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Are thieves and pickpockets as bad in Rome as you read and hear about.

I'm just wondering if it is as bad as you read and hear from othere vacationers. I've read about people having there purses, wallet's and even there lugguge stolen. We will be using money belts for all of our cash, credit cards, passports etc. I'm wondering how big of a problem it is with purchase that we make to take back to our hotel room. When we were in London 2 years ago we put all of our purchaces in our Rick Steve's backpack and we never had any trouble. We used the tube to get around everywhere there. Any recommendations on how best to carry our purchases around. I'm going to make sure that we do not let our luggege leave our site.

Posted by
8715 posts

Good points have been made.

There's no problem putting purchases in your Civita bag. Just find a way to seal the zippers. Either use a small lock or perhsps a screw-type carbiner (not the quick release type.)

Pickpockets are opportunists. They want an easy mark. If they think they can get something from you quickly, they will. They dont want to fiddle around with locks or seals or things like that.

Anything you put on the ground is fair game. If it a backpack or small bag, put your leg through one of the should straps. If it's a larger bag without a shoulder strap, straddle it between you legs if you have to take your eye off it. Never put anything on the ground behind you. Always keep it in front.

Taking slight precautions will help to protect your valuables and keep you from worrying about it.

A pickpocket is not looking for a challenge. If they see you taking precautions, they'll move on to someone else.

Posted by
31055 posts

Ron,

YES, there are pickpockets and petty thieves in Rome (and other cities), but if you take reasonable precautions you shouldn't have any problems. Be especially vigilant in areas where people are tightly "packed" together such as Buses and of course the Subway (the #64 Bus in Rome has a reputation as haven for thieves, many of whom are dressed like tourists).

Another point to make is not to let your guard down, even if you think you're in a "safe" area. I spoke with some travellers in the Cinque Terre on one trip, who had lost not only cash but also Passports when riding on the local trains. They felt that since it was a "quieter area" there wouldn't be any problems. WRONG ASSUMPTION as very slick thieves from Genova routinely ride those trains.

Using a properly worn Money Belt is a good move (although nothing is perfect). Don't rely even on zippered pockets, as these provide little protection (someone that I know had a "substantial amount of cash" lifted from a zippered pants pocket while riding the Subway in Rome, and he "didn't feel a thing"!).

I try to take reasonable precautions by using a Money Belt and by keeping credit cards and ATM cards in different locations. That way if I lose one card, I simply report it to the financial institution (I always travel with a Cell phone) and then continue my holiday on the "backup" card.

When you're in crowded situations try to be aware of those around you, keeping in mind that some thieves work in pairs or groups. Try not to be overly worried though - try to enjoy your holiday!

Happy travels!

Posted by
1313 posts

Kent's got a great post. It's as bad as your own experience. If you get pickpocketed on your first trip, then Rome is full of thieves. If you've been there 20 times and never lost anything, then Rome is just fine.

Take reasonable precautions to avoid being one of the ones robbed--this means wear a moneybelt (it doesn't have to go on your waist, I prefer the neck pouch), keep your bag where you can see it, don't put anything valuable in there, and keep one hand on your belongings at all times. Be alert. It's hard to steal from someone who knows exactly who/what is in their personal space.

You specifically asked about purchases in hotel rooms. Unless you are planning to buy extremely expensive items, you will be fine. Most hotels have a safe if you do have something of value.

Posted by
10322 posts

Ron: There are several factions here on this issue (if you search on appropriate words in the search box, upper right, you can browse a few hundred comments on this subject).One faction says: Yes, there's a problem and you need to take some precautions, but some of these stories you hear are exaggerated, just keep your "trip is seriously disrupted if they steal this" items in a money belt/similar device worn under your clothing and then you can put it out of your mind.Another faction says: "What, me worry? I don't need no stinking money belt." This is the group of travelers that supports the pick-pockets of Europe and the pick-pockets love to see them coming, people who haven't yet been hit and think they won't because, after all, it hasn't happened to them (yet). Then there's a faction consisting of people who have been victimized, or haven't been but are very worried about it, to the point that the worry affects them even while they're in Europe supposedly enjoying their vacation.I'm in the first faction myself. You already know the single most important thing: If you consistently keep your vital items in a money belt or similar device worn under your clothing, you have nothing to worry about and can put it out of your mind, relax and enjoy your vacation. We have never had a report here of items being stolen from a properly worn money belt--virtually 100% peace of mind. Many travelers don't recommend putting things you want to keep in a backpack worn behind you when in high risk areas such as buses, train stations, getting on/off subways, etc. Things just purchased should probably be kept in front of you where you can see them, until you get them to your hotel room where you can stow them. If that's not practical, some wear the backpack in front of them--the point being pick pockets seem to be attracted to situations where they can work on getting into something that's behind you.

