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Thieves on Rome buses

I have just been pickpocketed on the bus in Rome. I was horribly defensiveness crushed against wall. No way to move hands as bus served and more and more people got on the bus. Bus was only partially filled when I got on just no seats available 10:30 am in morning. Swarms of people got on at next bus stops and I could not have gotten off if I wanted to. This is a horrible City. I have travelled to Europe six times and this is my second trip to Rome. I wear two money belts and take all precautions not to get in crowds. I am sure these are targeted attacks. I recommend you tour other Cities until they get this crime against tourists under control.

Posted by
6181 posts

I'm really sorry that this happened to you - it would certainly sour my mood as well, but hopefully you can help others on this forum avoid this fate.

Can you provide more details on how this happened, even with two money belts? What's the most likely way someone got to your belongings, and what was taken? Did you report the theft to anyone?

I understand you are upset, but It's not the cities which are horrible and to be avoided, rather a sliver of the population which takes advantage of visitors. I don't think people will stop coming to Rome in the future, but they need advice on how to prevent such occurrences. What steps would you recommend and what, if anything, would you have done differently?

Posted by
11970 posts

Sorry to hear that.
Unfortunately the possibility of these types of crimes is not limited to Rome, but to many large cities (including outside of Europe).
Over 90% of pickpockets occur on crowded buses or subways. Sometimes it pays to just walk and take taxis for longer distances even if it costs a bit more.

Posted by
30971 posts

dave,

Just curious, were you travelling on the #64 or #40 Buses? The #64 especially has a reputation for that, and has been dubbed "the pickpocket express". I'm not clear on what the thieves got if you were wearing two Money Belts? Did they actually access one of the belts?

As Roberto mentioned this also occurs in other cities in Europe, especially anywhere there are really crowded conditions (ie: Metro, buses, trains, etc.). The problem will likely be exacerbated this summer if the predictions are true, and Europe is swamped with huge numbers of tourists.

Posted by
94 posts

do you remember that obvious weapon at your disposal? namely your voice? i'll bet i you yelled "rape" (however you say that in Italian) loud and long enough. you would'nt be in that pickle.

sorry, "dave" who just got pickpocketed, but I've been in a lot of forums and your post seems phony. If I'm wrong, I apologize but that's how i read it.
you take all precautions not to get in crowds but you get into the one sure mode of transportation preferred by pickpocketers

And your syntax is all wrong..

Posted by
7735 posts

I'm not doubting that something happened, but I don't think we're getting the complete story. If you were using the money belts correctly, how on earth did the pickpockets get into them?

And of course you can't blame an entire city for the actions of one thief. I have traveled to Rome six times and never had any kind of problem with pickpockets.

Posted by
4152 posts

Michael, I was going to ask that same question. Money belts are worn under your clothing so they are impossible to get to unless someone strips you down.

Dave you need to give us more information. This just doesn't make sense.

Donna

Posted by
4 posts

Okay, so you all think I'm a phony because my syntax is wrong and you can't figure out how this possible. Well, I'm writing on little Kindle in my hotel room. Sorry if it's not good enough for you. I'm six foot two and weigh 200 lbs but I am 67 years old. I wear one money belt around my waist and the other is around my neck. I wear an undershirt and sport shirt. I take full responsibility for not wearing the money belt that was around my neck inside my t-shirt next to my skin but it was hot and I it was my first trip out in Rome on this stay. I was on the 62 bus which runs cross town to St Peter's.

Okay, so why didn't I tell rape. I told two guys to stop pushing me. My chest was smash up against the one. Another one kept pushing at me from the side. And "no" I didn't know I had actually lost money until I got off the bus and sure as well couldn't pull out my money belt while being smashed on the bus. So why didn't I actually put my hand on the money belt? I had my left hand holding my pack with my camera and the other was holding on to the pole. If you ride this bus you will find out these buses here and jerk around corners with poor suspensions. When I got off the bus I checked out my stuff and thought it odd my neck pouch was moved more to the left side of my chest than I normally wear it. Not too unusual but still worth a check. So I opened my sport shirt and noticed the side zipper was down. I checked for my money and it was gone. Do I know exactly how the did it? No. I can't figure out exactly how they got inside my buttoned sport shirt.

So believe my story yes or no.

Why do I think Rome is horrible? Well, here is a City that lives off tourists and still is notorious for pick pockets and thieves that prey mostly on tourists on public buses and it seems to be getting worse. Believe me or not. I don't even know why I'm taking the time to write this except I would hope others would be as irritated as me and maybe they would clean up this once beautiful City.

Posted by
15578 posts

My sympathies. Yes I believe you got ripped off. Even 12 years ago on my first visit to Rome, our guide told us straight out "Never ride the 62 bus from Termini to St Peters! I guarantee you will get off the bus with less than you boarded with." I guess its true.

Posted by
47 posts

dave--really sorry this happened and your anger is understandable.

