Think you’re savvy enough to avoid being pickpocketed??
A video recently made the rounds about some pickpockets in action at the Stazione Centrale at Milan (the main train station) and I thought about how I consider myself to be relatively paranoid when it comes to traveling and I am quite overprotective about my things. Now, hosting several visitors, I find myself trying to help them prepare for what has become standard behavior for me after traveling to over 25 countries.
Of course, I’ve been on the receiving end of a pickpocket.
We had drank too much wine the night before, and wandered the historic alleyways of Naples with a few random locals that were kind enough to escort us home. It was a blindingly sunny day the next morning and we got on a bus to see the bay of Naples. It was quite empty and being no strangers to public transportation, we relaxed and recounted the previous’ night’s events, constantly amazed at our luck to encounter such nice Italians. As we chatted, I noticed a man was standing a little too close to me and that while he appeared to be scratching under his arm, he was actually opening the outside pocket of my purse. Too shocked to react violently, I yelled at the man in Italian who refused to respond or meet my eye and moved away.
The truth is that situation could have happened anywhere – I was making myself an easy target. The best prevention is being prepared and aware, and most importantly, to look like a difficult target. The best pickpockets pick the easiest targets so they can do as many as possible without notice. Here are some ways to avoid being an attractive target for a pickpocket – divided into Being a Difficult Target, Protecting Your Belongings, and Using Public Transportation.
Being a Difficult Target – Make it Hard for them to Get to You
- Walk with Purpose and Keep Moving
Confused looks, hesitant steps and visible maps are the perfect indicators of a distracted person and therefore a good target. Take the time before you leave a safe area (a restaurant, your hotel, the train platform) to check your surroundings and directions before heading out. Perhaps write a few key indications (direction and street names) on a post-it for quick reference.
I prefer to stop somewhere with a wall at my back in order to consult a map or stare at a landmark. If that’s not available, I move to a wide open space where anyone approaching me can be seen. Consider ducking into a store for directions or to consult your map.
- Be Unpredictable
If you suspect you are being followed/targeted by a pickpocket, change directions, stop and go in a different direction. Enter into the nearest shop for a few minutes to collect yourself and perhaps to make them lose interest. Pickpockets love stations because people entering and exiting them are very concentrated on getting to their next destination, and their paths are obvious.
When my father came to visit and we were in Torino, I noticed three gypsies scoping him out as we waited to cross the street near the station. Instead of crossing the street which I felt would only create a cat and mouse game, I halted my father and pointed out a bus stop down the street as we stood aside, making idle chitchat. Everyone else crossed the street, we missed the light, but more importantly the gypsies lost interest when they saw they couldn’t take advantage of the confusion and went in a completely different direction to look for a new target.
- Don’t Stop to Talk or Answer Questions from Strangers
Chances are, you look like a tourist more than you would like to, and pickpockets have learned how to recognize a potential mark. Therefore, it is very unlikely someone will need to stop you and ask for directions or assistance in English if you are in a foreign country. In all actuality, they probably know you are a tourist already and are seeking to confirm this and perhaps create some conversation to relax/distract you for a partner. We all want to be compassionate and help others, but when you are vulnerable with luggage and finding your way, think of yourself first. Walk with purpose.
- When Traveling in Groups, Designate Lookouts
When you are traveling alone, you may feel vulnerable because you are solo, but in groups pickpockets can take advantage of the confusion to pick on your most distracted members. Consider asking a member of your group who is planning to sit out, and can therefore concentrate on his surroundings, to keep an extra eye out. Keep the weaker members of your group in the middle when walking somewhere and those more attentive in the back.
Protecting Your Belongings – Make it Difficult to get to Your Stuff
- When carrying a purse or bag, wear the flap against your body and keep a hand on it
I only travel with purses that close with a single, central zipper (single entry point) like this one or this one. I make sure every time I carry it with the zipper facing front and directly under my arm where I can keep an eye on it. Mini backpacks or purses that are open on top? Targets. If you have a flap on your purse or messenger bag, make sure it’s close against your body and not facing outwards. Get a messenger bag with a zip on top like this one.
- While drinking or eating outside, NEVER put your purse/bag on the ground or hang it on the chair behind you.
I can’t tell you how many friends have had their bags stolen while dining. Put it on your lap or on the table if it’s a small purse. If you’ve got longer straps or a single shoulder strap, do what I do and hang the purse off your knee in front of you. Maybe it’s a little uncomfortable, but having your bag stolen is more uncomfortable, trust me. If you have no other option, consider putting the leg of the chair through the straps of your purse or backpack.
Something I carry with me always is a “Purse Hook/Hanger” which a colleague gave to me. This way you can hang the purse directly from the table where you can see it but it’s not on the ground. You could also use it to hang a shopping bag. Highly recommended!!
- Don’t keep important things in ANY outside pockets in your suitcase, jacket, or purse.
If you have to give pickpockets access to something (you have too much luggage or several bags) make sure it’s not worth taking. Keep underwear in outside luggage pockets and not important documents. Use inside pockets of jackets and purses that have a zipper and/or button to hold important documents, and take advantage of clothing layers to keep your documents buried as much as possible.
- Use a Money Belt
This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to lower the impact of a pickpocket. Use a money belt to keep your passport, extra credit cards and cash safe and out of sight. Keep that day’s cash and a credit card in your day purse/wallet for easy access. If you must get into your money belt, do it in a safe area like a bathroom stall or changing room. Getting into your money belt to make regular purchases is not an effective use of it and draws attention to where you store your money.
If you prefer to carry a money belt and/or passport holder, make sure you don’t advertise where it is. Many times I’ve seen tourists walking around with a very visible passport holder bouncing freely under their t-shirt, or with the neck cord poking out and trailing down their back. They might as well wear a bull’s-eye! I prefer to use a neck passport holder like this one and actually wear it around my waist, tucked into my pants (also a good alternative for summer when wearing light tops). It was comfortable and not as noticeable, or you can get the traditional money belt version or an actual belt to conceal currency. My father prefers to hide things in his socks. I’m not sure I recommend that, but if you’re interested in a leg pocket, those exist too!
- Bring the Bare Essentials When You Can
If you have a good base location such as a hotel or a friend’s house, why not lighten up what you’re carrying with you when going shopping, walking in crowded markets or areas? Some reputable hotels also offer safe services for valuables.
Using Public Transportation – Stay Balanced and Aware
Pickpockets are counting on your being unbalanced, distracted and crowded on public transportation. If you can, read about certain buses or public transportation that are most used by tourists – these are usually pickpocket buffets (the 64 bus from Termini to St. Peter’s in Rome is notorious for this).
- Stand defensive and prepared.
Swing any backpacks around to the front of your body and put your arms through the straps to keep your hands free. Not only will this help you keep an eye on it, it will make you more appreciated by regular riders as backpacks usually swing into people and take up more room. I used to tie the cords hanging off my backpack zippers together so it was harder to open. If rolling a piece of luggage, place it in front of you between you and your handhold, as close to a wall as possible.
- Keep the right hands occupied, and the right hands free.
Keep a hand on your purse and close to your body and the other hand to stabilize your body while the public transportation is in motion. Don’t hold on with the same arm that should be protecting your bag! To further stabilize yourself, if you can’t get a seat, make sure to center your body in front of the pole, seat or other handhold so you won’t be thrown off-balance. Stand with your knees slightly bent to react with turns and bumps. Angle one foot in the direction of the braking action (forward for example).
If A Pickpocket Happens to You
In Italy, the only thing you can do is to go to the Questura or local police station to report the crime. Wherever you are at the time, make sure you file your report with the proper authorities and get a copy of the report and/or a file number for reference.
