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How to avoid being pickpocked in Italy

I have been concerned about avoiding being pickpocked, even though I will be wearing either a neck or waist wallet (for plastic cards).

It seems as though everyone has been or knows someone who has been pickpocked in Europe, whether on a subway in Paris or Madrid, or in a train station...

Even in Seattle, I seem often to be a target, being of slight build, with a spaced out look, as well. looking up at things and staring at them, as in architectural detail or finding something visually arresting and wanting to stop and observe it.

One of my main concerns is that I will be carrying a Nexus 7 (7 inch tablet), not an Iphone that I can slip into a front pants pocket. I would like to carry it in a smaller daypack (I will carry most of my things in one large carry-on backpack). It's a pretty flimsy Hikpro brand dayback, very small, one that could easily be zipped open or cut through with a blade, if I wore it on my back. Even if I reversed it and wore it on the front, I still can envisage someone experienced being able to crowd into my space, unzip it, and pull out the Nexus 7.

(Once, in China years ago, in a crowded city bus I had my daypack slashed through. I didn't know it until I got off the bus).

I can't think of any other place I could put the Nexus 7--it wouldn't fit into a neck wallet, etc., obviously, so that I could pull it out easily when I needed to check addresses, etc.--except what is called, I believe, "a shoulder bag," a bag slung over one shoudlers and diagonally across the front of one's body so as hang at one's side or even in front.

If my Nexus 7 gets stolen, I won't be able to email, lose important stored information, etc.
I haven't traveled outside the U.S. in 25 years, so I'm pretty rusty at overseas travel...

Or will the shoulder bag with its zipped compartments (Eagle Cross brand) be enough?

Its seems as though, however, that women get their purses snatched and stolen all the time in the U.S. and presumably in Europe as well.

Also, here in Seattle I am in the habit of, when at a cafe or sitting in a public or private space, of just setting it down on the chair opposite or next to me, which I am supposing is a good way of having someone "over there" just saunter by, quickly pick up it, and dash away into a crowd.

Any other ideas or suggestions? I'm not trying to be paranoid, just prudent and apply some "preventative medicine."

Thank you!

Posted by
7789 posts

Definitely do not sling your backpack over either the back of your chair or on a neighboring chair. As a woman, I use a cross body purse and I put it on my lap when I eat. BTW, putting a phone in a front pocket as you would do at home is an invitation to get it lifted.

Have you looked at any of the man-type small messenger bags you can wear cross body that are just big enough for your tablet? REI in Seattle might be a good source for you to be able to see things in person. Were we talking to you about the ebags site recently or was that someone else?

Definitely plan for when you need to use money. This will not be a big deal when you are with the group, but when you are alone, such as the Milan Train Station, don't try to get money out of your neck wallet in the middle of the station. Pull out some money ahead of time. Stash it in a buttoned shirt pocket if you have one or down in your back pack. You want your neck or money belt to be deep storage, something you only get into in private! You will keep your extra cash in your neck or waist apparatus.

Posted by
11613 posts

Denny, I had not traveled in Europe fore more than ten years and almost went crazy from reading about pickpockets.

I have been pick pocketed, twice in 30 years of traveling. I wear a neck wallet cross-body under clothing and never access it in public. I carry a cross-body messenger bad that I can shift to the front in crowded spaces. My iPad, phone, day money, water bottle and camera are in the messenger bag. I have never lost anything this way. I would never put it on a chair or table - the messenger bag remains on me or goes on the floor between my feet. I use my iPad in public all the time, but if I'm not actually using it I put it on my lap (if I'm sitting down).

I have left my Civita daybag behind a couple of times (one reason I switched to a messenger bag), and the barista or waiter was holding onto it when I came back - one waiter followed me into the street to return it to me. So, don't worry that thieves are going to greet you at the train station and hand you a cappuccino as a distraction. Take precautions as advised, and enjoy Europe.

Posted by
5 posts

Check out Pacsafe brand bags and backpacks....they are the safest, slash proof and secure.

Posted by
333 posts

Denny, go to pacsafe dot com and look at the various things there. When I was in Europe 2 1/2 years ago I put everything into a pacsafe backpack. In spite of being right in the middle of a subway mugging in Paris, and being approached by scammers/pickpocketers outside of the Lourve, we didn't lose a thing. The hidden zippers and slashproof material turns your backpack into Fort Knox, lol. They also have daypacks, messenger bags, ankle/wrist wallets and various other things. There are folks on here who are NOT fans of pacsafe products, but just as many are. Look at the website and see if it's something for you. I'm headed back to Europe in several weeks and I bought a new crossbody bag from them to take on this trip, as I wanted something smaller than the backpack. After what we went thru in Paris (or what we didn't go through because of the backpack) I am a big fan of pacsafe.

That being said, just remember to do your best to always be aware, if something/somebody seems "weird" there's probably a reason, and to always keep physical contact with your valuables. Even the Fort Knox of backpacks fail if you leave it in an easy place to be stolen. Don't be scared, be prepared. And have fun on your trip!

Lisa

Posted by
5 posts

Also I don't take off my cross body bag when eating, just leave it on as does my husband with the day pack...if you don't take it off, you don't have to worry about someone taking it or you leaving it behind. It is really not uncomfortable and it is safer that way.

Posted by
3340 posts

Hello again, Denny.

Pam has the right ideas.

I also wear a cross-body purse/bag and leave it on me while sitting anywhere. I get one that is small enough to put in my tote (personal item) on the plane, but big enough to carry my essentials for the day. I often put the front facing me. Harder for me to get to, and for them, too. I always, and I mean always wear a money belt ( I assume that's what you mean by a waist wallet) under my clothes and fiddle with it in a toilet or private space. I would never wear a "fanny pack" which seems to be coming back into vogue. It's too easy to get into for pickpockets.

Both my husband and I started out with RS day packs and abandoned them on our 2nd trip. They were just too much trouble to take off, get into and put back on, plus we both felt more "vulnerable" with them on. You will see many European women and men with cross-body bags. If they have a tote on one shoulder, it's likely for shopping, not for carrying important items.

Do you mean an Eagle Creek cross body bag? Or an American Eagle one? I am a fan of baggallini brand bags, especially if I can get them at a TJ Maxx. Any of the ones I have would accommodate your Nexus.

