After reading R.S.'s books, I was pretty relaxed while we were on our trip because I took precautions (we didn't keep anything in our pockets, used twist ties to secure the zipper on our daypack when in crowded tourists areas, and of course used a money belt). It's a good thing, because we saw every single scam Rick mentions. We watched pickpocketers working the crowd under the Eiffel Tower, were asked to sign petitions at least a dozen times, were offered a "found" gold ring on our way to the Orsay (we almost burst out laughing), were offered Metro tickets by a shady guy in Rome, and were purposely shortchanged several times by small shop owners in Italy (they give you your paper currency change and then pause--they wait for you to ask for the coins and then act as though it was an innocent mistake). I thought we were awesome until we got home and found some useless Italian lire coins in our leftover money. . . somebody got us when we were tired! :)
Those Lire aren't useless, they're a souvenir you can't get any more.
And a story to tell. Yeah, we also were prepared thanks to Rick, and saw so many of the scams. The only one we didn't get was the gold ring. Tons of petitions, the friendship bracelet tried on my seven-year-old at Sacre Coeur (thank goodness I was fast), a couple of the "You speak English? I need help!" by people who just weren't trying hard enough to look desperate. (we were in the middle of massive numbers of English speakers, and we were the lucky ones?) Thanks, Rick!
In Flemish speaking Belgium, we were given a Turkish lire coin for change instead of a Euro coin which it resembles. The shop keeper got us, but with such good beer we can forgive.
It's really that bad?
Not that bad, if you know what to watch out for.
It was surprising to me how many scams we encountered, but it's not bad at all if you do your research before you go. If you do, then it's almost amusing to watch the thieves attempt to get you. I felt 100% safe everywhere we went and was relaxed because I knew we were not targets. Just read your Rick Steves and be confident. Knowlege is a powerful thing!
After reading RS books and heeding the numerous warning signs in tourist areas warning of pickpockets (like the signs in the major museums) we were cautious and safe (and wore a moneybelt, of course). Only time I was taken by surprize was I was approached by a deaf (was she really?) young woman near the Louvre to sign her petition and donate to her cause. Maybe it was the deafness and not wanting to be rude, but I didn't brush her off as I did with any others that got in my personal space and made me worry. Afterward I just felt stupid that I wasn't more cautious.
Several of the people who asked us to sign petitions were "deaf," so I doubt she was. We watched some petitioners carefully at one point and did not see any pickpocketing. So what's their scam? Do they just try to get people to donate money?
Cindy, you got taken , she wasn't deaf and its a known scam. Oh well. Do keep in mind France ( and other Europeon countries) are not third world countries, the deaf or blind are eligible for social welfare programs,, so these girls and their stupid phoney petitions are such a scam. BTW,, What was the petition for, no one really asks, lol , and btw, in most countries I know of petition signatures only count if they are of residents and citizens, not tourists.. think about it,,
We also encountered a lot of what Nancy described in Paris. Thank goodness we were "prepared". I'm not sure that you can fully be prepared for it as two instances it was particularly bad. The "petitioners" outside the Louvre, literally chasing after my husband, trying to grab his bag. I went running after and told them to get the heck away from us! The other was outside Sacre Coeur. They were tying strings around unsuspecting people, I didn't even stop to see what the scam was when someone came chasing after me and literally grabbed me. Its one thing to try and scam someone, but when you go so far as grabbing someone by the arm, that's assault! I screamed at the top of my lungs "Don't you dare touch me". Its kind of scary actually!! I felt bad for all of the people that were stopping for this crap.
I don't consider it an "assault" per se, that is just over exagerrating, but it should be illegal for them to even be loitering in droves. Police should have more of a presence.
Last year someone flipped the gold ring and I kept it. I did give it back but with a laugh. I think it should be noted that many many of these fellows are not typical French people. It is way to bad that anyone who travels has to be concerned about this junk. I don't worry about the scam's (money belt,etc do help) but I follow a 18 inch rule. A rule everyone should have. To be fair millions of people go to Paris every year and never have a problem. You can only to taken advantage of when you let it happen.
I am sure the police do raids every so often, we saw a few "bracelet guys" at SC but they never even approached us, and did not see the ring trick at all( I have seen it before though) , and there were far fewer "petition girls" then I have seen on previous trips . So I think the police crack down, the rats scurry away for a bit, then creep back out after a week or two. My boyfriend had been fully prepared by me( his first trip to Europe) to see and recogonize all the scams etc,, but after a few days in Paris he laughed at me and said I must have been exaggerating since we saw so few issues. I assured him that he just caught a low down phase, lol and that all the stuff exists. My bf noted that I "change" in Paris, I walk quicker, I get a "don't even approach me" look on my face etc,, plus knowing where I am going makes me look less approachable.. try it, I think some tourists do get picked on more then others.. looking lost, looking kindly etc. Do not smile at people, do not even look at them, or if you do, eyes should shoot daggers, lol And if you need to look at a map step into a area that is out of the way, don't stand in middle of a square with map open looking around like lost etc. Its funny, some people DO get pestered more,, and others will come back and have a whole other view.
It did not happen in Paris, but I have been grabbed twice abroad...once as forcibly as never I hope to experience again. And yes, I was scared. Very. And I felt as I had been assaulted too.
Since we mostly visit smaller towns in Germany and Austria, we haven't been subjected to these scams. Even on our recent visit to Vienna, we must have been lucky.