Note: You may encounter a lack of compassion or urgency when filing a report for a stolen purse or wallet, as unfortunately there is little that the police can do to find or punish pickpockets in Italy. Many of them have no identification/papers and can be held only for a few days before being released, and the younger ones can’t even be arrested. Report the pickpocket immediately anyway and keep a copy of the report for your records and/or for insurance reasons.
Preparing Yourself Before a Trip
Before leaving, photocopy important documents and leave a copy with a relative/friend who can fax them to you if necessary. Keep a list of contact numbers available in your suitcase for reporting stolen credit cards along with a copy of your passport and other important documents. I also keep these support numbers in an email draft in my email so that I can access them from any computer (please note: I am not recommending you store credit card numbers in an email, just the customer support numbers).
Things to make a copy of and leave with a friend:
- Credit card contact numbers (leave a copy of the front and back of your credit cards at home, not in your suitcase)
- Tickets and travel reservation numbers
- Hotel reservations
- Other identification
A Final Note
All of these precautions are not to make you so paranoid on your next trip that you won’t enjoy it! But once learned, they can only add to your awareness when in unfamiliar situations. Use your instincts and a little common sense to avoid being a victim, so you can enjoy the sights and beauty of your host country!
Have you been a victim of a pickpocket? Could it have been avoided? Have a tip to avoid being pickpocketed?? Put it in the comments!!
Looking for more information on Italy? Check out my guide How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy and 10 Mistakes Tourists Make when Visiting Italy.
Aloha Pineapple says
Last month, I was robbed in Barcelona at the train station in a matter of less than ten seconds. My sister and I were victims of the “Don’t Stop to Talk or Answer Questions from Strangers” scam.
This was my third time to Barcelona. I travel a LOT and had no problems with pickpockets before, so I think I was a little overconfident that nothing was going to happen since it hadn’t happened yet – I don’t even wear a money belt (warning!). I am usually very aware of my belongings wherever I am, but the one time I let my guard down – I was tired and this happened right before I was ready to board the overnight train….they caught me. Plus, we had been traveling all over Europe (and Egypt) for a month and only had 3 days left on our trip and nothing bad had happened so my guard was totally down!!!
One of the train station employees saw us freaking out and ran to help us. I filed a police report the next morning and then went to the US Consulate to get a temporary passport. The policeman was very kind and patient with my awful Spanish-speaking skills. The consulate workers were so nice, too, and were able to get me a passport within two hours before I had to leave for Madrid.
That evening, I arrived in Madrid and had a message waiting for me at the hotel. The Barcelona police had recovered some of my belongings – I didn’t get back my (crappy) laptop, brand-new digital camera, passport, or wallet. But I got back several things of sentimental value that meant nothing to them like my (empty) purse, some paperwork, my driver’s license, a map of Madrid, a Coach wristlet, and my English-Spanish dictionary. They overnighted the stuff to me at my hotel in Madrid.
It was a violating experience but I was not physically harmed so for that I am grateful. Some people are surprised to hear that I am going back to Barcelona in November for vacation. Barcelona is one of my favorite places to visit, and I am not going to let a few thieves ruin my love for the city. I’ll just be more careful, and with a money belt on me :)
Sara, I thought I was the only paranoid one! I’m very aware of my belongings at all times and try to be highly aware of my surroundings, walk with purpose, etc. One thing I will add is that if you for whatever reason have to walk down a deserted street late at night, stride briskly down the middle of the road and with keys out (as if you are almost home and know where you are going). Also, if you are in the middle of the road, you can’t be pulled into a dark doorway and there is probably better illumination from street lamps. This is one I always remember from my orientation at Columbia when I first moved to New York. Sometimes half the battle, like you said, is not looking like a target.
My Father was pick pocketed last September on a train in Rome. He was there with my Mom and Brother. It all happened so fast. It wasn’t until after the fact that my Brother and Father realized who had done it. It was a group of young boys. They put on their ‘act’ and then did their thing. Dad had his wallet in his back pocket. I know, easy access! He never thought once to put it anywhere else, as he is not an experienced traveler. Of course, he lost all of his important documents, like drivers license, social security card etc. Hopefully, he came out of it a little more aware of what to do the next time around.
Judith in Umbria says
It’s not paranoid, it’s aware! Sara, you are a smart cookie, indeed.
I use my bra for extra money, wear bigger underpants so the passport can be tucked in somewhere. Sounds weird, but it works. They CAN get all of it, but they’d have to cart me off unconscious to a hidden place to do it.
Another tip is no matter what the style may be, keep shoulder straps short enough so your purse rides on your hip or under your armpit.
I am not a bit shy about yelling “Via!” at kids or sleazeballs too. Learn the local lingo for help, as well. Don’t be shy about making a scene if you feel threatened.
I work in the Stazione Centrale area and I know lots of pickpockets tour the area for 2-3 months stints in late spring and in winter. I have learned that’s enough to hang the bag on the front (like an apron), instead of have it hanging on the side. It’s less comfortable, but much safer. Besides, I use a lot my ears: I have always gotten the thieves because of tiny sounds they made while behind me. (Except in one case when I saw their shadows.)
Also, when I happen to sit putside, I may place the bag on the ground, but I always hold firmly it beteween my two feet. In order to get at it, a thief ought to crawl all the way under the table (it would not be enough to just bend or kneel) and then to skirt around my legs, and being the bag not just sitting between them but firmly held in place, to avoid making anuy movement felt: too hard to try.
I’d also suggest not standing near the doorway of the bus or subway train. This is especially true if you feel that a person is (oddly) blocking your way and keeping you from further entering.
As soon as the doors-closing-beep starts, someone will dash past you and out the door. Doors close, and your wallet is gone.
Sadly, I’ve seen this happen more than once.
Oh – men: don’t keep your wallet in the side pocket of baggy pants or shorts.
Very bad idea.
Hi Sara :) I love your blog, you are living my dream!! I am tagging you for a meme and you can check out the details on my blog. Hope to hear a little more about you!
nyc/caribbean ragazza says
Sara these are great tips.
I don’t have a money (too troublesome) belt but I am very aware of my surroundings and so far no problems.
One thing that surprised me was seeing American tourists walking around with iPods. That to me is crazy. You look stand out as a target by your outfit and you are going to be distracted by listening to loud music . If I were a pickpocket I would hit those people first, followed by the tourists with the back packs.
A friend told me a good friend of hers was taking the train from Rome to Florence. A well dressed person bump into her “by accident”. When she sat town her purse was gone. Some folks are hard core.
Shelley, At Home in Rome says
Luckily I’ve never been on the receiving end, but I always say knock on wood. I think your advice to not be an easy target is the best.
I was shocked a few weeks back when I actually saw two young boys pickpocketing a woman from behind, in front of my very eyes! I was so taken aback that I wasn’t able to react in time to tip her off. I was completely speechless. But that prepared me so in case I ever see something like that again, I will definitely yell to the person who is being pickpocketed to grab their wallet! Now I see those boys walking up and down the same street frequently… such a nuisance.
One question: why do you suggest that putting a purse on the ground is not a good idea? I always put mine between both of my feet. Have you heard of purses getting swiped this way? Hanging on my knee would be way too awkward. I like the idea of putting the leg of the chair through the straps. I did have one of those purse hangers, a friend brought it back from Spain for me, but I could never remember to keep it with me.
Wise words indeed, I had my bag stolen from by my feet at the Airport in Bergamo last year, and I am a very paranoid traveller when it comes to keeping an eye on my stuff – it only takes seconds! If anyone knows where you can buy those bag hangers in Milan – let me know.
What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing this valuable information!
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
Wow, I guess I should have asked you guys for suggestions before I wrote the article! :) Great (and unfortunate) stories!
