Falling victim to pickpockets can quickly turn a dream holiday into a nightmare, with tourists frequently targeted by opportunistic thieves.
Some places around the world do have bad reputations when it comes to pickpocketing, but which are the worst cities according to tourists?
If you’re planning a trip away and are concerned about the threat of pickpockets, make certain to compare travel insurance deals to make sure that your possessions are covered.
Benidorm is a very popular destination for tourists, but its local market has developed something of a reputation for pickpocketing, according to Tripadvisor.
While 48 reviews mentioning pickpockets may not seem too bad, they account for 17% of the entire reviews for the market on the site.
A number of reviews also describe scammers using a rigged game of chance using cups and peas as a distraction tactic (often working with the pickpockets to target distracted tourists).
Places like markets and crowded Metro stations attract the most pickpockets, and Athens Metro comes in second.
The Athens Metro is a quick and handy way to get around this beautiful city but seemingly has a big pickpocket problem according to Tripadvisor reviews.
15.2% of reviews on the site mention pickpockets, with a report from the Telegraph saying that as many as 50 thieves a day were being arrested on the city’s Metro system.
In third place is the historical Colon Street, in Cebu City in the Philippines. Cebu is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations and this crowded street used to be home to fashionable shops and movie theatres.
Named after Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon), it is the country’s shortest and oldest national road.
However, with much of this activity moving further inland, the area has become run-down and crowded, making it a good target for pickpockets.
The place with the highest number of reviews that mention pickpockets is the famous Las Ramblas pedestrian walkway that runs through Barcelona.
Las Ramblas is crowded at the best of times, but especially during the peak tourist season, and this makes it perfect for pickpockets.
Barcelona is a culturally rich city but has a reputation for being one of the worst cities for pickpockets and this is where the majority of crimes occur.
As one of the most popular cultural attractions in the world, it’s little wonder that at least some of the people visiting Paris have had issues with pickpockets.
Specifically, keep a close eye on your belongings as you walk up the main street from the metro station to the tower itself.
In 2019, police in Paris arrested 19 people believed to be ringleaders of a pickpocketing gang that targeted the area around the Eiffel Tower.
Rome is a magnificent historic city although it has struggled with pickpockets and one of its most targeted historical landmarks is the Trevi Fountain, known for its majestic beauty.
There is a famous tradition of throwing coins into the fountain over your left shoulder, with around 3,000 euros being thrown in each day.
However, there are frequent attempts to steal coins from the fountain and there are also reports of pickpockets operating in the busy crowds.
As you can see, many of the world’s pickpocket hotspots are located in Europe, so how can you avoid being targeted?
Firstly, it may sound simple but make sure that all of your valuables are tightly zipped away in a bag or purse when you’re in tourist areas.
Zips on bags should also face inwards where possible or be hidden under layers of clothing to make them harder to access.
There are also bags and garments specifically designed to counteract pickpockets, with secret pouches and compartments.
On top of the above though, you should try not to advertise yourself to pickpockets, so stay alert and don’t overtly flash any valuable jewellery, items or cash when visiting European cities.
If you’re unlucky enough to have your phone stolen, the thieves often have different goals. For example, a lot of the time they may not be after your phone at all, but rather your data.
In this case, they’ll try to access things such as your online bank account, or get the information to allow them to do so.
Failing this, they may even gain access to your personal files and photos and look for anything that they could use to blackmail you in return for the phone.
The most conventional thing a thief will do though is try to sell the phone on, and they may even send it abroad to do so if they can get more money.
Unfortunately, backpacks are perhaps the easiest thing for pickpockets to target as it is of course on your back, therefore you can’t always keep an eye on it.
The fact that the opening to the bag isn’t touching your body also makes them easier to steal from as you won’t be able to feel something being taken.
In addition to this, they’re a pretty clear sign that you’re a tourist, making you a clear target.
Money belts are definitely safer than backpacks from pickpockets as they are hidden away out of the sight of pickpockets.
Even if they know you’re wearing one, the hassle of trying to steal from one makes you less likely to be pickpocketed.
Of course, nothing can ever be 100% safe against pickpockets, but a money belt certainly makes you a great deal safer.
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First, a list of attractions and transport stations was created by searching for articles that mention cities that are commonly targeted by pickpockets, as well as searching for the term “pickpockets” on Tripadvisor.
For each of these attractions, the total number of reviews on Tripadvisor was taken, as well as the number that contained the words “pickpocket” and “pick pocket”.
These reviews that mention pickpockets were then calculated as a percentage of the total reviews.
James has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news, specialising in consumer rights, pensions, insurance, property and investments - picking up a series of awards for his journalism along the way.