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Pickpockets & Scammers may cancel our first family trip to Italy


Jan 29th, 2006, 12:55 PM
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Pickpockets & Scammers may cancel our first family trip to Italy

My husband and I, along with our 11 & 8 y.o. boys, are planning on Italy (Venice, Florence, Milan, Rome) for the second half of our UK, France trip in June. We have traveled to that area enough to be confident and comfortable with the various aspects of travel.

With all that said, we started reading about Italy and finding all the warnings about pickpockets, scam artists, including fake police asking for passports and a look at our money. Now, we are seriously considering not going and maybe waiting until the boys are older, which never entered our minds when we took them to the UK since they were mere months old.

Some of our hesitancy is, obviously, for the boys' safety, but not too much as we think any physical threat isn't too great. Our major concerns are not being able to use our backpacks to carry needed items (cameras, money, i.d., sweaters for the evenings, souvineers, etc.), and how/where to carry them if a backpack is not recommended. It will obviously be hot in June/July so our usual "inside jacket pockets" plan won't work.

Am I being too paronoid? Or do we just have to be careful that our items aren't easily gotten out of a backpack?

Any experiences would be appreciated in possibly saving our trip!

mikel1 is offline  
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Like you, I had heard these things and read a few posts about picpockets, etc. and was very nervous about going to Rome. However, we never felt less safe than in New York or any other large American city. We were out late at night in crowded plazas and streets with locals and other tourists and never felt threatened. Keep your money in a front pocket (money or neck belts were too much trouble for me) and be aware of your surroundings and you'll be fine. We walked everywhere and took a cab twice-didn't venture on crowded public transportation where pickpockets may be more likely.

You'll have a great trip-Italy was my kids' favorite!
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:13 PM
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A backpack is ok for those things which can be replaced and are of small value (water, sweater, etc). Money never goes into a backpack, and it would be better if you had a small camera that fit into a pocket, or else just safety-pin the strap to the inside of the backpack.

If you've read all the warnings, then you've learned that real police don't ask to look at your money, so just say no and keep walking. Don't take help from strangers, espec if you aren't looking for any - just say no and keep walking. In fact, for anything remotely suspicious, just say no and keep walking!

Many people don't see a need for moneybelts and such, but we always use them and feel that it relieves us of having to be continually conscientious of our valuables. You rarely need to show a passport to anyone, and can probably show a photocopy, keeping the real one secured in the moneybelt or at the hotel desk safe (NOT the room safe).

Just coach your boys that they should never 'give' anyone anything unless they themselves are shopping/paying for something. Really, just like at home.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:17 PM
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Can't you simply lock the section of your backpack holding valuables?
If not, I had a handbag that could be worn as a backpack and when I carried it as a backpack, I safety-pinned the zippers together...not that secure but I felt like I'd be aware if someone was tampering with it.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:21 PM
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I traveled thru Italy with my then 13 year old son. I carried a purse across my shoulder and zipped up tight. On occassion I even locked it with a small luggage lock. My son carried our guide book. Money and valuables went into a money belt, though I no longer use it in my travelling. Be aware of your surroundings, discuss with your boys the importance of staying close to you, which I am sure is a given no matter where you are, and only carry those items you absolutely need for the day. You will have a wonderful trip and the boys will too.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:22 PM
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Money and valuables should never go in a backpack when you are in Italy -- nor when you are in California, or London, or NYC, or Rio. That is simple common sense since you can't see what is going on behind you.

So there is no difference between Italy and anyplace else.

And sensible people also would not show their cash to any stranger. No difference there either.

So - as long as you use normal common sense you should be fine. But if you intend to put cash/valuables in your backpacks and flash cash to any stranger who asks . . . that's a whole different story
janisj is online now  
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:23 PM
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"Am I being too paronoid?"

In a word: yos. Search this forum for dozens of ways to secure your valuables as well as ways to handle "police" who ask to see your identification and/or money.

By observing a few basic precautions, you will be safe.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:27 PM
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There is no reason to let a few reports of scams and pickpockets - blown up all out of proportion - ruin your vacation in Italy.

The answer is very simple. Don;t use a backpack - which is inherently unsafe - since it is BEHIND you - and easy for anyone to slit without your having a clue.

Just use a bandolier style shoulder bag - you can get large ones in nylon that weigh next to nothing. That way you can see if anyone is trying to steal from you and stop them or get out of the way.

As for the scammers - just ignore them. As Travelnut said - just say no and keep walking - they won;t try to use force - they're counting on your being polite. Don;t be - you don;t owe them anything.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:30 PM
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Am I being too paronoid? Yes.

