Paris, a top destination almost everyone dreams to visit at least once in their lifetime. No doubt Paris is the city that we both love (our top destination is still Tokyo), visiting it more than 12 times within the last 3 years.
However during gatherings, when friends & family members relate their Europe travel experience, there is one subject that almost everyone can relate to – Pickpockets.
Pickpockets are very rampant in Europe and occur frequently especially in certain cities like Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Milan. Therefore I always remind friends traveling to Europe to be 10 times more alert.
It was our last day in Paris. After some shopping at Hard Rock Cafe Paris, we walked to Grands Boulevards Station, where I instinctively noticed 2 suspicious looking men near the ticket vending machine.
There were 2 ticket gates, i walked to the left gate noticing they were behind me, so I pause and move over to the right gate where they too followed. Holding my wallet tightly instead slipping back into my pocket, I decided to do a swift pass to minimize contact.
Upon hitting the ticket gate machine metal bar & entering the station, I heard Cecilia shout “He took something from your pocket!”
Dumbfounded, I replied “I’m holding my wallet”. Cecilia shouted back “But I saw he pull something out with white wire”.
Then I realized it was my Iphone 6 that was missing as I was charging it with a powerbank, and due to the cable attached, it became obvious. “Fuck, my Iphone 6!”
Cecilia shouted “He is still outside”, quickly I existed and confronted the guy “Why did you take my phone?” Much to my surprise, he immediately returned the phone, and for a few seconds I was worried it was a fake phone until I unlocked it with my passcode. He just left as if nothing happened.
FUCKING LUCKY, i think we were stayed silent through the journey back to our hotel.
It was already 5pm by the time we reached our hotel. We checked out of our hotel and took the metro to Gare Du Nord to connect to Charles de Gaulle Airport Terminal 2. Usually we will call for taxi however due to uncertain check out time, we decided to take the train instead.
It was after office hours and trains were packed, I decided to keep all valuables in my backpack as precautions. The journey from Gare du Nord to CDG Airport takes approx 40 mins.
As the train was packed, there was no place for us to sit. We thus stood most of the journey until Parc des Expositions Station which is 2 station away from our airport station. By then most commuters had alighted with most of the remaining travelers heading to the airport.
Relieved we sat down thinking the worst was over as we were arriving airport. With Cecilia holding on to my backpack and placing our laptop bag beside her, our luggage was still on the floor, within eye contact.
We started talking about the Iphone 6 incident, how it happened, why i had a hunch they are pickpockets, telling her telling her how surprised I was when he returned the phone far too easily, and how I initially thought it was a fake phone, then feeling lucky we got it back.
Moments later, the RER train stopped at CDG Airport Terminal 1 & 3, which is one station before our station, CDG Terminal 2.
Instinctively, I noticed Cecilia side was too empty & I shouted “Where is our bag?” Cecilia replied “In front of me” while pointing at my backpack” I replied “No, not our backpack! Our laptop bag!” To her horror, our laptop bag beside her containing two laptops was missing!
A few seconds before the train door closed, I shouted “Ill go out and search, meet me at our station (which is next station).”
Rationally thinking, if I were the pickpocket, I will walk straight instead taking the escalator to avoid detection as the terminal is long with pillars blocking view while escalator was packed so I ran straight. Passing halfway by the escalator, I noticed a eye catching black & red strip bag which had the same design as our laptop bag moving 45 degree above me. Looking up it was indeed our laptop bag!
I quickly ran up the escalators and snatched my laptop bag from the guy & angrily shouted at him “Why did you take my bag?” Scolding him loudly, immediately attracted the attention of airport securities. Terrorists attacked a few weeks before we arrive hence security was tight in Paris.
After explaining to the security officer that the guy stole my bag, the officer asked him few questions. The suspect spoke French but from his facial expression I presumed he was saying he saw an unattended bag so he decided to bring it along to file a report.
As we were rushing to catch our flight after getting our laptops back, I had no choice but to leave the problem to the security personnel and catch the next train to CDG Terminal 2.
Arriving at my station, I gave Cecilia a thumbs up to indicate I have gotten our laptop bag back.
Upon checking in our flight with Etihad Airways, our best wishes came true when we heard “Sir, we have upgraded you two to Business Class”
We were very very lucky to get both Stolen items back. Counting this incident, it was our 10th pickpocketing experience in Paris & Rome. Fortunately for both of us, we survive all 10th pickpocket incidences without losing anything.
Tommy 10 vs 0 Pickpocket!
How to avoid being Pickpocket
1. Always be aware of your surroundings, if you feel something is weird, then there might be a problem.
2. Avoid pack trains, most pickpocketing happens in very packed trains. They come in groups, and will push you off balance and pick your wallet. I will rather wait for next train so I could enter first.
3. Avoid bring loads of cash in your wallet or handbag especially Asians, whom pickpocket targets. While you may score cheaper European goods via good exchange rates, you may end up losing more cash to pickpockets.
4. Use a credit card instead, designer bags in Europe are already 30% cheaper, why dwell on the few percentages lost to the exchange rate? Dont be Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
5. Never think it wont happen on us. Pickpocketing in Europe is almost like breathing air, as it happens so regularly. The only surprise is their police enforcement efficiency.
6. Pickpockets targets tourists, as tourists do not usually have the time nor want to go through the trouble to report lost items.