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How to Avoid Pickpockets in Paris

Precautions to Take


P1050238  The hour-long queue at the Musée d'Orsay
55267995@N04/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
These tips were in part adapted from an article on the US Embassy in Paris website.

Paris is a very safe city, but pickpocketing remains a problem in the city of lights, particularly in crowded areas like the metro and around popular tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur. Pickpockets are known to operate in areas frequented by tourists, and use fairly predictable strategies to rip off the unaware. Learning about these strategies, taking a few keys precautions and remaining vigilant at all times will go a long way in avoiding pickpockets in Paris.

Take Only the Bare Essentials

As a general rule, leave most of your valuables in a safe at the hotel or apartment where you're staying. It's not necessary to bring your passport or other items of value along with you into the streets of Paris. Take along an alternative form of identification and bring along only a copy of the key pages of your passport. Unless you have a money belt, keep no more than around 50 or 60 Euros with you (see more on how to handle money in Paris here).

Empty Your Pockets and Wear Your Bags Correctly

Before pickpockets get a chance to empty your pockets, transfer valuables like cash or cellphones to a bag with inside compartments. Never wear your purse or bag on one shoulder-- this makes it too easy for pickpockets to swipe it-- especially in crowded conditions where you're less likely to feel it. Sling your bag over your chest in crisscross style instead, and keep it close to you and visible. If you wear a backpack, never keep valuables in outside zipper compartments. You may think you'll feel someone opening them, but pickpockets are experts at being slick and surreptitious, and they often work in groups.

Beware of ATM/Cashpoint Scams

ATM machines can be favorite spots for potential scammers and pickpocketers. Stay extremely vigilant when withdrawing cash and do not offer help to anyone who wishes to "learn to use the machine" or who engages you in conversation while you are entering your pin code. If you can't figure out how to use the machine, never accept "help" or advice on how to use it, either. Type in your code in total privacy and tell anyone lingering too close to back off.

Beware of Crowding and Distractions

Especially in places like the Paris metro, but also in areas around popular tourist attractions (including lines), pickpockets often work in groups. One member of a "team" may attempt to distract you by engaging in conversation, asking for money or showing you a small trinket, while another goes for your pockets or bag. In very crowded conditions, pickpockets may take advantage of the confusion. Make sure your valuables are safely stored in a money belt or in inside compartments of the bag you're carrying, and hold it close to you, preferably where you can see it fully. When in the metro, it may be best to avoid seats closest to the doors, since some pickpockets adopt the strategy of grabbing bags or valuables and exiting the metro car just as the doors are closing.

What If I've Been Pickpocketed in Paris?

The US Embassy recommends that victims of pickpockets in Paris to yell immediately for the police if they become aware of the crime as it happens. If no help arrives, go to the nearest police station to file a report. Then report the loss of any important valuables to your embassy or consulate.
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