A pickpocket in a town in Tenerife

Pickpockets in Tenerife: How to Protect Yourself from Theft

Tenerife is generally safe and the crime rate is low and not much different from mainland Spain and rest of Europe. However, top tourist centers on the island attract pickpockets, known as carteristas, like wasps to honey and travelers need to be more vigilant.

This particularly applies to very busy areas throughout the year, and all major cities when there are large social events like New Year, the Carnival, or similar large celebrations. Pickpocket gangs are known to come over from mainland Spain on “guest tours” to prey on unsuspecting tourists during such events.

Areas known for pickpocketing

If you are going to the following most popular Tenerife destinations which are also the main pickpocketing hotspots, you have to assume extra vigilance (in a descending order of pickpocketing risk):

  • Los Cristianos
  • Playa de las Americas
  • Costa Adeje
  • Puerto de la Cruz
  • El Medano
  • Santa Cruz de Tenerife, particularly close to the ocean promenade and the pedestrian streets
  • La Laguna (generally safer than other cities, but watch out during large social events)

The southern part of the island tends to have a higher concentration of pickpockets. And in the south the main risk is in lively and crowded districts and streets. Popular tourist spots, such as busy beaches and crowded marketplaces, are more susceptible to pickpockets.

As public transportation is not that well developed on the island and not widely used by tourists, it is not a very typical pickpocketing location, but entry and exit from the island’s busses (and trams in Santa Cruz and La Laguna) carries some risk.

Particular Times of Day When Pickpocketing is More Likely to Occur

During your visit to Tenerife, it’s important to be aware of the particular times of day when pickpocketing is more likely to occur.


Time at and after sunset is when the heat decreases and tourists and locals go out for an evening meal and entertainment. The more people, the more chances for pickpockets to prey on unsuspecting victims, especially, if they are intoxicated or not paying attention to surroundings.

Big Social Events

Coming to Tenerife during the many religious festivals and similar social events is a significant attraction of the island. To some extent, Tenerife reminded us of Bali, as on both islands the local culture has remained authentic and is live and kicking despite the onslaught of tourists. However, here again attendees may be distracted by the excitement and noise, making it easier for pickpockets to spot potential targets.

Carnival Season

Carnival season is one of the most popular times for tourists to visit Tenerife. The streets are filled with colourful costumes, lively music, and exuberant celebrations. However, this increased foot traffic also brings with it an increased risk of pickpockets. As you enjoy the festivities, make sure to keep a close eye on your belongings and if there is a lot of seemingly unnecessary bumping of strangers into you, watch out.

New Year’s Celebrations

Another time to be cautious of pickpockets is during New Year’s celebrations. The festive atmosphere and large crowds out to greet the New Year can create the perfect environment for pickpockets to operate unnoticed. While counting down the seconds to the start of a fresh year, remember to secure your valuables and stay aware of those around you.

What are the common pickpocketing techniques and scams used in Tenerife?

In Tenerife, pickpockets may employ various techniques to relieve you of your valuables. Being aware of these methods and taking precautions can help minimise your risk of falling victim to such incidents.

How can I spot and avoid pickpockets in Tenerife?

  • Intoxicated tourists: People under the influence of alcohol are easy prey to pickpockets and no special skills are often required. If you plan to get drunk, only take the necessities with you, leave most cash and valuables at the hotel so that there are fewer opportunities to “swipe” you. Give your valuables to a more sober friend.
  • Overcrowded areas: Pickpockets thrive in crowded places, including public transport, tourist sites, and markets. When in such areas, stay vigilant and keep an eye on your belongings.
  • Distractions: Pickpockets often work in pairs or groups and create distractions to divert your attention. One individual might engage you in conversation or ask for help, while their accomplice steals from you. Be cautious around strangers who approach you unexpectedly.
  • Requesting to sign a petition. This might sound silly at first, until you find yourself in this situation. People are often passionate about social causes like animal welfare, military conflicts etc., and are easy to engage in a conversation that makes them less attentive to surroundings. This allows one pickpocket to distract you, while another person steals from you.
  • Let me help you with your bags“: This classic trick involves a seemingly kind stranger offering to help you carry your heavy bags or suitcases. In reality, they may have intentions of stealing your valuables. Politely decline such offers and maintain possession of your belongings.
  • ATMs: When using an ATM, be mindful of the people around you. Cover the keypad when entering your PIN and put your cash away immediately. Keep your wallet or purse close to your body. Pickpockets are sometimes monitoring people withdrawing monay from ATMs and might try to target you a short while later.

How to avoid being pickpocketed?