One question for the benefit of others: how about the money belt around your waist? Were they able to take anything from that belt?

Posted by
7735 posts

Like I said, I don't doubt that something happened, but I still can't picture it. (It's only one person who thought your story was phony.) They unbuttoned your sport shirt, unzipped your money belt, took money out of it and then buttoned your shirt back up? Or did they come up your untucked shirt and get to your money belt that way? I'm asking so that others can benefit from your experience, not because I doubt you. Did they get anything other than money? Is it possible you left your money belt unzipped and your money fell out?

Posted by
30971 posts

dave,

"Okay, so you all think I'm a phony because my syntax is wrong and you can't figure out how this possible."

I don't recall criticizing your story or calling you a "phony", but simply asking for clarification on the circumstances. Thank you for providing further details.

I have no doubt that you were victimized and sorry to hear about it. Despite that I'm not sure it's fair to categorize an entire city as being "horrible". The throngs of pickpockets have also been a problem in other cities, and Paris is a good example. Both at the Louvre last year and the Eiffel Tower this year, staff have walked off the job to protest "aggressive gangs of pickpockets". It could be there's a larger number of pickpockets this year, as they're aware of the huge numbers of tourists that will be visiting Europe. I'm sure they're very adept at spotting a "target rich environment".

Hopefully the rest of your trip goes well.

Posted by
752 posts

I was on that # 64 bus once when it got unbearably crowded. The crowd surged and smashed me against the wall. I got so mad that I pinched the hell out of the guy pinning me down. I pinched as hard as I could as much as I could. Magically, space appeared and I was able to leap off the bus.

Posted by
247 posts

Sorry this happened to you Dave.

Keep in mind that anytime your money belt is outside your clothing it is like a big flashing sign reading "Free Money".

I realize its hot. Rome can be very humid at times too. But your money belt should never, ever, be outside your clothing.

This kind of thing happens in cities all over the world. My husband had money taken from him in Chicago right in front of the Sears Tower. We had friends who had a purse stolen in Times Square in New York City.

Rather than blaming Chicago, or New York or Rome we need to look at who is enabling the thieves to make a profit. My husband made a mistake by pulling his wallet out for a man giving away "free post cards" and immediately realized his mistake. Ultimately it wasn't the city's fault but my husband's.

Don't let this ruin your trip. Take a deep breath, count this as a learning experience and step confidently back out on the sidewalk to enjoy the hundreds of beautiful sights around you.

Posted by
463 posts

I am very sorry that this happened but I do agree the purpose of having a money belt is to wear it under your clothes. We recently returned from Buenos Aires. A couple in our group was almost pickpocketed as we were waiting to board a bus. He stopped the young person but this happened in front of our hotel. This can happen in any city!

Posted by
1501 posts

Paris is worse. Even the locals get ripped off. Bands of little kids. We had three approach our outdoor cafe table - the youngest couldn't have even been seven years old. They snatched my friends brand new iPhone off the table and ran with it. The police said they couldn't do anything about it because of the EU laws regarding children. They're Romanian, live in apartments with an adult who teaches them to steal. The police know who they are and where they are and are absolutely impotent to do anything about it.

Posted by
6808 posts

It was under his shirt, just not under his undershirt. Get it. They were so skilled that they reached under his shirt and unzipped the side. People who blame the victim, which goes on here every time someone posts a terrible experience, are reassuring themselves that it won't happen to them.

OP thank you for your post and describing the situation. Sounds terrible.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks to all who offered sympathetic responses.
Just to be clear and maybe helpful, the money belt\strap around my neck was concealed beneath sport shirt, but not under my undershirt next to my skin. My conjecture is that the thief was able to slip fingers between the buttons and slip the vertical zipper of the pouch down enough to insert fingers into the pouch and extract the money bills. I doubt that this could be done except for the extreme smashed compact riding conditions and that I was continually being buffeted and pushed. I almost fell several times. I think now that this also could be several thieves working together.
I suggest that anyone using the pouch style with several pockets not use the side zippered pocket but use the top entry pouch pocket. Secondly, wear it against your skin under your t shirt (yes it will get hot and sweaty). Also, the suggestion about not riding the bus is a good one, but hard to do if you have to travel on budget and want to travel aways cross town to a site to visit. Taxis could easily add an additional $50 dollars or more to your daily expenses if you can find one to pick you up.
I have not been to Rome in 17 years. I think those of you who travel this year will be surprised by the crowds as I am here now and can't believe it's not high season. You will also be surprised by how dirty it has become (not just my opinion but I have met several other Americans traveling here). Good luck to you all and hope you have good trips.

Posted by
6181 posts

@Donna - "Romanian" is not "Roma" (often called gypsy), which is what I think you meant. Romanians (of Romania) would strongly object to being classified as thieves.

Posted by
7735 posts

I am here now and can't believe it's not high season.