One thing I think we sometimes forget is that we don't have to lug around all the stuff in our purses when we are in Europe that we normally carry when we are at home. Keep that junk to the absolute minimum, and you will be amazed at how little you really need to carry in a purse, or put in your money belt. You don't need a normal kind of wallet for anything. It will all go in the money belt. One thing for sure, the bigger the bag, the more likely you are to fill it full just because you can.

BTW, I bought a neck wallet this year and took it on our trip to Istanbul and Greece, but never wore it. It's just much more awkward and difficult for me to get to than a money belt. Some women don't like money belts because they think they make their tummies look bigger. That's not a fear I have. Another 1/4 inch is not going to make a big difference on me.

I don't know anyone personally who has had their pocket picked in Europe. I've only read stories here about it. I do know one person who had her purse taken in Prague. She had it sitting at her feet in a restaurant, without her foot through the handles. It was old and not a cross-body. She was with a group of people and was distracted by the conversation. How the thief slid it out from under the table under those circumstances is a mystery.

It was full of all the stuff she normally carried here, including all her meds, wallet, room key, etc. It was so full that she couldn't close it, and that may have made it more enticing. The thief took her cash, went to her room, and took a bunch of stuff from there. Fortunately, nothing really important like meds, credit cards, passport and driver license was taken and he left the purse behind in the room.

I have never observed a purse snatching or a successful pocket picking, but I have seen the right circumstances for that to happen. Back in the 80's I helped keep that from happening to a French woman on the Metro in Pars. Lesson learned, don't stand right next to and facing the doors on the crowded metro with a handbag that snaps open in front of you and a wallet easily accessible inside. And in Lisbon I did see a hand off of a man's thick wallet from a thief to his boss. Lesson learned, don't put a thick wallet in any pocket.

You already seem to know the behaviors you have that might make you a target. That would imply that not doing them would be a good idea.

Posted by
5718 posts

The front pocket is absolutely not secure -- if you had a wallet or Iphone in it, odds are good it would be gone the first time you were in a crowded public transport. I know many people who have lost wallets from front pockets. Backpacks are just as bad. I tried to convince my husband of this for years but even after he put his hand in his pocket on the Paris metro and found a hand was already in it, he thought he would 'know' -- Well he was sort of right. the last trip to Paris I reminded him as we approached a very crowded metro that there would be pickpockets. We had just boarded when I heard a yell and saw my husband leap from the train -- he had ahold of the man who had picked his front pocket and had his wallet. Other tourists blocked the door open and the man threw the wallet back into the car where I scooped it up and my husband let him go and got back on. Most of the time people don't even notice it is gone till they go to use it -- or they know but the door has shut, the train is moving and their wallet is in the pocket of the thief on the other side.

It is easy to be pickpocket proof. Carry valuables in inside zipped pockets, use a bag like a messenger bag that you can carry forward and under your forearm in crowded spaces. Thieves are looking for easy pickings -- walking buffets. They will go for the wallet in pocket or the backpack rather than trying to get into a bag that is well controlled by the person who owns it.

Posted by
7737 posts

Get the Pacsafe Luggage Metrosafe 250 Gii Shoulder Bag. Wear it across your body, don't ever set it down, use the zipper locks and stop worrying.

Posted by
11731 posts

OK, I hate like the devil to contribute to the hyperbole about pickpockets nor is that something we want to waste any time thinking about when we're on vacation so here's our personal ounce of prevention:

• Assume that every exterior pocket is vulnerable. Only put things in front or back trouser pockets you can afford to lose. Same with exterior shirt or jacket pockets.

• We all differ on this one but my husband and I leave our passports, the bulk of our cash and any electronics and credit cards we don't need for the day in the hotel safe, and carry copies of our passports UNLESS we need originals for some reason. You may not be comfortable with this but it has worked for us so far. If we don't have a hotel safe, we stow it in….

• …a small Pacsafe shoulder bag.

• Bags with items you can't afford to lose should never leave your person. Keep them on with straps slung across your body or in your lap. I personally would never trust a standard backpack with valuables, and refuse to wear one facing forward as they look goofy that way and advertise that you may have something of value in it.

• We do not use moneybelts but both of us pin small cloth pouches inside our waistbands for daily cash and cards: virtually invisible and easy for us - but no one else - to get to without our knowledge. Sometimes we'll put some of it in the Pacsafe.

• I carry shoulder bag (not a purse) for water, guidebooks and whatnot but nothing that would be a day-wrecker if it was stolen, and not an expensive brand name which might give the impression that there's something in it worth snatching.

Posted by
291 posts

I got the Hikpro ultralite daypack

http://www.amazon.com/Lightweight-Backpacks-Travelling-Backpacking-Ultralight/dp/B00KX0B5TW/ref=cm_cd_al_qh_dp_t

I think it must be similar to RS Civitas daypack...

but now I think that that's a particularly bad idea, as someone can easily from behind just open up the zippers and grab my Nexus 7 in a few seconds, without my even knowing, as I'll be concentrating on just getting to wherever I have to go (in this case, Varenna via Linnate Airport/Milan Centrale/train-in-the-right-direction and probably "dazed" from being in the middle of something I'm so unfamiliar with. Especially if there are a lot of people milling about...

I think what might be even weirder is being accosted by someone or someones, and while trying to "fend them off," i.e., get rid of them, "NO!" + stern look, if I were to get pickpocketed.

To be candid, I do feel like a "sitting duck target" because not only will I be an American tourist, I am Asian-American, which will certainly make me stand out, and nervous, as I would be in ANY place, particularly large city, I am not familiar with.

Actually, I just realized I do have what people are calling perhaps by different names: a "cross bag," "shoulder bag," "messenger bag," a black Eagle Creek bag with a carrying strap that can be slung from one shoulder either at the side (not a good idea, as someone can still reach inside without my noticing it even if I'm distracted) or slung around towards the front of my body where I can at least try to keep my right arm and hand on it all the time!

What seems to happen to people despite their being alert and prepared is that somehow someone manages to reach into the front pocket and pull whatever Euros, etc. are in there. Without one's even noticing it!