Posted by
4841 posts

I have to say that any time I have been around a group that has been in Rome, at least 1 out of 10 people have had an issue with pickpockets. Not coincidently, this person had their wallet or bag easily accessible. I have never heard of anyone having their moneybelt picked. Now scams in general, even I can be caught unaware. You can get complacent and comfortable, finding yourself with an unexpectedly high restaurant bill (Ordered from a list of "specials" with no prices), maybe shortchanged, or maybe charged an incorrect price for something as simple as an entrance ticket.

Posted by
15 posts

We went on a tour in Rome last year, and within one hour, a guy on our tour was pickpocketed. Now, those of us with money belts were fine, but this guy was carrying expensive cameras and his money/credit cards in a backpack! Not the brightest move :-) The thing to remember is the pickpockets are smarter than us and very skilled, so I think diligence is necessary in keeping your things safe.

I don't think you will have any problems keeping your luggage or purchases in your room. We kept our suitcases locked while they were in our room, and everything was fine.

Posted by
20718 posts

I am with Liz -- did about 30 days in Rome over the past two years -- never had problem, didn't see anything that looked like a pickpocket. But I wouldn't know one if I saw one. BUT ---- (there is always a but) On our second day last summer, met another AM couple in a bar that evening. They had arrived the day before and within three hours had lost a brand new, never used, digital video camera. The camera was in a case over his shoulder with the zipper to the back. "But I thought the zipper was in front." And he complained that someone keep bumping him from behind on a very crowded bus. While no one deserves to be pickpocketed, he comes close.

When we are on very crowded, standing room only, buses or trains, any day bag or anything else we are carrying goes directly to the floor and between our feet. Wearing a bag on your chest and that includes purses is not completely safe IF the train or bus is very crowded. Just do not make yourself look like an easy target.

Posted by
705 posts

I have never had a problem but do always take precautions. I was in Rome in May and did a walking tour with Angel tours. As we came up to the Trevi Fountain the guide stopped the group and warned us that pickpockets were at their worst around the fountain. On one of his previous tours a person had their camera stolen, even though they had it firmly attached to their wrist with the strap. I think be aware and use common sense and you will be fine. Don't let it ruin your holiday.

Posted by
70 posts

Thanks everyone for your replys. We will take every precaution.

Posted by
466 posts

don't go to Italy thinking everyone is a thief. It's just as easy to be pickpocketed in New York City as it is in any city in Rome. It's all about having street smarts. If you don't advertise what you have and have your wallet in your FRONT pocket you will not have a problem. Have fun and don't be paranoid for the whole trip or you will not have a good time.

Posted by
56 posts

I've not been to Italy yet, but I do live/work in New York City which I have a feeling is fairly similar to Rome, etc.. I'm personally not comfortable with the money belt (I just can't get used to wearing it) but I think as long as you are cautious, keep your wits about you, and don't do blatantly stupid things (like wear a backpack with no locks, etc) you should be ok. I'm a fan of the messenger type bag b/c it's worn in front; I always make sure to get one with lots of buckles and zippers so that it's not easy to get into. The pickpockets don't want to have to WORK to get your things, they want it to be easy. That said, do what you feel most comfortable with and stay aware.

Happy travels!

Posted by
36 posts

Hi,

I was in Rome for 5 days about 3 yrs ago with a friend of mine and we had no problem. We were on our own and not part of a tour. We both wore messenger type bags that we swung around to the front of our bodies and kept our cameras inside. We kept our wallets in our front jeans pockets. Now I don't know if two guys are not as tempting a target as others, but we didn't find it threatening anywhere in the city. We're both accustomed to NYC and Philadelphia, so maybe we're more aware of the things a city brings, but a safe bet would be to be on guard so to speak. You'll love Rome!
Ciao!

Posted by
1643 posts

We used neck pouches for the first time last spring and felt secure as we travelled for 3 weeks. We didn't carry our wallets but took that day's cash, credit/debit cards, passports, etc. If you like to carry a wallet, they say the front pocket is best, and Dad always wrapped his with a large rubberband to deter the more deft of hand.

