Ask Heidi: A Question of Pickpockets

Dear Heidi, is it true that you have to be careful of pickpockets in Basel? It seems such a safe city!

Dear Heidi,

Is it true that you have to be careful of pickpockets in Basel? It seems such a safe city!


Dear Beth,


Yes, Basel is a generally a very safe city. Unfortunately, pickpocketing has increased, especially during the many Messes (fairs) it hosts throughout the year. Herbstmesse, Weihnachtsmarkt, Fasnacht, and BaselWorld are perfect examples!

If you’re in a crowd, hold on to your purse. Carry long-strapped handbags across your chest. Smaller sized handbags that you can clutch under your arm are safer. Go for something that can be zipped shut — open purses are open invitations.

Wallets are easy to pick from your back pockets. Try keeping them in your front pocket. A rubber band tied around the wallet makes it more difficult to slide out. In a public place, don’t place your jacket on a clothes hook or around a chair without first taking out your wallet! It’s better not to take all your valuables and money with you. If possible, leave them in a safe at your hotel. If not, don’t keep all your money in the same place.

Watch out for pickpockets on crowded streets, restaurants, public transport, and train stations. Remember what your Mutti told you. Don’t talk to ‘needy’ strangers!

Above all, be alert! Know where you are going and what’s going on around you. Distracted or clueless people (especially those reading out of maps!) are easily spotted and make nice, easy targets. If you feel unsure about anything, go with your instincts. It’s better to be safe than polite!

Be careful, but don’t forget to have fun!


Updated October 2019

Comments 5
  1. I arrived in Basel on Wednesday into beautiful sunshine and decided to have a beer or two at Le Train Bleu before going to check in. Then we jumped onto the number 2 tram and, as I was getting off at the Messe, got held up by a couple on the steps of the tram who had managed to get in between my other half and I. I realised as soon as my feet hit the ground that my handbag was open and, to my horror my purse was gone! It is now really clear that the couple were keeping the doors open so that their accomplice could make their getaway from another door. So, not having been able to get back to my favourite place in the world for quite a while, my welcome was not good. No money and no cards is not a good way to be. I have been working so many long hours and then some horrible person decides that my money is theirs to have. Very angersome. Please be very careful everyone.

    1. Elaine, we are so sorry to hear about your experience. It really is a terrible feeling! It’s unfortunate that this kind of thing happens in our city. Thanks for sharing it as a warning for everyone, especially with the Herbstmesse starting.

  2. Please: Where is the Summer Music course “Astra” in Switzerland? -We need a high level string course for our almost professional violinist and cellist, age 14 and 16. High standards requiered, do you know of other good music&string players courses in Suisse with tution, chamber music and string orchestra?
    Greetings from Norway,

    1. Hello Hans Petter, what a wonderful accomplishment for your violinist/cellist. We will ask some professional string musicians in Basel and let you know as soon as we can.

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