Now that is something that doesn't happen in the States. It doesn't seem as though there's much one can do about that, whether the conditions are that it's a crowded subway in Paris or Madrid or Rome or simply that there may be several other persons with the one other person who has actually accosted you and is talking to you. If one's struggling with the language...

I wonder if one can pull up on Youtube people being pickpocked on a train, in public somewhere...

My question here would be that as one doesn't and can't reach into the money belt (I mistakenly said "waist wallet" earlier), for practical reasons, one has to have some cash, which has to go somewhere, and I presume most people will stuff it into their front pocket and not wear a wallet, which will bulge, is there any other place one can place the Euros or whatever it is (that one doesn't have practical access to) or does one accept the loss as a fait accompli?

The mugging in the Paris subway sounds outrageous, something that you'd think could happen in NYC but not Europe...which is why Paris, even though I'm a francophile, is not high on my list of places to visit at the moment. I've a French friend himself who the last time or other he was in Paris had either his wallet or his money stolen on the Metro, by very agile hands that slipped away out the doors at the next Metro stop before he even realized he had been pickpocketed...

Posted by
291 posts

I carry a cross-body messenger bad that I can shift to the front in crowded spaces. My iPad, phone, day money, water bottle and camera are in the messenger bag. I have never lost anything this way. I would never put it on a chair or table - the messenger bag remains on me or goes on the floor between my feet.

I am going to have to start training myself for the next month to keep the shoulder, cross-body, messenger bag on me at all times, even when I'm sitting down, rather than taking it off and either putting it down on the table (cafe, for example) in front of me.

IN other words, see it as an extension of me.

It also sounds that the "spare," or "for that single day's use," Euros could go into the Eagle Creek shoulder bag rather than in the front pocket of my trousers. I am so used to having my wallet in the front right pocket of my pants, though. I think maybe I'll feel safer once I meet up with the RS group, as at least when I'm with others in the group, there'll be other pairs of eyes watching out. I do tend to "stray away from the group," though.

Posted by
291 posts

Have you looked at any of the man-type small messenger bags you can wear cross body that are just big enough for your tablet? REI in Seattle might be a good source for you to be able to see things in person. Were we talking to you about the ebags site recently or was that someone else?

Pam,
I think you might have been talking so someone else about ebays, although it could have been me. (I wound up placing several ordrers from ebags, including 3 medium ones, 3 slim ones, and a combo).
The pacsafe daypacks seem expensive, especially as I recently bought three North Face daypacks (on sale). But I haven't looked at their "messenger bag" line yet. I have got to go back to REI soon so I can maybe "get my hands on" their Pacsafe line rather rely on ordering online something that I haven't even really seen "in the real."

Posted by
31071 posts

Denny,

Both Tom Bihn and Rick Steves offer small Messenger Bags and that may be a better solution than a Backpack. It will most certainly be a more convenient option as if carried on the side or in front, it will be easier to both watch and also easier to access when you want to get something.

Both of those firms are in the Seattle area, so you could stop by and have a look to see whether that might work for you.

Posted by
14035 posts

This seasoned traveler got pickpocketed last month in Madrid on an evening walking tour with a small group. We were at a major intersection with lots of other tourists and a notable police presence. Suddenly the police and the tour guide noticed that my backpack was completely unzipped. Sure enough, a small bag (the only thing easy to extract) had been removed. The thieves got my emery boards, wet wipes, kleenex and the $1 make-up bag itself. There was nothing of real value in the backpack. However, I started using a small suitcase lock for the zipper after that for the rest of my time in Madrid and Barcelona. It was a little annoying to have to lock/unlock all the time, but it was worth the peace of mind when was carrying stuff I needed.

When I take the backpack off, I always put either an arm or a leg through a strap. I only carry the cash I figure I will need for the day in a front pocket. Other cash and cards I keep in a money belt or in my hotel room, usually. Most thefts are not highly technical, they are crimes of opportunity. I know I'm not eliminating the possibility, but I am increasing the odds by using deterrents.

Posted by
291 posts

I just went ahead last night and ordered a Pacsafe VentureSafe 200 GII Shoulder Bag, not 300
GII--that would have been too large for someone as short as I am.

I know I have been confusing shoulder bag and messenger bag and other types of bags. I just want to avoid carrying a bag on my back. AT least if it's by my side or somewhat towards the front, I think I'll have greater awareness if someone or hands are trying to slip into it and pull something out. It sounds like it's quite a street art in many parts of Europe.

I will check out messenger bags as well...the Hikpro, even though I already bought it, sounds like an awful idea.

Thanks to all who wrote. I didn't realize how unprepared I was for the possibility of being pickpocketed.

Posted by
4145 posts

To me, it is simple. Just don't carry things around with you during the day that you want to lose. Keep the valuables locked up in the hotel. I fear you are going to spend your whole trip looking over your shoulder rather than enjoying your time.

Posted by
3846 posts

If you are worried about slashing, you can def look into a Pacsafe.
This is the one hubby uses (I carry the camera gear)
http://www.pacsafe.com/metrosafe-200-gii-shoulder-bag.html

(It doesn't look like a woman's bag - they even have a nice grey colour!)
Some people think they are overkill, but we really like the layout and the little pockets inside...everything in it's place. I know where the credit cards are, the extra cash is hidden in behind the Velcro and zipper, daily cash is in the back zipper, guidebooks/maps and passports are inside along with the ipad mini.

(And yes, we had a friend who was in Spain who had his cargo pants pocket slashed on the subway. Didn't notice for a few hours. Lost his passport. It being the start of a long bank weekend, his travel plans got royally screwed).

Edit - just noticed you ordered the Pacsafe 200....I think you'll like it :)

Posted by
5718 posts

The whole bag slashing thing is pretty much a myth -- sure can happen, but it is so easy for pickpockets given how careless people are that they don't need to bother with all that. And a backpack is an invitation to theft.

The first question anyone should ask is 'why am I lugging a huge bag with me everywhere I go?' Nothing has improved my travel like the realization that most of the junk in my bag that is weighing down my shoulder and giving me a headache is unnecessary. I know travel most of the time around town without a purse. I can tuck money and a car in a hidden inside pocket of a travel shirt; I can put tissues and emergency meds in the pockets of my pants (watch pockets are perfect for a few wrapped meds.) IN cooler months, my scottevest.com trench coat with hidden pockets will hold anything I need including a small camera and a guidebook. In warm weather my husband and I trade carrying a very lightweight messenger bag if we will need to be hauling things -- or on day trips.