I'm not sure what your source is, but June is absolutely high season in Rome. I think Roberto posted a link a year or two ago about tourist arrivals in Rome by month, but I can't find it. I was in Rome just a couple of weeks ago and it didn't look especially dirty to me. The first time I went was 2003, so 12 years ago. It will never be Switzerland but that's part of its charm, imho.

Posted by
1406 posts

Pickpockets and con artists exist wherever they can succeed. Tourists everywhere are easy targets. And in many European cities, the cops and tourist officials acknowledge the problem and either a) can't or b) won't do much about it.

Posted by
11970 posts

cops and tourist officials acknowledge the problem and either a) can't or b) won't do much about it.

The problems is that there are no consequences for petty crime in Italy.

If you are under 14, you cannot be prosecuted for any crime, so you are immediately released to your parents. Since parents of gypsies are often the ones training their children to steal, that is not going to help.

If you are over 14 y.o. they still let you go, after booking you at the police station, because there aren't enough prison cells. There are no prison terms served for non violent crimes. So nobody goes to jail except for murderers and very violent criminals (and even then only for a number of years that in the US you get just for smoking a joint).

Posted by
1741 posts

Roberto there are around 13,000 non violent thieves in italian prisons out of 58,000 prisoners.
27,000 are small pushers. Source: Istat.
There are no prison terms served only if it's the first conviction and it's a sentence of less than three years. Maybe you confuse detainees awaiting trial with those whose sentence has become final and are given too much reductions?

Posted by
1720 posts

Sorry about this, Dave. In early March, we took a 17-day trip to Paris, Lucerne, Florence & Salerno. Took trains & public trans everywhere. Only in the Paris Metro was it continuously crowded, not quite to your degree, Dave, but smashed in enough to be holding onto everything I had, including securing the money pouch next to my skin on my chest. Not overtly like a paranoid maniac, but actually trying to mark my territory, almost. Nothing happened, but I have to chalk a lot of our success in this regard up to traveling in the off-season, which was wonderful. I don't like crowds, and I certainly don't care for the phenomenon known as the 'ugly American'. I try to assimilate when abroad, but in a wary fashion & not naively.

Posted by
251 posts

I will be traveling to Rome next week and from reading this forum, I have become increasingly nervous about being pickpocketed. I did buy a money belt and that's where I will be keeping my personal documents and money. I am also going to bring a satchel to keep my accessories in (lotion, hand sanitizer, napkins, etc.), basically stuff that won't matter if stolen.

Does anyone have any recommendations on how to keep safe while traveling on public transit in Rome or walking around in general?

I have been to New York, Chicago, Venice, Amsterdam, etc. before and never had a problem with feeling uneasy about being pickpocketed... but Rome has got me a little nervous

Posted by
11970 posts

Jenna.
Don't be overly nervous about Rome. 99% of visitors go there and have a totally uneventful experience without being pick pocketed or even without ever seeing a gypsy. What you are doing (money belt etc) is likely sufficient. Another very effective thing is avoid taking buses altogether, even more so than the metro, especially at peak time. Rome is very walkable, the city center is very compact, and taxis are very reasonable. Well over 95% of pickpockets occur on crowded buses and other crowded situations (e.g. concerts, sports events) when people are squeezed like sardines against one another, the rest happens in those rarer cases when beggars (always gypsy kids) surround you like bees aggressively panhandling and while you get you money out of your wallet, they take everything else. Those are the worst. When you are in those situations, keep those kids at bay, far from your body. Don't be afraid to slap them just because they are kids, because they don't take no for an answer, they leave you alone only when they are scared of you. The Italians will come to your rescue if they are around and you ask for help (and will gladly kick their little behind for you, since they loathe them).

Posted by
251 posts

Thank you Roberto!

I think we will plan to only take the bus when going to the Vatican City, the Catacombs, and from our hotel to Campo de' Fiori since it's about a 40 minute walk. When we do take public transit, would you suggest avoiding the Metro if possible? Our hotel is right next to the Vittorio Emmanuelle Metro Station, which is pretty convenient.

Posted by
11970 posts

Yes darioalb mine was an exaggeration maybe, but if you get arrested for pick pocketing you likely get a "denuncia a piede libero" and out you go. Some people had a long collection of those "denunce". At the SMN station we knew most pickpockets by name. They were caught and a few weeks later they were "on the job" again. If petty crimes go unpunished there is no incentive to stop.

