Guest Post: Getting Pick-Pocketed Twice in One Day & Global Top 10 Pickpocketing Hot Spots

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.

Is Marie waving goodbye to her wallet in this photo? LOL

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)

1. Barcelona, Spain (1)
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 (-)

Tips For Pickpocket Prevention:
  • 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
If You Catch A Pickpocket
  • 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)
If You Already Have Been Pickpocketed
  • 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,

The Dad.


  1. Gene says

    Some more tips:

    1) Carry minimal cash, in small denominations. Don’t put it all in one place.
    2) Carry one credit card
    3) Carry zero debit/ATM cards unless you are specifically going to an
    4) Carry a “fake” wallet. Fill it with expired credit cards, old hotel room keys, old elite status cards, and other worthless important-looking stuff.
    5) Leave your passport, drivers license, etc in your hotel room safe. 6) Carry a photocopy of your passport.
    7) Only stay at hotels with in-room safes

  2. Robert Hanson says

    Number One, keep your valuables inside your clothes in a money pouch. Passport, credit cards, major cash, etc go in the pouch, underneath your pants, or under your shirt shoulder holster style . Keep just enough cash in your pockets to buy postcards, coffee, etc without having to pull out the pouch. If pickpockets get your petty cash, fine, just don’t let them get your credit cards, passport, etc. Purchase at any travel, luggage, or even most drug stores.
    Wells Fargo, maybe other banks too, has a special “travel account” with a dedicated ATM card that can only access your travel account, not your regular banking accounts. Leave your regular ATM card at home. You can transfer money into the travel account as needed online. So if someone gets both your travel ATM and the pin somehow, even at gunpoint, they can’t access your regular account.

  3. says

    good tips here, The Dad, et al (and my daughter’s name is Angelina! love it!) I’ve been to 6/10 cities on that list but am glad to say have not had any incidents. I now always wear my strap-on-the-body carrying cases that help alleviate the problem of how to carry valuables, especially in those circumstances where wearing a dress that makes it harder to use a standard money belt. If you travel often you might really find my patented PortaPocket cases useful. they’re super comfy and highly versatile as you can wear them on many parts of the body and work both under or over the clothing. Makes life easier whether you’re heading across the street or around the world :) See what I mean at Happy travels!

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