indian rupees to realize the big scam we had barely escaped. My Dad staring at the wallet was shocked for a few seconds until my brain processed the whole event.

Having the sudden epiphany, I went “Son of a bi**h” lost in thoughts. Reassuring myself, I began explaining to the confused parents the entire ordeal. I finally understood how the entire pickpocket scheme was planned out.

The co-passengers listened with complete attention and concern as well. I went full Sherlock Holmes explaining what had just happened.

All is good that ends well

Happy that we didn’t lose anything, after all, we settled down thinking about our day ahead. A few minutes later, I switched on my mobile and made a call to the Milan Central Station Security Helpline. They were aware of the incident and I made sure the complaint was made official. Was thanked for my good community service.

Taking things ahead, Here is a Travel Precaution Blog that is very important for everyone.

Every year, tourists lose so much to pickpockets. Though I feel sorry for hungry thieves, the pain of processing all your documents and cards is immense. Even losing a mobile phone can be such a painful ordeal for a busy efficient man. Losing so many hours in pursuing unnecessary bureaucracy is one hassle we all need to avoid.

11 Travel safety tips to protect your valuables

Research and Awareness:

  • Read about local travel safety tips: This helps you understand potential risks specific to your destination.
  • Talk with locals and assess the risk: Locals can give valuable insights into areas to avoid or scams to be aware of.
  • Prioritize safe local destinations: While exploring is great, prioritizing areas known for safety gives you peace of mind.

Preparation and Protection:

  • Anti-pickpocket gear: Money belts, hidden pockets, and slash-proof bags make it harder for thieves.
  • Get Travel Insurance: This covers medical emergencies, lost luggage, and even theft in some cases.
  • Keep backup copies of all your documents: In case of loss or theft, you’ll have copies for identification and replacement of documents.
  • Plan your travel to avoid spontaneous unprepared decisions: Last-minute choices might lead you to unsafe situations.

Personal Security:

  • Learn self-defense techniques and stay fit: While not foolproof, basic techniques can deter attackers. Staying fit and strong may deter threats that focus on weaker targets.
  • Stay alert in crowded areas: Pickpockets often operate in crowds.
  • Build trust with travel companions: Look out for each other and keep an eye on each other´s belongings.

Final unconventional tip:

  • Be a good, fun, and charming tourist: End of the day the thief is only human. Everyone is different, but if you can give the pickpocket one less reason to ruin your trip, he might show you mercy. Nonetheless, not every thief is merciful but I happened to chit-chat and meet one smooth pickpocket in Barcelona.
How to travel safely in Europe?
How to travel safely in Europe?

Anti-pickpocket gear: What’s in business?

Maybe it would be a great idea to get yourself some anti-pickpocketing gear. I am not an expert, have been robbed once in my life. The next time my friend lost his wallet, I tracked the thief down after a month in New Delhi.

After many years, I was able to save my own wallet, but I completely forgot I was with my parents who needed protection too.

Hence, I hope Google helps me out here and posts some cool anti-theft gadgets around this post.

Here is what I know is present in the market.

Travel security products

  • Carry a money belt: A small zipped pouch that fastens under your waist below your pants or shirt.
  • Try to find an anti-theft bag: They are mostly made with slash-proof materials and have hidden and lockable zippers.
  • Anti-theft wallets: These wallets usually have a metal mesh that blocks radio waves used in RFID skimming. This protects your credit cards from electronic theft. They also come with more features like zippers and compartments to keep your valuables secure and also Bluetooth trackers that can help you locate your lost wallet.

How safe is Europe for travel?

The above story aims to present one incident of how two unsuspecting girls can work together to distract you at an unlikely place like in a train at the station before your journey. How you are more vulnerable to such “Predators” when you are in the company of old foreign people. But there are other instances where you can fall prey.

Live pickpocket demo in Barcelona

In 2019, much after this blog post was first drafted, I finally did my first trip to Barcelona, Spain. I absolutely loved the place and wished I could have traveled for a longer period. Having drafted a blog post on pickpockets in Europe, I was very much prepared and took the utmost precautions from online research, talking to locals about safety in the area, keeping some backup cash separately in case anything goes wrong, to having one hand almost all the time touching my wallet in my pant pocket.

Everything was going well till it was my last evening in Spain and we decided to head out for drinks. Long story short, we had a great time making so many new friends. Barcelona is definitely a great party place. Somewhere after many drinks, I found myself outside a bar chit-chatting with a friendly local who spoke Italian. As we got friendly, I expressed my deepest fears about being pickpocketed in Barcelona to him. And soon enough, he asks me to check for my mobile phone. I check and dont find it. He then hands it out to me.

Imagine taking so much precautions and still being shown a live demo of being pickpocketed in Barcelona! I thanked him for not screwing me over, because he surely could have under my drunk state. Maybe he showed me mercy because I was speaking in Italian with him.

Live Bicycle Theft in Milan

This incident in Milan made me feel really sad. I was driving a car to my friend´s place and they had opened the big main entrance to the building so that I could drive in. As I brought the car in, I saw a young bicycle thief who probably had just entered in after me, grab a bicycle that was parked inside and ride away. An old Italian man came out running and shouting. I looked confused for a second as I came out of my car till I decided to help the old man out and made a dash running after the thief. Unfortunately, neither did I have the ability to chase him down running nor did I have the drive to get my car out and chase the thief.

Unlike the previous two stories, this one resulted in a genuine loss and there was nothing we could do about it. Bicycle thefts are way too common in Europe.

Conclusion:

Europe or Asia, the whole world is the same. One must always be careful of their new surroundings. A few measures as mentioned above may help you explore safe and reduce travel stress. Everyone can feel secure during travel if they exercise adequate caution and preparation. Most importantly, if you ask me is to document your experiences so that others can be more prepared.

I wish everyone loads of happy and safe travel. Remember to keep your belongings tight always.

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Hi, I’m Vineeth Naik

Liberal part time Blogger and full time Researcher with a broad range of experience, professionally and personally in Austria, Italy, UAE & India. Loves Finance, Business & Technology. Cares about society.

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