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how to safely carry cellphone while walking around

OK, I've resigned myself to using a money belt again for passport/credit/debit cards/etc. as we did years ago. Didn't particularly enjoy it. But now I have a cellphone to add, and the moneybelt will be mighty bulky if I put that in there too. I have some wonderful pants with deep pockets/snap closure but I'm reading they are not that secure with talented pickpockets (I had originally planned to put cellphone and passport in said pockets, but no longer thanks to forum's good advice). I'm so used to cramming the phone in my jeans back pocket that I'll hardly know what to do! I have gotten a nice roomy cross body bag to carry water/walking around money/comb/maps/rainjacket/that sort of thing, and it would be convenient to put phone there. But now I fear having it snatched/picked. What to do?

Posted by
4152 posts

Put it in the cross body bag and when in crowded areas just put your arm across the bag and hold it against your body. Pick pockets pick easy targets, if you're not an easy target they will move on to someone who is. A phone in a back pocket is easy to get, a phone in a bag that is being held securely against your body isn't easy to get.

Donna

Posted by
7737 posts

Simple. Always keep the cross body bag in a position where it cannot be snatched. As for being picked, that's why I chose a Pacsafe bag with zippers that lock.

Posted by
1532 posts

Here's an alternate strategy.
1. Leave all of your stuff in your hotel room, in a safe if they have one.
2. Take your drivers license (for id) and either your credit or debit card, depending on how you roll.
3.Take enough cash for the day.
4. Place the cash in one pocket, the cards in the other. Unless you are wearing tight pants no one will know you have them.
5. For the cell phone, throw it in the bag you mentioned.
6. Don't worry about it.

Posted by
518 posts

I have a wrist strap on my iPhone, so even when it's out of my pocket/bag and being actively used, it's secured to my wrist with the strap. So, if someone tries to grab it out of my hand and run, they'll be dragging the rest of my body with them.

Posted by
650 posts

I was in Barcelona in July and carried my phone, wallet, keys, etc in a cross body bag. I kept it zipped and snapped. I didn't have a problem anywhere: the beach, La Rambla, the metro, or visiting crowded tourist areas.
I have never used a moneybelt as I think the bag is security enough. I don't worry about having it snatched.
You will be fine.

Posted by
710 posts

I really don't mean this to sound flippant, or snarky, but you really don't have to worry so much about being snatched/picked/slashed in Europe. It's really not unsafe. In 30+ years of frequent travel there, and living there, I've never lost anything to a thief, and I carry the same things in my ordinary zippered cross body purse that I carry in Atlanta (where I would never wander around at all hours like I can do safely in much of Europe.) I keep my purse zipped and try never to be overburdened with luggage so that I can't keep track of my belongings. Maybe I just don't look like a good victim. I think my European friends would be very puzzled that we Americans obsess so over this. (I also carry my iPhone in my hand much of of time, since it has replaced most of the pro photo gear I used to travel with.) Just be aware of your belongings and surroundings, and enjoy your travels!

Posted by
2347 posts

How to be safe with a cell phone:

  1. Don't walk and talk at the same time.
  2. Don't walk and text at the same time
  3. Never cross the street while looking at your phone.
  4. Most importantly-always pay more attention to your surroundings than to your phone.

Is this what you meant? Probably not. But these rules will keep you safe. That's more important than keeping your phone safe.

Posted by
1620 posts

Like previous posters have noted, wear your money belt and then put your cell phone in your cross body purse. That will work out fine. You didn't say where you are going, but I would not put my money and/or credit cards in my pockets. Have a great trip.

Posted by
4152 posts

Carrying money and credit cards in your pocket is just asking for them to get picked. You may think that you would notice but these are professional thieves who know their job well. Use your money belt for your money, credit cards and passports. Use your cross body bag for your camera and phone.

Rome is not a den of thieves and a few simple precautions will go a long way. You're on the right track with the money belt and the cross body bag.

donna

Posted by
30 posts

Hi Carolina,

I had the same problem. Cash and docs in money belt but I have an Iphone 6 Plus. I ended up taking an old camera wrist strap and attaching it to my iphone case and just keeping it in my left pocket. Whenever I rode the metro or got into a crowd situation (museum) I held my phone in my hand inside my pocket. I was very glad that I had the wrist strap when taking selfies at the Eiffel Tower or Giotto's Bell Tower or on the river cruise down the Seine.

