I am on a home exchange in Prague for 3 months and travel extensively by tram and Metro.
This past Monday, May 9 2011, I was boarding the Metro at I. P. Pavlova station.
A group of very well-dressed, "businessmen" surrounded me after I had just got into the car, blocking my movement. I suspect there were 5 of them, but counted only 4 in my immediate vicinity. I tried to push past the tallest of the group, but he told me in English, "I am getting of at the next stop" and would not budge.
A short, older man (appeared to be in his mid 70s) beside him, pretending to be a "lost" tourist, began asking me, in Czech for the name of the next stop.
Meanwhile, another man stood immediately to my left, holding a leather portfolio right up against my pocket, his hand hidden from view underneath. I could feel his hand twitching as he tried to slide it into my pocket. Fortunately, I wear special travel pants, tailored by a well-known Canadian manufacturer, with a velcro-sealed inner secret pocket. It is VERY hard for even me to open.
The entire group got off the train at the next stop, while I continued on.
When I left the train, I checked my backpack, a Lowepro Trekker camera bag. One of them had undone the snap, but could not successfully open the zipper which is under a separate flap.
Lesson Learned... be aware there ARE pickpockets at work on the public transit. They appear to be normal businessmen and blend into the crowds successfully.
Just use common sense. Ladies, DO NOT CARRY A PURSE. Gentlemen, DO NOT CARRY A WALLET IN AN ACCESSIBLE LOCATION. AND BE AWARE OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT AT ALL TIMES.
LIKE IN ANY OTHER BIG CITY ONE HAS TO BE CAREFUL. PRAGUE IS NOT DANGEROUS AT ALL BUT THE GUIDES WARNED US ABOUT THE PICKPOCKETS, WHICH SEEMED TO BE THE MAIN CRIME THERE. ONE DAY ULLA AND I WERE LOOKING AT OUR MAP AT ONE UNDERGROUND STATION AND UNCONSIOUSLY I NOTICED A YOUNG COUPLE WHO STOOD NOT FAR FROM US AND WHO DIDNýT SEEM TO HAVE ANY HURRY, THOUGH EVERYBODY ELSE WAS RUSHING EITHER TO THE TRAINS OR OFF FROM THE STATION. I DIDNýT PAY REAL ATTENTION TO THEM UNTIL WHEN WE WERE ABOUT TO ENTER THE STAIRS THEY PUSHED THEMSELVES BETWEEN ULLA AND ME. ALL THE WARNING BELLS WERE RINGING IN MY HEAD BECAUSE I THOUGHT THAT THEY WERE TOO CLOSE TO MY FRIEND AND AS IT WASNýT ANY RUSH HOUR THERE WAS PLENTY OF ROOM FOR EVERYBODY. THEY WERE SO CLOSELY TOGETHER THAT I COULDNýT SEE WHAT THEY WERE DOING BUT I SHOUTED: ýULLAý AND WHEN SHE TURNED I ASKED HER TO BE CAREFUL WITH THE COUPLE. AS WE STEPPED OUT OF THE STAIRS THE YOUNG MAN GAVE ME A LOOK, WHICH COULD HAVE EASILY KILLED ME BUT I JUST SMILED AT HIM POLITELY. ULLAýS BACKPACK WAS OPEN, SO THE COUPLE WERE PICKPOCKETERS, THOUGH THIS TIME UNLUCKY ONES. ULLA HAD ONLY OUR SANDWICHES AND WATER BOTTLES IN HER PACKBACK, SO THEY WOULDNýT HAVE BENEFITTED HAD THEY BEEN LUCKY. WE NEVER KEEP ANYTHING VALUABLE IN OUR PACKBACKS OR POCKETS AND HAVE OUR MONEY IN THE MONEYBELT INSIDE OUR TROUSERS.
Prague is known not only due to its beauty, but also for pickpockets. When it is so much people around, it is not hard to use thankful situation and grab valuable things without any reaction of stolen one. Places, that could be not so safe, include Charles Bridge, Old town hall, mostly used metro lines, possible Wenceslas square as well.
