What do Barcelona’s ‘Las Ramblas’, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Rome’s Trevi Fountain have in common? The answer is that they were all ranked in the top three ‘worst hotspots’ for pickpocketing, in a list produced by the UK’s ‘Daily Express’ this month. As the newspaper warned, unless tourists have packed travel insurance, pickpocketing could literally leave them out of pocket.[i]
In Las Ramblas, the opportunity to steal from tourists may come whilst they watch street performers or relax in one of the many street cafés that proliferate along the long route down to the port. Around the Eiffel Tower, the theft danger could exist when they are trying to fit the 330-metre tower into their smartphone screen and not paying attention to their possessions. In Rome, it might be whilst they are rummaging in their bag, looking for coins to throw into the iconic fountain, forgetting that their wallet is sticking out of their back pocket.
Other tourist attractions also made the list of pickpocketing hotspots, such as Sagrada Familia, the Colosseum, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame and the Louvre. This demonstrates how being around world-famous visitor attractions can be a tad distracting and that such places are locations at which travellers really need to have their wits about them.
Theft figures in European countries
Elsewhere, Eurostat, a collator of European statistics, has reported theft statistics are on the rise in five western-European countries – Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Luxembourg, despite the perception that such countries are safer than those in the east.[ii]
Belgian authorities have themselves issued warnings about bag-snatchers in Brussels, whilst Lisbon has seen a 7.7% increase in youth crime and gang activity in 2022.
The fact is that tourists are relatively easy targets, wherever they travel. They can quickly stand out as being visitors rather than residents and can wander into troublesome areas without even realising it. Displaying valuables that residents might not necessarily be out and about with, such as video-cameras and cameras, can be attractive to opportunistic thieves, whilst backpacks carrying passports, holiday cash and phones, can be unzipped in seconds by a professional pickpocket.
Staying safe in tourism theft hotspots
Tourists should be ultra-cautious when visiting popular tourist areas, taking precautions such as wearing money-belts and ensuring backpacks are worn on the front, and not on the back, on public transport. Beware of strangers offering to take your photo or asking for a light. They could run off with your camera or nab something once up close. Women should be particularly aware of bag-snatchers. If you have to carry a bag, opt for a cross-body rather than a shoulder bag. If you can’t, carry your bag on the shoulder away from the road.
Don’t flash your wealth whilst out and about, keeping jewellery safely tucked away at home before you travel, or in a hotel safe, along with your passport. Consider ways to reduce the number of times you have to bring your wallet out, such as purchasing a pre-paid city-visit style card that will give you free access to a large number of visitor attractions.
Don’t carry your wallet or phone in your back trouser pocket and don’t leave items on chairs or tables at street cafes. Always scan the environment and be aware of possible issues. It is better to distrust people than to have them take you for a fool.
If hiring a villa, be careful about leaving valuables behind when on day trips or when heading out to eat in the evening. If you must leave anything behind, try to hide it in an unexpected place. Just make sure you remember where you put it!
How travel insurance can help you recover from theft
Also make sure you purchase travel insurance before you travel, so you have some theft protection for your cash, cards, valuables and passport. If you are robbed, you should ensure you report it to local police and get a police report number for your case. Your insurer will wish to see evidence that you took these steps.
If you lose your passport and have no means of getting home without it, your insurer will also help guide you through the necessary steps to take, to get home safely. Your policy should also provide compensation for stolen possessions, up to the sum insured stated on your policy.
Being insured against the consequences of theft is just one reason to buy yourself a good travel insurance policy when you head off on holiday. To find such a policy, simply look at our relevant pages at www.europesuretravelinsurance.com and choose either single trip or annual multi-trip cover, either at Silver, Gold or Platinum level.