Posted by
706 posts

I do indeed feel sorry for your Dave, and I can understand your frustration. My friend had her money stolen last year in Athens, and although it has never happened to me (yet), I felt her pain! And yours!
Unfortunately, your experience teaches a valuable lesson: you can't half do things and expect not to be victimized. Having a moneybelt in and of itself doesn't protect you. You have to use and wear it correctly at all times, but especially in areas where you can easily be a target (like main sites or on public transit).
My only issue Dave, is that posts like this, while accurate and understandable, do tend to send newer travelers into a tizzy, and thus starts the whole "I'm so nervous!!!!! - how can I be safe while traveling" influx of questions that have been addressed hundreds of times. Wearing two money belts and taking all precautions and you still got pickpocketed? That makes people feel they are going to be a victim no matter what, which isn't the case. Only by reading further did one see that perhaps you didn't take all the precautions as you thought you did (ie - not wearing the moneybelt under your undershirt). I think it's important to be real, yet not discourage people from going to a particular place. Rome is NOT a horrible city. Maybe in a few weeks, after your frustration and anger die down, you will be able to remember Rome in a much better light. I truly hope so. As a victim, you shouldn't be made to feel like this was your fault and be kicked you while you are down, but I love Rome and I would hate for people to get paranoid or discouraged because of someone's negative experiences.

Posted by
1761 posts

Dave,
Thanks for posting your experience as I'm sure it will help others avoid what you went through. Having recently rode on buses in Rome I know the situation you were in. Besides the money belt precaution I urge anyone who is on a bus to be assertive in getting off if it is uncomfortably crowded. Be assertive to stay close to an exit if you wish and don't feel you have to be polite about it as the locals certainly are not.

Posted by
11970 posts

The metro is fine as long as it's not at peak time when it is crowded. Some buses, like the 64 are always crowded. The buses are worse than the metro because some take advantage of the bus jerks when it turns to lean against your body and either molest women or pickpocket. If you are near the Vittorio Emanuele metro you have no reason to take the bus. The Vatican can be reached by metro and so does Piazza di Spagna or Barberini. Once in the historical center you can walk all over. From Campo de Fiori back to your hotel you can also take a taxi. It's not that expensive, especially if you travel with others.

Posted by
75 posts

We will be first time visitors to Rome in September. We know experienced travelers to Europe who have been pickpocketed in both Rome and Milan. My question is regarding taxis, since that was recommended a couple times on this thread. We have heard from two different sets of friends who tried to take taxis in Rome and were driven, not to the airport, as they requested, but to an area of town with which they were totally unfamiliar, and then had money extorted from them, as the taxi driver stopped and demanded they pay him 100 euros immediately or he would drop their luggage right there on the road and thus force them out of his taxi. My question is how can this be avoided by us? Thank you.

Posted by
7735 posts

An important note about the white taxis: It's not enough that they just be white - They have to have the "Comune di Roma" crest logo which you will see all over. I've never been cheated by an official taxi driver in Rome, and I've taken many, many taxis. Like in this photo: Roman taxi

Posted by
752 posts

This was at Roma Termini, it was Midnight, I was walking to the big taxi stand at Piazza del Cinquecento, nearly at the wait line when a driver came up to me and offered his cab. People in line looked at me to say, wait your turn. I told the driver that I wanted to wait my turn in line. He went back to his cab.

When my turn came, it was the same driver. He had a legit white cab, light, logo, meter, looked like all the others. But he gave me a trip from hell, threatened to dump me out of the cab, called me names, drove real fast, got out and waited around the door of my hotel, kept watching me.

I walk more than ever.

Posted by
752 posts

Where do I report this behavior? So I take the license #, OK. I didn't do that. This was just that one time. I didn't see him smoke. It's kinda universal when somebody hates your guts, you know what I mean? He did Not like me.

Posted by
11970 posts

A legitimate licensed taxi is very safe.

There are exceptions of course. Last month a 30 y.o. woman was sexually harassed by a taxi driver in Rome. But those are rare exceptions and that incident made the news.

A Rome taxi is white like the one below (not necessarily the same car model as pictured)
http://www.repubblica.it/images/2010/05/04/150746771-79c59b0c-75bb-4ac3-8321-0ddff62b9ac9.jpg

It has a taxi light on top that is on when available:
http://www.hotelarearoma.it/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Taxi1.jpg

It has the taxi radio dispatch coop logo to which the taxi owner is associated with (there are a handful coop taxi companies in Rome, this is one the biggest):
http://www.3570.it/images/home/3570shadow.png

Taxi will also have on both sides on the door the City Logo and license number (see last page of the PDF below)
http://www.comune.roma.it/PCR/resources/cms/documents/allestimento_taxi_2.pdf

Posted by
75 posts

Thank you very much, Michael and Roberto. That was precisely the type of information I was seeking. Also, thank you to Quirite for those forms which can be downloaded, and carried with us.

I very much appreciate my post being seriously considered and considerately answered. I learn so much on Rick Steves Forum from people who truly are seeking to help others.

Posted by
752 posts

Thanks Guys. I would base a report only on behavior, not on what I thought. I don't know what the driver actually felt about me. My only regret is that I did not ask him to stop so I could depart the cab when he threatened to dump me out, several times. I had my chance.