Posted by
11731 posts

The smaller the bag, the better what with new restrictions on bag sizes at the Colosseum, Palatine and Forum. While the website isn't dictating maximum dimensions, it does stress "small" and "medium."

Posted by
291 posts

Nicole,

Maybe this is overkill but I'm actually thinking of ordering as well (even though the PacSafe hasn't even arrived yet), a Kalevel Cool Outdoor Sports Casual Canvas Unbalance Backpack Crossbody Sling Bag Shoulder Bag Chest Bag for Men

http://www.amazon.com/Kalevel-Unbalance-Backpack-Crossbody-Shoulder/dp/B00N6T3OLY/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

I have an Eagle Creek rectangular shoulder bag, it's actually a computer (small labtop or tablet) bag but I think it's meant to hang down by one's side and not slung over one's chest like the Kalevel. In fact it may resemble more the PacSafe, without its security features, although it uses a sturdy buckel to secure the top flap over and down to the bottom of the front.

And then I'll have to decide which one to bring along as a daypack.

Posted by
3846 posts

That's a nice looking bag too. Before I started hauling around camera stuff, I used a Buxton bag, which is def a woman's purse...aND HUBBY WASN'T TOO FOND OF HOLDING IT (it was just a leather cross body bag). I did buy a Swiss Gear bag that looked like that one you are looking at, but ended up returning it back to the store I worked at because the boss wanted one for his daughter and couldn't get any more...lol.

For me, I prefer a cross-body that sits at my hip (my camera gear bag I got on etsy is a cross body). For me, anything against my chest or back would cause sweating and wet patches (and crankiness)...so I guess you have to look at the time of year as well - if it going to be hot and having something on your back or chest that will make you all sweaty may not be fun...or maybe that doesn't bother you. I see tons of people carrying backpacks small and large - it's just not comfy for me. Sometimes I think I overthink things a little too much ;)

Posted by
7737 posts

The thing I don't like about those sling bags is that they don't hang to your side where you can keep an eye on them. You also can't easily switch them from one shoulder to the other once that shoulder gets tired.

Posted by
7789 posts

I got a bag at Eddie Bauer Outlet that is similar to the last bag link you posted. A friend had one in Yellowstone and I liked it because it has an exterior water bottle pocket. I wanted the pocket to have bear spray readily available on hikes. I have had it for at least a year and have not used it much just because it is not comfortable across my chest like that. That bag in the link looks inexpensive enough that you won't be out much if it doesn't work for you, but you need to wear it around a bit before you leave! Plus I can never get the thing on right. You would think it would be simple, right?

Posted by
291 posts

but you need to wear it around a bit before you leave!

I prefer a cross-body that sits at my hip

The thing I don't like about those sling bags is that they don't hang to your side where you can keep an eye on them. You also can't easily switch them from one shoulder to the other once that shoulder gets tired.

From the picture(s) posted at amazon.com, it does appear that the Kalavel bag does fit around the front of the body rather than hanging at the side. And not down at the hip (?).

I don't know if that's a plus or a minus. Could just someone just as soon brush you by you and slide his hand in and take something out?

Yes, I think I'll just go ahead and get it even though I can't take both it AND the PakSafe (as the smaller of the two carry-on pieces). And try it out at home...

Posted by
3846 posts

Only you will know for sure what works for you....everyone likes something different - but yes, you should try it around town before you travel - if you get over there and decide you hate it then you are out of luck :)

I just like sling bags that hang by my hip because it is easy to pull them in front of my body in a crowd like on the metro or a bus or at a tourist site. And when we sit down to eat, I can still keep it across my body and sit it in my lap instead of removing it...

And Pam - your comment about getting the thing 'on right' - I got a really nice sling strap for my camera (I don't like the camera hanging around my neck)....it's made for a 'woman's curves' and so goes on a certain way - I swear it took me 2 dozen times before I finally got the hang of getting that thing the correct way over my shoulder - I couldn't figure out why I was being so stupid about something that seemed so simple! lol

Posted by
752 posts

Money belt and neck wallet. One small light wheeled carry-on to stay in control of luggage. For long distance train travel, First Class tickets to get away from Riff Raff.

Posted by
8293 posts

Oh, please ..... riff raff in second class on trains? Give me a break.

Posted by
11613 posts

As a second-class riff-raffer, I feel compelled to confess that I buy first-class tickets when they are the same price as second class. So some may not be as insulated as they think. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Posted by
11731 posts

I mean this simply to be reassuring and not at all a criticism of anyone's preferred methods?

I can't help but think about the thousands of young budget-strapped, hostel-staying, back-packing tourists we've encountered on our trips. Most of them travel without much of any special clothing or equipment (can't afford it) and the vast majority of them do just fine - not to mention looking like they are having the time of their lives! Rick himself probably looked just like them on his first solo trip back in 1973 (see his blog).

So by all means, take the usual precautions and have wits about you but please don't over-stress about it? Italy, I'm pleased to say, is not a crime-ridden den of thieves, and you're going to have a better trip if not looking over your shoulder all the time. Relax. :O)

Posted by
3340 posts

Hey, Kathy, that was me back in 1977. I wasn't the only woman traveling alone, but I was pretty old to be doing it at 31.

I spent 4 months (late September to late January) going from the UK to Greece and back with ventures to Scandinavia and as far west as Barcelona and Toulouse. I took the "Magic Bus" (anyone remember that?) back from Athens to Amsterdam.

I packed lighter than I do today and did laundry weekly or in the sink or bathtub when and where I could. I had a small ski-touring backpack, a cross-body messenger style bag and a very small cross-body (real) wallet which I could wear under my sweater or coat.

There were no mobile phones back then, of course. Let's Go Europe was my guidebook, which I tore apart along the way. I hid traveler's checks in a variety of places, "just in case."

Did I see pickpockets anywhere? Yes. Did they get me? No. Was I scared at any point on the trip? No. Was I street smart? Yes.

