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Crime and its effect on choice of travel destination

Crime and its effect on choice of travel destination

Old Oct 31st, 2015, 07:58 AM
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Crime and its effect on choice of travel destination

I've been deliberating over a trip to Paris or Rome, but the more I read about the level of street crime, scams, pickpockets, etc. in both the more deterred I become. These are cities I've always wanted to see, like so many people, but with age I've grown more skittish. The main issue I guess is that when on vacation I want to relax not constantly be on guard. I had this experience in Barcelona, another city I longed to see. I met some lovely people there and enjoyed the sites, but did experience a pickpocket attempt (an unsuccessful one thankfully). While there I learned of others not as fortunate as I. In the end I'm somewhat glad I went, yet the level of vigilance required certainly put a damper on things and my memories of the place. A very mixed bag.

I don't buy the idea of if you're careful it won't happen to you. Some of the scams used are extremely creative. It is not my intention to scare people, but this IS reality. Reading articles like this along with the comments afterwards, doesn't help matters:


My funds are not unlimited (neither is my time), so I need to choose carefully. I'd love to hear others' experiences in Paris, Rome or anywhere for that matter in regards to crime and how it affected your choice to visit or not, and your feelings about the place if you did go. In other words, was the trip worth it.

I'm considering scrapping the whole major city idea, which is tough when you've dreamed of visiting certain ones all your life.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 08:07 AM
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Paris, I've hung around the top of the Louvre pyramid and never been approached, the worst thing that happened to me on the Metro was a man decided to sing Yellow Submarine very very badly.

Rome, in a very tight crowd I found a hand trying to get into by pocket.

In Barcelona I've not seen anything and I'm very aware.

Would I let these things upset my holiday plan, given that I've been to a bunch of odd places I have some rules

1) don't take anything I don't mind losing
2) don't take much electronics, last time just a E100 mobile on a PAYG contract
3) I don't take a bunch of stuff to steal but I do take all my contacts on a piece of paper which includes the bank's number to cancel cards.
4) I do carry E50 in a pocket so if I get mugged I can give the guy enough for a drug hit, my logic is that will satisfy a majority of muggers
5) have a plan, be friendly to people and relax

I've been assaulted in my local village, but never in Syria, Libya, Romania, Hungary, France, Spain, Italy but I was a bit worried in the US a couple of times.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 08:11 AM
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I have been pickpocketed once, in Barcelona on the Metro. They were succesful because I was not paying attention. I have been back several times and will go again.
Crime would not keep me away from Paris or Rome or Prague. I simply do not carry any valuables anywhere they could easily be accessed even if I were successfully distracted and it is not that hard to do. Do you really need everything in that backpack or purse to do a day's sightseeing or shopping even? If you are unwilling to take some simple precautions then yes, stay home and enjoy the feeling of having been defeated by some petty criminal.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 08:14 AM
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Been to Paris something like 200 times, Rome half a dozen, and never had any sort of incident, and didn't really expect one. I've been in India solo, all over Africa solo, and plenty of places that are supposedly "dangerous." I never feel "constantly on guard." I just prep well, make sure everything valuable is secured properly, know where I'm going and how to get there so I don't look clueless, and am perfectly relaxed and at ease when I travel.

The only place I've ever been mugged or had major crime problems was in my old home town of Washington, DC.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 08:21 AM
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I am a frequent traveller and had been dozens of times both in Rome (where I used to work) and Paris. Never ever on my trips I or my family members became victims of a crime.

However, I have watched pickpockets in Paris and in Rome and both times, the tourists were so careless that they seem to cry "rob me!". One American tourist in a bus in Rome had his thick wallet hanging half out of his back pocket and when I warned him about a teenager fumbling at it he frowned at me and turned away.

Just use normal precautions and enjoy travelling. BTW, it helps if you dress like locals dress and do not shout "tourist" - although I expect hundreds of Fodorites crying "fashion police!" and "I always wear my flip-flops, regardless of summer or winter"!
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 08:22 AM
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I haven't been to Rome in many years, but I did have a rolled up painting stolen from my suitcase at my hotel. BTW, there was some very nice art on the hotel's walls !! My daughter and husband were there last year. Their complaint was that there were just too many tourists which made it unpleasant. Lived in Paris for three years. Never had any bad experiences. Nor in Spain. Lived there for many yearsbut from what I read, crime is on the increase.
I think you need to relax and travel to the places you've wanted to see. I'm sure that wherever you live has its share of crime, too. No place is exempt.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 08:53 AM
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I agree with what others have said above. If you're really nervous, maybe a tour would work best for you since they figure out the logistics, and guide you through the major sites.