@Brooke – Thanks for the meme tag, but unfortunately I’m not a big fan of memes and I don’t do them anymore. :( Sorry. In Feb. I answered “Things You don’t Know about me” which is in the Archives!
@Shelley – I have had several friends get bags stolen from Trastevere! If you put yours between your feet you’re probably ok – it’s just if you start moving around and it gets pushed to the side, etc. They love the outside dining!
Have you seen the anti-theft bags sold by http://www.pacsafe.com ? they have zippers that can be clipped shut making them tamperproof, steel mesh inside so the bags can’t be cut with a razor, steel in the straps so they can’t be cut and you can lock the bag to your chair so it can’t be snatched and a bunch of other clever features. I used their daypack when I travelled in Europe and felt really safe. They have bags for men and women.
Susan from Food Blogga says
Excellent post. It’s a shame we have to be so defensive today, but that’s just the way things are, aren’t they?
Great advice, Sara! I HATE the deal with my purses outside, becauase I always feel paranoid, too. I am glad (I suppose) to know I am not alone. Thanks for the tips!
Great post! And great video! Watch out for kids who walk by you closely and bump into you (esp if you’re in a big crowd), kids holding signs who get too close to you, and gypsy women with babies (who will shove it into your arms). Anything that serves as a distraction to pick your pockets!!!
ALSO some pickpockets dress nicely or like tourists (backpack, camera, etc)!!!
ALWAYS be alert! ALWAYS look behind you to see who’s checking to take something from you!
ma la relativa realtà … triste
Grazie per la informaziona !
I’ve been pickpocketed 4 times in Florence. Italy. All that was stolen all 4 times was my cellphone so I finally wised up and bought one of those necklace type harnesses so I always see it/feel it.
Great post though!
Laura in CA says
Great tips!! Everyone traveling needs to heed your advice!
We just got back from two weeks in Europe and I used a Pacsafe bag and a camera strap, both had the steel cables in the strap. I practiced safe travel, but having those things kept me from feeling totally paranoid.
Unfortunately, we observed a theft in Barcelona on Las Ramblas. A woman had left her bag on the floor near her chair while eating. A young man in line near my husband dropped his backpack and a few small items fell out. He bent down to collect his things and left, which we thought was odd. A minute later the woman noticed her bag missing. That’s when we realized what happened. It was sad to see her crying and so upset. It was the first day of our trip and that really taught us a lesson.
Great post, the only thing I would add is to be careful in public transportation when you are entering or leaving subway stations in places like Paris (where I’m from and have seen this happen) and there is a crowd because it’s rush hour or a large station with connections, stay close together and don’t let anyone come between you and someone else in your group or get very close to you particularly on escalators and stairways. Pickpockets typically target you and then try to wedge themselves in knowing that in the confusion/rush/crowd, it will be easy to pickpocket you. If people are getting onto an escalator in droves, wait until there’s a lull.
Pauline, Canada says
No one has mentioned this experience so I will in case it helps someone else. I travelled to Florence with a 16 year old daughter in 2000. We realized we were being shadowed by pickpockets around Florence during the week and tried to be careful. On the morning of our last day I stopped to open my purse facing towards a storefront to get my glasses. It took about 3 seconds for a gypsy mother holding a baby and her daughter to get her arm inside my purse. She startled me by shoving me with her baby. She was unlucky though, I lived in the W.I. for many years and did all my own laundry so I have very strong hands. I held on to that woman’s arm and didn’t let go. Her daughter kicked my daughter after she started screaming at the woman, by then a crowd had gathered and many Italians had started swearing at her. She panicked, let go of what she’d grapped and they ran. We realized they were following us about a block later. They’re not shy! We went back to the hotel, had a drink, got our nerve back and went out to enjoy Florence on our last day. Using babies is a sad way of unnerving foreigners but it’s done. Anyway, they won’t drop their own child, don’t be flustered by it and hold on to your purse.
Scott in Colorado says
For my Italy trip later this year I bought a combination compass and whistle to hang around my neck. Who knows, the whistle might come in handy, either for me or someone else in case of a threat or pickpocket.
i carry my change purse inside my bra all the time even if i have pockets. its a full proof system that works. if you try it just dont wear tight fitting jerseys that will draw attention to it.
I spent six weeks in Florence this summer and I managed to get through it without being pickpocketed. An important tip, though, is to keep your purse on your inside shoulder. That is, the shoulder furthest from the traffic side of the sidewalk. Purse snatchers have to zipping by on vespas and taking purses with them.
A friend of mine was almost pickpocketed by a gypsy girl (maybe about 12 yrs old) in Rome, but luckily another member of our class caught her in the act and scared her away. The lesson there is to be aware, especially in crowded tourist situations (this was at the Forum in the ruins, and it was packed with people).
Finally, if you’re going to be in Italy for any length of time, the best way to stay safe is to get to know everyone who lives near you. Take the time to greet and exchange small talk with your neighbors and nearby shopkeepers (in Italian if at all possible). They’ll keep an eye on your place and tell you about ANY strange visitors to the area.
When I go to Rome, I always carry along a purse of no value, write some bad things on it (like ” e mò vattelo a pijà nder c…) and get it stolen, with my utmost pleasure ;-)
Just got back from Italy, got too careless after 2 weeks in Florence and got pickpocked entering a crowded bus about 3 blocks from the Central Station. The warnings are to be taken seriously. It took me a while to get over the anger over the incident. The police were no help and one of my stolen credit cards was hit for $1,100 withing one hour of the theft. I will not get so careless again and will probably not go back to Florence.
Anna L'americana says
Please don’t “not go” because of these events – you are at as much risk of being a crime victim in the US as in Europe or anywhere else in the world. It is just a question of trying to be Europe-savvy as opposed to US-savvy. Definitely watch out for the mopeds and vespas (purse snatching). Most tourist-targeted crime is non-violent – Italians rarely mix violence with theft (unless drug dealings are involved). Michelle, it is truly unlikely that an Italian will snatch you into a doorway and commit a violent crime just to get your passport, wallet, camera, etc – unless you are suddenly caught in Jason Bourne, or are wearing a lot of extremely expensive jewelry or they know for a fact you are carrying several thousand in cash – not likely for a regular tourist. This is way more likely to happen in any US city.
Funny note on the Gypsies: most of the babies are borrowed for the day to aid in distracting potential victims and/or elicit pity from potential alms-givers! Don’t be fooled – most of them live better than Bill Gates and make a living off your pity.
Pablo the tough says
I would like someone help me with ideas in how I can use a camcorder to film carnival in Rio De Janeiro without being stolen my camera.
Which is the best way to carry a camcorder and film in a multitude?
And also, how can I go to the beach for filming natural places without risk, remember there was a riot in Rio beach not far ago.
I have lot of stories:
Once, I was being pick-pocketed in the Pink Floyd concert in Venice in 1998
I woman was cross-crossing in front of me, slowing me down and cutting my way in the multitude.
In the mean time, a man was trying to get my wallet from my right side pant pocket.
He couldn’t get the wallet out because was so full of money that was hard to take out, so he steal me something, as vaporetto tickets.
I am stubborn, and I chase the guy and recover my tickets.
One thing to learn, If you walk in a multitude with your wallet in the side pant pocket, keep your arms close to your tight to your body, protecting your wallet, it works!
A money belt is a must!
Also in Rio, dress as the locals or even poorest, but the locals get robbed too!
A riot is different story, how to be filming and survive a riot is another question.
I(16) travelled in italy with my mom and some of her friends’ families. I was the only fluent English speaker, and the rest were mostly totally dummies. I was very terrified after reading some stuff about safety on the internet, but Im glad I
I bought money belts and passport bag for mom and I. We carried our backpacks in front, I didnt wanted my digital camera to be stolen of course!