I stayed in hostels, people's rooms in their houses, pensions and B&Bs, sometimes sharing with other similar travelers along the way, sometimes alone. I never stayed in a hotel that I can remember. The only thing I lost was a black bra, in the dark, in an interior room in Barcelona when trying not to disturb my room mate as I was packing.

The trip, which I had wanted to do since I was a kid, changed my life. I'm glad I ignored the scary warnings of people about going by myself. They all came from "someone who knew someone who heard..."

Posted by
112 posts

A few things that perhaps haven't been mentioned above:

1) Someone in a thread here recommended a flight bag. RS site has a unisex light one. Whatever street day bag I use will go in the flight bag on flights and hotel to hotel transport. That way I only have 2 luggage items to watch. And one will be mostly on my shoulders or on top of the wheeled luggage handle.

2) I like the men's REI travel pants with some concealed zippered pockets. Have used them a lot in Paris on the metro. They are light weight and easily washable and dry quick.

3) The Eagle Creek neck wallet (available on Amazon) has a nice side zipper plus other pockets. Should be convenient for times like stashing a lot of Euros from an ATM. That is assuming one wears a buttoned shirt which also conceals the neck strap. Can be worn holster style. In the past I've used one of those hidden pockets which are harder to access (more secure) but do tend to bend my passport when I'm sitting. Might use both.

Posted by
215 posts

I remember before our first trip to Italy reading about pickpockets and getting myself all worried about it. I bought each of us a waist pouch. They were used all of once. My husband and I find them quite uncomfortable.
3 trips to Italy, 5 trips to France and a few other European destination trips we have not had a problem with pickpockets or theft. My husband carries a backpack, nothing of great importance in it, carries his wallet in a zippered pocket in his zip off pants, in the front in crowded cities, back pocket elsewhere. I carry a cross body pocketbook(Baggalini) with my iPhone, credit cards, cash, extra camera lens, I have carried my iPad mini in it. Dslr camera carried across body. We watch each others backs on public transportation and other crowded areas. I leave our passports in our room typically. Definitely be aware of your surrounding but don't panic yourself over pickpockets so much you ruin your trip.
My parents have traveled all over Europe with no problems for many many years also. My dad does carry his cash and cards in a waist wallet, iPhone in pants pocket.
Travelsmith carries a lot of nice travel gear, including Pacsafe items. They may have something appropriate for your tablet.
Btw, I am 5'4" my husband is barely that.

Posted by
1064 posts

Backpacks should only be worn while in transit. Otherwise leave it in your hotel. Also, do like the locals do, carry a bag appropriate to the time and location. For instance, a simple, drab messenger bag may not be appropriate for a nice restaurant in the evening, but it blends in with dozens of others carried by residents in crowded cities during the day. That makes you less likely to stand out as a target for any thieves who may be around.

Posted by
291 posts

My dad does carry his cash and cards in a waist wallet.

My concern here is that even though one will leave one's backpack at the hotel, one has to use an ATM to withdraw cash at some point. At that time, one can't really really into one's neck wallet or one's money belt (under the waist) to pull out the ATM card, can one?

I was thinking of using the Pacsafe shoulder bag when I'm out on the street and putting my ATM card in it somewhere, rather than in a fanny pack or in a wallet in one's front pocket.

Posted by
2351 posts

Thinking about this ahead of time is good. Your best bet is awareness, so thinking it through will be immensely helpful. Definitely wear a money belt of some sort and don't access it in public. Keep a small amount of spending money in your front pocket, leave the rest of it in the money belt. DON'T set your bag on another chair or on the back of your chair. Keep it attached to you. A shoulder bag (also called "messenger bag") will be sufficient for your Nexus - as long as you keep ahold of the bag. I don't like backpacks in cities - it seems easier for a thief to get into a bag on your back than if the bag is at your thigh, almost in front of you. Keep your bag in front of you or at your side, keep the phone and anything else of value in an INSIDE zippered pocket, and don't forget about the bag. This is one place women have an advantage - we are used to carrying purses all over. Men usually aren't so can be more prone to forgetting it, or just setting it down and turning their backs.

Also, it appears you need some work on your "street smarts". Being smaller isn't a problem, but looking spaced out can be. Observe architecture all you want - that's why you travel - but try to be aware of your surroundings. Don't pull out a map in the middle of the sidewalk, don't look lost (even if you are), don't fall for scams, act confident, just pay attention to what's going on. That's really the key - thinking and being proactive.

Just in case, have any important info from your Nexus7 saved to a cloud drive, or in your email, or even on paper in your suitcase. If worse comes to worse and it is stolen you want your information available at least.

For the ATM question - leave the card in your moneybelt or somewhere else safe, except when you want to get cash. Get the card out in a bathroom or something ahead of time, keep the card somewhere safe until you find an ATM. Get your cash and when you can put the card back. My husband actually carries his card in a front pocket wallet all the time, which is safer than in a bag or back pocket.

Don't panic! While there are certainly plenty of pickpockets, it is less prevalent than you may think. You hear about the thefts because people who were pickpocketed obviously want to warn others, but it's not like every single person has an incident. Be aware, be careful, and have a plan in the back of your mind for what to do just in case...then be on your way, enjoying your trip,

Posted by
20726 posts

Really beginning to think we are over thinking this subject by letting common sense slide by. Skip the PacSav stuff. It is overpriced and heavy. If I am going to get money today from an ATM, I will put my ATM debit card is a secure shirt or pants pocket. Step up to the ATM, whip out the card, use it, and stuff it and the money back into the secure pocket and walk on. Sometime in the next hour will find a water closet, use it and transfer the cash and card to the money belt. In that short period of time, I am just very careful about when I am and avoid crowds. Or maybe I have spotted an ATM near the hotel and will use it on the way back to the hotel so I can transfer in the hotel room. It doesn't have to be complicated. Just use some common sense.

Posted by
31071 posts

I tend to use the same method as Frank and so far haven't had any problems with that. I keep my card in a secure location and just put the cash in a wallet which has both velcro and zippers. More importantly the wallet is attached to my belt with a steel chain, so it's not going far, even if someone were to get it out of my pocket. I'm always more vigilant and aware of those around me after visiting an ATM.

Posted by
291 posts

don't look lost (even if you are)

I tend to be spaced out a lot of the time, even at home or in Seattle, as I can be extremely visually atuned to something I see (I studied art history) and, thus, can forget about my surroundings. And it seems to take only a few seconds for something to happen.

