Hello again – Welcome to Dad Post #4. Today’s topic: Pickpocketing – when lightening strikes twice.
In 2010, my wife and I took a trip to Spain and visited Madrid, Seville, Granada, and Barcelona. Sad to say, two of those places hold the 1st and 4th place on the Trip Advisor Global Pickpocket Top Ten 2010. I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled to 34 countries without any experiencing any pickpocket crime myself. On the other hand, my wife had the misfortune (sorry Marie) of experiencing being pick-pocketed two times within a 3-hour period in Madrid.
Before our trip, I made sure Marie knew about the dangers and reputations of the beautiful cities we were about to visit. The 1st pickpocketing attempt happened as Marie and I were sightseeing near Playa Mayor when an old lady attempted to take Marie’s purse, but Marie’s cat-like reflexes were able to stop the attempt. Exactly an hour later, someone took a photo of us by the famous bear by Puerta Del Sol, and I bet one of his buddies lifted Marie’s wallet during the distraction.
On a positive note, the pickpockets did not get much – about $20 cash, credit cards, drivers license, and some of my wife’s sentimental photos. OK, I lied – they got a lot and Marie was livid, wanting to immediately go home. I assured her that our vacation was going to be great and that someday we will be talking about this experience in hindsight…
It’s important to know that if you get pickpocketed, don’t panic. Credit cards can and have to be canceled, and you must report the crime to the police if you plan to file an insurance claim. In fact, when we went to police station, we were surprised to see how much company we had… One Australian tourist was mugged on train, and the criminal actually cut through his pants in order to take his wallet and cell phone at same time (now that’s what I call talent, LOL). Take a look below at the Global Pickpocket Top Ten 2010 list below and some helpful tips to follow if it should happen to you:
Global Pickpocket Top Ten 2010 (2009 figures)
2. Rome, Italy (2)
3. Paris, France (5)
4. Madrid, Spain (-)
5. Athens, Greece (9)
6. Prague, Czech Republic (3)
7. Costa Brava (Alicante Province), Spain (-)
8. Lisbon, Portugal (-)
9. Tenerife, Spain (-)
10. London, England (-)
- Do not put anything in your backpockets
- Do not put anything valuable in thigh pockets (cargo shorts/pants)
- Put valuables in more than one pocket (not all eggs in one basket)
- Don’t make yourself a target by talking loudly in native tongue (even locals can be targeted though)
- Defend your personal space (try avoiding walking or standing in crowds like on busy trains)
- Carry bags in front of you with nothing valuable in outer pockets
- Don’t dress like a tourist (What do the locals wear?)
- Any purse or day bag should have a strap no longer than just under your elbow (helps prevent bag slashings and easy access to what is inside)
- Carry day bags/purses diagonally across neck and chest
- Be aware of scams that cause distractions, like being squirted with something and having a seemingly kind lady try to clean it up. Pickpockets thrive on distraction, whether they cause it themselves or you are just watching a street performance.
- Always remain vigilant
- Be loud
- Make a scene (pickpockets try to avoid attention and often run from too much attention)
- If you still have your valuables, immediately walk/run/jump in opposite direction of aggressors
- Pickpockets generally avoid confrontation, but if weapon is visible, comply with their demands (duh)
- Inventory what was lost
- File a police report with great detail of theft at local police station
- Alert your travel insurance company if covered for theft (police report is key in this case)
- Learn and adapt to any mistakes you may have made
Despite the pickpocketing encounter we experienced, the Spain trip ended up being one of our favorite trips to date.
Has anything like this ever happen to you? If so, how did you handle it?
Safe and happy travels,