These advice are simply great. People may look extremely easy when they are travelling.
Ciao! The thieves can be very cunning & brazen, for ex., my girlfriend had a bag stolen while waiting in line at Aeroporto Marco Polo (Venezia). One old man pointed at some money on the ground & asked if it was ours. We turned to pick up the money — it wasn’t ours, but it was too tempting… Then we realized her bag was gone, and he was gone, too. If anyone points out money on the ground, watch out!
I will bite the jugular of any pick pocket who crosses my path
We were in London and needed to get a train from Clapham to Gatwick. It was close to midnight. We were unsure of where to buy tickets. We began to check the machines and while looking flustered, a man came up and attempted to help us. I told him no thanks, but my husband being the trusting saint he is, allowed the man to help us with tickets. First time it didn’t go through then second time it did. My husband turned around and thanked the man warmly…ugh! As far as I know, nothing was stolen, but we ended up giving him about 10 pounds for his help. I could have killed my husband on the spot! Be careful if someone comes to help you buy tickets from machines. You could end up worse off than we did. A lesson nevertheless for our next trip.
This happened to us in Paris. A guy came up to us saying he works for the Paris metro and that he could help us. He selected all kinds of stuff on the ticket machine and told us our tickets to Versailles on a day pass was $100 euro. I was stunned and said no, but my husband the contrarian said yes and that day passes are expensive. I said children pay less for tickets and the contrarian husband said no. We went to pay with credit card, but ‘the worker’ stopped us and said the machine only takes French credit cards. I said no, but the contrarian stepped in again and said yes, credit cards don’t work on the ticket machines. The guy used an e-card to dispense tickets and gave them to us. He continued to walked us over to the entrance and watched us enter. The contrarian who always rushes everywhere, gave the guy $100 euros! Our tickets worked great on our way to Versailles, but we could not get a return. Turns out he scammed us. On the bottom of out tickets, it stated .75 euros. The workers do not know how these people get tickets to dispense without money.
I love your website! I’m going to Italy this summer and are already thinking in advance on how to protect my stuff. I have been warned about the pick pocketers. So I will be carrying a purse/backpack in front of me at all times. It’s the camera I’m a bit worried about, but a steel cable as I saw on one of your comments sounds interesting. Again love your site = it is one of my daily stops.
Great information! I did not have trouble on my trips to Italy but I tend to walk fast and with purpose! However, I did get stopped to ask for directions on several occasions. (I just thought it was because I look Italian and look like I know where I’m going) Anyway, I did the shoulder shrug, smiled and kept going.
Was on a train with my family and a team of about 5 men took advantage of the crowd and wedged me against a center pole. I felt one of them trying to get my wallet out of my back pocket. (I keep it there because it’s impossible to remove, as this thief ultimately found out!) He kept trying with no luck until I said something to him, which he ignored. Then, they started bumping against my wife and kids and creating a disturbance. At this point, they were able to remove a camera from my backpack before I could get everyone off the train at the next stop. The Italians on the train did nothing to help. My kid saw the man sneak my camera under his shirt. Pretty horrible morning. I think I was targeted in this way because they knew the pushing and shoving of my family would distract me.
One other thing…watch the cab drivers carefully. Caught one guy trying to change zones on the meter (they point to cathedrals, etc., to distract you, and a 6 euro drive becomes 16 euros) The same guy also palmed a 5 euro bill and when I handed him 20, he claimed I still owed him money. Hand over money very carefully to these guys and announce what you are giving him.
I live in Romania and traveled to Szeged, Budapest and Vienna (besides many parts of Romania). I was NEVER robbed or lost anything. And trust me, I walk wt the map in my hand pretty much anywhere. What I do is use a backpack and put in front of me. Or a small purse, again, against my body and within the reach of my hand. I never keep my valuables in the outside pocket though. Plus if you are not showing your camera or jewelry you are not a target. Not to mention that my jeans look like they were in war lol The point is to look “normal” and if possible “blend in” (that’s why i love the discount stores lol).
Very informative post and BLOG!
I added a ling to mine!
Have to say that growing up in Romania I learned this by experience unfortunately.
Public transportation is the best field for pickpocketing since the buses and trams are filled to the max!
And since cash is the main currency (credit card is not common) you REALLY need to be aware of this.
I have to stress that you need to dress to sort of “blend in” with the culture and not stand out.
I will refer in my blog to your article for people who travel to Romania (and anywhere else for that matter) because it is the best one I found in this subject!
Gabi from mamaliga.com
I have never had a personal property crime committed against me in all my years of traveling. I’ve been to Beijing, Hong Kong, most Italian cities, big to small, London, many American cities, Prague, Frankfurt, etc. never have been pickpocketed. I travel alone most of the time and often wear my digital camera on my neck, but no one ever bothered me. I spent a lot of time in Naples and never had a problem. One time a older man tried to “assist” me with buying a short train ticket by bringing me to the newstand, then he wanted me to give him some tip for his help. I told him no because I have no money to give, if I knew he would ask for money I wouldn’t let him help. So he went away.
Talk about crowed public transportation, I have been in such in Rome, Hong Kong, Beijing, etc., but I always have my wallet and important document in the front pocket or the jacket’s inner pocket.
I also have no problem calling out someone’s act in public. I dress however I want, but I am always aware of my surrounding and am willing to use force against those who try to commit a crime against me.
For the last 6 years my wife, a high-school teacher, has taken students on educational tours (shameless plug: EF Educational Tours out of Denmark, with their US operation out of Boston, a terrific organization). Most of the trips have been in Europe — Britain, France, Italy, Spain — though last year they went to Peru and later this year they are going to China. My wife and her fellow teachers/group leaders are VERY security-conscious, and insist that every kid (A) buy an ar0und-the-neck pouch for his or her passport, credit/ATM card, money and documents, and (B) USE the pouch, i.e., keep it inside his or her shirt at all times. It appears to work: no one has ever lost anything except once, on the Peru trip, when one of the kids foolishly put her passport and cash in her backpack and lost ’em both — most likely to a pickpocket, but who knows for sure?
I personally think the pouch is overkill. My anti-theft method is simpler, and has always worked perfectly, no matter where I’ve traveled. First, I don’t take very much stuff. What, after all, do I need when I’m traveling? My passport; my ATM card; one credit card; and some folding cash (not too much at any one time, maybe the equivalent of $100; that’s why I have the ATM card). I put the ATM card, credit card, and most of the cash inside the passport, put 2 heavy-duty rubber bands around the passport (one the long way, the other the short way), and put the package into the FRONT pocket of my pants. With the rubber bands around it, it’s very difficult if not impossible to remove the package from my pocket (even for me!), and I am pretty sure that no matter how sure-handed a pickpocket might be, I would feel him or her trying to extricate it from my pants. I might be wrong, but as I said, nothing has ever been stolen — so the proof of the pudding, as they say….
Plus I always keep, in a separate pocket, a photocopy of the ID pages of my passport, with the phone numbers of the bank’s lost-ATM-card service and the lost-credit-card service written on the back. That way, if I ever lose my passport and the stuff inside it, relief (at least some peace of mind) is a couple of quick phone calls away.
I was in Brussels, Belgium tonight. I was in Delirium, a bar, and put my purse on the back of my chair (stupid I know) but I was at a table with 15 of my other friends and figured they would see if someone tried to reach into my purse from behind. Not so. I went to the bathroom and all of my euros, including my american cash, was gone, they had opened my change pocket and all of the change spilled out into my purse, and there was a lot of salt in the bottom of my purse (weird!) We had put two sweaters on top of my wallet and my purse was zipped, this just goes to show that these people are experts at what they do and KEEP YOUR PURSE IN YOUR LAP/ between your legs because they WILL get you! I am still in shock, but thank the lord they didn’t take my credit card or ID or anything! I have learned my lesson! Just trying to help everyone else out! I was not used to this kind of thing but be aware it is very very common!
