Tourists in Paris are reminded to be on guard against increasingly brazen and aggressive pickpockets after staff at the Louvre walked out Wednesday to protest against violent working conditions.
Saying they’re fed up with dealing with gangs of thugs and being spat at, insulted, threatened and even struck, 200 workers at one of the most famous museums in the world -- it receives about 10 million visits a year -- staged a walkout, disappointing a long line of tourists. The museum reopened Thursday with increased police presence, but tourists visiting crowded places should remain vigilant.
In the center of Paris, thieves often work in groups of up to 30, and include children from eastern Europe.
It’s the latest event to tarnish the city’s reputation in the eyes of the world. In March, a group of Chinese tourists were targeted by a gang of pickpockets, an attack that made headlines around the world.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in France offers visitors a host of tips and suggestions on how to avoid being the victim of a predatory pickpockets -- tips which can also be applied to travel around the world.
Here are a few highlights:
Keep only what is essential in your wallet. For example, one credit card, one piece of ID, and no more than €50. Make copies of your passport, and other ID cards.
Women are advised to carry bags with a zipper enclosure, and to carry it tightly under their arm, slightly in front of them.
Swing your backpack around so that it’s slightly in front of you. Men can protect themselves by placing a rubber band around their wallet and putting it in their front pocket, a detail that will make it difficult for thieves to extract the wallet smoothly.
Be extra vigilant around major tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Champs-Elysées. Metros are also major target areas.
If you are pickpocketed, start yelling for police immediately. The embassy advises against chasing down the perpetrators as the wallet has most likely already been handed off to someone else within the group.
If there are no security guards or police around, go to the local police station (commissariat) and file a complaint.
Know what you’re up against:
The most popular tactic on the metro is the “crush and grab.” You will be swarmed by several people and in the chaos, as you’re being pushed, you will be pickpocketed.
Another tip: try to avoid sitting or standing right by the doors. Because another trick they use it so grab the purse or smartphone just as the train doors open and dashing away. Wherever you end up in the train, try to minimize access to your pockets and purses.
The age-old distraction method involves the pretext of asking for directions, or attempts to sell you trinkets. During the distraction, someone will try to pick your pockets.
Another rather unpleasant technique: Someone will throw or spill something on you like water or ice cream. You will be approached by people who feign to help you, and in the chaos, you will be pickpocketed.
- If the machine eats your card, go into the bank immediately as it’s most likely the machine's been tampered with. Use only ATMs from major banks. Refrain from talking to anyone during the transaction, as it’s likely part of an attempt to scam you.
As always, cover your hand as your enter your pin code.