Paranoid about Safety

Old Jul 30th, 2006, 10:35 PM
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Paranoid about Safety

Hi all, we planning our first trip to Europe this northern winter. Have been perusing all the travel sites I can find and am reading some real horror stories about pick pockets, thieves, scammers etc. Apart from wearing neck belts/waist belts, what else can we do to be cautious. We are taking an SLR digital camera, which is quite large - we have bought a special pack for it which can be worn at the front or back, worried about it, but will not leave it at home - we are the type of people who will be taking hundreds and hundreds of photos. We will be travelling on public transport in Paris and through Italy. Don't want to be looking over my shoulder constantly. Is there no one we can trust over there?
amandab is offline  
Old Jul 30th, 2006, 10:42 PM
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Hi amandab ~

I would use the same precautions that you would use in any city.

If you are concerned about your camera, widen the strap so that you are able to carry it across your chest rather than over a shoulder.

The good news is that you are traveling during the winter season therefore you will be wearing a jacket. Previous to our last winter journey to Italy, I had our tailor put inside pockets in my husband's and my jackets so that I did not have to carry a purse. Very safe.

Carfeul with your comment: "Is there no one we can trust over there?" I am sure you would not want to offend anyone.

I have traveled to Italy alone and with my husband and felt equally safe during each vacation.

Best wishes, T.
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Old Jul 30th, 2006, 11:00 PM
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I see that some people do get carried away when touching this subject. Yes, there are some problems with pick pockets in Europe and yes, from time to time people get stuff stolen from them. But I think it is important to not let this fear take over...remember that you are supposed to enjoy this trip and not live in constant fear that something might get stolen. The only thing I fear is that my pictures will get lost if my camera gets stolen. So I try to have many memory cards..or upload them to my laptop every night when I travel. Have a great trip. Take a look at my trip reports from Paris and Rome on my homepage . As you will see we have not experienced anything while travelling there

Stavanger, Norway
gard is offline  
Old Jul 30th, 2006, 11:17 PM
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Get a sling pack for the camera, rather than a two-strap backpack. Make it a habit to wear it mostly in front. Carry loose change in pockets, not in a wallet, so that you have money ready for small purchases without haveing to give away where you carry the real stuff.

If you have a wallet, make sure it's so far inside your layers of clothing and zippered away that it can't be got at.

No waistpacks ("fanny packs" which is an expression that, well, ask a Brit what it really means...), they're a give-away of where your stuff is that should be stolen....

Read up on various websites what people who got done have to say - often they don't come forward because they are embarrassed, but anybody who makes light of the realities is not doing you a service.

"Nothing ever happened to us" does not qualify as good advice.

Yes, take is seriously, but - no - don't be paranoid, just aware, not naive; there are thousands of people from the Balkans and other deprived countries woring (yes, it's a job for them) all over Europe, and they're good - you don't know you've been had until it's too late. In Venice a citizen's watch comitte has formed because it has gotten so bad. Nothing violent, mind you, but they're quick and experienced, so - don't let them.

You have to be equipped and practiced to the point that you need not think about it all the time, but many things need to be practised, like when the two of you are at an ATM, don't both be looking at the screen with your backs to the world - one of you stands the other way and peruses the scene. Elementary. Same at a newsstand, ticket window etc.

Don't put your bags on the ground when waiting, without having a strap on a firm grip or a foot through a strap or something like that.

And on and on, it's only commonsense, but do it or you'll be sorry. And - no - it's not like "in any city" - there's not nearly the same level of pickpocketing going on in NYC or LA as there is in Barcelona, Venice, Paris, etc.

It's really up to you - prepare, and you'll be fine. Be smart and go have fun.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 12:04 AM
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ditto wally's advice, and stay aware of who is around you, especially if suddenly there is a small group of innocent enough looking people.

the thieves don't "LOOK" like thieves.. just ordinary looking people on a mission. and i do mean they are on a mission from the time they get up til they go to bed.

this is their livelihood(sp?) and they are very good at it.

it is something we all must learn to deal/live with, but i haven't been bodily robbed (that i know of!!) in 35 years living here.. but unfortunately many of my clinets/guests and students have.

if you heed the warinings and incorporate the recommended safety measures into your daily routine, you should have no problem.

enjoy your trip!
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 12:34 AM
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Oops, sorry, I certainly don't want to offend anyone. Thank you for the advice and comments - yes alot of it I guess is just having common sense and being aware of your surroundings. No doubt we'll be wearing jackets so perhaps any day packs/bags we will be carrying could be under the jackets - good idea.

