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The Security of a Daypack and Neck Wallet

I'm going to London and Paris from mid June till the end of the month and it will be my first trip to Europe. I've known of Rick for about 20 years and I love all the advice, but I'm wondering whether or not to travel with a day pack/backpack and whether to carry a neck wallet or use a money belt instead.

On the one hand carrying a back pack and using a neck wallet seems convenient. I'll be carrying a jacket, an umbrella, my cell phone, a small camera, extra batteries for the camera, a couple of credit cards, a debit card and my passport. It seems that with a neck wallet, an experienced thief would easily spot it and they would just cut it from around your neck. It also seems that a back pack screams "TOURIST. ROB ME PLEASE". Since I don't have eyes in the back of my head, I think that unless I lock the back pack zippers, I'll come up missing everything before I know it.

So, I'd like some advice please. I understand "choose what's comfortable" but what about the security factor of using neck wallets and back packs? Am I worried over nothing? If you use a back pack, do you lock the zippers? What general advice/tips does everyone have about neck wallets/money belts and/or back packs? Thanks in advance for the help :)

Posted by
166 posts

I have been to Europe a few times, and common sense is the best advice to follow. I was last in London last Summer, and like any other big city, there are many scams and pickpocket types around, but if you keep your wits about you, you should be fine. Personally, I travel with a money belt and Rick's Civita day pack not locked, but zippered if walking around, and have never had a problem. 1 suggestion is to be aware at crowded attractions or outdoor events, such as the link I have included below. The tube is also a place just to be aware of your surroundings. I actually saw more scams in Paris years ago, but the same advice would be true there as well. In both places, seems that scabs are pretty much scoping for the tourist that pays no attn. to their surroundings. You should be fine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6POhuJU8sYg

Have a great time
Orv

Posted by
544 posts

I have used a neck wallet, but it's best if you have your shirt tucked in, so in case something happens to the strap it will not fall all the way to the ground. I also have put my passport in zipper pockets on my pants. My husband now uses the "extra pocket" that has small strap that slips over his belt and then the "pocket" folds over between his pants and his body. It is available through the RS store. I know someone can spot me as a tourist, no matter how trendy I dress (and I don't), so I make a habit of being very aware of my surroundings, walking with a purpose, and always knowing where my purse/backpack/suitcase/whatever is. I have not had a problem.

Posted by
2466 posts

I don't know if you're male or female. Women tend to have more trouble hiding the strings of a neck wallet because of the neckline of their shirt or dress. I don't wear tank tops or skinny straps, so I don't have a problem. I also wear it cross body instead of hanging from my neck. D H wears his the same way. I can't imagine a thief trying to cut the strap of my neck wallet without me knowing it. Pickpockets rely on stealth. A loud yell of THIEF is usually enough to send them running.

As for backpacks - Europeans use them too in their daily lives. Just be smart about it. Only carry enough cash and cards that you need for that day and stash them in a zippered inside pocket. Only put low value items in the outer pockets. Keep the zippers closed at all times. And if you find yourself in a packed crowd, like the Tube or Metro or bus, swing the backpack around to the front.

And be aware of your surroundings and the people in it. No need to be paranoid though. It's not as though there are armies of pickpockets everywhere you go.

Posted by
3994 posts

I have worked in London for 30 years, carrying all my belongings in my handbag and I have never had anything pick pocketed and nor has anyone else that I know.

Have you ever had anything stolen at home? Why would you be more likely to be robbed in London?

Why carry an umbrella? They get in the way if in crowds. Just use a jacket with a hood, so you have your hands free.

Posted by
2487 posts

a couple of credit cards, a debit card
Are you planning to carry all these around? Take enough cash for the day and a credit card if you expect a major expense, and leave the rest at the hotel.

Posted by
1075 posts

I just had my phone pickpocketed in London, I wouldn't bother with a neck wallet or money belt. I wouldn't make the mistake that I did of having my phone exposed in my jacket pocket on a busy bank holiday weekend. I knew better but got careless because I was annoyed I wore my jacket during very hot weather and the pubs that I was at were too far from my hotel for me to go back quickly and drop it off.

Posted by
546 posts

You might want to read the post I wrote about day packs in the General Europe section. Just about all views on the subject are there.