I'm really most worrried about getting from Milan to Varenna, and as I've said elsewhere I haven't been out of the country in 25 years!

In NYC, years ago, I had couple of instances, the same evening, on the Upper West Side, have two different people make a beeline straight towards me, on the sidewalk, and almost into me. I had to dodge them. And I was with three other people, friends! So I do tend to "look" anxious, and I think strangers pick up on it.

Posted by
291 posts

Sometime in the next hour will find a water closet, use it and transfer the cash and card to the money belt. In that short period of time, I am just very careful about when I am and avoid crowds.

I hadn't thought of finding and using a WC to transfer money out of my pockets and into the neck wallet or money belt.

Posted by
291 posts

Don't panic! While there are certainly plenty of pickpockets, it is less prevalent than you may think. You hear about the thefts because people who were pickpocketed obviously want to warn others, but it's not like every single person has an incident.

It was just that everyone I have spoken to personally or chatted with online has personally been pickpocketed or knows of someone who has, including a Frenchman in his native Paris on the Metro.

It only takes a few pickpockets...they don't have to be swarming around in numbers.

I tend to be accident-prone anyway, walking into things if I'm thinking hard about something.

Posted by
20726 posts

Maybe you should stop reading all the stuff on pickpockets because you incorporate it too deeply. First off, according to an Interpol report in a leading travel magazine a couple of years ago, only 1 tourist in 4 had any problems with theft. Now granted, 25% is a significant number but 75% is an even greater number who had no problems. Take a couple of precautions and it probably drops to 10% or less. We have spent nearly a year in Europe over the past 18+ years, and I have never seen a pickpocket in action. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but am suspicious of those who claim to see pickpocket in action everyday. Maybe my eye sight isn't very good. In all of my contacts with many other travelers only know of two who were actually pickpocketed. Don't mean to blame the victim but both admit that they did something really stupid before being hit.

I don't do half the stuff that some people recommend because I think some of it is silly looking, doesn't do much good, and makes you look paranoid which is even worse. I will sit my bag on an empty chair or over the back of the chair because it look strange sitting in chair with a backpack on or around your neck or clinched between your knees. But I will also discretely hook one the straps around a chair leg, rung, or something. If you grab the bag, the chair is going with it. And I think I will notice that even with a big distraction. Again, common sense with a little prevention. Just don't it easy.

Pickpockets do not go down the street bouncing from tourist to tourist hoping to get lucky. They are professional in their own way. They id their marks in advance and generally work in teams. If you are in a train station and take out a wad of bills from your front pocket to buy a sandwich, there is a possibility that you will not have that wad of bills when you get on the train. Me - I unbutton a shirt picket and take out a 20 note to buy my sandwich and put the change back in the pocket. Not much profit in going after the change in a difficult location. Only in the movies (or faked You Tube) does a pickpocket bump into you for two second and walks away with your watch, billfold, and two gold teeth.

Posted by
8293 posts

Sensible words from Frank (above). The never-ending obsession with the danger of pickpockets is almost foolish. Geez, before you even arrive you are in a state of anxiety. Do you live in an area that is 100 percent crime free? I know I don't. Be brave, be careful, be vigilant but above all, be adventurous, be fun-loving, be curious and you will have a happy time.

Posted by
20726 posts

Thanks, Norma. If I go to Seattle, I will use a money belt. With a son in Chicago and one in New York, we spend a lot of times in cities. I am more nervous and cautious on the subways in both cities, than I ever am in Rome, or Paris, or London or anywhere in Europe. Pickpockets are a concern but not a major problem for us.

Posted by
3503 posts

Denny, just a reminder that your neck or waist wallet is for much more than your credit cards; money after ATM withdrawals & your passport should both be stored in it, also.

"Even in Seattle, I seem often to be a target, being of slight build, with a spaced out look" - since you're aware of how you're perceived by potential pickpockets, practice walking around with a sense of purpose. Search on the internet, so you've seen your hotel front, specific streets, etc. - whatever will help you be more prepared and at ease.

You're going to have your Nexus stolen. If that statement puts terror in your mind, then go with Plan B - a smaller device, etc. I agree with others; if you're worried about stuff, your experience will be diminished.

Posted by
291 posts

just a reminder that your neck or waist wallet is for much more than your credit cards; money after ATM withdrawals & your passport should both be stored in it, also.

Jean, I guess I never figured out until recently (see above about the WC, hope they're plentiful) to get one's credit card and money back into the neck or waist wallet without partially disrobing.

I was thinking of leaving the neck wallet or money belt at the hotel (with passport, large amounts of cash, and important documents), period. And using the Safepac shoulder bag on the street, and placing the ATM card(s) in a compartment on the inside.

Someone I know puts small amounts of cash that he needs for the day in the front pocket, so if someone gets in his front pocket, at least it won't be more than, say, 100 euros.

Posted by
215 posts

I wouldn't have a problem taking my debit card out of a neck or waist wallet while at an ATM, if you are sticking it back under your clothes when done no one can get to it without causing a real scene. Pickpockets want easy targets. As it is, I take it out of my pocketbook, use it, put the money and card back into my pocketbook.
Try not to get yourself so worked up about the very small possibility of getting pickpocketed, you will be so worried you won't enjoy yourself. We've traveled to Europe many times, my parents have been many many more, my daughter has been living in France for 3+ years, all 3 of them in cities, none of us has any incidents of theft. With the exception of my dad, none of us uses a neck or waist wallet. My daughter carries a backpack and a cross body pocketbook. She has an iPhone, iPod touch, laptop. She is 5'2" and 110lbs. She travels alone by bus, train and carpool all the time, between Lille, Paris, Dijon and Lyon.
When on crowded trains, metros or in crowded touristy areas stay aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Please relax and enjoy your trip! :-)

Posted by
1064 posts

If you use a neck pouch, be sure to tuck it back in. The few times I have tried wearing one, I would start walking down the street with the neck pouch hanging outside my shirt. Fortunately, my wife would remind me.