Gard, your web site looks great, I'm going to save it to my favourites and read all about your travels later.
amandab is offline  
Old Jul 31st, 2006, 01:36 AM
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I wouldn't carry your daypacks under your jackets or anything that extreme - just carry your day packs like normal but don't put your valuables in them. Keep your money, passports, credit cards, etc. on your person rather than in the bag. That way, if someone snatches your backpack they just get your guide book, bottled water, and gum - LOL - all of which, including the backpack can be replaced quickly and without hassle. My husband travels with a big camera and takes plenty of pictures (1200+ pictures in 2 weeks). He has a daypack type camera bag, which is ok, but I would prefer a messenger bag style so he could carry it on his side.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 02:27 AM
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Dont forget that only a tiny proportion of travellers end up as victims of crime. But of course, all the millions who aren't don't immediately log on to forums on their return to say 'we went and nothing happened to us!' So you are not getting a realistic picture from the horror stories. It happens everywhere in the world, not just in Europe, but it probably won't happen to you unless you are either extremely unlucky or extremely dumb.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 02:32 AM
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As a Newbie I have a simple question what does topping mean?
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 03:34 AM
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jrecm - "topping" means adding a post to a thread in order to bring it back to the top of the list, i.e. to stop it sinking into obscurity as new threads appear. Most people just post a reply that consists of the word "topping", or "ttt" ("to the top").

You could for instance top one of your own threads if you'd like to bring it back into prominence in the hope of garnering more answers to your question, or you could top someone else's thread for whatever reason.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 04:09 AM
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Amanda just remember that you are in a different place and no matter how hard you try, depending upon the degree of contrast from your own culture, locals will pick up on that you are not from there. That being said, i think, after traveling through quite a few european cities, living in some for extended periods, I found it most helpful and fun to pick up on local sayings and styles of fashions...when in roma....If you don't want to be seen as a tourist, don't look like one. Yes, comfortable shoes are a must, but if you wear the brand new Reeboks with a brand new pair of travel khakies that you just picked up for the trip, along with a T-shirt that says 'Twin Lakes PTA' for example, all the while toting your camera, shoulder bag and map, you most definitely will stick out. Speaking for Europe, the style is pretty casual but nice. People take pride in their appearance and you won't see a lot of t-shirts and shorts, even in Portual in the summer in 100+heat. Bottom lin e when people go out, they want to look nice, whether going for a paper or a dinner with friends. You can find those comfortable shoes but maybe try the local shoe shops when you arrive and keep the reeboks in the suitcase for traveling through airports. You can find great deals on a good back that looks sylish too, so you don't need to carry the old reliable gear bag for all your things.. In terms of language, try and learn as much as you can of the not-so-travel-guide book phrases...pick up some local slang and you'll start your journey toward blending in! One more tip i give people, is this. Chances are, in this day and age you have a cell phone with you, in fact that's probably how you'll call your relatives when you arrive back home...?? keep it with you and if you get in a situation where you think someone might be eyeing you up (sometimes is really obvious), pull out your phone and make like your sounds silly but can be a good deterrent and a would-be pickpocket or purse snatcher might just think twice.

I just want to finish though by saying that it's most important to go and have FUN on your vacation. Europe is not exactly teeming full of marauders and hoodlums, in fact most big cities such as Lisbon and Porto, are perfectly safe to walk around at night, all night. These places have a great night life and there is usually plenty to see and do, and lots of people. IF you ever get in a jam, language wise or whatever, stop someone and simply ask if they speak English and can help you out...many college age students will surprise you with their english.

Best of luck
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 04:26 AM
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Hi Amanda,

Letīs turn this round a bit. Several years ago we flew into Los Angeles airport. I was very nervous because I had read about the murder rate in USA and had seen horrific movies about what can happen to people in the USA. I didnīt want to go outside my hotel for fear of being mugged. We had to walk to the parking lot where the hire car was located. I was looking over my shoulder all the time. I even took my jewelry off just in case. When we drove out of Los Angeles, I kept all the doors of the car locked, because I had heard that people can attack you while you are stopped at traffic lights ...........

Does that sound reasonable? Of course not, I made it up,but if you believe all the bad things you read will happen to you, then you would think like this.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 04:33 AM
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Where do you live ? Like Tiff says, use the same precautions you would in any big city. I've never used a money belt or similar in Italy, but I keep an eye on my handbag and don't carry too much cash, just like if I go down town here when it's busy. And a special note for any Americans who think Europe is full of thieves - I had my coat stolen in New York City !!
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 04:41 AM
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You also will probably find that the risks vary from city to city, and of course within cities themselves. You will start to get a feel for it. For example, I have had more trouble in London with credit card/bank card-related frauds and scams than anywhere else I've travelled in world. For example, I lived in London for a year, and found that if I left my garbage out for pick-up more than an hour before the pick-up time, someone would have gone through it and stolen the credit card receipts. A few years ago, they also had quite a problem with thieves messing with ATMs so that they could access your code and copy your card. On a subsequent visit, after I had used my credit a few times in a couple of shops and a restaurant, someone (an employee, I'm sure) took the credit card number and charged $4000 worth of plane tickets online and by telephone to my credit card. On the other hand, I never felt uncomfortable moving around the city and on the tube with a daypack (as my purse) containing my wallet in the outside pocket.

In Paris, where I live now, overall I feel safer - in terms of physical safety, lack of concern about pickpocketing, scams, etc. For example, in French restaurants, waiters bring the credit card reader to your table (instead of taking your card away to run it through the machine). I'm careful on the Metro (I try never to sit beside the doors) and hold on tightly to my purse, but otherwise don't take other precautions.

In Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla, I felt that I needed to be very careful with my wallet, bag, etc. I heard stories every day from residents and tourists who had had something stolen.
These are just not the places where you hang your purse on the back of your chair in a restaurant, or put it on the floor or a chair beside you. I knew someone who had his credit card stolen from his wallet, which was inside a jacket hanging on his chair in a very upscale restaurant. A very nicely dressed man appears to have stolen the card, surreptiously copied it and handed it back to my friend, saying he'd found the wallet on the floor. My friend never suspected anything - until he got his credit card bill a few weeks later and saw all the unauthorised charges.

You have already received lots of good advice from other fodorites. I'll add a few more suggestions here.

Neck belts and waist belts aren't always necessary, but you do want to keep a hand and an eye on valuable belongings. That also means that, in restaurants, be careful about what you hang on the back of your seat. I usually put my purse in my lap, unless I'm sitting somewhere where the purse can really be placed in an inaccessible location.

Try to avoid carrying everything with you. Lock it up in a safe, don't bring every credit card you own with you, and split your cards so that you have one and your travelling companion has another card, so if one get's stolen, you've still got another one to use.

Avoid situations where you both are distracted (or look distracted) in very crowded places. Plan your route with a map in a cafe or hotel before you go, so that you don't have to pull it out and pore over it together on crowded streets. If you do need to pull out a map, try stepping into a less crowded shop - or, at a minimum, do so with your back against a wall and your travelling partner keeping an eye on your surroundings.

In situations where you are going to be carrying all of your valuables and are likely to be particularly vulnerable (e.g. when you've just arrived in a city and are trying to find the bus to your hotel, loaded down with luggage, tickets, passport, etc), take extra precautions. Sometimes, my husband and I take turns. For example, he's in charge of navigation and I'm in charge of thinking about where our stuff is. Similarly, if your husband is going to get snap-happy and distracted by thoughts of taking pictures, that's a good time for you to be more conscious of your surroundings.

Likewise, if you go to an ATM, one of you should stand guard (back to back with the person using the machine) to keep an eye out.

Keep the money you need for the day, or part of a day, relatively accessible. There's not much point of using a neck pouch if you have to half-undress yourself and expose all your valuables in the ticket line-up in the metro or for a museum.

Think carefully about the situations in which you hand over your credit card. In the UK, I often used to pay with cash - because I just didn't trust the situation. (It's different now since they introduced microchips in credit cards, but that also means that yours might not work.) Don't hand your credit card to a shop assistant who has to disappear with it to run up the charge. If they can't do it front of you, pay cash (or go get cash to pay for your purchase).

Finally, you might want to invest in one of those services (offered by some banks and credit card companies) that allows you to register all of your cards, so that you can make just one call to cancel everything if your wallet is stolen.

Don't forget to call your credit card companies before you leave to tell them you'll be travelling and where. They will put a note in your file, and this will reduce the risk that they will flag your foreign use of your credit card as suspicious. At the same time, if you are travelling somewhere with a bad reputation for scams, you might want to let the credit card company know after you've left the country - so that if additional charges come through, an alert is raised.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 05:00 AM
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KateW: "I lived in London for a year, and found that if I left my garbage out for pick-up more than an hour before the pick-up time, someone would have gone through it and stolen the credit card receipts" ?!? I find this very hard to believe : I lived in London for 10 years and never heard of this happening to anyone. Or indeed any of the other credit card scams you mention.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 05:10 AM
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And how can you tell that someone has been through your garbage looking for credict card receipts to steal? Rummage through the bags yourself? No thanks. I;m with Caroline.
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 05:12 AM
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Anyway, you should have put them in a paper recycling bank
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 05:20 AM
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Where are you going in Italy? Some places require more alertness than others. In general, the Italian countryside is extraordinarily safe, and so are trains (if not all train stations). Where you need to be very mindful of your belongings is in areas that attract thousands of tourists (the Trevi fountain, the Colosseum area, the Vatican, Piazza San Marco in Venice, etc). The big city train stations and the buses that lead from are also places to keep a firm grip on your valuables.

I've been to Italy close to a dozen times. I've never been robbed or pickpocketed, and I go to all the major tourist sights and take public transportation.

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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 05:23 AM
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And a special note for any Americans who think Europe is full of thieves - I had my coat stolen in New York City !!

i would guess that the OP is NOT from the US, so there is no need to *teach* her that crime exists in the US as well. american crime levels are quite irrelevent to this thread (although any foders discussion of crime in europe always shifts to a discussion of crime in the US --for some strange reason that i fail to understand!).
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Old Jul 31st, 2006, 06:08 AM
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Hi A,

As noted, of the millions of people who travel to Europe only thousands have problems with pickpockets, etc.

It is those few who report.

Re your camera: Where it in front.

Never put anything valuable in a backpack; they are too easily opened.

I put safety pins on my pockets.

Good advice above on how to use an ATM.

If any stranger offers to take pictures of you with your camera, check to see if their own camera is more expensive than yours.

Don't worry so much, and enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  

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