I for one NEVER carry a day pack or any hidden wallet. Except for travel days I keep most of my valuables in my hotel/ AirBnb and carry only what I need...my wallet (in my front pocket) and my phone (in the other front pocket) you really don;t need anything else.

Posted by
21 posts

As others have mentioned, for men, the extra pocket is wonderful, and my most essential travel accessory. I've used everything else, and it's the one that feels most secure--I simply don't see how anything in it could fall prey to a pickpocket, short of an all-out physical assault.

When I use a daypack, I do clip the zippers together, and there's nothing in there that I'd bother having stolen. Usually it's for some extra water or snacks, and a light shirt or rainjacket.

Posted by
5318 posts

OK, I live near Berkeley so everyone, it seems, carries a daypack as a normal walking-around-the-city thing. For travel, my Civita carries my fleece/sweater, water bottle, snacks, sightseeing pages, glasses and sunglasses -- I feel comfortable with cards, money and passport strapped to my body in a money belt, with only daily cash and one credit card in my pocket (debit card only when I plan a bank withdrawal) Daypack is zipped but not locked.

Posted by
4500 posts

There are pickpockets in London and especially in Paris (the Louvre was famously shut down by a strike about a year ago in protest of the pickpocketing in the museum that was running rampant). They tend to target tourists, which will ALWAYS be obvious for lots of reasons. They target those who are easy prey, namely wallets in places that are easy for them to pick (front and back pockets and regular purses/bags), and they usually work with a distraction so you are not paying attention or don't feel their hands in your pocket. But having said that, most people visit Europe often never encounter a thief even after many trips, so don't treat this as some sort of high crime paranoia.

A neck wallet works just fine. Cutting the string and sliding it out of the shirt is highly unlikely, and is easily countered by tucking one's shirt in. It really doesn't matter if they see the strap or not. The nice thing about a neck wallet is that you can easily access it, unlike the waist money belt. Many women just carry a secure travel purse that is hard for someone to sneak into, but is convenient for normal use. Any bag you carry with valuables in it should have a secure closing system: locks or ties or inner zippered pockets for the valuables.

Posted by
5504 posts

...most people visit Europe often never encounter a thief even after many trips, so don't treat this as some sort of high crime paranoia.

Wondering if reports about tourist being teargassed and robbed in France is "fake news", exageraged or a new phenomenon,

https://www.thelocal.fr/20170710/paris-airport-cdg-american-tourists-tear-gassed-and-robed-outside-paris-airport-hotel

American tourists tear gassed and robbed at Paris airport hotel

The Local/AFP news.france@thelocal.com @thelocalfrance

10 July 2017 12:59 CEST+02:00

A group of Americans were among 19 tourists who were robbed by masked
men armed with tear gas as they waited outside their hotel at
Charles-de-Gaulle airport to the north of Paris.

https://www.express.co.uk/travel/articles/876172/france-paris-safe-china-tourism-safety-travel-advice

Is France safe? Tourist WARNING following tear-gas robbery in Paris

By KARA GODFREY

PUBLISHED: 19:31, Mon, Nov 6, 2017 | UPDATED: 21:55, Mon, Nov 6, 2017

Paris tourism has struggled in the past year, following some of the
worst terrorist attacks in the country's history.

China has now warned tourists to be careful when travelling to the
country after a spate of robberies.

A group of 40 Chinese tourists were targeted, who were tear-gassed and
robbed whilst in the French capital city.

So is it still safe to travel to France?

Posted by
6810 posts

Those were true Edgar, but infamous, one-time events that happened last year.
True, that mainland Chinese are targeted by organized gangs because they are known to carry thousands in cash.
The other one happened to a group waiting for the airport shuttle--so wait in the lobby.
So again true...most people visit Europe often never encounter a thief even after many trips, so don't treat this as some sort of high crime paranoia.
So is it still safe to travel to France?--Answer: YES.
No panic needed, folks!

Posted by
5817 posts

This news story is over 6months old and I haven’t heard of anything similar happening since. The UK newspaper that posted it is a tabloid that is not necessarily known for the quality of its journalism.
I’m not actually sure what the point is in posting it here other than to scare people, which is unhelpful.

If you think that backpacks scream “tourist” you are going to be very confused when you see all the locals using them AND we aren’t using neck wallets or money belts!:-)

It’s very straight forward. Don’t carry valuables that you don’t need. You can leave your passport in the hotel when you are in London. Don’t keep anything of any value in the outer pockets of the back pack. Keep valuables in an inner pocket of the bag. When walking in crowded spaces eg the tube, carry it to the front of your body where you have control of it. Don’t wear it on your back.

That is really all that is required in London. Remember thefts are rare just use normal common sense and have a good time.

Posted by
116 posts

A friend of a relative just had his wallet stolen out of his front pants pocket earlier this month in Europe.
I don't carry anything in any outside pockets when I am in any large European city.

A little cash for the day and a photocopy of my passport goes in an inside pocket for easier access for me, but difficult for a pick pocket.
Really important items - passport, credit/debit cards, back-up money, etc. are in my money belt when I take them with me. I carry a water bottle, granola bar, and a jacket in case of rain in my small civita day bag when out walking, locked when I have my larger camera in there. I usually carry the bag under one arm rather than on my back and swing it to my front with the zippers against my body when boarding and aboard public transport.
As mentioned above, being alert, aware of where you are and of your surroundings are the most important safety measures.

Posted by
486 posts

Just so you know, many museums will not let you wear a backpack while you are inside. You may have to either check the bag or carry it by hand in the museum.

Posted by
2336 posts

I would never visit any European city without a money belt. I tried a neck wallet and in the hot weather the string became a real annoyance. In a zippered pants pocket I have 50 Euro’s or less. If I need a credit card it’s in my money belt and I put up with the minor inconvenience of going to a restroom to retrieve it. Those who carry wallets, front or rear pocket and state they have never been pickpocketed are like people who jaywalk and have never been hit by a car. They are just both unsafe and they have been lucky to get away with it. As for a backpack I carry my RS Civita which has water, guidebooks, Kleenex, Advil and maybe a raincoat if need be. I can afford to lose any of that.

Posted by
2525 posts

“Have you ever had anything stolen at home?” No. Not all Americans live in the oh so dangerous large cities.
“Why would you be more likely to be robbed in London?” I have seen firsthand pickpockets sucessfully operating in London.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the advice, everyone, especially from the locals. It's a big help. Now for the next logical question: How much cash should I carry? 100 pounds/euros? Less? I know I poster said he carries 50 euro. What's the consensus?

Posted by
2466 posts

I don't think you can reasonably expect a concensus. The amount of cash I carry on any given day will vary greatly depending on the place I'm in and what expenses I anticipate on that day. But the minimum amount I start each day with is €50, especially if I expect to use my CC for any larger purchases.

Posted by
401 posts

Backpacks are pretty commonplace even among people who live in Europe. I'd be careful about what you carry in one and certainly take it off in crowds and on mass transit where it causes you to take up considerably more space than you otherwise would. Few things are as irritating as having an oblivious moron wearing a backpack constantly shoving you on a bus or metro because they can't feel that they're pushing against you. Take it off and dangle it down around your legs -- it takes up much less space that way.

I guess I'm a pollyanna, but I've never used a neck wallet, money belt, or any other extraordinary methods to secure money or credit cards. A lot of men in Europe use small shoulder bags to carry their keys, wallet, phone, etc., especially in the summer when they don't have jacket pockets available.

Posted by
3441 posts

In busy, crowded cities such as London and Paris, the biggest threat -- beyond pickpockets, scam artists, even terrorism -- is getting hit by a car while crossing the street. So worry about that.
I use a courier-style bag slung across my chest; it's less cumbersome than a backpack and, tucked into my armpit, pretty secure. I never have all my plastic money in one wallet. Travelling alone, I have cards for several different banks in case something malfunctions. Most of them stay in the hotel safe (either my room or Reception.) My portable money is carried in a small shoulder bag, not the big one, held close to the body and never set under a restaurant table (or bar, for sure.) I use a neck bag when moving from city to city, but it's awkward for day-to-day transactions. The possibility of it somehow being cut from around my neck is as probable as winning a lottery.

Posted by
580 posts

absolutely amazing we all survive over here...... just relax.....this is daft

Posted by
4822 posts

Well, I will jump into the fray....

Do locals wear moneybelts? Do you wear a moneybelt at home? The answer is likely "No", but that ignores a very important factor. If at home, yes I carry a billfold with several credit cards and a couple debit cards, My drivers license, and usually almost no cash ($6 at the moment). However, if the worst happens and my billfold is stolen...or more likely I misplace it...my life goes on mostly unimpeded. Yes, I have to notify my cards, I have to replace my drivers license, but I have other cards at home and I can get a new debit card in about an hour if the credit union is open.

If I am in Europe, a stolen billfold does impact me. Long Distance calls to notify cards, no quick replacement for cards and IDs (Actually getting a new passport is a pain, but manageable) and it has the very real impact of affecting my trip, maybe causing me to cancel parts to deal with the loss.

So a use of a moneybelt/neck pouch or other device by a tourist is understandable and prudent. You can also take the tact of minimal impact, that is what I typically do, I only have a thin billfold with one credit card and maybe $100 in local cash, the rest safe in my room or, if travelling, I will wear a neck pouch.

Backpacks or a bag I try to avoid, but if you have a number of things you need with you, then fine, bring it. If it is colder, I do have a jacket from ScotteVest that has about 15 pockets inside that can handle my tablet, phones, a book, and a slew of other things. In hotter weather I work to do without extra items, if I am with my wife, then between us we might have one bag.

Posted by
4500 posts

What exactly was the point of your post Edgar? To prove that crime does exist in Europe? Well congratulations, you have succeeded. I guess Americans should just stop going since because there was a rare violent crime, all Americans are now going to be gassed and robbed on every street corner. Just like everyone in Chicago is shot at at least once or twice a day...

How you think that post was even remotely helpful to this thread about avoiding pickpockets is beyond my comprehension. And I guess you'll be exhibit A for those that claim this forum creates paranoia about crime in Europe.

Posted by
4500 posts

Now for the next logical question: How much cash should I carry?

There is no consensus. You carry as much as you might need in a day or so. There are ATMs everywhere, so when you are near running out, you get more.

Posted by
5730 posts

If you go on a Rick Steves tour are you required to use a money belt or neck wallet? I never have traveling independently.

Posted by
5504 posts

Here's my logic in wondering if tear gas muggings were fake news or a new phenomenon:

Looking up French crooks targeting Chinese tourist in reponse to a remark that "...most people visit Europe often never encounter a thief even after many trips, so don't treat this as some sort of high crime paranoia."

Encountered the report about Chinese tourist attacked with tear gas. Expanded search and found report about Americans in the same time frame robbed using the tear gas technique.

Hence my question, are the tear gas reports the start of a new kind of mugging.

Posted by
5817 posts

It is neither fake news nor a new trend!

There is no reason to believe it didn’t happen so it can’t be described as fake..
Two incidents 6+ months ago can never be described as a new trend.
The fact that they made the news would indicate that they are unusual events.

Again I wonder what the point is in posting stuff like this? Why do people feel the need to constantly try and convince potential visitors that Europe is some kind of “crime free for all”?

Should we be concerned about the new trend of flying hammocks targeting British tourists?

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Flying-Hammock-Hits-Pedestrian-Head-Lower-Manhattan-420413533.html

Posted by
1455 posts

Because the OP mentions this is their first trip to Europe, I would recommend either a neck wallet or money belt. Take both, they're slim, and figure out which works best for you. Many of us on the forum have been making repeated trips, so we're familiar with the basic of a metro system and have figured out strategies for finding our bearings if we become disoriented. Knowing that important personal items are secure leaves you free to focus on other stuff, like which metro line to take, Also, a pickpocket is not the only way to lose stuff, just being in an unfamiliar place means you may inadvertently set something down and forget to pick it up. We use them on days we might be unusually distracted ( neck wallet goes down a shirt/cami/ jacket that is tucked in for safety)

Posted by
116 posts

@suki:
"If you go on a Rick Steves tour are you required to use a money belt or neck wallet?"
Not at all. This website offers recommendations for safety and RS sells money belts, neck wallets and other items, but none are required to take any of his well designed, educational and enjoyable tours.
The only requirements are that the appropriate application documents are submitted and your check or credit card clear his bank. (Of course!)
You don't even have to actually take the tour. I have been on tours where some travelers have opted out of the day's activities for one reason or another. I even did once when the group was going somewhere I had already been and I had something else to do. In those cases, the tour member just notifies the RS guide so no one worries he is "missing."