I am naturally paranoid about having my things stolen. My husband and I went to Florence and Pisa for a few days during the Memorial Day weekend. I wanted to prepare myself a little for pickpockets so I’ve been “researching” precautions. You don’t have to buy any of those fancy bags with the steel mesh (like Pacsafe), if it’s for a short trip, in my opinion. If you’re backpacking then I would consider it but my husband had a neck pouch and I carried a messenger bag with the flap against my body. I do agree about what to bring. BARE MINIMUM! Between the two of us we had 1 credit card, cash (split between us in case one of us got our stuff stolen), and our passports were locked inside our luggage back at the hotel (I’m still not sure if that was a good idea or not but it didn’t get taken, so). I personally like to carry smaller bills so if a 20 euro gets ripped from my hands then who cares. I’d still be mad but there are worse things to get stolen then a small thing of cash. I would also make sure the straps on the bag are a little thicker than normal or leather…just in case someone decides to cut the straps. Also, my messenger bag has a flap AND zipper opening, along with zipper pockets inside. I separated my cash from the important documents so when I reached in, if an unwanted hand came diving in as well, all they’d be grabbing is cash. No biggie. Also make sure you have a hand resting on your bag as well so you’ll be able to feel movement. I know other posts have successfully used other, probably less complicated ways of combating pickpockets but like I said, I’m paranoid. Needless to say I didn’t think much about pickpockets at all during my visit but I was aware. Don’t let them get you so hyped up that it ruins the trip you paid so much money for. Just take small precautions and you’ll be fine.
thank you for taking the time to collect and report about the pitfalls and how to avoid them.
The thieves certainly never sleep, unfotunately.
Thank you so much for posting all these wonderful tips, I am going to Italy with my family in a couple of weeks and I’ll be sure to pass these on to everyone.
Last june, just before leaving to return to the states after having spent a year in Florence, Adam and I had his bag stolen. We had just gotten back from Venice on Trenitalia, and had walked his family to their hotel. We laid a few bags on top of our daughter’s stroller, which I was guarding. Adam had laid his jacket across the bags I suppose to camouflage them, but in the end I think that made it even harder since we didn’t notice his bag was gone until it was too late. Giada had escaped me, so I turned my head for one second. That is apparently all it took. His bag had his laptop, our passports, our digital and video cameras, and the computer had a good amount of his portfolio from school.
We should have:
-kept the bag on HIM and never laid it down like that
-Spread our valuables out into other bags
-let someone with spare hands guard our belongings, not me distracted with a toddler
We just got too comfortable with living in the city to remember that in the moment, we looked like typical tourists with our pile of bags. Luckily the hotel’s insurance was able to give us a little compensation since it happened in the lobby, but money can never replace the photos, videos, and design work that was taken.
Sara this is a great guide, and will try some of your ideas when we are back in Italy!
Confessions of a 20-something Caffeine Addict
Green For Green
Got pick pocketed in Paris, i had no idea until a young girl ran off the train as fast as she got on. Our credit card was not used but our Euro and american money and wallet were never seen again, the wallet was in my husbands front pocket, he was wearing a phillies hat and sneakers so maybe he should have blended in. we were not hurt but I’ll never forget loosing all that money
Just returned from Rome and would like to share a precautions I took which was cheap and easy to do. I sewed a sock onto the inside of a pant/skirt waistband. I cut the sock to fit a passport and sewed the bottom Because the sock stretches, I also put extra cash and credit cards in it. The top of sock which is not stretched acts as a natural closure. Or, you could put a safetypin. It was so comfortable I would sometimes make sure that it was still there, but there was no way it could fall off and disappear.
Almost got pick pocketed in Copenhagen. Came out of a grocery store and saw three cleanshaven men with new white sneakers walking toward me. They looked Italian, but turned out to be Albanian. Anyway, something about them unnerved me so with two bags of groceries and a book bag with lots of zippers, I crossed into the parking area and continued to the busstop. When I got there, I turned back and they had mysteriously disappeared. The bus arrived a few minutes later and I jumped on, but so did two of them. I got to the doors in the middle, where one came up and stood on my left (I was holding on to the hanger and had my book bag over my shoulder on his side and the groceries on the floor) and his buddy stood behind me and pretended he did not know how to hold on to the pole as the bus drove off, so he kept knocking into me.
I noticed the guy on the left was putting his hand in the bag over my shoulder. Which of course made me aware of the situation. I know I should not have done it, but with my right hand I swung it into his face and fell back on the guy behind me. He in turn fell back onto a passenger in the seat behind him.
His mouth was open, and his arms to. Remembering an anti-rape protection trick I saw on a video years ago, I put my thumb in his mouth, and grabbed his cheek with the other fingers. Then I shook his face while yelling … all kinds of stuff at him…..
The entire bus, full of women with kids, and elderly people were totally surprised, no one said a word. The bus pulled into the next stop and when the doors opened the guys jumped off.
Whew!!! When I got off I phoned the police who after receiving my description said “Blue jacket, white sneakers, …. Yes its the Albanians.”
If I had not been tired and in the type of “Don’t mess with me mood” that day, I probably wouldn’t have been so physical, but I will always say out loud to those around me that the person is a pick pocket so watch out. And when I can I will alert the authorities.
wow… thanks for all the tips and advise. My friend and I plan to travel around in Italy and this is our 1st time there. If we are planning to take night trains also. Is it very unsafe to travel with the normal luggage?
i have a friend who was robbed at the train station so i would like some advise. thanks
Great advice! I just posted a link to this page on my own blog:
A funny story: My friend’s grandmother (a very petite woman) was riding on the subway while visiting in Rome when a man, who pegged her as an easy target, ran up and grabbed her camera. Fortunately, she had the wrist strap secured and instead of making off with the camera, she smacked him across the face and told him he should be ashamed. The man scurried away, empty handed and embarrassed.
Remember to NOT have your wallet on an outside pocket. In the Rome Termini the pretty young girl pickpocket, flipped my wallet right out of my outer velcro pocket on my trouser leg. Thank goodness my daughter saw it before she picked it up. I quickly screamed No lo so! And that shocked everyone around us. She bolted and I got my wallet. Be careful and keep your goods really close to you.
Angela Reid says
Last December on the last day in Rome before returning to London for onward travel to Jamaica, my purse was picket at the McDonalds next to Trivi Fountain. I was travelling with other family members and as it was very cold we stopped to have coffee and used the wash room. While standing in the line to use the washroom I was engaged in conversation with a middle age red hair lady and realized when I went to the cashier to pay for my meal that her partner in crime who was standing next to me had zipped my bag, taken my purse with money, credit cards and other items.
I guess I was a little careless as for the entire two weeks of our visit to London, Paris and Rome I had kept my mony securely fastened in my bra.
My advise to travellers to Europe….the art of pickpocket and theft of small movable items was invented and perfected in Europe…..BE VERY CAREFUL.
I have recently come back from italy, I was visting for a week as a school trip. Myself and a friend had bought a bag with a magnetic press stud-no zip-. I realsied that a bag like that would be an easy target, I attached a spare zip to the top, just above the press stud. My friend, however, left the bag as it was. We were walking around and a child ran up to my friend crying, she looked the age of 9. my friend bent down, put her bag down and talked to her, whislt another boy around the age of 11, came up behind her and began opening her bag and removing items. I shouted to them, I must have starteld them as they both ran off, with my friends items. Shortly after we discoverd that her purse, camera, phone and make-up were missing. I was glad I had attached that zip otherwise i would have possibly been a victim of pick-pockets.