Use moneybelts and common sense and you will be fine.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:41 PM
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I would encourage you to plan the Italian vacation. Our family had the best time June 2005 in Rome, Venice and Florence. I feel the same way you do about safety and theft. I was almost pick pocketed in a quiet Paris Metro in 2004, it was an unnerving experience. But I would not let that ruin my future vacation plans. We traveled with a 10 and 12 year old in Rome, Florence, Venice last June 2005. We used money belts for passports and anything of value. Any backpack/ purse had nothing of value and also had a small safety lock attached to avoid attempted theft. I planned to avoid public transportation and would have used a Cab if needed. Actually all sights were within walking distance and did not need any transportation. We used the main train station at Rome to travel to Florence and the water buses in Venice. I was very aware of my surroundings and the "guides" asking if I spoke English did not get replies. So maybe I was not the friendliest traveler, but I felt secure. Rome and Florence were very hot during our stay. The kids just carried water bottles; it was too warm to have them carry backpacks. We started our days early and usually arrived at sights before the crowds. The only time we saw gypsies was at the main train station and on the train from Rome to Florence. We waved them away and had no problems. Italy was wonderful for a family vacation!
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:43 PM
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I have been to Italy three times w/my kids. The first time when my youngest was 1yrs old.
The only problem we ever encountered was on the bus in Rome. When some guy tried to pickpocket my dad.
Sometimes if I am in a crowded spot and I have my backpack-I'll just carry it in front of me.
Don't give up any part of your trip because of these fears!! Just be aware and you should be fine!!
vino is offline  
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Jan 29th, 2006, 01:53 PM
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Yes, you're being paranoid. First off, 11- and 8-year-old boys shouldn't be carrying anything valuable around with them at all on a trip, and pickpockets and scammers aren't even going to bother with boys that age anyway - so there's no danger to your sons at all. Let them carry backpacks with water, guidebook, sunglasses, snacks, whatever they need for the day - no problem there.

As for you and your husband, other have already given you all the advice you need.

I think it would be ridiculous to cancel a trip based on warnings about pickpockets and scam artists. Heck, you'd never leave home and go ANYWHERE. Go and have fun!
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Jan 29th, 2006, 02:29 PM
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I've taken our kids to Italy three times in the past four years and have had no problems.
Think about all the scary things that happen in the US. Does that stop you from living there?? Be aware and be smart and you'll be just fine.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 02:53 PM
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We have never had a problem while traveling, but someone did get my wife's wallet at the grocery store a half mile from our house. People want what you have no matter where you are.

In Paris, in the Eiffel Tower elevator there is sign advising people to watch their belongings. This elevator is full of tourist packed in almost too tightly. Obviously a pick pocket's 'sweet spot'. Just imagine the scene.

Just be smart and you will be fine. I had my wallet in a pants front pocket, not exactly a high security place, so I put a rubber band around it. That way you WILL feel it coming out.

I think people with too many suitcases/bags are probably prime targets (they would have no free hands and they have a lot of good stuff to steal).

As said above do not accept any help that you did not ask for. Remember that the frail woman that stumbles at the airport or train station might fall a dozen times a day (at the same station).

There is no reason that concerns over pick pockets should cancel/change your plans. (Actually in Bellagio, I had someone point out to me that my wallet was on the ground by my foot. I did that myself, without the help of a pick pocket. LOL)
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Jan 29th, 2006, 02:59 PM
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If you absolutely are determined to take a backpack..and believe me, thousands of people take them all over Europe, unlocked, and never get robbed, then learn to wear it in the FRONT when moving about as many folks do.

To put it bluntly..you are foolish not to go because of the "warnings" and if you'd like to "test" the "let us see your passport" scam..simply reply that you don't have it and watch what doesn't happen!
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Jan 29th, 2006, 03:04 PM
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Before I went to Italy with my daughter the summer before last I had read the same warnings & was nervous. I had no problems. You'll find pickpockets anywhere you travel, including your local mall. Just be alert & aware.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 03:10 PM
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"I had someone point out to me that my wallet was on the ground by my foot."

Did it have a rubber band around it?
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Jan 29th, 2006, 04:03 PM
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There are concentrations of pickpockets that do target tourists in many popular areas--it's not quite the same as at your local mall, unless you have a quite unusual mall.

But keep in mind that there are so many tourists that very few of us ever have any problem at all. And if anyone in your party is at all alert, any thieves who might be in the area will look for easier targets.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 04:39 PM
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Thank you all for your helpful replies. They actually have made me feel a lot better! I am a bit of a worry wort and a what if'r. But, I think with a few modifications, we can't miss this opportunity.

The only thing the boys would be carrying of value, would be their cameras, which we would be training them to carry around their necks. So, as long as someone doesn't cut the neck strap, it should be okay.

And what I was worried about with the backpack was my camera and video camera being stored there when we weren't actually using either. I wasn't sure if I just needed to deter someone unzipping it and taking a camera or of them slitting open the backpack.

Thank you, again.
mikel1 is offline  
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Jan 29th, 2006, 04:45 PM
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No one had taken anything from my wallet.

We were sitting at a table and ordered two cokes. I paid and laid my wallet on my knee (too lazy to stand up). The wallet fell to the ground. A fine gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to where the wallet lay.
(No story here. Glad that I didn't walk off.)
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