I agree that service providers can act however they culturally choose. But I don't have to go along for the ride. The onus is then on me to have my own back. I know that there are some beautiful cab drivers in Rome.

Maybe I'll try Scooterino next time.

Posted by
1501 posts

I live in the Atlanta suburbs, and the taxi drivers at the airport and various train stations are
ALL scarey individuals! The last time I took a taxi (yes official) from the train to my home, the cab
driver was from another country, barely spoke English, smelled bad and there was dirt, not stains,
but loose soil on the seat. I'm going to learn to use Uber in ATL. I think their drivers are more reliable.

In NYC I had a cab driver who took a nap at the lights, was rude, cab was also dirty. Also little to no
English.

SO, it's not just in Rome people!

Posted by
7735 posts

On a related note, there are some great smartphone apps that you can use in Rome to call a taxi. We used "it Taxi" a lot. It's connected to the 3570 fleet of taxis and we never had to wait more than five minutes for a cab.

More info here: http://www.3570.it/servizi/ittaxi/en.default.asp

I got a kick out of the blocking option they have, which implicitly recognizes that some of their drivers can be unpleasant:

"You can even request that you not be sent a particular taxi should you have cause and in this way it will no longer appear as an option in your future bookings. "

(^_^)

Posted by
506 posts

Just returned from Italy, Rome included and believe me I have never seen anything like it, the four of us felt like the sharks were circling us every where we went. We were lucky not to have anything happen, we really just kept out of the huge crowds, all our important belonging in the front of our bodies and really gave these kind of people the direct stink eye when they came around.

Posted by
11572 posts

"…. posts like this, while accurate and understandable, do tend to send newer travelers into a tizzy, and thus starts the whole "I'm so nervous!!!!! - how can I be safe while traveling" influx of questions that have been addressed hundreds of times."

My concern exactly, Monique. I've spent time in numerous cities in Italy - including a total of nearly two weeks in Rome - and have never felt as if "the sharks were circling us." Yes, we left the bulk of valuables in the hotel safe; yes, we carried what cash and cards we needed for the day in a Pacsafe and/or in pouches (not moneybelts) buried beneath our clothing; yes, we put on a New York Face a few times and used the word "NO" firmly. So far, so good.

I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit that we largely avoid buses in tourist zones precisely because they're often uncomfortably full and more apt to be frequented by light fingers. Walking - with the occasional hop on a metro - has been our preferred method of getting around.

No doubt about it, professional pickpockets are slick and very good at homing in on tourists who make getting to the goodies all too easy. They can empty a trouser or inside jacket pocket or, in the case of our poster, a visible and accessible neck wallet without you even feeling it. But while unfortunate things can happen in ANY city at all, it's also reassuring to people about to make their first foray that theft - as long as you follow standard security methods - is the big exception and not the rule.

Dave, I'm very sorry about your experience and don't mean to sound as if I'm "blaming the victim" at all but neither do I wish for first-time travelers to become so frightened and worried that they can't enjoy the excitement of their upcoming adventures! I do hope you can put it all behind you now and enjoy the fascinating sights of Italy!

Posted by
20632 posts

I think the reasons these discussions and reports degenerate is because someone takes one poor experience, add a broad brush, and now you are condemning a whole city (This is a horrible City) based on that one experience. The best we should do is report our experiences and let others draw their own conclusions. We have spent nearly a whole month in Rome over the past ten years with six visits (most recent last Spring) and we have NEVER encountered anything near what Dave reported. We are always eager to return. Doesn't mean we could not have a similar experience on our next trip but it almost might mean that we handle ourselves just enough different to avoid the problems. I don't know the answer. In nearly a year of traveling in Europe over the past 20 years, I have never seen a pick pocket in actions or am aware of any attempts on us. Yet others claim to see them every hour and have caught many hands in their pockets. Maybe we are just lucky.

I have no doubts that what dave reported was accurate but that will not happen to everyone. Maybe 1 in 10, 1 in 5, who knows? And if Judy thought the sharks were circling us every where we went. We were lucky not to have anything happen. With nothing happening I guessing they were probably jelly fish just floating around. If you believe the ocean is full of sharks, then every fish you see will be a shark.

I am sure I was one of those sharks are few years ago. On a small, side street in Rome two leather goods stores were on opposite sides of the street. Wife, son, and gf went into one of the small stores. It was crowded inside, my interest was min, so I am trying to read a local paper leaning against a street light pole a few feet from the store front. A couple women came out and I accidentally caught the eye of one of them as I was changing pages and looked up. She immediately grabbed her hand bag, pulled it to her chest, and walked across the street into the other store. A minute later my group exited and went into the other store. So I crossed the street but the new light pole was a little closer to the entrance of the second store. I have put the paper away so I am just kind of standing, leaning against the pole, watching the entrance when these two gals walked out. Now we are about five feet closer, she grabs her bag, and the arm of her friend, says something in her ear, they both look at me with very angry, mean stares, and break into a very rapid walk down the street. About that moment I suddenly realized what was happening and was very tempted to start walking after them but I am sure they would have broken into a run. I am sure to this day they tell story of how they were nearly pickpocketed. Things are not always what they appear to be especially if looking for a thief around every corner. It is the pickpocket that you do not see, that I worry about. You have to take reasonable precautions but you should not expect to be a target all the time. With all the tourists in town, most pickpockets are busy somewhere else.