Nik

Posted by
1111 posts

Maybe because I live in a high crime state I am more aware. But, in going to Europe several times, I never had a money belt. I keep wallet, phone, etc. in my purse, which I hold tightly if in a crowded place such as bus or train.

I have never carried my passport with me, I leave it in my room. Never, ever, had anyone ask to see it. Except for check in at hotel. My husband carries his wallet in his pants pocket, which buttoned closed.

Just be aware of your surroundings. The pickpockets are not as plentiful as many make them out to be!

Posted by
411 posts

I second the Pacsafe crossbody bag. I got one for myself and my husband. Worked great. We both had the Venturesafe 150. It's compact and when we got on the subway I would just swing it over to my front.

Posted by
31 posts

Such great level-headed advice from you all. I can see I was starting to obsess over this, and it's not as if we're going to be in Rome or Naples (a Venice/Verona/Padua sort of trip, no huge cities). Will just use extra diligence especially in airport/train stations.

Posted by
12024 posts

If you have a smart phone and don't buy a local Italian SIM card the only thief I would worry about is AT&T or Verizon.

Posted by
31 posts

Roberto, that opens up another whole can of worms :-) I won't even get started on the information overload I'm sorting through on that subject.

Posted by
189 posts

The Rick Steves ONline store has a handy pouch you wear like a necklace. Just bought one.

Posted by
3045 posts

Rei Safari shirt had a very convenient hidden zipper pocket center front. I would slip my phone in and out of that. Worked great.

Posted by
4152 posts

You're legally required to carry your passport with you. Even if having never been asked for it you're still required to have it on you if you're not an EU citizen. It's the same as carrying your drivers license. I don't get stopped and asked to produce it on a regular basis but it could happen.

Anyway, just use a cross body bag to keep your phone in. The fact that you won't be in Rome or Venice doesn't mean that you won't be a target.

Donna

Posted by
4514 posts

You're legally required to carry your passport with you. Even if having never been asked for it you're still required to have it on you if you're not an EU citizen. It's the same as carrying your drivers license.

First, not all Western European countries require one to have their passport at all times. Some do, some don't. The EU does not regulate this either.

Second, there is no requirement in the US that people have their drivers license or other ID when out an about. When driving? - Yes. But there is no ID requirement.

Posted by
1532 posts

"Carrying money and credit cards in your pocket is just asking for them to get picked."
1. In 20 years of travelling, not only to Europe, but many much more marginal places, I've never had my pockets picked with this strategy. Thieves target the easy and the obvious.
2. If you carry all of your documents with you, if you are robbed - not pickpocketed - you lose everything. This happened to a friend of mine in Ecuador, a violent armed robbery and now all his credit cards, passport etc were gone.
3. Legal requirements vary from country to country on the passport question. But nobody in western europe is going to call you on it, and an american drivers license will be just fine for identification in 95% of the cases.
4. Money belts bend passports and/or are generally uncomfortable and annoying
5. My hotel room has never been robbed, not once, even when I don't use a safe

Posted by
518 posts

I've always carried my passport on my person at all times during my trip (other than when sleeping) just because I fear a doomsday scenario, but if you choose not to do that, you might want to have a color photocopy on you just in case.

Posted by
4152 posts

Douglas, I was talking about Italy, and yes, you are legally required to carry your passport with you if you are not an EU citizen.

Kaeleku, violent crimes, such as robbery are so rare in Rome that they actually make the news. I can't remember the last time I heard that someone was actually physically "robbed", not pick pocketed. Robbery involving a weapon is even more rare in Rome.

Yes, thieves target the easy and having money and other valuables in your pockets makes you an easy target.

Yes, rules do vary from country to country but in Italy you're legally required to carry a passport as a form of I.D. You're visiting their country and you should abide by their rules. If you're stopped and cannot produce your passport they can detain you at the police station until someone can go get it for you. With all the ramped up security these days it doesn't make sense not to have it on you.

I don't find money belts uncomfortable in the least. We are all different.

I've not had my hotel room robbed either. I'm not sure what that has to do with this discussion.

donna

Posted by
650 posts

I never carry my passport with me. I leave it in the hotel or apartment.
I have never worn a money belt. If I don't wear one when in NYC, why would I wear one in Europe where, as most people point out, it is generally safer than most of our big cities? Overkill in my opinion.

Posted by
1111 posts

Steve,

This is a great perspective. I don't wear a money belt in Miami, either (not much different from NYC). I feel safer in Europe.