Posted by
669 posts

Wife and I use small back packs for day trips. None have anything we can't lose in them, just food, extra clothing, tp, sunscreen, etc. Cards, including Camera SD Cards and all important stuff is in money belts. We have it down to a ritual for crowded trams. Get Back Pack off, set to the floor in front of us, feet in the shoulder straps. Once its a pattern, you don't care any more about pickpockets cause they can see you are a hardened target and move on.

Posted by
498 posts

I have read this thread and tried to keep my mouth shut a long time, but here you go: I read Rick Steve's book 20 years ago and have been visiting - or living - in Europe since about then. I felt then, as I feel now, that nothing makes you look more like a tourist than fishing money out of a money pouch. I have never had any experience with pickpocketing, from Rome and Florence to Vienna and Berlin. I offer this for what it's worth.

Some of your accounts of pickpocketing issues make me nervous for my next trip, nevertheless! :)

Posted by
5884 posts

To put some of this discussion about pickpockets into perspective, and if you have 10 min to spare, I highly recommend listening to this from David Sedaris

http://youtu.be/YXfzRXxThOY

It's from his book "me talk pretty one day" and is called "picka pockatoni"

Posted by
291 posts

I wouldn't have a problem taking my debit card out of a neck or waist wallet while at an ATM, if you are sticking it back under your clothes when done no one can get to it without causing a real scene.

Just remember to tuck the neck wallet (or money belt) back in.

I think the notion of having to "tuck it back in" or stick it back under my clothes would make me self-conscious and mark me as "a tourist." But if others do it without problem, then so can I, I guess.

Posted by
11613 posts

A tip about ATMs: many banks have them inside the entrance before you enter the lobby, rather than outside on the street. You may prefer looking for the indoor ones. Try to use them during banking hours in case something goes wrong.

Posted by
1731 posts

On our recent 17-day trip to Paris, Lucerne, Florence & Salerno, my wife and I kept using the RS term 'deep storage', her with a money belt, and myself with a pouch around the neck and one arm. Only thing in the wallet most times was under 100 Euro & maybe three twenty dollar bills. Everything else under wraps. Worked famously, and truthfully was peace of mind as--pickpocketers notwithstanding--I knew where everything of value was!

RE: ATMs, we used ones attached to banks, with one doing the deed while the other stood by observing the perimeter. Maybe a little paranoid, but it made me feel better. No problems whatsoever.

Posted by
3340 posts

You said, "I think the notion of having to "tuck it back in" or stick it back under my clothes would make me self-conscious and mark me as "a tourist." But if others do it without problem, then so can I, I guess." You are going to be marked as a tourist from the get-go, so own it!

I have only used a money belt. I have pulled up my top (I never tuck a top in and I never wear a belt ) and pulled that money belt out of my pants in more places, public and semi-private (like the foyer of a bank), than I can count, even using an ATM on the street outside of a bank when that was the only option available. My pants are loose enough in the waist that I can pull them out away from my waist, pull the money belt out, get the card, get the cash and put it all back in very quickly and easily. I don't wait until the well is totally dry to get cash, so I don't need to futz around putting some of it back in the money belt and some somewhere else. If I did, I would find a WC somewhere to do that after it was in my money belt (or maybe deep down in the bottom of my cross-body purse). FYI, there will be MANY more places to easily get cash than there are easily available WCs.

My husband has only "covered" me a few of those times. On the tour, you will have a "buddy". Y'all will watch out for each other. You will also become friends with others on the tour and you can cover each other when getting cash if needed.

If you are by yourself, just follow all the many, many suggestions and encouragements in this long and well-attended discussion. Google whatever your arrival airport is and study the website. Also do a Google images search for it, so that you have an idea of what you are going to be surrounded by when you arrive.

Here's a link to Malpensa if that's the one you need: http://www.milanomalpensa-airport.com/en. Thoroughly explore it to orient yourself before you go. Note that all the banks listed have ATMs if you want to get cash before you leave the airport: http://www.milanomalpensa-airport.com/en/services/banks-and-services. Remember that you are a Schengen passenger.

Posted by
669 posts

Denny, I actually LIKE being noticed as a tourist. After all, I AM a tourist. People are much more friendly and helpful. My wife and I would never pass as locals. For one I don't like wearing peach colored pants; yellow, wide collar shirts or gold neck chains.... :) The secret truth about Italy is that the locals aside from their own closely knit groups, or old city states, do not trust, or even like, other Italians. Think in the terms of North and South in the US but on a grander and more complicated scale. If you "pass" as another Italian, you are treated worst than if you are recognizably a Tourist. An Italian has no vendetta against you if you are a Tourist. As far as being a MARK, that crosses all lines and I've witnessed more Natives being robbed by Natives than Natives targeting Tourists. The legal system in Italy isn't stupid, and will NAIL acts against Tourists. The whole country survives financially by Tourism. Just be aware of the 10 to 14 year old girls. These are the pick pockets of Italy.

Posted by
767 posts

Two thoughts:

  1. Think critically about the people telling you pickpocket stories. I suspect if you eliminate the people who "know someone" who was pickpocketed or "almost" pickpocketed, this would eliminate the vast majority of people. The "I know someone" game is frequently a neighbor's cousin's babysitter's groomer and the story gets embellished along the way. And as Frank mentioned, I bet a lot of people who think they are seeing pickpockets in action are misinterpreting something. I know they are out there. I'm not naïve. But they are not the majority.

  2. If you are worried about looking anxious, get a nice looking pair of sunglasses. And you don't have to spend much money. Target or those kiosks in malls have a lot of choices. A slick pair of sunglasses might help you put your game face on.

Posted by
291 posts

Here's a link to Malpensa if that's the one you need: http://www.milanomalpensa-airport.com/en. Thoroughly explore it to orient yourself before you go. Note that all the banks listed have ATMs if you want to get cash before you leave the airport: http://www.milanomalpensa-airport.com/en/services/banks-and-services.

Thanks but I'll be flying to Linnate. But the principle is the same, though Linnate is much smaller than Malpensa, I believe. I think I will get 100-200 euros here in Seattle before I leave so I don't have to bother with getting money at the airport.

Posted by
291 posts

On our recent 17-day trip to Paris, Lucerne, Florence & Salerno, my wife and I kept using the RS term 'deep storage', her with a money belt, and myself with a pouch around the neck and one arm. Only thing in the wallet most times was under 100 Euro & maybe three twenty dollar bills. Everything else under wraps. Worked famously, and truthfully was peace of mind as--pickpocketers notwithstanding--I knew where everything of value was!

