Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (https://www.fodors.com/community/)
-   Europe (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/)
-   -   PRAGUE PICKPOCKETS AND OTHER PERILS (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/prague-pickpockets-and-other-perils-15082/)

RONALD DOBRYDNIO Jun 20th, 1997 10:00 AM

PRAGUE PICKPOCKETS AND OTHER PERILS
 
JUST RETURNED FROM A 21 DAY TOUR TO WARSAW, CRACOW, PRAGUE, BUDAPEST AND VIENNA.

I WANT TO ALERT TRAVELERS TO PRAGUE TO SEVERAL PERILS WHICH AWAIT THEM. FIRST, THE PICKPOCKETS ARE EVERYWHERE ESPECIALLY IN THE METRO, THE CHURCHES AND WHEREVER CROWDS GATHER AND AT POINTS WHERE FLOWS OF TOURISTS ARE CONSTRICTED SUCH AS DOORWAYS. THEY ARE VERY SKILLFUL AND THE ONLY DEFENSE IS TO AVOID GROUPS, OR BEING SURROUNDED OR DISTRACTED. MEN SHOULD CARRY NOTHING IN THEIR POCKETS. WOMEN SHOULD CLUTCH THEIR PURSES AND THOSE FANNY/BELLY POUCHES ARE A DEFINITE NO-NO.

ALSO, THE METRO REQUIRES THAT WHEN YOU ENTER YOU STAMP THE PAPER TICKET AT THE LITTLE YELLOW DEVICE WHICH DATES AND TIMES THE TICKET AND VALIDATES IT. YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO USE THE METRO DURING WEEKDAYS AND 1.5 HOURS NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS. THERE ARE INSPECTORS IN THE METRO WHO ARE EXPERT AT STOPPING TOURISTS AS THEY KNOW THEY OFTEN DON'T VALIDATE THEIR TICKETS OUT OF IGNORANCE. THE CONFUSING PART IS THAT CZECHS OFTEN ENTER THE SYSTEM WITHOUT VALIDATING ANY TICKETS BECAUSE THEY BUY PASSES GOOD FOR A GIVEN TIME PERIOD. TOURISTS OFTEN THINK THIS IS THE WAY TO DO IT AND THEN THE INSPECTOR POUNCES. THE FINE IS 200 KORUNAS OR 20 TIMES THE PRICE OF A TICKET. THE INSPECTOR IS DRESSED IN PLAIN CLOTHES AND MAY BE CONFUSED WITH A MUGGER AT FIRST. THE ONES I MET DIDN'T SPEAK ENGLISH BUT WHIPPED OUT AN ID CARD AND A BADGE IDENTIFYING THEIR OFFICIAL STATUS. THE FINE IS PAID ON THE SPOT.

BUDAPEST IS ALSO SAID TO HAVE PICKPOCKETS BUT I DIDN'T ENCOUNTER ANY BECAUSE I DIDN'T TAKE THE METOR OR TRAMS.

Steve Bott Jul 2nd, 1997 01:30 PM

Ron, thanks for the warning on pick-pockets, etc. I'm going to Prague in a few weeks (I've never been before)and just booked a reservation for a few nights at Hotel Europa, right on Wenceslas Square. Is this a good idea? I want to be in the heart of the city and I'm not frightened of a little night life, but I don't want to put myself at any unnecessary risk. Would you go with a different hotel location?

Donna Jul 2nd, 1997 10:11 PM

The best way to avoid pickpockets is to leave EVERYTHING you don't need for the day in the safe at your hotel, then carry your cash, passport, credit cards, etc. in an under your clothing pouch. Best for men is the one that loops over your belt and is worn between yourself and your slacks. The pickpockets only go for the easily accessible (and have been know to completely remove money belts). If your valuables are in your pouch, you'll never know they're around - they'll prey on the less informed folks who think they can outsmart the pickpockets! If you MUST carry valuables in a fanny pack, be sure to pile your maps and tour guides and literature on top, especially right beneath the zipper. Wholeheartedly agree with initial post - these folks are practiced at their art!

C.J. Hamiton Jul 3rd, 1997 12:20 AM

Having lived in Budapest for a while, one of the most common forms of pickpocketing I ever encountered was when groups of rowdy people would get on public transportation and one of them would push another into somebody "accidentally" and in the middle of all the bumping around, someone else would lift a wallet or liberate a fanny pack. However, I found that they knew who they were after, and I NEVER had a problem. One of your greatest defenses is NOT to look like a tourist as much as possible. One other precaution: NEVER EVER change money on the streets, or you'll experience a liitle magic and will almost always be swindled. Just change at a reputable money changing booth and you'll be fine. Usually those booths off of touristy areas (ie. Vaci utca) give a better rate too. Have fun, Hungary is wonderful.