Posted by
5789 posts

The comparison with home is not apt. If I lose my ID or credit card at home, it is just no big deal, just a minor annoyance in getting things replaced. If I lose my passport abroad it is a giant big deal that will eat up a hunk of my valuable time. I had business at the EMbassy in Paris on our last trip and we were surrounded in the waiting room by semi-hysterical tourists who were there to get passports replaced. Some of them had missed planes home or were having to delay moving to the next part of their trip. Not fun.

I don't carry a passport in western Europe but keep it stowed in hotel safe or apartment and carry a copy and my passport card, but this fall in Russia, I will carry it and will certainly given the level of aggressiveness of Russian pickpockets, not be carrying it anywhere but in a money belt.

I use a money belt in transit. I was very glad our passports etc were in my money belt when we came into Paris on the train a couple of years ago and 3 men surrounded my husband on the stairs and frisked him -- he would normally use an inner jacket pocket for wallet etc but it was all in my money belt so they got nothing. Transit is when you are most vulnerable and a money belt is prudent.

A cross body bag should also be fine -- the key is having it under your control so noone can stick a hand in and a phone stowed there should be fine. Snatching purses physically (as opposed to picking them off a chair back or if sitting on a seat next to a person etc) is fairly rare in Italy or France. I don't like to carry a purse, so I have travel clothes with hidden inner pockets that are zipped; so far so good with that

Posted by
650 posts

I understand your point of view Janet, but I still don't feel like a money belt is necessary. I think RickSteve's make everyone feel like they will be unsafe and Robbed if they don't wear one. My travel buddy carried money in a wallet in his back pocket that he he kept buttoned. We were in Barcelona and walked everywhere iincluding La Ramba aka the pickpocket city in Europe. No worries no problem. We are aware of our surroundings and feel completely safe without hiding to dig in our pants for money

Posted by
3437 posts

Steve,

The purpose of a money belt is not to keep ALL of your money, credit cards, etc in. It is to keep what you will not be using that day. So yes, I use a money belt when traveling. I keep my passport in it. I keep most of my money in it. I keep my ATM/Debit card and credit cars in it. When I start the day I remove what I feel will be enough cash from it for the day. If I am going to be paying for something expensive like a rental car or hotel room, I also keep a credit card out for easy access. So I am not constantly hiding behind the shrubbery and digging into my pants to pull out my money belt to get change for a soda. If I do get pick pocketed (I did on the Metro in Paris) I only lose a few Euro (no credit card out of the money belt that day).

Posted by
3437 posts

A money belt is not a place to stash your electronics!

It is designed to hold cash, your passport or other ID, and a couple credit cards. Maybe your plane tickets. Anything more than that will make it unbearable. Placing your phone in your pocket should be fine, just like at home. Maybe keep it in your hand when in a packed subway or other crowded situation.

Posted by
4152 posts

We had a friend of ours have his wallet picked in Rome. He was wearing cargo pants and had his wallet in the lower leg pocket. The pocket was buttoned but they still managed to pick it without his noticing it! A buttoned pocket is not a secure location for anything of value.

Rome is a safe city but some precautions need to be taken. Would I carry my cell phone or wallet in my pocket in my home town....yes I would. I know the town and the people and know the areas where I need to take more precautions. When you travel to a foreign country you don't know the people or the different areas. YOU are the one who stands out in the crowd. You're the one who is different, and thus, a target. Just being a tourist puts a target on your back. How big a target is up to you. I've never had any issues because I use either a money belt or a secure bag. I pull my bag and camera across my body when in crowded situations and don't take needless risks like putting a wallet in a pocket or hanging my bag on the back of my chair when dining. I make a very small target.

People should do what they feel comfortable doing. Some people like money belts and some don't. For me, they are the best way to carry valuables and know they are 100% protected. If others don't like them, that's their choice but they should find a way to protect their valuables before they leave for their trip.

Donna

Donna

Posted by
34 posts

Yes indeed, Pacsafe products are well designed. They address the inherent fail points in other similar products and I use them on every trip. I would avoid the money belts with the flimsy thin plastic fast release buckle. Or products with poor stitching. Money belts are for higher quantities of cash and documents, cards you cannot lose, hence the term Rick Steves uses- Deep Storage. Not for smart phones or the like.

http://pac.factoryoutletstore.com/?cid=192586&chid=1&gclid=cjwkeajw67svbrc1m5zpv4gboausjab6mjlkdmqm1sv6ajjk6cjqehwqfwy4iqcciubogopluuk3_rocurvw_wcb

I keep smaller quantities of spending money and my smart phone in a more easily accessible, but secure pocket or second travel wallet.

