Airport Info Travel Advice for visiting Tenerife Thieves and Pickpockets

Thieves and Pickpockets

The majority of people who visit Tenerife never encounter any problems with thieves or pickpockets. However, gangs and individuals do operate on the island, the same as in all other holiday hot spots, therefore it is good to stay alert.

Where do Thieves and Pickpockets Operate?

Be aware when you arrive at the airport.  Professional thieves usually operate in teams of two or more and will look out for potential victims when they arrive at Tenerife South Airport or at one of the many tourist attractions on the island.  They also target hire cars, so ensure you remove all valuable items from your hire car and put any clothing etc in the boot of the car to avoid the car from being broken into.  Make sure you carry your passports, money and personal belongings in a safe place and do not leave them unattended at any time.

How can you prevent being their next victim and what do you need to know? Below are some safety tips:

Pickpocket techniques

Distraction is the key to pickpocketing. Thieves and pickpockets employ various techniques to catch you out, which are well used and successful.  Avoid being their next victim by being aware of some common techniques, as described below.

  • Thieves and pickpockets usually operate in crowds and busy areas, e.g. airports, hotel lobbies, public transport centres, and other tourists hot spots like markets.  Take good care of your belongings when in these places.
  • Be aware when travelling in enclosed spaces such as the bus. Pickpockets often dress like tourists to avoid arousing your suspicion.
  • If you are carrying a handbag with a long strap, it is a good idea to carry it securely with the strap lying across your body. This will prevent “motorcycle thieves” from snatching the bag from your shoulder while driving past.
  • Never hand your credit or debit card over to a shopkeeper or waiter without accompanying them.  Most restaurants will bring the card reader to your table or it will be at the till.
  • Be aware if someone asks you for a lighter.  While you are being distracted, the person can use the opportunity to snatch your purse or wallet.
  • A person may also approach you asking for directions whilst holding a map.  This is a well-used distraction technique.  Just say you don’t know and walk away.
  • Be aware of any form of physical contact by a stranger, even if it seems that they are just being friendly.
  • A popular distraction technique is for the thief to throw, drop or squirt liquid or a made-up substance to look like bird droppings.  They then come over to you and offer to help remove it and whilst doing so take your belongings.  They have even been known to say they live very close, point to a door and to follow them and they will help you clean.  Do not go with anyone who offers to help in such situations.
  • Individuals, dropping rings, keys or coins are all distraction techniques used.  Watch out for these.
  • If you have a hire car be wary if you return to your car, the tyre(s) are flat or slashed, these may have been purposely vandalised.  Professional thieves or pickpockets will offer to help and whilst doing so one of the party will take your purse or wallet or bags from the car.
  • Thieves also target holiday accommodation.  Ensure you lock all doors and windows when you leave your accommodation and lock valuables and money away.

Travel tips to deter thieves and pickpockets

  • Never carry your purse or wallet inside your jacket or back pocket.
  • Travel with two wallets or purses.  Have one purse or wallet with a small amount of money inside and keep your bank and credit cards in a separate wallet.
  • Remove any important documentation from your wallet.
  • Hold your purse/wallet securely in crowds.
  • Don’t carry all your belongings together.
  • Don’t carry too much cash or wear a lot of jewellery when out.
  • Make a note of contact numbers to cancel your bank cards in the event they are stolen.
  • Photocopy and store all your travel documents and insurance documents.
  • Whenever possible, keep all important documents and cash in a safe at your accommodation.
  • Be aware of your personal space and alert to anyone who gets too close.

Reporting a Crime

The emergency number for police, fire and ambulance in Spain and Tenerife is 112. In tourist resorts, English speakers are usually on duty.

If you have been a victim of crime you must make a report (“denuncia”), to the police.  You will need to produce a copy of the “denuncia” if you make a claim against your insurance company for any items which have been stolen.

Policia Local.  The local town force deals with relatively minor issues such as traffic control and protection of property.

Cuerpo Nacional de Policia.   Deal with slightly more serious crimes than the Policia Local.  They are usually the point of contact for robbery, street crime etc in urban areas.

Guardia Civil.  The Civil Guard has the greatest powers and is responsible for general policing in rural areas.  They deal with serious issues such as anti-terrorism, weapon control, drug smuggling etc.

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