BTW, the only place in many years of travel that I was ever mugged was New Haven, CT. In broad daylight. Things can happen anywhere, so go about your business, take the usual precautions you'd take in any large city, and enjoy your life!
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 08:55 AM
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I'm sure it's true that there are pickpockets in Rome and Paris, but I don't think they're worse than any other large European cities. I have much more experience of Rome, which I visit several times a year, and where I've never lost anything. In fact, Dublin is the only place in Europe where I've ever been a victim of pickpockets.

I am not constantly vigilant, but I do keep my possessions well under my control. My money and cards are way down in the bottoms of a cross-body bag with zippers, spread around in several small pouches rather than in a standard wallet. I keep a small amount of money, bus tickets, and the like in a jacket pocket so that an alert thief won't see where I keep the main stash.

Thieves look for people who look as though they might have plenty of money, and who look careless.

Even if I end up being a victim of theft, I wouldn't let it stop me from traveling. I've been back to Dublin twice since my wallet was stolen there. If traveling is not a favorite activity, then you may be more easily discouraged.

By the way, the article in the Guardian is rather superficial. It's silly to warn people away from a specific bus. Do they really think that bus has a greater risk than any other bus? It's one of the most heavily used buses in Rome, so of course there are more riders and, ergo, more thieves. Your risk would be just as great on any other crowded bus. It would have been much more to the point to tell people to try to sit or stand in the middle of the bus (or metro car) rather than near the doors. Or to stand back and let the pushers and shovers get off or on before you, since the confusion and pushing are often a deliberate distraction so that you don't notice a hand in your pocket.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 09:01 AM
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>>One American tourist in a bus in Rome had his thick wallet hanging half out of his back pocket <<

I actually saw an American woman (the nationality really doesn't matter though-- but she was a Yank) walking through Harrods with her money belt worn on the outside like a fanny pack! And no it wasn't some sort of trendy belt bag thingy -- it was a fabric Eagle Creek money belt/pouch.

dim wit . . .
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 09:24 AM
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I think you have to weigh your desire to see these places--which you say you've dreamed of all your life--against the slight chance that you might be robbed of a relatively small amount of money.

Assuming you safeguard your walking around money in some reasonable way and don't carry your finest jewelry with you, that's all you'd lose-- a small amount of money. And even that's unlikely.

It's unpleasant to be robbed, but it's not the end of the world, and again, it's unlikely to happen in the first place.

Take basic precautions, go, and enjoy, as millions do every year without incident.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 09:32 AM
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I've been to Paris 3 times and know many others who have traveled to the city. I've never heard of anyone pickpocketed-though I know it happens. But people can be targets here in the US as well.
I once witnessed in Chicago a pickpocket on the subway who managed to get away before the doors closed. I also knew girls in college who had their necklaces yanked off while riding the subway.
In Washington DC, there have been so many robberies of electronic devices on the Metro that there is a standard announcement to hold on to your devices. I've also known two women to have their wallets stolen while purses were on chairs in restaurants.

Having said that, I'd never tell anyone not to visit these cities but to be aware of their surroundings. I was paranoid before going to Spain because I heard all of the horror stories of robberies and was convinced I would be targeted the minute off the plane. What I found was that I was vigilant like at home and left most of my money and CC in the safe, I was fine.

To finish: go and enjoy Rome and Paris but take normal precautions and never let your purse out of your sight. I think you will be glad you went.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 09:38 AM
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I should add that neither I nor my traveling companions were ever robbed on trips to Paris, London, Rome, Venice, Dublin, Prague, Brussels, various cities in Germany, various locations in Mexico, nor New York/DC/SF, either.

We never used money belts or any security measures beyond basic common sense. Took trains, buses, metros, taxis, milled around in large groups of tourists at major attractions... sometimes we blended in well, other times we looked like the tourists we were, a few times I'm sure we looked obviously lost/confused/uncertain/discombobulated, and yet nothing bad ever happened to us.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 09:40 AM
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"I don't buy the idea of if you're careful it won't happen."

Very wise of you. That "advice" is usually offered by people extremely proud of their own supposed street smarts.

But I'd still go if I were you.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 09:56 AM
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No matter where I go, I don't blend in easily. My "look" tends to stand out in a crowd. In order for me to be invisible in public, I have to work at it.

