I've been reading quite a bit about the various scams and ripoff schemes in Europe and it has me a bit concerned. My husband and I are on a Rick Steves Best of Europe tour in Sept. - My question is are you less vulnerable when traveling with the tour since most of the time you're with a guide? I'd hate to think tourists who travel to the US have to be as guarded as I feel we'll have to be.
There isn't anymore scams in Europe then here in large cities. The crime rate thief, etc., here is a lot higher then in Europe. The US is the most violate country (muggins, hand gun shootings etc). Of course, you have to use your common sense when traveling here or over seas. As long as you use your common sense you will be fine. Don't leave for your trip all fearful, if you do you won't be able to enjoy your trip to the fullest. Relax, pay attention to your surroundings and have a great trip.
Correcting my prior post: European and other foreign tourists traveling to the US have to be concerned about being the victim of violent crime, since the US has a significantly higher rate of violent crime than does most of Europe (I think, I don't have the actual stats).
I was on a RS tour in Italy recently, and no one had any problems with scams or crime. Our tour guide certainly helped us avoid problems, but you will have a lot of independent time without the group, so you want to be careful and alert. That being said, I live in a large American city. In my own city, I have personally experienced or know friends who have experienced almost all the scams discussed on these boards in my own city – pickpockets, short counts, merchants taking a $20 and claiming it was a $10, people who hand you a trinket and then demand payment for it, and so on. So don't let it spoil your vacation or your anticipation of your vacation. Knowledge and a money belt are your best defenses.
Kent, your are right. Here's the current world hit list of assaults per capita (i.e. per 1,000 people): 1) South Africa (12.07 per 1,000)2) Montserrat (10.273 per 1,000)3) Mauritius (8.76)4) Seychelles (8.52)5) Zimbabwe (7.65)6) USA (7.59)7) New Zealand (7.47)8) UK (6.45)9) Canada (7.11)10) Australiaand then follow Finland, Iceland, Tunesia, Jamaica, Portugal, Chile, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Czech, Zambia, Denmark, France, 26) Germany,..... 37) ItalySource: Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems
Heidi - Please don't let all of the discussion here make you paranoid. Europe is not a den of thieves.
The most important thing is to carry anything valuable in a moneybelt. Then all of the rest doesn't matter.
Before my first trip to Europe a few years back ( we were going to Paris), I was very concerned about petty crime, pickpockets, and scams. I read Rick's books like my bible and followed his advice especially using moneybelts. We felt extremely safe in Paris, as we did on our next trip to the UK. We kept all valuables in our moneybelt and, in general, were aware of our surroundings especially when in crowds, but not so on guard that we couldn't enjoy ourselves.
I spent a week in Mexico City 5 years ago - now THAT was a trip where I constantly felt on guard. It was mentally taxing keeping a white-knuckled grip on my bag on the metro and doing my best to avoid groping hands, aggessive vendors, and beggars. That was the one place I felt physically uncomfortable, but nothing serious ever happened.
I felt safer in Europe than I do in most US cities. After being in Europe, I asked myself why I didn't take the same moneybelt precaution in NYC or DC as I did in Europe?
You will be fine and safe. Remember, in most European cities inicidents of violent crime, especially using guns, are much, much less common than in the U.S. As such, any perceived increase sparks concern. In the UK, a murder by gun will make the national news. In the U.S., it may not make the local police blotter.
As a tourist, you will usually be in areas frequented by other tourists. Any bad guys hanging around are trying to steal your money, one way or the other, not shoot you.
Keep your wits about you and take the same precautions you would anywhere. I've gone walkabout in some statistically nasty places -- Cape Town and Johannesburg for starters -- and emerged without a scratch. That doesn't mean there aren't places you need to avoid in any city, but, presumably, Mr. Steves doesn't include those in an itinerary.
I think it depends on the country you're visiting. You can't generalize with European countries -- they're all so different. We were told to be very careful in Italy -- it's almost a 3rd world country in come aspects! Then we've been told that we have to be very cautious in Prague. But I will tell you that I've never felt safer than I did in Germany. I lived there for a year while in college, and I never heard about anyone being a victim of crime. And just an example of how safe it was: I lived in Stuttgart, which is a city, and I used to walk about 1 1/2 miles home ALONE at 3AM. I was never worried. (I was cheap, though! Hence, why I wouldn't take a cab!) And I'm guessing that Austria and Switzerland are equally as safe.
I felt a lot safer wandering around Italian cities at night than I do in US cities, largely because the level of violent crime is considerably lower than the US, plus the fact that it's not such a car-dominated society meaning that there are a lot more people walking around.
Having said that, petty theft (pick pocketing etc) is a problem in the big Italian cities, particularly on public transportation and around the most crowded tourist sites. I'm not sure being in a group insulates you:- a group standing around listening to their guide is kind of an obvious target.
Heidi, I'm betting this is your first trip to Europe.
I read Rick's books before my first trip to Italy, and I was so nervous. Completely unfounded! Sure, guidebooks have to mention every scam so that readers don't say "hey, you never warned us about this one" but it isn't as if Europe is swarming with thieves and scam artists who will attack you the very second you let your guard down.
Think of it this way: do you leave your house with the door wide open and a few papers piled up to make sure any passerby can tell nobody's home and the entry is easy? Probably no. On the other hand, do you live in a house as secure as Fort Knox? Again, no. You take steps so that most thieves are deterred and look for an easier house to rob, but if a skilled thief was to pick your house and was determined then that's the breaks.
Same in Europe; don't leave bags alone, don't flash cash, and use a money belt. You've minimized your odds, but they will never be 0. But neither are they high.
I am as single young woman who traveled around a lot of Europe this summer - including all of the places people have already said you need to be careful - for three months, and never once got anything stolen.
I hate to admit that I didn't use a travel belt. I bought one but it either rode up on my wait or sagged and just wasn't very comfortable in general. Perhaps other woman would have more luck, I hear wearing it backwards can help. Anyway, I had a handbag that zipped and was never pick pocketed.
Just be smart, don't do anything you wouldn't do at home, and get all the information you can before you go - but then realize that you are safe, with experienced tour guides, and make sure you have fun.
Someone did try to pickpocket me on my last trip but since I was carrying my wallet in my money-belt all they felt was an empty pocket. Generally, you are at almost no risk for violent crime and little risk for pickpockets, except in areas around major sites. Make sure you watch your pockets in places like the areas around the Ponte Vecchio in Florence or the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
As my daughter kept reminding me "we just don't want to be the slowest antelope"! We had our pacsafe totebags and kept the zippers hooked shut at all times. We wore our money belts but never ever pulled them out in public. We had our day's spending money in the Pacsafe bags so access to money belt was unnecessary. We were each other's guard at the ATMs. We did not ride any busses and rode the Rome Metro during less crowded times. It was our first trip out of the US and we had a wonderful time. In Rome we were out until 9 or 10pm but in Florence, we were comfortable on the street as late as midnight. We heard tour guides tell their groups to watch for pickpockets (in St. Peter's!!) but we never saw any crimes take place. Just be aware and let the criminals pass you up for the slower antelope!