Posted by
3809 posts

I've spent 10 nights over 2 trips in Rome and never felt ill at ease. We don't even use a money belt...but we have a PacSafe sling bag and I keep a hand on my camera gear. We avoided overly packed buses and metros...our first visit we were on the lookout for 'gypsies' and didn't see a one! Perhaps we were lucky - but again, millions of people go to Rome every year with no issue...now Paris - we had an inept attempt there but nothing was taken...

Posted by
7735 posts

Frank, your great anecdote reminds me of a wonderful David Sedaris piece where he and his boyfriend are on the Paris Metro and an American couple has "figured out" that they are two pickpockets working together. Very funny piece.

And in defense of at least some Roman taxi drivers, we had one last month who refused to accept the full fare appearing on his meter because he had trouble finding our destination, even using his GPS. He had been thrown off because of an unexpected footrace in Rome that was blocking the usual route. (I was following our route on GPS on my own smartphone, and could see his GPS from where I was sitting.)

Posted by
706 posts

I am glad my point was understood as the last thing I wanted was for Dave to feel even worse, I have spent a total of about 7 weeks in Rome over the past 5 years (I once even stayed a month) and I love that city, but more important, I love the people. So when I heard things like "Rome is horrible", I automatically think of the people since obviously the Pantheon isn't what robbed you, and saying a city is horrible is implying something about its citizens. After all, people are what make a city a city. Take away Romans, even foreigners, and replace them with people from my comfort zone, and would Rome be Rome? No, it would be Pittsburgh ...with a Coliseum. No thanks - I'll pass.
Yes there are scammers and pickpockets and caution is certainly needed, but part of the experience is the people, not staying in a tourist "bubble' feeling like a target. For every one scammer, I bet you find dozens of sincere, honest locals.

Posted by
11613 posts

On the day that something bad happens, perhaps even later, it may seem like you are in a horrible place, but that's anger and disappointment. As for sharks circling, of course you feel lucky, you expected to be robbed!

As for being scared by Roma (before you get there), it's not Roma that's scaring you, it's the reports you are reading (happened to me, too). Once you have a plan, stop reading them!

Posted by
6808 posts

I have to agree that when a New York City resident writes that she's scared of pickpockets in Europe (which happened here a couple years ago), the Forum is sending out a strong message. On the other hand, we've spent many years living in Paris, one of us is born and raised there, and yes, we've had many attempts in Paris and other European cities--no success--but many attempts, as have Parisian friends and family. So warnings are warranted if one wants to take the time to write, posting unfortunate experiences to warn others is considerate, particularly if one is kind enough to educate car culture people who probably haven't taken public transportation in years. I know I've told a few Americans in the Paris metro to move their exposed wallets out of their back pockets, a travel 101 skill, but there they were with wallets half out of the pocket. If readers get overwrought with fear, I think it's more about moving out of suburban comfort zones on their own, which is not something we can do much about. On the other hand, maybe they won't need to buzz the gates at the Embassy to apply for new papers and a bridge loan thanks to these warnings.

Posted by
11572 posts

Absolutely agree, Bets: information is valuable and considerate to share! At the same time, I think it's good to keep things in perspective? I think the issue some of us are having here is lumping an entire city into the "horrible" category because of some pickpockets. Paris has them too but Paris itself isn't a horrible place because of them, right? I loved that city even if we were persistently pestered by panhandlers and tchotchke peddlers.

The desire here is to inform without scaring new travelers half out of their wits before they ever get to Rome. Honestly, I've read posts from people who were so freaked out by overwrought pickpocket reports that they were considering canceling their trips, and that would be so sad! Better to calmly and positively inform how unfortunate situations can be avoided than issue dire warnings?

Posted by
47 posts

As a first-timer to Rome (in 4 days!) I'm not what you'd call "afraid" but vigilant would be more accurate. I already live in an urban area and know what it means to "put on your street face" when you ride public transit. Even in my town I put my wallet in my front pocket and my hand on it when I ride the street car or bus. This will sound very simplistic, but one thing you learn while living in a city is that your bearing/attitude can mark you as an easy target...or not. I taught my kids, who grew up here, to look resolved wherever you go, never count your money on the street and be aware of your surroundings. Every city is different, but I'm thinking the same approach applies to Rome. Tourists, in my town, or in Rome make themselves more vulnerable when they think they can act the same way they do at home. While all that's true I firmly believe its also possible to enjoy oneself in cities anywhere.

