Sunday, September 18, 2022

Pickpockets: Perils and Precautions


We’ve been fortunate in our travels in more ways than one. Since retiring in 2001, we’ve flown about two million miles, visited 76 sovereign countries, and cruised nearly 400 days. We've visited 9 of the supposedly 10 worst cities in the world for pickpocketing, and we're visiting the 10th, Florence, Italy, later this year. While we've been scammed by taxi drivers on several occasions, we've seldom been victimized by criminals.

Kathy had a shoulder bag slashed and her wallet stolen in Delhi, India, and experienced another wallet stolen out of our hotel room in Venice, Italy. Brian and an acquaintance we were traveling with escaped a pickpocketing attempt a few years ago as we boarded a train in Citavecchia,  Italy.

Our long streak of good fortune ran out in Paris this past July, when thieves lifted a wallet from Brian’s front pocket in a very crowded Metro car. We described the incident here.

It was way too hot for Brian to wear one of his travel vests, and he was wearing the travel pants he’d brought with a zippered hip pocket that might have provided some protection. That contained his main wallet, It was his “dummy” wallet, into which he'd stuffed Euros from a recent ATM withdrawal, so the pickpockets earned themselves a several hundred Euro windfall. Ironically, it was the dummy wallet that tripped him up.

Lessons learned – or re-learned – include the following:

  • Don’t carry all of your money in one place;
  • While the hip pocket is the single worst spot for a man to carry his wallet, stowing it in the front pocket does not guarantee safety, despite the advice given in articles like this one and this one.
  • Keep track of which credit cards, IDs, etc. are in each wallet, with an accessible list. In this instance, Brian's dummy wallet was returned by an innocent (?) bystander on the Metro, but we already knew it contained neither ID nor valid credit cards.

Once safely back home, Brian decided it was time to augment his wardrobe with purchases from two companies that specialize in travel clothes featuring hidden pockets. He bought a hoodie and a pair of pants from SCOTTeVEST, He ordered a pair of jeans from Clothing Arts. We haven't worn money belts in years (we do have them), even though Rick Steves and some other travel experts still recommend them. Frankly, these days with widespread credit card acceptance we don't ordinarily feel the need to carry a lot of cash. It just so happened that the Euro was dropping to parity with the US dollar in July and our inclination was to stock up, when we knew we were returning before the end of the year.

The only tricky part, when you're wearing clothing with as many as 21 hidden pockets, is that it sometimes takes a real effort to remember where you've stashed your wallet, your passport, or your cell phone. We'll have to redouble our efforts in that regard.


FS said...

I’ve only been to Paris one time, though I was certainly more on the lookout than I am in, say, NYC. I was surprised nothing happened when I got approached by the gypsies around the Eiffel Tower. Sorry you experienced this!

Kathy and Brian said...

Forewarned is forearmed - along with some secret pockets!