If you can find exofficio button shirts you like, they usually have a hidden zipper pocket on the chest which is great for securing such things. Royal Robbins might have some similarly designed travel clothing, and I know they make travel pants with secure cell phone pockets. REI travel clothing too.

And yes there is a lot of pickpocketing and organized street theft in Europe. Go on You Tube and see all the videos. Read the local news in Firenze, Milano, Roma. It's a fact of life. Just because some folks haven't been a victim doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise prudence in your travel preparation. But using common sense, staying aware (not paranoid) of your surroundings, and using products that are well designed to be reliable and functional will allow you to enjoy yourself.

Posted by
5789 posts

Scottevest.com, Magellan and basic travel shirts you can get at REI and similar have fairly secure hidden inner pockets which are generally adequate to avoid being picked. A buttoned pocket is easy for a pickpocket as is a backpack. My BIL had his wallet lifted from a buttoned cargo pants pocket he assumed would be very safe. He didn't notice.

There is no real reason to carry vital documents when out and about in Western Europe; if the police are demanding your passport you have bigger problems than the need to retrieve it from the hotel safe. Having to replace it is a time suck and may cause missed planes and seriously messed up itineraries.

Posted by
1803 posts

PacSafe bags are really overkill and extremely heavy with all the anti-theft locks and slash-proof steel mesh and cabling housed inside the body of the bag. If you feel like carrying a regular purse is making you too much of a beacon to potential pickpockets and purse snatchers, go online to Etsy, Amazon or TravelSmith and look for a SHOLDIT scarf (TravelSmith even has a video demonstrating the many ways you can wear it) or one of the many knock-offs that are similar. The scarf has a hidden pocket and you can easily store a smartphone, passport, credit card and some loose bills (I would not suggest trying to shove an entire giant wallet in there as it is going to weigh the scarf down and look too bulky at that point).

Thousands of European women are sporting scarves made out of various materials (Spring, Summer, Winter & Fall - indoors and outside), so you aren't going to look out of place if you are wearing an infinity scarf, jeans & tee shirt while walking through a museum or church or riding on a subway. But be discrete about retrieving or putting away your cell phone from the scarf. Pulling it out of the hidden pocket in the scarf to check what time it is while you are riding the Paris Metro is probably not the best idea. If you are going to be constantly looking at your cell to text, check the time, use apps, look at GPS, etc., then you may as well just get yourself a small wristlet carrying case for the phone.

Relax and stop being so fearful that around every corner of Europe some thief is just waiting to accost you. Sometimes the well-meaning "advice" on this forum becomes borderline hysteria/lecturing newbies about the perils that await them if they don't follow procedure and keep all of their worldly possessions strapped safely inside their underwear 24/7. Seriously, I once spent an entire year traveling the globe and I only used a money belt on the days I was actually in transit and was going to be loaded down with my backpack and dealing with long-distance trains, buses or planes. Once I would get to my destination, I carried a single credit card and a day's spending cash in a regular, cross-body purse and left the rest locked up back at my lodging. If you are assessing your cross-body purse and whether it is suitable, I highly recommend it has the following features - a large/thick leather strap, a zippered top with another zippered interior pocket, a large flap that fully covers the zippered portion at the top of the purse.

I have a purse that meets all of this criteria. I can wrap a hoodie around the strap if the weather turns cooler. I wear the purse across my body but make sure it is always in front of me so I can see it when I look down and keep my hand on it when I am in a subway, on a bus or in a crowd. The top always remains zippered with the flap over it facing the inside of my body so someone would need to get their hand in between the purse and my stomach to lift the flap, unzip the top, stick their hand in the bag and unzip the 2nd interior pocket to remove a wallet that holds 60 Euro for that day's food and sightseeing admissions. Is it Fort Knox? No. But it's making it harder to get at my stuff vs. someone with an iPhone/wallet in their back pocket. The purse does not come off my body to lay on the table, ground, bench or hang off the back of my chair when I stop to rest or eat (it basically is still strapped across my body and sits on top of my lap). You have a better chance at simply forgetting what you did with your credit/debit card when traveling (e.g., you forgot to take it out of the ATM, you left it at the restaurant after you paid your dinner tab) than actually getting pick pocketed or having a purse snatched. To cover yourself, make sure that you email yourself the phone number to call your credit/debit card company from overseas to report a loss/theft, as well as the card # itself.

