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Carrying a purse in Europe

I'm traveling around Europe for three weeks, going to Greece, Italy, Paris, Amsterdam, and Germany. I always carry a purse and don't like the idea of being without one. For all of you women who've carried purses, did you feel like you were in danger of having your purse stolen? Would getting one with a zip closure at the top help protect me from being pickpocketed?

Posted by
9363 posts

I usually carry a purse at home, but switch to a daypack while abroad. It's not that I am worried about carrying a purse, but while traveling I'm also normally carrying a camera, water bottle, jacket, etc. in addition to my purse essentials.

I have never felt that I was in danger of being pick-pocketed or robbed. That's more likely to happen here at home in a large city. Just be aware of your surroundings and relax and have fun.

Posted by
800 posts

Kristin - I always travel with a purse when I go to Europe and I like the ones with zip closure at the top. I usually wear a purse with a long strap so that I can put it over my chest, in front of me with my hand on top. The purse is large enough to carry my guidebook, map, waterbottle, sunglasses. It also holds a "travel wallet" - one with a strap that I tie to the purse so it is hard to walk away with. It has the cash & cards inside one zippered compartment and the passports inside another. With all the other stuff in my purse it is actually hard to reach very quickly. I've had one unsuccessful pickpocket attempt - he couldn't get to the cash without being noticed.

A few other things - try to walk with your purse to the inside - against your travel companion if possible. Keep it on you when you eat - not on a chair or the floor. Some of this might sound paranoid but actually I feel quite safe in Europe. Be most careful in Rome and on public transport. Have a great trip!

Posted by
689 posts

I always carry my purse. This year I did get one from Pac Safe with the steel reinforcing. But I'm not sure why since I have always felt quite safe and secure. I have never had the feeling that someone was trying to get into anything.

But then we don't use subways or busses.

Posted by
1568 posts

I would recommend the Pac Safe day back packs and or fanny packs. They are slashproof, tamperproof and snatchproof. Replacing the key locks with small combination locks works best. No need to worry about your money, credit cards, passports or other valuables.

The StashSafe (fanny pack) comes in two sizes:

A day back pack is handy to carry as it leaves your hands free. I use one to carry a small umbrella, rain poncho, hand wipes, water and a variety of many useful things I may need during the day.
I am 66 and considered short and find that I can carry the day back pack stuffed full all day. My back or shoulders never get tired.

Posted by
104 posts

In Paris, I wore a bag that went across my body, but it was the size of a small purse.
The flap kept some of zippered sections harder to reach. It was big enough for my guidebooks, maps, and camera. More important stuff I kept in the zippered areas under the flap, but real valuables were in my money belt. I bought this bag because it wasn't big enough that it would need to be checked at museums.

In the UK, I traveled with a small backpack made for SLR cameras. It had room for all my stuff. the UK didn't seem as anal about checking bags as other countries. I always felt safe, especially since it looked like a regular daybag and not a bag with a camera and lenses worth over $1000.

I would say just to be aware of your surroundings no matter what kind of bag you carry, and keep your bag close to your body at all times. On the metro and in crowds, I keep my hand on my bag always.

Posted by
104 posts

I always carry a purse/bag, slung across my body.

I feel I'm able to handle it everyday at home I will on a trip also.

I tend to keep my hand on it when I'm in a crowd, I've never felt threatened while carrying it abroad.

I personally always like a zip over a flap type bag,I'm just always sure to put my things back in my purse and zip it not to be hurried to move till I know it's secure again.

Posted by
97 posts

When I travel, I carry the same bag I carry here at home: a small Cafe Bag from Tom Bihn (you can see it here: I wear the long sturdy strap across my chest so my hands are free. My wallet goes in the zipper pocket under the flap, as does my iPod if I'm carrying it (I snake the earphone cord out under the flap). The inside compartment is big enough for a Rick Steves guidebook, a notebook, a pen, my sunglasses in a case, my small digital camera, my phone, a lipstick, some eye drops, and a couple of Clif bars -- everything I need whether I'm in New York or Rome. And I often carry it with the flap facing inward so I can tuck a bottle of water in the back pocket.

I'm tempted to get a medium or large Cafe Bag, too, but you know how stuff expands to fill the available purse.

Posted by
808 posts

I never carry a purse while abroud. I may use a backpack but never a "Back Pack Purse" which were fashionable a number of years back. They often have skinny straps, some like a zipper which couls easily be cut off.

I don't like not knowing what is going on behind me. If I use a backpack it is a smaller size daypack in a dark colour so it is not noticable. I like to blend in as bright colours often spell Tourist. They mark you a target in a crowd if someone is watching you. I had a great red one but stopped using it for this reason.

I like to use key ring "unlocks" and pin the zippers to the pack. I like the type of backpack that has a waist belt or chest strap for security and stability.

If I must carry a messenger style bag, I always pin it shut and carry the open end against my body. I try to walk on the inside of the sidewalk and not close to the street or traffic.