There are several places in the world where I will not travel because of crime. Rome and Paris are not on that list, but both cities offer plenty of petty crime statistics.

I've written several posts on this board about personal experience with crime while I traveled. No matter how many people list their positive-sounding stats, the truth is petty crime can strike anyone, and it often does when you least suspect it.

IMO, it would be stupid to ignore the state of the economy and crime statistics in any place you plan to visit.

Petty crime almost always involves another person. If you are mindful to never allow a stranger to grab your attention away from yourself and enter your immediate surroundings, you stand a chance. If you study the art of petty crime before you travel (YouTube), you mostly likely will identify the set-up before it actually strikes you.

Never carry valuables on your body that are in easy-to-reach areas. I adore my custom-made money belt. You have to strip me of my clothing in order to access it. I'm known for preferring to pay in cash.

If you're a single woman traveler, like I am, I highly recommend self-defense instruction. You just can't believe how easy it is to disarm an unsuspecting petty attacker. I won't even go into how easy it is to break someone's arm or neck, if they mean to cause you serious harm.

Many on this board will laugh, but a little spray can of breath freshener, hair spray, or compressed air has proven to be the best deterrent for the kids who stab you with cardboard as a pretext for robbing you blind.

Knowledge = awareness, which changes the playing field in your favor.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 10:01 AM
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Have been to both cities quite a few times (at least 13 for Paris and 8 for Rome) and have never had any sort of problem with crime. However, you DO need to be on your guard at all times. Your objection to doing this is imply not realistic. If you are not willing to take some extra care then a problem is cetainly possible.

However, this is not just an issue of Paris or Rome. I saw a woman's purse stolen off the back of her chair in a sidewalk cafe in very upscale Greenwich CT. A youth on a bike just pulled it off as he rode by and was around the corner in a couple of seconds.

And a friend has her purse stolen in the parking lot of a market in also very upscale Southampton. She had left it in the seat of the cart and turned her back to stow the bags in her trunk. Again a couple of youths just grabbed it and ran off before she could do anything.

So - you really need to be careful everywhere - not just Paris or Rome.

And I think forgoing visits to these cities due to a very small chance of a problem - or a refusal to want to have to be careful is very foolish. Frankly if you just want to completely relax and not think about anything you are probably safe only in your own backyard.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 10:40 AM
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Every big city has some dangerous aspects. Only you can decide how much of a risk is involved and how much risk you are willing to take.

Personal experience is this; been to Europe a number of times, Rome and Paris at least four times each. I know it happens, but never an incident in either place. We experienced attempted pickpocketing in a small town in Spain and in Madrid (both unsuccesful) and saw it happen once in Seville.

The only time they succeeded was in my own town in the states, when the strap of a small purse was cut off my shoulder. I never even felt it. Luckily, not much in it. DH was held up outside his office one night in a relatively small city. So, for me, US - 2 successful crimes, Europe - none.

I worry much more about being shot at a mall or school, etc. here in the US, than I do about having something stolen in Paris.

That being said, I understand the desire to be worry free on vacation. I am. I do not bother carrying around much money or anything I would be terribly upset about losing. No steel cable straps on purses, etc. Sometimes, it seems the bag itself is worth more than the contents it is meant to protect. I don't need Ft Knox to protect a guide book, package of tissues, map, bottle of water, cough drops, etc. So, I hang my purse anywhere I want, and relax.

Unless there was a rash of kidnappings and killings, I would not let stats on pick pocketing keep me from visiting a city I dreamed of seeing.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 11:05 AM
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You can "not buy" the idea that if you are careful, there isn't a lot to worry about but it's true. I have never had a pickpocket problem nor am I afraid to go to those cities, so there you go. Because I am careful, I have lived in big cities like NY, LA and DC, and there just isn't much of any way someone could pickpocket me, nor do I have much of value on me, anyway. You can believe it or not, but you are the one afraid to travel to capital cities in Europe.

Yes, I've heard peopel talking to the clerks in hotels where I stay, or around me, or even friends (and I've even seen a few attempts on metros in various cities) and every single one of them was doing something stupid.

So sure, someone is going to come on here and say "it can happen anywhere" it's no different, blah, blah, but that's not true. It IS different than some some small town in a rural area, that's a fact. Someone who left there cellphone out on a table in my small Midwest hometown at a restaurant/cafe would not have much risk at all of it being stolen, but they would in some urban area like Barcelona or Madrid. And that is one thing I've seen happen, in fact, some Chinese tourists leaving all kinds of expensive things on tables at an outdoor cafe in the middle of Madrid. And men with things in their pockets, like wallets, who somehow think they are immune to pickpockets in metro trains. I've seen them pickpocketed too, it was really easy and only took the thief a few seconds and he was out the door.