You’re exagerating a lot! You’re describing a country, Italy, as the country of thieves. Why are you doing this? Italy is not unsafe as you are describing it. Tiyng your bag to the leg’s table? Are you crazy? i live in Italy and i always put the bag on an empty chair and it is ok. Do yiu act in this way when you’re at home? I guess no! So while in Italy please act if you are staying in a civil country and not write all this stupid [redacted].
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
Hi beba, lovely comment. I removed your profanity because I don’t think it’s necessary. In any case, I make no observations or judgments about the pickpockets in Italy (which incidentally I feel are usually non-Italians). I’m not sure if you’ve ever been a tourist in your own country, but I assure you I’ve had a lot of foreign friends and family become targets for pickpockets (my Italian husband on a bus in Roma, for example) and wrote these tips up for them. I don’t think it hurts to be extra cautious in touristy areas. Cheers.
Andrea Santucci says
A few tips we offer to our touring clients when we pick them up from their hotel or the airport:
Always plan your day ahead of time (such as the night before or in the morning before you leave your hotel. That way you shouldn’t have to stop to do a lot of map-checking and on-the-spot planning. Doing your planning in the morning or the night before can give you the advantage of asking your hotel staff about directions etc. if you have questions.
Also, don’t “over-plan” your day. Trying to fit too much into one day can easily tire you out, make you irritable and therefore less aware of your surroundings. Plan a moderate amount of sites to see and schedule a few breaks in there to rest, recuperate and energize. Get out early and stay on the plan to avoid problems.
A few tips we offer to our touring clients when we drop them off at various destinations:
If you have to stop and map-check, try using a mobile device instead of a map. It’s a little less obvious and you’re a few clicks away from dialing an emergency number if something happens.
Be watchful of belongings, but don’t appear so over-protective that you draw attention to where your valuables are. Sometimes being cautious causes travelers to draw too much attention to a purse or bag with valuables. Casually keep your belongings in your site, but don’t check them every few minutes or constantly go in and out of them.
For purses or bags with zippers, walk with the zipper opening in front of you and not behind you. If you stop to do something or you stop to wait at a light, someone could easily unzip your bag from behind without you noticing. They are less likely to reach right around you to try and unzip from the front.
Choose bags and purses with short straps that keep the main compartment close to your body. Pickpockets have been known to cut straps so the shorter amount of strap you have to offer, the less they have to try and cut.
Wonderful tips, hope they help!
Deoraj Chaturvedi says
Recently we visited Italy and while returning from Venice Airport Lost my Hand Bag.
I was the only member of group who spoke english and thus was busy printing Boarding Cards at Counter No 37 my luggage was on trolley and hand bag also on trolley. I took out my passport from the hand bag as I saw people scanning their passports.
It took hardly 5 minutes in getting all 5 boarding passes and in that time only some one picked up my hand bag from the trolley 2 people were busy unloading the trolley for baggage drop.
All kudos to the lifters skills and clumsyness of my own friends
The loss was Sony Digital Camera, Mobile Phone and spare SIM of Germany as our destination was Frankfurt, 3 Pen Drives, One sun glass which was gifted by my daughter on fathers day (Biggest Loss), Papers of 16th Asian Games as I belong to Asian Kabaddi federation along with few more papers and INR 3500
Thank God I picked up Passport just few minutes back.
A report with Airport Police was lodged.
The thief used my germany SIM to Call Peru and Italy Local and I have received a Bill of Rs. 22844 for the uses of SIM by the thief though i reported the loss to the SIM company i.e Matrix in time.
With lot of communication Matrix have agreed to refund the money as the gap between my reporting and misuse is 98 minutes.
Be careful while at venive airport
While in Rome I had my purse stolen while eating in a restaurant. I put my purse againts the wall way under the table. After I notcied it was gone they told me that thiefs have long rods with hooks to grab purses under the tables. I was also sitting near the entrance-not a good idea. I have since purchased and carry with me a caribeaner that I connect to my purse and the chair. We had just arrived in Rome and still had our passports, ID and credit cards in my purse and a diamond bracelet that I took off while on the train from Naples :( I didn’t read all the posts so I don’t know if this is mentioned but something I learned was if you are traveling with someone carry different credit cards. If one is stolen you can close that account and still have access to money. Also leave passports at hotel and carry photo copies of the ID page with you! This was not a happy experience and I don’t want it to ever happen again but it has not detered me from returning to Italy every other year!
Frank Napoli says
I was on a train from Rome going to Florence with my wife. We were wheeling in our suitcases. There were 3 very young girls yelling at each other coming our way. When they reached us I felt my butt frisked, alas my wallet was in the front pocket and cash/credit card were in my money belt. My wife hung onto her purse and felt it tugged a bit, when she looked down the zipper was partially opened. They didnt get anything and we can see how pissed they were on the platform! hahaha!We are from NYC as info so its always good to be aware of your surroundings and trust NO ONE! ciao!
Frank Falotico says
Walking down a flight of stairs in Rome there were two woman and a youth about 12 standing there at the top of the stairs apparently talking . There were four of us together my wife, daughter and a friend, I was last going down, I was picked out and before I could do anything all three were all over me, I am 240 pounds and 6′ I could have thrown both woman over the stairs but was polite, even though they were tring to frisk me. Our friend holered obsenities in Italian they took a step back and away we went, they got nothing, but of course If I got rough with them, they may have had a knife or something.
Be safe. Watch your back. I had a money belt under my shirt. Hard to get at! They are good at what they do. You have to be better. BE ALERT ALWAYS.
Gian Banchero says
When in Italy I always dress as a middle class gentleman (no Bermuda shorts, “wild” T-shirts, white shoes, etc.). I carry a decoy wallet with a Euro or two whereas hidden on my body is another wallet with important papers and more cash. Since I love wandering unescorted through cities I sometimes find myself in suspect districts it is then I place my camera in a cloth everyday shopping bag along with a loaf of bread and a head of celery sticking out in hopes that this illusion will thwart any theft, in 45 years this has work well. Of course if I’m to visit museums and the interiors of great buildings I’ll take a chance with the camera in view. Also in suspect areas if talking with a friend in a crowd I speak in Italian, if said friend isn’t bi-lingual then we speak in hushed tones… It’s most important that one doesn’t look like a baffled, confused lump of a tourist (come un gnocco=lump), as such one is advertising themselves as a target… I was pick-pocketed once (only once!) in Taormina, Sicily when a group of children danced around me and my nephew and amazingly without notice stole my wallet and ten Euros out of his shirt pocket; though the boy and I were upset I was still thankful that the thieves were schooled in how to rob without notice and didn’t use a weapon with dire results. Quite the opposite of what constantly happens here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I first experienced a pickpocket a few years back while in Paris. I read many of these reviews and thought my wallet was safe in my front pocket, like so many reviews say. My guard was down for a second in a busy metro station and it was gone. Fortunately, I didn’t have too much in it and immediately cancelled my two credit cards. I kept “a hand” on my wallet thinking that was making it more safe. It was what probably called attention to me as a prime target.
Anyway, you don’t have to get too paranoid about it and just take some common sense measures and you should be fine. Definitely spread money around you and either use a money belt or neck wallet. I like the men’s shirts that have buttoned front pockets on them. And they seem to be in fashion now as well. Additionally, bring along a few safety pins. Pin down the zippers on your backpack, bag, etc. Sure they can undo a pin, so try putting one facing one way and the other the opposite way. A simple, inexpensive and easy way to deter pickpockets. Only a minor hassle for you to undo the pins but better than the alternative. The whole idea is to make it harder for them to get your stuff and have them go find another easier target.
