I’ve been in Paris twice, and on the last visit, I almost had my pocket picked on the metro. Here’s what happened, what I could have done differently, and how you can protect yourself from pickpockets.
We were in Paris for a week during our family tour through the Netherlands, Belgium and France. I think it was our second or third day in Paris and we were traveling via the Metro (subway), as we often did.
We were boarding a subway car. My wife and kids had boarded first, and I got on last. There were three large men clustered around the pole, mostly blocking the way into the car.
As I got on, two of them formed a wall and prevented me from going past them to join my family. I was very confused about why they weren’t letting me pass. I tried to push between them but they weren’t letting me pass.
After about ten seconds of that, I stepped sideways and forced my way past them.
What I didn’t even notice at the time was that the third man was trying to yank my wallet out of a pocket of my cargo shorts.
My son later told me they almost clotheslined him while trying to get to the pocket.
Fortunately, it’s not easy to get the wallet out of there. I often take a few seconds to get it out of there.
They could have grabbed my phone a lot easier – it was in the pocket above that – but they probably saw me put my wallet in there after putting my subway ticket in it, so they had a target.
I stood with my family, glaring at the three of them. They got off at the next stop and disappeared.
I was furious.
I made a point of keeping both buttons closed on that pocket to better secure my wallet. This made it really hard to get my wallet out; I had to unbutton it first and then take the wallet out, which was inconvenient but also made it considerably harder for my pocket to be picked.
I also started wearing my money belt. I kept about half my cash and one credit card in the money belt, tucked under my clothes, just in case.
I didn’t see any point in reporting the issue to the police. I couldn’t describe the men very well. They disappeared. And I didn’t lose anything. There was no benefit, in my opinion.
How to Protect Yourself From Pickpockets
Here are a few tips to protect yourself from being pickpocketed, along with some links for more tips.
- Don’t keep anything valuable in your back pockets. It’s too easy to slip a wallet out of a back pocket while you’re jammed in a crowd.
- Keep everything zipped up / buttoned up so a pickpocket can’t just slip their hand in and grab your valuables. Make them work for it.
- Keep the majority of your money in a money belt, and keep your belt out of sight under your clothes.
- Don’t carry all of your money and credit cards on you. Keep most of it in a safe in your hotel, so if you do get your money stolen, you haven’t lost everything.
- Be aware of your surroundings. When you’re looking at your phone, studying a map, or otherwise concentrating on something, keep your back against a wall, in a corner, out of crowds. Pickpockets want you to be distracted – like I was – so they can snatch your valuables while you aren’t looking.
- Keep an eye on your bags. I had a camera bag and I often wore it on my front instead of my back, so I could watch it and keep my arms nearby to limit access to it.
Here’s a few links with more details: