Simple Tricks For Avoiding Pickpockets In Europe From Travel Expert Rick Steves

If you've visited any crowded tourist spot in Europe, you've likely stumbled upon a sign with the message "Watch for pickpockets" or "Beware! Thieves operate in this area." The cautionary words might distract from the beautiful sights you traveled so far to visit, though not as much as if you actually had your pockets picked or your bags swiped.

While it's difficult to track down accurate statistics on pickpocket crimes, travel insurance comparison website created a Pickpocketing Index based on the number of visitor reviews that mention pickpocketing. Italian destinations were most associated with theft, with 463 mentions of pickpocketing for every 1 million visitors. Other countries also thought to have high rates of pickpocketing include France, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Thankfully, a trip to Rome or another European hotspot doesn't have to result in lost money or a missing wallet. Rick Steves, TV host and an expert on European travel, offered his best tips to protect yourself against snatchers. And bonus: One of his tips may even help you get your lost belongings back.

Take precautions to avoid being targeted by pickpockets

One of the best things you can do to deter pickpockets is not to use easy-to-access pockets in the first place, according to Rick Steves' Europe. The travel guru suggests wearing a money belt to keep cash, identification, and other valuables safe from sneaky fingers. "I bring a money belt for times when I'm feeling like I'm going to be out and about on the road," Steves explained to Insider. "It's a smart idea to have things tied to my waist under my clothing, as far as my valuables." While a standard fanny pack-style bag could work, Steves prefers a money belt designed to be worn under the pants. If you must carry a larger bag or purse, he suggests making sure the straps are securely placed around your body, and the zippers are locked.

Even if your belongings are fastened in place, a brazen thief may attempt to grab the phone in your hand or the camera around your neck when you're distracted (some are even known to cut the straps and pockets of tourists' bags). While street performers and other commotion can be entertaining, Steves advises staying vigilant at all times. As he explains on his website, teams of thieves work together, with some members intentionally creating disturbances to distract passersby. While everyone is busy watching, other members slip into the crowds, looking for valuables to grab. If you're caught near a chaotic scene, escape to a calmer, quieter area.

How to prepare for lost items

In an ideal world, no vacation would ever be ruined by petty thieves. Unfortunately, seasoned pickpockets can be sneaky, and even the most thoughtful precautions may not be enough to avoid their tactics. Preparing for the worst can help soften the blow of getting your items stolen in Paris, Amsterdam, or another European destination. One option is to sign up for travel insurance before your trip. Most insurance plans will cover the loss of belongings due to pickpocketing, misplacement, airline error, or damage while traveling. However, keep in mind that there are generally limits to how much money can be reimbursed.

Rick Steves also suggests leaving a note on your most prized possessions, as per his website. As he explains, anyone is capable of accidentally leaving a bag or laptop case behind while in a foreign city. Attaching a note with your name and contact information could come in handy if a helpful stranger finds the item. Steves also recommends changing your phone's lock screen while on vacation to an "If Found Please Return To" note.

Finally, if a pickpocket grabs your passport (or if you make the unfortunate mistake of leaving it somewhere), Steves offers a simple tip in his Packing List: Photocopy your travel documents in advance and stash them in a safe place, such as in your suitcase. The copies could speed up the replacement process so you don't end up stranded far away from home.