Thing about Wenceslas square: here is possible to see some people, who just stand without any action (mostly gypsies, black people), so as I got explained, these are not waiting someone to rob, but to invite to night clubs or offer some drugs. Wenceslas square is quite watched by police, so these people act silently.
This can't be stressed enough as one of my traveling companions was a victim to this nuisance behavior.
Very much aware of this sort of activity and swearing it would never happen to us, nevertheless it happened!!!
The pickpochets are quick, skillful and ingenious!
I am convinced the best method is to keep only a small quantity of money handy and the rest stored in money belt strapped to your body in some way.
The loose money should be kept in a front inside ZIPPERED pocket and reclosed immediately after making your purchase.
The scene of the crime was the Christmas Bazaar at Old Town Square-Staromestske Namesti but it can happen in any major tourist area all over the world.
It is up to you to prevent it!
I felt uncomfortable, mostly in the crowded areas, which includes all the tourists sites, but especially Charles Bridge and the Clock area. When you are shoulder to shoulder, anything can happen fast. I put my billfold in front pocket and kept checking to make sure ity was there. That is not a style of tourism that I want to be a part of' like being on edge all the time.
The handbag snatching happened at the Praha Holesovice train station at about 10:30 am, on May 22 2006. I was travelling with my family (from Vancouver, Canada) and we ran into an elderly American couple from New York at the station. Coincidently, we were all heading to Vienna on the same train. We all boarded the same first class car at the front of the train but they wanted a bit of privacy and took their own compartment next door. The train was uncrowded. As we waited for the train to leave, we heard some shouts next door. Apparently, the husband went to use the washroom leaving his wife alone, and along came a man who sat down beside her and asked "Is this second class?" When she said no, he got up, grabbed her handbag as well as his bag and ran out. He tossed her handbag to an awaiting accomplice at the train car door, and were both last seen running along the train track lines. The police were of little use since their english was very poor and they seemed understaffed. These thieves worked in pairs, and dressed casually but not poorly, and their plan was obviously well thought out. We weren't chosen because there were four of us - and my brother and his girlfriend are RCMP officers so they were in great physical shape. So, my tip to you is always keep an eye on your luggage on and off the train at the train station.
Prague is sadly famous to be the home of pickpockets but it remaing a sure town. It is a phenomenon that is not only of Prague but of all the tourist cities of the world. When you are in crowded and tourist places like the Charles Bridge or the Square of the Old Town to do particularly attention.
I have been visiting Prague for the last 20 years and it pains me when I see someone who has just discovered his pocket has been picked. Sadly all of these incidents are easily avoided. Here are the rules:
1. Don't carry a wallet or a purse. I never do. I carry my ATM card and some cash. If they get stolen its no big deal. I carry also a photocopy of my passport. This is all you need if the police ask you.
2. Know the pickpocket hotspots. Klarov tram station. Strossmayerorov Namesti tram station. Malostranske Namesti tram station are apalling places of pickpocketry on and around public transport. So are the old castle stairs. Tour busses bring groups to the castle at the top of the hill and meet the tourists below after they have walked down the old castly stairs. This is the most concentrated pickpocket zone in Prague.
Lately pickpockets have been working the parking lots of Prague shopping centres such as the one at Tesco Zlicin. They watch for women to put their purses on the roof of the car while loading up the boot. They post small children who crouch low and snatch your purse before you know what happened.
Also pickpockets are diversifying into car theft. And they dont even break your window. If you are using a radio key they simply capture your signal, clone it on the spot and retransmit it through device anyone can buy at an electronics store. In 30 seconds you Porsch can be long gone. I caught a group doing this to my car in Tesco.
I am always amazed that people who come to Prague by train are so unconscious of how dangerous the main train station is. The park around the station is known by Czechs as Sherwood Forest. This is Pragues mugging centre, and a great place for heroin addicts to shoot themselves up. The train station is a nest of pickpockets and con artists masquerading as Euro student tourists.