Posted by
5504 posts

Discussion seems to have moved towards blaming the messenger because of his horrible experience. No one would accuse Rick Steve's of discouraging travel but here is what he says in his travel tip on safety in part, matching Dave's experience:
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/theft-scams/outsmarting-pickpockets

Europe is safe when it comes to violent crime. But it’s very “dangerous” in terms of petty theft: Purse-snatching and pickpocketing are rampant in places where tourists gather. Thieves target Americans....

Crowds anywhere, but especially on public transit and at flea markets, provide bad guys with plenty of targets, opportunities, and easy escape routes.

City buses that cover tourist sights (such as Rome’s notorious #64) are happy hunting grounds. Be careful on packed buses or subways....

Posted by
607 posts

Avoid buses in Rome if you can. We found them uncomfortably hot and crowded.

During our five days in Rome, we rode the buses about six times. We were only able to buy and validate a ticket once. All the other times, we were so squeezed in that we could not access the ticket machines. The bus rides were so unpleasant that my wife preferred to walk 30 minutes than board a bus.

I actually felt safer on a bus because it was so difficult to load and unload. It made it difficult to do a snatch and run. On the other hand, on one metro ride, several girls jumped on board and bumped up against me; I felt some hands on me and then they jumped back off just before the doors closed. But nothing was taken.

I carried a small shoulder bag with my passport, credit card, daily cash and camera in it. I just kept a firm grip on it when in a crowd. I had a money belt with my big stash of cash and extra credit card. But except for travel days, I always left it in the hotel room safe.

Reading these posts before a trip do scare the crap out of you. But the threat is real; fellow travellers will warn you; the hotel front desk will warn you, the friendly locals will warn you; even the train ticket machine will warn you. Our group ended up spending a lot of money on pacsafes, travelons, moneybelts, RFID wallets and sleeves before our trip. But if you just keep aware and limit what you can possibly lose, you should be fine. After a few days, keeping my hand on my pack became second nature and I relaxed and just enjoyed myself.

Posted by
11572 posts

Edgar, I think a lot of us were very clear that we weren't blaming the poster. As far as Rick's quote, what's missing is how he and/or his experienced flock advises avoiding such situations.

Funny, for all of the programs I've seen him do for public television, I don't recall him issuing safety warnings on camera. If the places he's gone to were really that "horrible", he wouldn't recommend them for anyone else?

Posted by
752 posts

RS admits he got mugged once, maybe twice. Didn't say where. Now he's got a crew and local guides with him.

Posted by
1720 posts

The RS link Edgar posted is what we abided by to the letter on our recent trip. Every traveler should print it out & take it with them--it's that important.

As I said upthread, in early March there were far less crowds, therefore less opportunities to be pickpocketed. But still...there was the Paris Metro (crowded but not to a sardine-like state), the Milano Centrale train station (beggar/scammer haven), heck, even an attempted bracelet scam outside our apartment in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella in Florence. You learn to say no, I'm not interested & keep walking, and if they follow/persist you have to turn around, give them a look & say 'get away--now!'. It's an annoyance more than anything else, and did not detract from our enjoyment. Of course I wouldn't be saying that if I had been pickpocketed!

Getting back to the Paris Metro--and this is applicable to any bus or subway--you are at a distinct disadvantage when standing up and the vehicle is jerking around--you hold onto the vertical pole & there's only one arm left to protect. Bad suspension is not your friend here, as Dave stated above. I remember on the Metro actually jamming myself--while standing up--in between a seat and a pole, and protecting what was in my outside closed-zippered pockets, which was my phone and wallet with a few bucks, a subway carnet & that's about it. I had a neck pouch next to my skin which was safe with all my important stuff, and my wife had a money belt. One other thing--it's so easy to daydream or space out or be staring at how many stops you have until your destination. Don't do that--be vigilant.

Posted by
706 posts

@Edgar I think your quote from Rick actually proved the point that many are trying to make here, that it is possible to be realistic and informative regarding negative experiences without casting an entire city or its people into a negative light. I have never once read Rick saying that based on an experience, such-and-such city was "horrible". If so, he wouldn't be in this business. There is a fine line there and I actually love how Rick keeps us alert yet not paranoid.

Posted by
3809 posts

As I mentioned earlier - I had a couple girls try some crap with me on an escalator in Paris (I saw them hit the emergency stop and then they crowded me to 'help' me carry my small carry-on suitcase up the steps - and I noticed a top zipper on the bag was open after my struggle with them - nothing impt in that pocket tho), along with all the beggars and scam artists and the woman at the Eiffel Tower who had NO knowledge of personal space (she did put me in a foul mood for a few hours - ugh!)...but that didn't sour me on Paris - in fact, I will be returning for a 3rd visit this year.