Posted by
19 posts

I have slowly drifted away from the womens popular big purses and wear something that looks like a sleeve from www.sahalie.com. it is supposed to carry the cell phone, but my cell is too big so, on the top half I carry insurance and cash. On the bottom of the sleeve I carry cc's and drivers license.

Will this comfortably replace the cross-body purse for my travel to italy?

Posted by
518 posts

I've stopped using a money belt a few trips back, not because I don't believe they work, but because they add a bit of bulk to my mid-section and aren't all that comfortable, instead I've switched to neck wallet, but here's another idea I don't see mentioned much; the ankle wallet. For a trip to Africa once, I used an ankle wallet. Similar in size to a neck wallet/pouch, it wraps around your ankle with a wide sheet of velcro. If you're wearing socks, then you can also pull your socks up over it. For some one to steal from there they would need to: 1.) bend down in front of/next to/behind you, 2.) pull your pant legs up (depending on if they know which leg you have it on) 3.) pull your socks down, 4.) rip off the velcro strap and take the wallet, or pull up the velcro pocket flap and then unzip the pocket, and then finally, take the money. I don't want to sound naive or optimistic, but I think most would agree that you'd notice if something like this were happening to you.

There are far, far more dangerous places here in Oakland, CA than most of the touristy neighborhoods in Rome, but back here, when walking from point A to B, I know the streets and where I'm going, I do not need to stop and look at a map, or my phone, I'm walking briskly and not taking in the sights, and my mind is not on much else other than getting to the destination, as oppose to in Rome, where I'm doing all of these things, often at once. So it's not so much a matter of comparing crime rate between the two cities, it's about how compromised your senses are and therefore, how vulnerable you are. And it's not just crime or getting pickpocketed, you're also more at risk of getting hit by a bike/bus/car because of all this.

Posted by
650 posts

Good advice from all. You can choose to wear a money belt if it makes you feel safe. You can choose another option if you choose.My personal opinion is that a money belt does not make me feeling as if I am traveling as a LOCAL as Rick preaches.
I do not carry my passport around with me. It stays in my lodgings. I am secure with my cross body bag which has an inner zippered compartment that contains wallet and remains zipped unless I need to access it. This is contained inside a larger zipped compartment that contains cell phone, camera, guide book, keys, etc. This also stays zipped. Then I pull the flap over the top, buckle both flaps and turn the flap toward me and keep it in front of me.
It works for me better than digging in my underwear whenever I need something.
People need to decide what works best for them instead of following the majority who preach money belt is the BEST way to travel.

Posted by
8909 posts

I personally prefer the smaller hidden pocket style money belt when sightseeing. The full size money belt was more useful back in the days of paper airline tickets. When in transit and I need to access my documents I use the neck version. When I travel I prefer not act like a squirrel constantly scanning for hawks or the engage in some sort of amateur ethnic profiling. Using the belts lets me enjoy my surrounding stress-free. Also don't loose sight of the other function of money belts...they also protect you from simply loosing importing items. Probably a bigger risk but the consequences are the same, you'll wind up having to waste a couple of days arranging replacement cards/cash/passports. Spending $15 on a money belt is the best insurance deal around!

Posted by
12024 posts

I don't carry my passport around while in Europe. I have two passports. Italian law requires me, as an Italian citizen, to enter Italy using my Italian passport. The U.S. requires me, as an American citizen, to re-enter the U.S. with my American passport. Do you think I am going to keep my two passports (and the Italian one is even thicker) inside my underwear all day walking around town? The two of them together are as thick as a dictionary. Try and put a dictionary inside your underwear all day and then tell me how comfortable that is (and I'm talking especially to the guys here).
You guys do what you like, but I keep mine at my mother's house or the hotel. If the Carabinieri ask me, I'll deal with that later. Nobody goes to jail in Italy for less than armed robbery or murder (and not that long even for that). And nobody ever asked me for my ID in Italy, even when I lived there, except for when pulled over while driving. So if you are not driving a car, the chances you will be asked to produce an ID by a policeman are very close to zero.

Regarding the cell phone, I don't worry about it more than I do in the U.S. Cell phone thieves aren't just in Italy, you know?

Posted by
32 posts

Way over-cautious. I've been to Europe 4 times in the last 3 years and never had an issue. I carry a cross body leather purse (not a heavy duty bag) . My items are zipped and my hand is always on the bag. I think sometimes the fear they put in travelers is overkill. Be cautious but don' tbe afraid.