Posted by
8906 posts

I'm sorry but saying it's "okay" to keep valuables (passports, cards, cash) in bags or all you have to do is "be aware of your surroundings" is irresponsible. Just because someone comes from another big city like New York doesn't mean squat. Yes NYC does have pickpockets just like any other city, but thieves specifically target people carrying the most amount of cash/valuables: tourists. How much cash do you carry with you when you are on vacation vs. when you're commuting to work everyday? Thieves always have the advantage over you, you will never be able to outsmart them. The only real advice that works is to assume you will be robbed. Carry only a days spending money, keep everything else in your money belt/neck pouch, or hotel safe, and don't take along anything you can't afford to loose or get stolen.

Posted by
59 posts

I was in Rome for 2 days and saw at least 4 incidents of pickpocketing. One in the baggage claim section of the airport!! We took most of the precautions listed in these posts...always watch each other's backs (and backpacks) in your party. Be wary of your surroundings and allow Rome to amaze you!

SS

Posted by
401 posts

Wow, that's suprising that you saw pickpocketers in the baggage claim part of the airport, especially considering that part is for passengers only, and with all those cops milling around.
I agree with the previous posters that one should be aware of their surroundings, especially in places like the Forum or the Coloseum where there tend to be a lot of gypsies. Know where your stuff is and who is around you, use common sense and you will be fine. Millions of Romans walk the streets, take public transport, hang out in the center, all without wearing money belts or having their backpacks ripped open. I rode the metro every day to and from work and never had any problems. Also, and I believe this had been gone over many times before, there is a time and a place for a money belt. Sightseeing around the center, yes. Having a dinner at a fancy restaurant--no.

Posted by
20718 posts

I am always amazed by the number of posters who have observed so much pickpocketing activity. What am I doing wrong? We have done 300+ days over the past 15 years and I have yet to see a pickpocket. We have been in some of the pickpocket capitols of the world -- Madrid Flea Market, Rome, Barcelona. Maybe you see what you expect to see.

Michael is right -- there is no comparison between New York and Rome. So don't assume it is until you have been there. And the front pocket with the rubber band is only slightly better than the back pocket. Have a friend who was a strong believer in the front pocket. Why ?? four trips - no problems. Fifth trip - lost everything. Used to make fun of my devotion to a money belt -- now he is convert and preaches to everyone.

Posted by
1737 posts

My story is: Husband and I got on the Metro in Rome, grabbed the center bar to hold on. At the same stop a very well dressed, very good looking Roman guy got on. He stood right next to my husband. This guy dressed like a business man, holding a newspaper. same time a "gypsy" gal got on, stood by the door. Very dirty, holding the tiniest of babies.

I've got my camera in a shoulder bag, slung over my chest, holding on to the top of it with one hand, the other holding the pole for support. As I look down, just before we get off, I notice this Roman guy's hand working the zipper open on the purse of the lady standing next to me. I looked up at him and he shot me the dirtiest of looks (if looks could kill as they say) We were ready to get off the train when I noticed this. I tried to warn the woman, but in the shuffle to get off, I don't know if she was aware of what I was trying to say.

We got off, I told my husband what I'd seen and he said that that guy was breathing on his neck so hard, he wondered what was going on. Now we beleive that the breathing was a diversion while he tried to pick my husbands pockets (money belt - thank you very much). He found nothing. My hand was on my bag, so he couldn't access that, so he moved to the lady next to me. Keep in mind this entire time he had the newspaper in his hand to cover the other one that was doing the work.

Thinking back, now I wish I'd been more aggressive with the woman to let her know - but I was basically shocked at what I was seeing and couldn't really react quickly enough. I'm pretty sure they target you right before the next stop, they get what they want, and you get off - too late to catch them as they ride on (or they get off if you stay on, again - too late)

Moral of this story. Be very aware of someone too close for your comfort - breathing down your neck, or touching your back/side/arms/etc. MOVE away if you realize this - and wear your money belt!

Posted by
11743 posts

I think I miss the pickpocketers because I don't do vacation travel in high-season.

I take basic precautions and feel secure.

I'm reminded of the Reagan quote, "A recession is when your neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose your job."

It's best to remember that theives do exist and make yourself a hard target to steal from. Keep your important stuff secure and don't be foolish where you wander or park your car.

Posted by
20718 posts

Ellen illustrates the point that I constantly try to make. NEVER had a bag, purse, camera case, etc., -- front or back -- within hands reach of anyone especially with wall to wall people. In a standing room only car, we will face each other and put our bag on the floor between us. You have to be pretty short to reach that bag.