I guess it's part of the experience...and now makes for funny stories and also learning experiences for next time (not so much if something had been stolen tho).

Posted by
118 posts

Thanks Dave for posting this, I had no idea about the busses. Makes a smarter me! Sounds like you did everything right, only the robbers are very good at what they do.

Posted by
1 posts

I'm italian... the trouble here in Rome, and in Italy generally speaking, is the lack of fighting crime due to the left wing now taking the government. In the last three years there were seven pardons and thousands of street criminals were released from jail. It's impossible to stop those pickpockets: many of them are gipsies and many of them have hundreds of criminal reports, but even if arrested by the police, every time they are released the same day by justice. Here in Italy we have a very ineffective judiciary: many of them act more as social workers than as judges. They care more to forgive than to punish felons.

Posted by
258 posts

I am 5'2" female solo traveler who has traveled to many major US and European cities alone since I was in my 30's. I will soon be 60. I have never had a bad experience because of what I learned long ago.
-Be aware of your surroundings. Do things around you look safe and secure? Are there groups of people hanging out seemingly without purpose? If yes, get out. Having your face in your cellphone and oblivious to your surroundings is sending a clear message to those who want to rip you off.
-Walk with purpose and have a general idea of where you are and where you are going. I study maps prior to heading out for the day. I made a wrong turn in San Fran and found myself in the middle of the Tenderloin. I had no problem there because I knew the direction I wanted to go before hand and walked with confidence. I also use hop-on hop-off buses vs public buses. These buses go to most of the places I want to go. If they don't, I re-consider my plan or take a taxi (this also depends on the city I am visiting).
-Keep "stuff" to a minimum. I have a money belt and a small purse that I can carry cross body. I usually also have a cloth shopping type bag that holds my water and tour book. Anytime I am in a crowd, one hand is on the purse. If you are struggling with a purse, camera case, backpack, fanny pack, etc. you have too much stuff to try to keep secure. Having said that, my sister traveled with me last year with an iPad, smart phone, over-stuffed purse and she had no problem. Ditto with luggage. I travel with a small roller and a cross body messenger bag with heavy velcro straps so one hand can be free to cover the cross body bag if necessary.

I live in a small town in Vermont. If I can travel alone and safely despite not having the constant exposure to street crime,anyone can. I must also say that I have felt much more safe in European cities than in US cities.

Posted by
5703 posts

You can't be pickpocketed if you are not a walking buffet. First rule is don't be traveling around town with passport, cards, money, and bags of stuff to be guarded If you don't have a hotel safe use a body safe under your clothes, not one of those silly neck wallets that advertises your money. Never access your money belt in public. The day's card and money can be accessible in a neck wallet or inside zipped pocket or cross body bag; you shouldn't have so much personal luggage that you can't control it.

I took that bus to the Vatican -- I ended up sitting on a nun's lap with my daughter sitting on my lap. It was incredibly crowded. We didn't lose anything because we didn't have anything available to steal -- the camera and money were in a single cross body bag well under my control even in this mad crush.

We have had half a dozen encounters with pick pockets in Paris and never lost anything -- because we are not walking buffets. On occasion my husband has put his hand in his pocket to discover a hand is already there.

Posted by
7735 posts

Oh, janettravels44, I agree about the "walking buffet" line (and plan to use it in the future), but you are opening up a huge can of worms telling people not to carry their passports with them.

Posted by
30 posts

I'm SO sorry this happened to you. Thank you for telling your story, it might save someone else from getting pick pocketed. My grandmother went to Rome 30 plus years ago and I remember her telling me that someone threw a baby at her trying to get her to drop her purse. crazy. I hope you can salvage your trip and enjoy the sites. I would be angry too. i will def try to avoid the busses and scream if anyone gets in my personal space like that.

I was pick pocketed in las vegas. I had just returned back from the east coast and taken a cab to the MGM where I had left my car(I lived about four hours away at the time, this was the nearest airport). I was a walking target with my luggage, carry on and purse. Thank goodness I had my keys and cell in my pocket. The next day they found my purse with missing purse strings and my wallet contents, no cash though. Didn't even know it happened.

Hugs. Thanks again for sharing your story, I hate this for you.

Posted by
56 posts

I have another suggestion that worked for me when traveling in Europe. I traveled with a small wallet with a clip on it. I had a small handbag which I wore around my neck to the front that had a hook at the bottom. I clipped the wallet to this hook. I was targeted twice while there - once on the metro in Barcelona, and once boarding a bus in Copenhagen. They are soooo good at their craft that I had no idea either time ( I discovered it when I discovered that my purse was unzipped). They were not good enough to get past my large sunglasses on the top and the get down through everything else to try to unhook the wallet! Not a good solution for men, but maybe would be helpful for a woman.

Posted by
15 posts

I would buy Pacsafe products (backpacks and bags) from Zappos.com.
I had a day back pack and it worked.