Sarah Scandiffio Jul 6th, 1997 05:09 PM

I have also just spent some time in Prague and am astonished at the amount of trouble you found yourself in in such little time. For starters on trams and the metro, you are expected to follow the rules of the Czech republic and validating your ticket when you go into the metro is a must whether you are a foreigner or not. The city is not that dangerous at all compared to others such as London or even right here in NYC. There are rules you follow anywhere you go and that is not to leave ones money hanging out of the wallet or keeping the purse unzipped. It is just something stupid to do. In my opinion, fanny packs are much better than any bookbag or purse because it is right in front of you and you can automatically feel if someone enters it or not. Keep your passports with you because otherwise you are noone and all other information in a fanny pack or something close to your side. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities of the world and it is a shame if you are frightened of it because of this. Just do the precautions you would on any trip and then you will feel safe and not violated.
P.S. To the man who said that he was staying in the Hotel Evropa, it is very pretty and from there you can get almost anywhere. It is right smack in town and it may get a little crazy at times because some stores are laundromats by day and nuddie bars by night but there are plenty of cops at all hours of the night so you will feel safe. It is one of the prettiest in Prague. Like I said, just enjoy and keep valuables close and Prague will open itself up to you.DON'T WORRY! Sarah

RONALD DOBRYDNIO Jul 6th, 1997 07:25 PM

FOR SARAH SCANDIFFIO:

INTERESTING HOW DIFFERENT PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES. MY MESSAGE DIDN'T SAY TO IGNORE CZECH RULES (REF. METRO). IT SAID TO KNOW THE RULES OR EXPECT A SWIFT FINE. NO MONEY WAS HANGING OUT OF A WALLET NOR WAS A PURSE UNZIPPED - WE'RE NOT STUPID TRAVELLERS. IN ONE SHORT INCIDENT MY KEY CASE WAS TAKEN FROM MY LEFT PANTS POCKET AND AT THE SAME TIME A THIEF TRIED TO OPEN MY WIFE'S PURSE. A CAMCORDER CASE I WAS CARRY WAS ALSO OPENED BUT NOTHING WAS STOLEN. 20%25 OF OUR GROUP OF 30 WERE ROBBED IN TWO DAYS PLUS SEVERAL THWARTED ATTEMPTS. YOU WILL PROBABLY FEEL NOTHING. THEY BLOCK YOUR VISION AND/OR DISTRACT YOU. LAST WEEK'S WASHINGTON POST TRAVEL SAID 200-250 U.S. PASSPORTS WERE STOLEN ANNUALLY IN PRAGUE. TRY THIS FOR THRILLS AND CHILLS: GO TO PRAGUE, WEAR YOUR WAIST POUCH (IN CZECH THIS SAYS I'M A TOURIST - ROB ME), RIDE THE METRO (LOOK FOR A CROWDED CAR), FILL YOUR PACK WITH YOUR PASSPORT, LOTS OF CASH, SOME GOLD JEWELRY AND TELL US HOW YOU MADE OUT. I NEVER HAD SIMILAR PROBLEMS IN LONDON AND I SPENT MANY WEEKS THERE AND IN THE REST OF BRITAIN. YOU ARE FREE TO IGNORE MY ADVICE BUT I SUSPECT WHILE PRAGUE OPENS ITSELF UP TO YOU YOU WILL BE OPENING UP TO PRAGUE BUT IN QUITE A DIFFERENT WAY. OH WELL, THE THIEVES PROBABLY NEED THE MONEY.

Jenny Jul 7th, 1997 10:41 PM

Actually, I think it was quite good of Ronald to warn other travellers about validating their train tickets. When my friend and I were in Vienna, they had a similar system. Us being totally naive tourists and not being able to read a word of the language (it took us 15 minutes to figure out how to use the ticket machine), we did not realise that you had to validate the ticket in the boxes at the entrance to the platform. We naively thought we had paid for our ticket and that was all that we needed to do! We saw the little boxes, but did not know what they were for. Some people were putting their tickets in, but some people did not, so we didn't know what to do with them! We went on quite a few trips around Vienna on the trains, the whole time not realising we were travelling illegally. We certainly had no illiegal intent! Luckily, we did not bump into any inspectors. It was not untill we were in Munich. which also has a similar system, that a local friend showed us what we were meant to do. And on that train journey we met up with ticket inspectors. So we were very grateful that we found out what to do in the nick of time. So, there are traveller's out there who simply don't realise these things and it is good to warn them, as they certainly don't mean to do the wrong thing. When we were in Venice, we also did something wrong quite innocently with our tickets for the vaporotti (I don't remember what we did now) and got picked up by an inspector and made to pay a fine.

With regards to theft of personal goods. Towns like Prague probably do have a lower crime rate than say New York, however, one should also realise that in the areas where there is a large tourist trade, there will always be people who will prey on those tourists. Tourists are seen to be easy prey, because to be quite frank, a lot of tourists are not very smart about how they carry their money and ignore the many warnings in quide books and from other travellers. If you are sensible, and aware of what is going on around you, you are less likely to be a victim. Don't carry things in easily accessible pockets or in little strappy handbags. Have a bag with a thick leather strap. With regard to fanny packs, I took one last time I went over, but I won't take one again. Whilst they are very convienent and handy to carry things in, nothing screams "TOURIST" like a fanny pack. Whilst I never had anything stolen, groups of gypsy children had several attempts to get at them by trying to distract our attention. Fanny packs are actually very easy for thieves to get at. Other travellers also told me tales of how the belts of their fanny packs were slashed and the packs grabbed before they knew what had happened. I prefer a small leather knapsack type bag that I can sling under my arm in crowded situations.

Florence Feinberg Jul 27th, 1997 12:34 PM

Re location of Europa Hotel in Prague...we stayed there last September and found the hotel to be perfectly situated. It was close to everything; and perfectly safe. You will be within walking distance of all the sights and I would definitely stay there again.

Try to get a front room if you can. We had a "suite" on the 4th floor, I think it was and it was very grand. The hotel must have been glorious in its heyday, but it needs a lot of upkeep. I think you'll like it.


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:02 PM.