Posted by
4555 posts

Ellen...we ran into a similar situation on the Metro....an young couple smootching away, oblivious to two men trying to get into her backpack...one acted as a shield while the other was trying the zipper. I gave a lound "Ahem." The young couple looked up, and the two men broke off their attention and moved on. Moral of that story...if you must wear a backpack, stand up against the wall or metro door, or have someone protecting your back. Another technique is the "brush-by," noticable when someone insists on crowding past you onto the metro car as you're trying to leave, instead of waiting as they should. I caught one young woman with her hand on my car keys (the only thing in my pocket, luckily). As others have noted,...there's no need to be paranoid, just take some simple precautions.

Posted by
93 posts

We didn't have any problems in Rome last year...It's big City...Be careful of the "roman soldiers" in front of the Coleosum (sorry for the sp)....The really took us for a ride with their charge for posing for pictures!!! Other than that..it's the same everywhere you go...don't be a target by looking like a tourist with money to burn...use your moneybelt and only keep a few euro in your pocket.

Posted by
9 posts

We've been to Rome 4 times in last 6 years.
Never had a problem (other than the occasionally "well dressed con man trying to get us to buy something, or loan him some $$ for gas!)

We take trains and buses...

my advice... pay attention!
keep your hands on your bags..
don't use ATM's in out of the way places...

just like any other large metropolitian city!
Be aware of your surroundings!

Happy Travels,
David
~

Posted by
7682 posts

Ha, husband who thinks he is pretty savvy got his passport stolen at the Rome airport. He took it out to scan for the quick check-in, it didn't work, so he put it in his back pocket and walked to the check-in counter. Someone got him in that small space of time. I have told him for years to stop carrying his wallet in his back pocket, that thieves can slit your pocket in a heartbeat and you will never know. So, now he has an expensive lesson and hopefully his new passport will be ready in 2 weeks.

Posted by
1 posts

I have been in Rome many times, and I always rely on a money belt and carry very little in my purse. A few years ago, on Easter Sunday, while riding Bus 64 (yes, the notorious Bus 64), back to the Vatican, a "sweet little lady" slit the bottom of my purse. At the time, I had my purse gripped tightly at the top. Later, I was able to put together the entire scenario; but at the time, I felt nothing except the sudden press of this "sweet little lady" as she moved higher up on the steps. She immediately got off at the next stop. Thankfully, all that was taken was my bifocals in a slick case (I am sure she thought it was a wallet) and a bag with two inexpensive rosaries. I just continued my trip wearing sunglasses 24 hours a day and pretending I was someone famous. Always wear a money belt!

Posted by
251 posts

We never had a bit of problem nor did we see any problems. We never used the metro but we did a lot of walking, many times in alleys.

Posted by
26 posts

The best advice i can give is to be vigilant - PERIOD.
We have travelled to Italy many times and even though i would call this country, especially Rome my home you can never be two careful. If you arent aware you will be robbed. But it is the same anywhere you go in the world. On our last trip this past year, i watched a group of teens and 20 somethings hanging around the platform in Termini - they were looking for the tourist who were of course, wide eyed, eager and to caught up in the confusion. When i was about to board my car i noticed one of the girls from the group ahead of me and with one hand, acted to help a traveler with her bags onto the train and with the other hand, she attemted to slide it in the womans purse.
of course i stopped her but i am sure she did well that day.

I cannot stress enough to look and act as if you know where you are or going, even if you dont. its fine to check out the map but do so in an area where you arent being pushed, bumped into or minxed in with a crowd. If you look confident and seasoned you are less likely a target. there is no need to carry "everything" in your purse pack or back pack. I only take the essentials for the day - guide book, batteries, map, water bottle note pad and pens. My wife carries the camera and i the back pack and we look out for one another in crowded areas. Dont make yourself a target, especially by carrying more than you need or dont need. As for currency, debit card and or credit card along with cash is all i take and thats locked in one of my bags "locked" compartments. I take only copies of my ID.

Again, just use common sense and dont worry. alot of people make the situation out to be as bad as it really isnt at times. there is crime everwhere. the chances of you being literaly held up are slim to none. However, being cavallier will see you ending up being pickpocketed if you arent careful

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I were just there in early September and we loved it. I had a shoulder bag (open at the top), which had all our money, credit cards and passports in it. I did separate our credit cards and money between two different wallets, just in case one got lifted. We also had our camera in there. We didn't have a single problem. I had a good hold on my bag the whole time. I was conscious of when people got too close to me and I would move quickly away. I was in Rome for a few days back in 1993, then went onto Florence, which was having a real problem at that time with children robbing tourists. Things seemed MUCH less shady now than they did then. In terms of getting around with your purchases, a sturdy backpack, with a lock on the zipper, would be good, and just make one trip a day back to your hotel to drop stuff off. And you can always carry your backpack in front of you if you're in a really crowded area, which seems to be where they hit the most.