3. Know the methods. In the old days the "fat family" reigned. It was a family of about twelve who ranged in age from six to seventy. All were stumpy, with no obvious neck between head and torso. They were very load and by shouting herded tourists into their pikcing zones. The new generation is much more subtle. Usually a good looking young man and women who seem Italian and well-dressed. They are the true soft-touch wallet lifters who don't even distract you. They just want you not to notice them. The only ones who really scare me are the groups of young men who get on a tram and start physically crowding you. The moment they get on, you must get off. Often the tram driven will announce POZOR KAPSARY because he knows them well. These gangs are inevitably gyspsies and very dark complected. They are the roughest of the pickpockets and the least respected among the gypsie community. Be aware however that many Balkan nationalities are in Prague working as pickpockets. They are light skinned and harder to notice.
4. Beware of false policmen in plainclothes. No policeman in plain clothes will ask you for id. They tried this on my once and I told them they were not real policemen and they moved on quickly. Their scame is to tell you that your papers are not in order and that you must pay a fine of a few hundred dollars.
Dont let the pickpockets ruin your trip. You dont need to be paranoid. Just alert. You can take your camera because they only care about cash. And outside of Prague there are no pickpockets with the exception of Karlovy Vary.
At the end of an otherwise superb weekend in Prague, I became yet another statistic. Heeding all of the warnings, avoiding crowded areas, splitting money between us etc, four of us were targetted by a gang on the metro and there was no way that we were all going to get away with it. In the end, confronted by at least three men built like prop forwards and two juveniles, they had my wallet. The common trick of jamming the door, creating false crowd and then ten hands against my two. Since coming home, everyone that I have spoken to who has been to Prague, and that's at least a dozen, have all been robbed. These are not light-fingered "Artful Dodger" types, these are gangs of thugs: in the metro, on the tram, even in parks and cemetries. As for the Police, they are just not interested although they are very efficient at making out the reports. Read other travellers' comments and you will see that they just watch and will not intervene even when it is clear that people are being robbed. The only way to free this beautiful city of the scourge is to boycott it and then the authorities will have to do something.
Ok, Prague does have a large contingent of profesional pickpockets and gangs of thieves operating within the main tourist areas and the public transport system, just like most capital cities in Europe. I have seen them targetting obvious tourists, mainly because they look gullible and vulnerable. You can lessen the chance of being targetted by not walking around with a rucksack on your back, if you are visiting just for a day, leave it in the railway left-luggage office. So too, shoulder bags, even if you normally wear it round your neck and across your shoulder, leave it in your hotel. One of the main tricks of the thieves is to carry a scalpel and simply slice open the bottom of the bag, you will not feel it happening, and let the contents of your bag fall into a bag they are carrying. They will also use this trick on back-pockets of trousers etc. Basically, try not to carry money anywhere apart from tight front-pockets, preferably jeans. Never have your wallet/purse in you jacket and put your jacket down, even for a minute; once a gang has identified you as a definite target they will follow you for some time just waiting for the right moment. Having good street-cred and awareness is your best defense, display this and they will stay clear of you. Don't make it easy for them.
Please all be careful when taking photos in prague or when on tours... I did a tour (a walking tour) from the castle & over bridge etc & a lady that was in my group had a backpack on her back & when her husband turned around for 2 mins - someone unzipped the pack & took her wallet out and was gone.. please be careful!!!
Also.. be careful at night... heaps of people on the bridge at night and therefore - keep an eye out!!!
Yeah, so we join the line for international resrvations, theres maybe 5 people ahead of us. Anyway, this guy kind of mozies over, and I notice that he's get this sweater thrown over his sleeve. I think, that's weird, its like 90 degrees in here. And then I get this flashback to a show about pickpockets on the Travel Network. That's one of the oldest pickpocketing tricks--it makes it look natural that their arm isn't hanging like a normal persons, and disguises their movements.