Confronted by gypsy women and/or children but don’t want to shove them out fo the way if they violate your space? And you’re not the type to yell and act crazy to scare them off? For less than $10, get a pocket air horn from off the Internet and keep it with you if you have room on your person or in your bag/purse. With one push of a button, it’ll emit a 115dB sound that can be heard up to a mile away. Maybe a little overkill but oh well. Comparitively, anything over 140db’s can cause ear damage so hold it at full arms extension. Watch the gypsies/kids scatter like ants. Of course you’ll draw attention from everyone else (including possible police)around, but who cares as you’ll claim you were being robbed. and were acting to deter the crime. Alternatively, a whistle worn around your neck or in your pocket would suffice. When beggars hit up up, act like you’re reaching for money in your pocket and pull out the whistle instead and blow while waving your other arm and yelling “thief” in the native language.
Camera-wise: I never bring a camera worth more than $200. You can get a point and shoot camera for less than that. It will take stunning pictures. Unless you are a professional photo-journalist, leave your expensive stuff at home. Same principle as with jewelry, clothes, etc…Invest in an extra SD card (very inexpensive) or two. Swap them out often. That way if your camera is stolen, you still have some of the pics on the SD card you left back in your room. Same principle as keeping money, credit cards in more than one place as well as multiple copies of your documants. Or, if you have some downtime back at your hotel room, copy the pics you took to a laptop if you brought one or download them to the Internet. So if your camera goes, you’ll still have some/most of the pics/vids. You probably backup files on your home computer, so same idea goes here..
I am a big fan of the decoy wallet. A thief knows they usually have one shot at you and they have to act fast. They’ll go for the decoy. No matter how good they are at lifting a wallet, even though you might have it well secured, no one has x-ray vision and can see what is in your wallet. Well, unless you’re not smart and whip it out and show everyone carelessly in a crowded place. Let ’em make off with the decoy. Stuff it with all kinds of junk. If you are ever in Las Vegas, don’t turn down those x-rated cards they try to give you on the Strip. Collect a few and stuff ’em in your decoy. Surprise!
Need to stash some cash/credit cards back in your hotel while you are out and either there is no hotel safe in your room or you don’t trust using one as the hotel staff does have a master key/combo? Buy a pair of cushioned insoles for shoes at the drugstore. Put them in a pair of shoes in your room and stash your stuff underneath the insoles. No one will think to look in a pair of shoes for anything. Better yet, buy two pair and use the other pair for all the walking you will be doing on your visit!
john, you’re a genius
In addition to the excellent tips listed, here are a couple:
1) carry a small comb or a couple of pens in your pockets as they make lifting the wallet a bit more difficult.
2) Keep cash in numerous pockets so that you won’t be left without any.
3) keep scanned copies of passports and other documents in email and in a pen drive.
4) don’t leave your purses on the floor in the toilet stall as thieves often reach under the stalls and run.
5) While travelling abroad, get a pre-loaded debit card and withdraw small amounts of money daily for use instead of using the card (if the card gets hacked online, you’ll lose all the money). I pay cash, even though it costs me a small fee to withdraw money every few days. Still worth it.
6) Backpacks are a bad idea while travelling. Put your credit card and cash in a small belt/pouch that you can hang in front. Carry small bags/cloth bags that can be hung in front of the body rather than in the back.
Philip Scott says
You guys have a great site but you don’t mention pocket underwear as a way to avoid pickpockets. I produce Stashitware a pocket boxer brief. http://www.stashitware.com
It is your goal to provide the latest information about products that can STOP a pickpocket dead in his tracks. Even Bob Arno could not pickpocket these underwear. Safe traveling is your business so please include something about pocket underwear and preferably Stashitware and maybe a link. Thanks. Will gladly send you samples if you would link to test the product for pickpocket proofness and ease of use and simplicity.
You want not to avoid pickpocketing but make them regret even trying? get a cheap purse and put a small shoe box or a rigid container into it. the box needs to be small enough to fit into your purse and not showing the corners outside but also big enough to hold quite a few mouse trap in it. glue the bottom of several mouse trap to the bottom of the box, use a good glue so they won’t move around. then set the trap, be careful you don’t want to hurt yourself, do you? now carefully place the box into the purse. Go into the subway, not the train just the station. Even better a restaurant in an airport or train station leave your purse zipper open and place it on the chair next to it, but keep holding on its handlers. now start treading the newspaper or eat or look distracted, but show them that your hand is holding onto the bag, and that they could only reach for stuff in it with their hands. you may want to keep putting broken cellphones or empty wallet in your purse to be sure they get interested in your purse. then wait and enjoy as they scream for pain, while you can now stand up and yell :Ladro! ladro!. the best part will be the satisfaction of seeing his eyes in pain because he tried to take advantage of you.
e allora si che stai sicuro che la prossima volta, sempre se le dita le ha ancora, ci pensa due volte prima di andare a scippare.
A tip for the ladies. When you grab a taxi (or if you get in anyone’s car you don’t know) take a photo of the number plate and the driver’s ID photo displayed and then send it to someone and be OVERT about it – let the driver know what you are doing — best way to avoid taxi drama.
Another tip for the ladies. Put your CCard and cash in the bottom section of your bra. If you need to recover it just go to a restroom first.
Unisex tip. If you’re wearing socks put some cash in them or shoes if possible.
If you are being aggressively stalked turn around and take a photo of them and send it in a message to someone — then wave at them & point and give them the classic ‘photo-click’ body language. They’ll walk away.
When you get to a new destination ask the concierge for the emergency and direct number to the police station.
Learn the local words for ‘stop’, ‘fire’, ‘no’ and ‘thief’.
To be honest, when doing the tourist thing I simply don’t carry a purse or a bag.
My camera bag looks like a cheapest dirtiest thing imaginable and I padlock the zip around the strap when I won’t be using it for a while.
My husband wears those baggy shorts with huge pockets. He hasn’t been pickpocketed but when through a spat of things falling out of pockets in taxis. I took them to a tailor and had a zip put in the pocket.
If you put your wallet in your pocket make sure it’s put in horizontally (takes up more space and makes it a tighter fit in the pocket) AND with the open slit facing DOWN so notes can’t be swiped while from the wallet in the pocket. If you wrap cheap rubber bands around the wallet it makes it ‘sticky’ and not easy to pull out as it gets caught on the fabric.
Oh, regarding my above comment – I meant take the photos on your phone and message them to someone. If you don’t have a camera phone PRETEND YOU DO and do it anyway.
susie say says
Just recently returned from Milan and will never go there again. Caught 2 young women, one had a fake arm with a cardigan hanging off the arm and the other had a tiny baby or doll strapped to her. They separated me from the group , coralled me into a corner of the train (central Metro)and got my front pocket unzipped. They had seen me buy the ticket and followed me. They won’t pick on an Aussie granny again, I realised what they were doing and PUNCHED THEM OUT! Used some very foul universal language and threatened to kill them. Lucky for them the train doors shut.
I just read you comment above and I cannot help but feel sad foe what you just said. Italy is a wonderful place and Milan such a great city. Don’t let the memory of 2 single individuals that are probably not even Italian but some sort of Gipsy thieves ruin and pollute your memory of the whole trip. You have been a brave woman, and reacted in the best way. But I advice you to go there again and maybe if you focus more on the vacation than on the malevolence of certain people I’m sure you’d enjoy it much more.
When I’m travelling, I put my money in the silicone case on my Blackberry and then keep it in the front pocket. The silicone cover makes it hard to get out, and keeping in in the front pocket makes it more noticable if someone tries to go after it. I take one card and keep it in the safe, in case of emergency or whatnot.