Pickpockets in Tenerife usually prey on those who are less vigilant. They often strike when their targets are distracted, intoxicated, or in a situation of vulnerability.

Follow these tips and remaining vigilant, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling prey to pickpocketing scams in Tenerife:

  • Leave unnecessary or valuable items and documents at your accommodation.
  • Limit the amount of cash you carry and use your bank card instead. If you carry cash, don’t put it in your pants’ back pocket or other easy to access places.
  • Purses and backpacks are most easy to pickpocket.
  • Don’t leave jackets and bags behind, when going to the bathroom in restaurants or pubs.
  • Don’t put items like wallets and phones in your back pocket. It’s suprising how many people do this.
  • Don’t wear expensive jewellery or watches.
  • Position your bag at the front of your body in crowded places, and put an arm over it.
  • Stay alert when strangers approach you or accidentally bump into you.

Other preventive measures against pickpocketing

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One way to prevent theft is to use bags with anti-theft features. These bags often have slash-resistant materials or lockable zippers.

However, we prefer to carry our documents and money in a concealed neck bag or a thin tummy pouch.

Keeping your cards safe

It’s a good idea to get one of those RFID-blocking wallets or card holders. Pickpockets these days have the means to read cards from a short distance and clone it. We fell victim to this in Naples, so know first hand that it’s real. Plenty of tourists report this also from Tenerife.

Lower credit card limits and restrict functions

Revolut card settings screen

Do you need to withdraw cash during your Tenerife holiday, make online payments, or use the card’s magnetic strip? If not, disable these in your online bank website or app. If necessary, you can always shortly enable these functions for a short moment when necessary.

We are big fans of Revolut here at the Smart Travel Family, as it gives us most control of our cards, has live notifications about all payments, and blocks suspicious transactions. We also like Revolut as we’ve had a succesful reimbursement of stolen money due to ATM fraud while travelling in Indonesia.

Make copies of documents

It’s a good idea to have electronic copies / pictures of your passport, ID card and driver’s license at a safe, but easily accessible location online like Google Drive or Dropbox. If your documents get stolen, having copies will ease the creation of emergency travel documents at an embassy so you can at least return home.

Use AirTags or Tile bluetooth tags

Consider inserting an AirTag (for iPhone users) or a Tile bluetooth tracker (for Android users) in your bag.

If the bag gets stolen, you’ll will immediatelly know where it’s at. You can also set up both trackers that they alert you if your bag is more than 10 meters from you.

What should I do if I become a victim of pickpocketing in Tenerife?

In the unfortunate event that you become a victim of a pickpocket, checking the nearby rubbish bins is one of the first actions to take. Thieves are primarily interested in cash, so items such as ID cards, driver’s licenses and bank cards are often discarded in the vicinity.

If possible, delegate the search for your belongings to a travel companion, while you do the following other steps:

1. Notify your bank/credit card company and block payment cards: If your bank or credit cards have been stolen, contact your bank and credit card companies immediately to report the theft, and freeze or cancel your cards. This will help prevent unauthorised transactions and protect you from further financial loss.

Even if you recover your cards (like, find them in the nearby trashbin), be cautious about using the cards as they might be cloned and criminals could withdraw money if you re-activate the card.

2. Report the theft to the local police: As soon as you realise that your documents or valuables have been stolen, go to the nearest police station and file a report. Search for “Comisaría de la Policía Nacional” rather than in English as that will give you better results. If you can’t a police station, you can also call 112, the Spain’s national emergency number.

While the police report might not help to catch the perpetrators in most cases, it will be absolutely necessary when you’ll file a claim with your insurance company.

If you have a Spanish-speaking friend, take him/her along with you as not all police staff speak English or German. However, Germany has now deployed at least one officer to Tenerife to help with tourist-related crimes.

3. Contact your embassy or consulate: If you have lost your passport or identification documents, you will need to get in touch with your country’s embassy or consulate in Tenerife or mainland Spain. They can provide assistance on how to obtain an emergency travel document or replacement passport. Make sure to have a copy of your police report when contacting the embassy. It helps to have electronic copies of the documents (so prepare these in advance).

If you are an EU citizen and your country does not have a consulate in Tenerife, you can approach a consulate of any other EU member state.

4. Consider your options for accommodation and transport: Depending on the extent of the theft, you may need to find alternative accommodation or adjust your travel plans. Be prepared to make quick decisions and communicate with local authorities and service providers if needed.

Check what is included in your travel insurance. The travel insurance company might help you to not only arrange temporary accomodation, but also issue a money grant.

If you don’t have means of payment, some embassies allow your relatives to transfer funds through the embassies.

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