How to outsmart pickpockets on the train

Travelling by train is nice. There is plenty of legroom and you can enjoy the scenery with your fellow passengers. But where there are lots of people, there are often pickpockets. Even on the train. Some trains have gangs of bag snatchers. They are clever, fast and well organised.

A stolen bag or suitcase can cause a lot of stress and inconvenience when travelling. So, we asked our experienced train managers to give you some tips on how to reduce the chances of a bag snatcher stealing your luggage.

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What techniques do bag snatchers use on a train?

Bag snatchers are very cunning and know exactly how to make their move. Here are some of their techniques:

  • Bag snatchers walk around the train several times to select their victims.
  • They look for inconspicuous bags, such as black or dark-coloured rucksacks and carry-on luggage in luggage racks. By far, laptops are stolen most often. They also target large unattended bags left in the train´s vestibles.
  • Dark bags are often stolen by bag snatchers who themselves carry a dark rucksack, often full of newspapers. They put their rucksack next to yours and swap bags. Often you do not realise until you get to your destination that the bag above you is filled with old newspapers.
  • They check to see if you are asleep, distracted or alert.
    • They avoid train staff and often strike when the departure procedure begins and the train staff sound the departure whistle. They quickly grab a bag from the luggage rack and slip out through the closing doors, leaving you trapped, and the train departing before you can sound the alarm.
    • Sometimes, they opt for theft while the train is stationed at a station. This involves one thief on the train distracting the passenger while another thief removes the bag from the luggage racks.
    • Thieves not only steal from trains when they are stationary, but also while they are in motion. They hide the stolen bag in a toilet and wait for the next stop. They often leave an empty rucksack in the toilet.

With this in mind, we have put together some tips on how to outsmart bag snatchers.

1. Be aware of your surroundings

Baggage thieves prefer to operate in crowded areas where they can easily and quickly disappear into the crowd. By being aware of your surroundings, you can react quickly if you notice anything suspicious. Bag snatchers often work in groups and may try to distract you. Be wary of anyone approaching you, especially if it is unexpected. While you are distracted, another thief may strike.

Bag snatchers look for victims who are not paying attention. Stay alert by regularly looking around you and noticing who is on the train and who is getting on and off. Watching your belongings can be tiring, but a stolen bag is even more annoying.

2. Pay attention while getting on and off

It is particularly important to be alert when boarding and disembarking trains. When boarding a crowded train, stay alert and keep your belongings close to you. Avoid distractions, such as constantly looking at your phone.

A pickpocket is often not alone. When boarding, take a look at your fellow passengers to see if you need to be extra vigilant. Is someone travelling without a suitcase? Does a fellow passenger not seem to be looking for a seat, but instead is obtrusively walking down the aisle? Then, be extra vigilant. This applies every time the train comes to a stop.

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3. Stay alert at intermediate stations

Have you found a seat on the train and are you enjoying the view while listening to music? This is fine, as it will help you get to your destination in a relaxed manner. But, be careful whenever the train stops at a station. It is possible for bag snatchers to board the train, walk down the aisle, steal a bag and leave the train immediately.

Be extra careful if you are near the exit. A bag snatcher prefers to be inconspicuous, but sometimes they will aggressively snatch a bag from your grasp if you are not being vigilant.

4. Keep your valuables secure or within reach

Pickpockets are particularly interested in valuables such as smartphones, wallets and jewellery. Carry your bag in front of you and hold it tightly. Put valuables in inside pockets or other hard-to-reach places. Once you have found a seat, hold on to your bag with your valuables or within easy reach. Keep an eye on your bag in the luggage rack and make sure you can always see it. Smaller bags should be carried on your body rather than placed in the luggage racks. If necessary, secure your luggage to the rack using a device such as a belt or cable with a padlock.


It is not only small bags that are sometimes stolen, larger suitcases are also taken from time to time. Make sure you can always see your case, even if it is a little further back on the luggage rack.

5. Use safety accessories such as a belt bag

There are several accessories you can use to keep your belongings extra secure. For example, consider using a waist bag under your clothes, an anti-theft rucksack with hidden zips or a neck wallet. These items will make it harder for pickpockets to get to your valuables.

6. Order and manage your possessions

An organised bag can reduce the risk of pickpocketing. Keep your belongings in a logical and consistent manner so that you will quickly notice if something is missing. Make sure you always keep important items such as your phone, wallet and keys in the same place. This will help you react quicker if something is out of place.

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7. Trust your instincts

If something does not feel right, it is often a good idea to be extra cautious. Trust your instincts if you have a bad feeling. This could mean changing seats, keeping your belongings closer to you or informing the training manager if you see anything suspicious.

Report suspicious situations to the train manager

If you notice a suspicious situation or have been the victim of a pickpocket, report it to train staff and fellow passengers as soon as you notice it. They can take action and alert the police and other passengers. If you are faster than the pickpocket, always remember that your personal safety comes first.

If the bag snatcher has stolen your valuables, there are a few things you need to do right away. These are the most important steps:

  1. Block your bank cards
  2. Note down what was stolen
  3. Ask the train manager for the train number and make a note of it
  4. Report the theft to local police for insurance purposes
  5. Find out if you can continue travelling without any ID (in Dutch) and report them as missing to your municipality