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 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 where pickpockets congregate in Paris is the metro. As a traveller, you’re probably capable of getting from point A to point B using just a map, but how can you make sure you arrive at point B with everything you started out with? Here are some tips that have been previously shared on Pink Pangea by Angelyn to help keep you and your belongings safe:
1. Speak the local language or speak softly
One surefire way to make yourself a target for pickpockets is to speak loudly in any language other than French. Let’s be honest, this is something that travellers tend to do. It’s easy enough to have a conversation without considering that the people around you may be thinking: 1) you mustn’t know the local language and 2) you probably aren’t that familiar with the region, so 3) it will be easy to take advantage of you. To avoid giving this impression, try to stick to the local language, otherwise keep your voice down!
2. Don’t flash your phone around
Try not to flash your phone around, especially if it’s a particularly fancy or expensive model. That’s you, iPhone owners!
3. Check your map/smartphone for directions outside the metro station
It’s best to look confident when travelling, so if you can avoid it, don’t use your smartphone or map to search for directions while you’re in the metro. If you’re not sure where your destination is, try to map everything out before you get on the train – you can either write it down or make a mental note of what routes to take. If you’re still a little confused when you arrive at your stop, wait until you’re out of the station before pulling out your map/phone to get reoriented.
Photo credit: Susan Sermoneta
4. Keep an eye on your bag
If you plan on lugging a backpack around, wear it on your chest. Yes, you’ll look a little dorky, but which is worse – looking dorky or having your wallet stolen? If you’re carrying a handbag, keep the zippers in sight or carry it with the zippers facing your body – this will make it difficult for anyone to access your things.
5. 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 just have my keys, phone and a bit of cash. Anything else is too much for me to keep an eye on. I feel that my possessions are safest on my body, so I usually pack everything into a few jacket pockets. I hardly ever take my jacket off, but if I do, I never put it down, always keeping it in the safety of my arms.
By the way, if you’re out late and don’t feel safe taking the metro home, grab a taxi instead. G7 is a popular service that allows you to book a pick-up in advance or order a cab immediately. It even has an app (available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone) with a location feature so that you and your driver can easily find one another. Uber is another chauffeur service that many of my friends use.
6. Don’t hesitate to remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation
In the past, I’d hesitate about moving away from someone who seemed suspicious or made me feel uneasy, for fear of being offensive. If it comes down to protecting yourself or protecting someone else’s feelings, always choose yourself.
The author of this article, Angelyn Irvin, is a student at the University of Pennsylvania who recently completed a study abroad program in Paris.
This post originally appeared on Pink Pangea – an online community for women who love to travel.