So basically, hes going after this guys back pack, but we all moved forward and glared at him till he backed off. He then chats with his buddy to the side of the line )this was so weird--the whole place is empty, yet they want to chat right beside this line? weird.). Eventually I get to chatting with my friends until I notice he's hovering around the back of my pack. NOTE TO PICKPOCKETS: THE ONLY THING PEOPLE PUT IN THE OUTER POCKETS OF THEIR BACKPACKS ARE DIRTY SOCKS AND UNDERWEAR!!! LEAVE THEM ALONE!!! I wheeled around and we all basically and his buddy made him leave.
Well fine and dandy, we do our business and make our way to the subway area--guy comes after us agin while we are buying subway tickets. When I caught him with his hand on my bag I kind of lost it. I probably shouldn't have said anything--who knows, he could have stabbed me or something. But the idea of a stranger and my underwear, dirty or not, sent me off the edge. I would have made a New Yorker proud with the fierceness of my "Get the f*** away from me!" Whatever. It worked. No underwear on the station floor.
I read some warning about pickpockets in Prague before, so I think I was quite aware on it. But one day before we left, my friend's wallet was stolen on the metro when we want to go back to our hotel. It's around 6 pm and the metro was crowded (we got in at Museum metro station). All the seats were occupied, so that we have to stood up in front of the door together with a group of man (around 20-35 years old). I felt a bit bad feeling from the start, I warned my friends to watch out the backpack. But it was too late, they really worked so fast, and just trapped us in their group, one of my friend and me could get out of them but the other friend was not. It's happened several seconds before the metro stop for the next station, the group was gone out together from the metro with such a reckless movement and pushed my friend around. When she realized that she could not find her wallet the metro was starting to move already :-(
Despite the warnings given by members of VT, I went to Prague with an open mind about the level of crime - I mean, it can be a problem in most cities, but if you show caution until you are familiar with your surroundings you don't normally suffer.
In my 48 years of extensive travelling, I have only ever had my wallet taken once (in London) and that memory stays with you for some time - and teaches you a lesson.
In my five days in Prague there were two clear attempts to steal my wallet - maybe others that I was not aware of - and observed two attempts on other visitors. For me that highlights a serious problem!!
The main "hotspots" or high risk areas I discovered to be at the entrance to Charles Bridge (from the Old Town side), and on the Metro during rushhour.
In order to cross from the Old Town area onto Charles Bridge you normally have to wait for the traffic lights to change. You can get up to 200 people waiting either side of the road jostling for position when the lights change. The pickpockets move amongst the tourists and use the jostling of the group as a shield to their activities. The pickpocket we saw caught at this site seemed to be an innoffensive sweet old lady - appearances are deceptive.
On the Metro avoid overcrowded carriages. The ploy here is that when the train moves off with a jolt the pickpockets push the passengers. Whilst you are tring to regain your balance they go through your bags or pockets.
Most pickpockets seem to operate in pairs or groups.
Security or policing is not heavy in these areas either, so that if you actually catch someone in the act of taking your wallet or purse you will not get a lot of support - other than from sympathetic citizens - to hold them or bring them to justice.
Having said this, I did see incidents of great honesty from citizens of Prague - on one occasion an ice cream vendor returned the 75 Euros mistakenly given to her when she charged 75 Crowns for an ice cream!!
I have lived in the Czech republic for about a year now. I lived outside of prague for six months and never had a problem even though I visited Prague frequently about two times a week. Now I live in prague and have had the worst luck in the last month. My cell phone was stolen by a gipsy prostitute harassing me, I was stupid and was carrying it in my outside pocket. This rather pissed me off and two weeks later another gypsy tried to rob me. he asked to use my phone to call his mother, I lauged and told him to go away. He then motioned to say he wanted to listen to one of my ear phones, I caught his other hand going for my pocket (where there was nothing) and I got very angry with him. So this is my tip, DONT FIGHT BACK OR GET ANGRY, just walk away which is what I tried to do. He followed me on to the trama and when I got off at my stop he followed me but now there were two other people with him. Well three people, late at night, an empty street, you can guess what happened. They attacked me and I gave up very quickly, they took my phone and left. I belive they did this only because I got angry with them and gave them a personal reason to pursue me further.