6 Tips for Avoiding Pickpockets in Paris

October 2, 2013
6 Tips for Avoiding Pickpockets in Paris

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When I arrived in Paris to begin my study abroad program, one of the first things we discussed at orientation was safety. “People get pickpocketed all the time here,” the program director began. “Don’t think it can’t happen to you.” Sure enough, within a week in the city, a student’s phone was stolen at a bar in Le Marais, a well-known (and super fun) area that spans the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.

In addition to bars, clubs and pubs, one of the most popular places for pickpockets in Paris is the metro. You probably can figure out how to get from point A to point B, but can you make sure you arrive with all of your belongings intact?  Here are some tips to help you–and your belongings–stay safe:

1. Speak the local language

One surefire way to label yourself as a target is to speak loudly in anything but French. This is something that travelers often do without even thinking about it. You may hold conversations as you normally would without considering the fact that others are thinking 1) you must not know the language and 2) you probably don’t know the region so 3) it will be easy to take advantage of you. To avoid giving people this impression, speak the local language. If you can’t, speak in your preferred language discretely.

2. Don’t check your phone

Try not to flash your phone too often, especially if it’s particularly fancy.  I’m talking to you, iPhone owners.

6 Tips for Steering Clear of Pickpockets in Paris
Not getting robbed on the metro!

3. Check your directions before and after entering the metro station

If you can avoid it, don’t fumble with your smartphone or map to search for directions while you’re in the metro. It’s best to look confident while you’re traveling. If you’re uncertain of where your destination is, try to map out everything before you get on the train and either write it down or make a mental note of what routes you’ll be taking. If, when you arrive at your stop, you’re still a little confused, wait until you’re out of the station before pulling out your map/phone to get reoriented.

4. Guard your bag

When carrying a backpack, wear it on your chest. Yes, you will look a little awkward, but which is worse, looking awkward or getting your wallet stolen? If you have a handbag, keep the zippers in sight or carry it so that the zipper is facing your body, making it difficult for anyone to access your things.

5. Or better yet, don’t bring a bag at all

If you’re heading to a bar or a party, you probably aren’t carrying a lot of things. I, for example, usually have my keys, my phone and a bit of cash. Anything else is too much for me to keep an eye on. That being said, I can usually pack everything into a few jacket pockets. My leather jacket, which I wear literally everywhere, has four zip pockets that fit everything I need. I feel as though my possessions are safest on my body. I hardly ever take the jacket off, because it’s chilly most nights, but if I do, I never put the jacket down. It’s always in the safety of my arms.

(By the way, if you’re out late and you no longer feel safe taking the metro home, take a taxi instead. G7 is a pretty popular service. They allow you to schedule a pick-up in advance or to ask for a cab immediately. With its app, you can even use location services so that you and the driver can easily find one another. Uber is another good option.)

6. Don’t be afraid to remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation

In the past, I’d been hesitant about moving away from someone I felt was suspicious or made me uneasy for fear of being offensive. I’ve since become better at this. If it comes down to protecting yourself or protecting someone else’s feelings, always choose yourself.

6 Tips for Avoiding Pickpockets in Paris*

About Angelyn Irvin

Angelyn Irivin is a student at the University of Pennsylvania who studied abroad in Paris in 2013.

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