There are definitely some places in the world I wouldn't go, like Syria or Afghanistan, however. No where in Europe would fit the description, though.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 11:11 AM
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First valuable tip - stop reading The Guardian.

Second valuable tip - don't bring what you don't want to lose. This includes wearing your nice jewelry.

Third valuable tip - don't draw undue attention to yourself. You don't need special travel clothing, purses, etc - especially since they will make you stand out as a tourist who probably has something worth stealing.

Fourth valuable tip - know where your valuables are at all times. The choice of how you hide them is up to you. Use whatever you find comfortable.

Fifth valuable tip - if you need to check a map, sit down inside a cafe instead of standing on the sidewalk where your belongings will be vulnerable.

Sixth valuable tip - when you know you'll be going to a very crowded museum or attraction, bring as few of your valuables as possible and hide them more diligently.

Seventh valuable tip - forget martial arts, pepper spray or any other theft deterrents. You won't need them if you follow these tips.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 11:16 AM
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I see this in two levels: mental and physical.

At mental level, consider these:

<i>Lean toward risk. It's trite, but apparently true. Many more seniors regret the risks they didn't take than regret the ones they did.</i>

<i>you are much more likely to regret what you didn’t do than what you did.</i>

At physical level, you can do something about it. I don't mean "all you have to do is to be alert." I have been pick pocketed twice and attempted once. Yet I have lost nothing. How can it be?

London, Paddington Station: attempt. I caught a little boy's hand a second before it reached into my pocket. Even if he did, it only contained an empty decoy wallet. He fell for it.

Barcelona, subway: After getting off train, I noticed a telltale sign of pickpocket - unzipped day pack. The train was not crowded. However, I expected this and my camera was under my jacket. All my valuables, except for trivial amount of money, were in my money belt. The pickpocket was obviously not interested in stealing my water bottle, rain jacket, umbrella, city map, or a guide book.

Napoli, bus: I got in a bus with artificially crowded entrance. I knew they would pick pocket me. So much for being aware would protect you. I knew it was coming, but I was ready and I outsmarted them. I only had validated ticket in my pocket and everything else was in my money belt, except for a decoy wallet in my pants. The pickpocket went for the decoy pocket. He quickly realized he was duped, and dropped the decoy wallet on the floor. After that, no one attempted to pickpocket me. They realized it was all risk and no reward.

The pickpockets assume that:
1. You are careless and leave valuables in "usual" easy to reach places. You can counter this by putting them in "unusual" hard to reach places.
2. You carry all the valuable in one place. What I don't leave in my hotel safe, I carry them in at least three different places with one obvious one being the decoy. So far, the pickpockets spent their only chance on me on my decoy wallet.

The only scarily experience I had was in Boston. I was physically confronted about face by a drunk panhandler demanding money or he would punch my nose. However, he was so unsteady I thought he would fall backward if he had swung his arm. I just walked on.
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Old Oct 31st, 2015, 11:22 AM
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I would never avoid a city in Europe because of fear of pickpockets. When I think of dangerous places to visit.. I am thinking maybe of Beirut.. (don't know if its true or not.. just saying ).. not Paris, Rome, London, etc etc.

I have been to Paris many times.. hundreds of days .. and London, and Barcelona and Rome ( less time for all of htem, but still multiple visits) and sorry.. I do subscribe to the theory that being careful matters and will make you much, much less likely to be a victim of crime ( I would never say never) ..

If you don't want to be careful. then I guess you should stay home, because yes, you do have to be aware of keeping your stuff safe.. but its not that hard . I do not talk to strangers who approach me ( frankly I find them annoying anyways.. I don't want a dam flower, or to sign a paper , and why would you ask me for directions in English when you are obviously a local )

I am not worried all day.. or at all.. worse case scenario is I would lose about 100 euros or less. I simply do not carry a bunch of cash, credit cards or fancy electronics.

My 19 yr old daughter just booked her airline ticket for her and her friends trip next april-june.. into Rome, out of Paris and 2 months of fun inbetween.. they are not worried.. they will be prepared.. and I am not worried.. as long as they watch their drinking and partying.. they both are sensible girls. and that's pretty much all you need to be.
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