Sounds like you worked out a pretty good system there for yourselves.

But then did you have your passport and credit cards always with you in the money belt and neck wallet, day and night? I think some people, I don't if it's many or not, prefer to leave the really "big valuables" either in the hotel room or in the hotel safe, while keeping the under 100 Euros, enough for the day, either in their wallet or their front pocket.

I guess if the really "big valuables" were on one's self 24/7, one wouldn't have to worry that much (except when bathing, going through customs, or when one needed to get money from the bank via an ATM. Or if one were actually robbed, which seems not to happen very often in Europe) then.

The loss of a "petty's day" cash would not be insurmountable--it also helps to go with someone, a friend, partner, or spouse. But some people, I hear, do go solo...

Posted by
434 posts

Hi,

Although all the ideas are very good that were posted, I did not see the one key thing that I found is key in protecting yourself & your belongings. That is attitude & awareness. I live in NYC, I found that the best way is to stay aware of your surroundings, and promote an attitude of self assurance. Take a confident stance in the subway, look like you know what you are doing at the subway machine. If someone is standing too close to you at an ATM, ask them to move back. I am not a native New Yorker, one other item I noticed between the rest of America & New York is, New Yorkers trust NO ONE, they assume the person beside them is either going to rob them or take advantage of them. Once they do let you in past that wall, they are some of the nicest people.

All that being said, I do try to carry the smallest bag possible. Most of the time I carry a wristlet. I put the handle around my wrist, & the actual wristlet in my hand. If I carry something larger, put it in front of you so you can see it, crossbody works for me. If we are travelling, I were a money belt, only keeping a few essentials in the bag.

Mary

Posted by
167 posts

I love my pacsafe wristsafe. Not noticeable at all, people mistake it for a wrist support. Secure and convenient.

Posted by
1064 posts

The first rule for avoiding pickpockets and other thieves is don't make yourself a target. There's is a difference between looking like a tourist and looking like a dumb tourist, like the Grizzwolds.

Posted by
3340 posts

I looked up Linate (one "n") and the website is set up just like the Malpensa one -- http://www.milanolinate-airport.com/en. Very easy to explore with fewer bank ATMs, but if you don't need to get money when you arrive, that doesn't matter.

Just curious, are you flying non-stop from Seattle to there? If so, on what airline? It looks like it might be somewhat easier to navigate than Malpensa. That can make everything simpler, easier and less intimidating in my opinion.

Posted by
291 posts

Unfortunately, there is no direct flight from Seattle to Milan, even to Malpensa. Most airlines fly to the latter. I'm going Lufthansa. Thanks for the spelling correction.

Posted by
1731 posts

Denny--yes, EVERYTHING important went in the 'deep storage'. My neck pouch had a side zippered pocket that I kept my passport, and two debit cards & one credit card, with those cards being in little sleeves that prohibited them from being 'read' while on my person via these newfangled portable scamming machines--you can see I'm not technical about those things!

In one of the other pockets I had photocopies of my wife's credit cards & passport, and she had photocopies of mine.

Then finally, in the main pocket, I had most of our Euro (or Swiss francs), then a couple hundred dollars worth of $20 bills. Wife had a couple hundred too.

Before we would leave to go out of our hotel, apartment or B&B at any time, we'd saddle up. It became routine, and like I said above, it was definitely peace of mind to know the location of all our monetary goods.

ONLY time I felt glad to have it on from the standpoint of being pickpocketed was riding the Paris Metro during peak hours & this happened multiple times. I was sandwiched in there pretty good and wouldn't have known if someone was reaching in my pocket.

Posted by
524 posts

From what I understand, your cards cannot be read unless they are RFID cards. You can tell if they have that little wifi signal on the back. I have a chip card, like many in the U.S. now, but it's not RFID.

Also, I plan on having my DH carry our Visa card and I will carry the Debit card...both in "deep storage". That case, if one of us would get pickpocked (how, I don't know unless they stick their hands down our pants), we still have another form to get cash.

We are also keeping another debit card (or a credit card) from a separate account in the hotel room safe...justin case. We'll also keep Euros and $$$ in that safe, also. We'll carry just a day's worth of spending money on us. Anyway, that's the plan.

Posted by
20726 posts

Most of RFID concerns are market hype to sell the protection gear. It is possible so if you see someone come up behind you with a foot square antenna attached to a laptop pointed at your back side, run the other direction. Also it helps if you stand perfectly still so they can get a good reading. Point is - the probability of getting your credit info via RFID is very remote. Most will do it the old fashion way - steal it.

Posted by
1151 posts

Someone I met while in Italy a few years ago said that they keep 100 Euro and a photocopy of their passport under the insole of their shoe at all times.
That way if you ARE robbed, you have both ID and some money till you can get sorted out.
I do this now on every trip!; and you don't feel it.

Also; only use the ATM's inside the bank, or the ones with the glass revolving doors; and only when the bank is open, in case anything goes wrong.
If you have a friend with you; get them to face out to the street right behind you, while you use the ATM, to watch for unwanted "helpers".

When you arrive in your destination airport; after clearing Customs, take all your bags inside a locked stall in the washroom.
Take your passport, credit and debit cards, itinerary, and most of your cash; and put in your moneybelt under your clothes.
Keep out only enough cash for your train ticket/taxi fare/ next snack; and you are then hands free, and safe from pickpockets while you are jetlagged and disoriented.
Be aware; don't let people help you at ATM's, or train ticket machines; they are probable only helping themselves. (Speaking from recent experience in Florence.)

Above all: have a wonderful trip!!

Posted by
7737 posts

If you plan to use an ATM in Frankfurt, be sure you've told your bank/credit union ahead of time, or you could end up freezing your account right at the start of your trip.

Posted by
11613 posts

Michael's advice pertains to all travel - credit card companies and banks may block your card for suspicious activity if you don't let them know when and where you are traveling. This is especially inconvenient I you arrive in a city on a Friday night and have to wait until Monday to call your tiny bank and spend 45 minutes and lots of money on the phone call to get it straightened out. (Don't ask.)