Posted by
808 posts

Self-defense classes teach valuable skills. I heard that theives like it when you drape a strap across your body. Some feel safer this way, but given the right circumstances it can work against you.
Thieves sneak up on you and grab the strap from behind and quickly pull the strap up and across your neck in a choking manouver.

See this demonstrated once and you won't forget it!

They could also simply pull the strap and cut it with a minature palm held knife. The cable reinforced staps are a good idea but don't stop the chokehold manouver.

I also like to put my stuff in a lightweight transparent inner bag. That way stuff can't fall out as easily and it can't be accessed as easily should someone get the zipper open. It also protects stuff a little more should the bag get wet.

Posted by
75 posts

I carry a purse also. It's small enough to carry across my body and sit on my hip and has a flap across the top that fastens near the bottom of the purse like a belt. I also wear it under my coat and feel safe and secure doing it that way. I get my husband to carry the small messenger bag we use for the day which contains the maps, umbrella, snacks and bottled water.

So far so good.

Next trip four months from today. Can hardly wait.

Posted by
8 posts

I carried a small zip-top shoulder bag with a long shoulder strap to wear across my chest. I felt completely safe in every country we went to - Holland (Amsterdam), Germany, Switzerland and France (Paris). We also had the small Rick Steves backpack for souvenir items and maps. Honestly, we never felt unsafe at all and had no problems! I agree with the above posters - wear your purse during meals, and I also wore it underneath my coat when it was colder. Good luck!

Posted by
190 posts

For the first time when traveling this year to Europe, I did not use a backpack during the day, but I used a "purse" instead. Purse is in quotes because it was sort of messenger bag style. I felt that a backpack was too touristy, so I made the change and was really glad. No fear about having the purse stolen because of wearing it across my chest and having between my arm and body. I found that access to the contents was MUCH more convenient than with a backpack. The only drawback was that it is so easy to fill up the space! I had to be careful not to carry too much weight. I bought one of those wrap-around handle-padding things for luggage handles which kept the straps from putting too much pressure on my neck. I never felt that there was any danger of having it stolen; but I kept my eyes open, as always. It's more personal taste than danger of theft. (As long as you are wearing a money belt, too!)

Posted by
2016 posts

In Paris and other large European cities I have visited, I dress like a local middle aged woman, which includes having a normal looking purse. Sometimes it is a shoulder bag worn across the body, other times not. I have extensively travelled the metro in Paris, stood in line several times to the Eiffel Tower, etc, and have never had any problem or felt threatened. I think this is somewhat to do with the fact that I try not to look like a tourist, and I pay attention to my surroundings. Of course I always keep my valuables in a money belt.

Posted by
40 posts

I carried a messenger bag for three weeks. It allowed me to carry things that I needed for the day. The women in Europe also wear bags strapped across the front, so I didn't feel out of place. I never carried anything in the bag that I was afraid to lose because the IMPORTANT items (passport, bank cards) were in my waist belt underneath my clothes. In crowded places, I would just turn the bag so that it was in front of me. I never had problems with theft; I was in Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Austria.

Posted by
1358 posts

I always carry a purse with a band around my waist and another over my shoulder and across my chest. In addition I lock my arm over my purse at my side. In over 30 countries I have never felt insecure.

Posted by
23 posts

I carried a rather large purse last summer on my trip. I found it more scarier to carry a back pack because you never know who's behind you. My bag did have a zipper and I always made sure that I held the bag with the zipper closed forward. I also made sure the bag was always snug underneath my arm.

Depending on the time of year you plan to travel (you did not mention) it can get extremely hot in Italy so having a bag that can hold a water bottle and a few small purchases can be a lifesaver! I even carried my small umbrella in my purse! (used it for shade)

Good luck and have fun!

Posted by
705 posts

Always a purse. I do as many have suggested - either across my body with it clamped under my arm or on my shoulder with it clamped under may arm. I travel overseas at least 2 - 3 times a year and always do this - never had a problem. I do tend to take a larger than normal purse so i can put my camera, bottle of water and sometimes an umbrella in it. I always take one with a zip closure at the top.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks everyone for your replies. I couldn't find a bag I liked so I ended up making one that I can wear across my chest. It has a zipper at the top and then I sewed in a clip to prevent the zipper from being easily opened, and a flap that goes over the opening that buttons at the bottom. I'm not worried that someone would be able to get into it, I guess I'm more worried that someone could just cut the strap, since I'm most likely going to have my camera in my bag. That's the only thing I'm really worried about getting stolen. But I'll just be aware and hopefully I'll be fine!

Posted by
423 posts

Kristin, I know you have your solution but for future consideration, I would highly recommend Pacsafe's Tote bag. I bought this for my trip and it was perfect. The edges and straps are wire re-inforced to prevent cutting, it has a clip for the zipper, and two pockets on either side which I used for water and an umbrella. It was the best investment!