It is no secret that pickpockets are a nuisance in major cities across the world. Unfortunately, Lisbon is no different than other metropolitan areas as pickpocketing occurs around the city.
It is common for major tourist hubs to experience pickpocketing from time to time. Barcelona is one of Europe’s most visited cities. However, it is also known as the pickpocket capital of the continent due to the staggering numbers of incidents per day. One report claims that 6,000 thefts (pickpocket and others) occurred in Barcelona in 2009.
Luckily, Lisbon does not experience the same issues when it comes to bag and wallet thefts. Lisbon often ranks as Europe’s safest – or one of the safest – capitals to visit. Still, you must be on guard when visiting public areas or using public transport. Pickpockets strike when your guard is down and they use their environments to ensure a getaway is possible. So, how do you keep safe and prevent pickpockets from striking in Lisbon?
Pickpockets in Lisbon Tips to Be Safe
Backpacks on Public Transport
If you are travelling on public transport in Lisbon and carrying a backpack, you should wear it on your front (chest) rather than on your back. Wearing it on your front allows you to be more aware of its contents and whether or not someone is trying to open it. Many thefts occur when someone opens a person’s backpack and removes items. Pickpockets in Lisbon are stealth enough to open your backpack and remove your valuables without you knowing. So, always wear your backpack on your front.
Wear a Money Belt
A money belt may look unfashionable, but it can prevent you from being robbed. Money belts are worn under your clothing and strap to the body. You can keep all manner of valuables inside. Money belts are inexpensive, especially if you have to replace cash, credit cards, and ID after having your wallet stolen. Of course, if you don’t want to use a money belt and prefer to carry a wallet, then place it in your front trouser pockets. Even then, your wallet may not 100% safe.
Don’t Carry a Purse
Women with purses are major targets for pickpockets in Lisbon. Purses are easy to snatch. A thief can run up behind you and pull it off your shoulder without breaking stride. Thieves may even cut the straps using scissors or knives on busy public transport. By the time you realise the bag is missing, the pickpocket is long gone. Women should avoid carrying purses around the city. Money belts are far more practical. If you do carry a purse, however, ensure your hand is on the bag at all times.
Mind the Mobile Phone
Nowadays, people regularly take their smartphone out of their pocket and set it on the table at restaurants, bars, or cafes. Mobile phones are popular objects that pickpockets steal as they can flip them quickly. A common practice is for a pickpocket to approach you at your table and place a paper over your smartphone. While your attention is distracted, they slip your mobile phone into their pocket or rucksack. Always mind your mobile phone and never place it on a table out in public.
Pickpockets love tourists who rush and are flustered. A tourist that is in a hurry is a prime target. You shouldn’t rush to jump on a tram or the underground. By taking your time, you will prevent a pickpocket from singling you out. In addition, thieves love to hide in crowds. Large crowds make for an easy escape. So, avoid large crowds if at all possible. When travelling on public transport, don’t let your guard down.
Look the Other Way
A common pickpocket tactic is for one person to distract you while another thief comes from behind and steals your wallet. This is an old trick in which your attention is focused on one subject, giving the thieves the chance to lift your money. Oftentimes, the pickpocket will work with multiple individuals to create some kind of distraction on the street. As you look at all of the commotion, your goods are stolen. You can avoid this tactic by ignoring any commotion that is created out in the open.
Beware of Kids
Kids are perfect pickpockets. Why? They often go unnoticed until it is too late. Kids may hang around cafes, parks, or other public places looking sweet and innocent; but they have ulterior motives. A crying child may approach you to help them find their parents. However, while you engage with the child, their sibling or another youngster takes your bag. Some kids may just snatch your bag and run, but others will be a bit slyer. Be on the lookout for kids milling around public places and heavy tourist areas. They are likely plotting to rob someone.
Reporting an incident
Oftentimes, the police are unable to apprehend a suspect or locate your stolen belongings. While this is frustrating, you still must report the incident to the police. For one, it puts the police onto the area and may prevent other people from experiencing the same issue. More importantly, you will get a police report (which should be signed) to make an insurance claim. At this point, you will be glad you took out travel insurance, which is something you should always do before leaving home. Lisbon public transport doesn’t have CCTV and a person can only really be arrested for theft if they are caught in the act. Having travel insurance may be the only way to actually get any kind of justice if you are pickpocketed.
Perhaps the best advice to avoid pickpockets in Lisbon is to leave your cash money, valuables such as jewelry, passports, and onward travel tickets at your accommodation. If you have cash, bring only what you need for the day.
Of course, many people use credit cards when travelling. A money belt is perfect for travellers needing credit cards. While pickpocketing does happen in Lisbon, there are ways to avoid it. You should stay safe by following these tips on your trip to Portugal’s capital city.