If I must carry a bag, I make sure it has one, single zip and I keep as little in it as possible. Then I take the pull off the zip so someone can’t tug it.
So far, I haven’t had any trouble. If I need my money, I use the loo before I need to pay for things and I just tuck the notes into the ‘fifth pocket’, the tiny one, on the front of my pants. I luckily always wear jeans or cargos (though I would never carry anything in the cargo pockets).
judith works says
I’ve been robbed in Rome (in the Metro), Barcelona (in the train station) and Brussels (also in the train station) – this is over a period of many years including living in Rome for 10 years.
We warned some friends and sure enough a gypsy tried to get his inside jacket pocket. Being forwarned she only got a candy bar. Our friend’s wife was so angry that she decked the gypsy woman! Everyone I know has been robbed in Rome I’m sorry to say.
I have been a victim before, but fortunately, the pickpocket was not able to grab anything from my not very travel-proof purse. We were in Rome on the subway on our way to the train station with three carry-ons, one each when a gypsy and her accOmplice struck. As we were entering the subway car, they were blocking the doors and I was struggling with my suitcase and my purse which I normally would’ve carried in front of me with a very close grip on the opening (which I’m sad to say was secured with just one button, no zipper) but between the purse, the suitcase and the tight squeeze in the doors, I was having a hard time. After walking in, I was slightly aware of the woman rooting around in my purse, and my sister freaked out and was saying, “she just had her hand in your purse! She..” etc. I was very shaken up and to keep my sister from seeing what the other woman was doing, she was trying to block the path of my sister. Luckily, they hadn’t snatched any valuables from me, mainly because of my sister and the fact of a coke bottle sitting at the top of my bag! Phew! I plan on enjoying the rest of my trip, yet, I will be keeping a very, very good grip on my bag and buying a new, safer one soon. Thanks for all the tips!
Even though i travel a lot and i am always careful with my belongings, I was robbed in Rome in a bus. It was 2 o clock in the morning, I was accompanied by a male friend when i got on the bus at Stazione Termini. Back then I didn’t know that u have to take great care whenever boarding public transportation in Italy. There was no room to sit down on the bus and I noticed 3 gypsies standing right next to me. One of them was very tall and was looking into my bag, as I was holding on the rail with the hand next to the bag (it was a shoulder bag with no zipper). When the bus reached a curve, the tall one bumped into me, and at the next stop the 3 gypsies got out of the bus. I was a bit dizzy as we had a few drinks and i didn’t even dream that my wallet got stolen. I think he used a pair of thongs, as it would have been ovious for the tall gypsy to squirmish through my bag. I discovered the theft only next morning as i wanted to go to Ostia Antica. I went to the police and the policeman was very kind. But that still didn’t recover my wallet, money and ID.
Another time i was robbed in Hamburg Germany in the harbor. I was with a female friend chatting very loud and telling each other how we like the town. I was carrying my wallet in the outside of my backpack (NEVER do that!!!) and when we boarded a sightseeing bus i could’t pay for the ticket because my wallet was gone.
What i can advise u is never to carry too much money with you and hide the rest in the money belt. And also never carry ur ID in the wallet, leave ur credit card and the passport at the hotel, it’s safer!
OMG. I am going on tour in Europe soon and am all the more paranoid after reading all these. :s
Am even thinking of putting paper and old, ugly, cheapo wallets in my pockets as decoys! With perhaps a few choice curse words written on them. Lol.
Think that’ll work? Let them take the fake wallet and find only paper inside… haha..
Also, i can’t avoid looking like a tourist because I’m Asian! Instant tourist target! =(
Is it safe to walk around holding your phone though?
I store maps inside so it’s better than holding a paper map and looking around cluelessly while trying to get your bearings..
I’ve never been to Europe before..
well, I can tell u it’s the first time I survived NOT being pickpocketed in Italy! Just came back from Florence yesterday. If it helps, I can share some of my “methods”:-)))
Well, first of all, KEEP MOVING! It’s easy to get targeted if u pull out ur map or linger in a place for a long time. It’s best to plan ur route in a cafe or at a hotel and then start walking. The best is to ask italians for direction, they usually know english (especially young people:-) and are very friendly. DON’T ask immigrants, because they are interconnected and they can very fast call one of them who is a pickpocket. Nothing against immigrants, but many of them just linger on the streets tracking tourists.
A good method is to have an inner pocket. I was lucky because the weather was a bit cold, so i had to wear a jacket and stored my wallet in in the inner pocket. Always insert it with the opening part first, so they can’t grab it so fast.
If u don’t have an inner pocket, u can sew one urself. Or wear a bag which is hard to open (the best is a crossover bag with long strings:), stack the wallet at the bottom if ur bag,
Then, wear no make-up, don’t look too much around at people, keep in the tourist areas and avoid dark streets. I had a guy tracking me in a side street and i just quickened the pace and lost him:-)
Also a good method is to walk into churches for consulting map or iphone. It is not allowed to pull out ur phone in a church, but everybody does it, so it’s no problem.
I wish u a safe trip and all the best!
Having lived in Italy, I learned that is perfectly OK to grab back at pickpockets and give them a shove. The Gypsies/Travelers especially do not take it personally as they are doing what they have been taught, and they are very good at it. Another hint — if using an outside ATM be sure YOU have a lookout surveying the area and be very aware of people who may be following you after the transaction is done; immediately entering a restaurant or bar will make them loose interest in you.
Going to Italy in a couple weeks! Not sure if putting locks on all my outer pockets of my backpack ( 60 liter )
is a good or bad idea. I know I am going to look like a tourist regardless but is that too much?
I guess you CAN put locks on all the pockets of ur backpack…but if u don’t keep anything valuable there i don’t see any point in that:-)
I think the best is to keep ur money always on u (money belt, small bag under ur shirt and close to ur body). And just don’t stop and talk to strangers. Better go in a bar and ask for information, Italians are usually kind to tourists
I was pickpocket just today in Rome. They work in group. 1 was distracting me and the next moment my wallet was gone from my front pocket in the train when the door open. I heard of such stories but never in my life I face it till today. They must be thinking how easy or difficult is their “prey” but the real fact is, these people who pickpocket are just a bunch of LOSERS who cannot work in decent jobs. No shame no pride… JUST pure LOSERS.
I’m so sorry u got pickpocketed:-( How did the guy who drew ur attention work? or was it rather a woman asking u for directions? They often use women as “deistractors”. U know, u always think “This cannot happen to me, I’m prepared and so on”, and when it happens u just can’t believe it!!!I got pickpocketed also in Rome, on a night bus…Coming home from some friends I was so tired, it was 2 o lock at night and maybe they have seen i was an easy target. But how did they manage to snatch ur wallet from the fronnt pocket ????? that’s just OUTRAGEOUS!!!!yes,they are not only losers,they are rats, parasites living on the back of honest people!!!
thanks for your reply. Haha I already left when you replied so didn’t see it till now.
I didn’t get pickpocketed at all! Was in Florence, Rome and Venice. Lovely places.
Was very paranoid and slung my bag across my body at all times and i tied my scarf around the zip area because i didn’t need to use it as it was rather warm.
I took the metro in Rome and held on to my bag at all times and it was fine. The metro is terrifying though. Lol. There’s no space to go in but people just keep pushing their way in! You don’t even have to move your feet to get in. The crowd will shove you in haha.
Stay safe everyone! Just grab on to your bag at all times. And put nothing valuable in your pants pockets! Or stuff them with paper so it’ll give those pickpockets a shock haha.
thank you very much for your reply and for all your valuable tips! oh, I am very dissapointed as far as Italy is concerned. It’s so sad to have all those architectural masterpieces and all those thieves and so much garbage on the street. I like Spain much better, but i guess u also have to grab onto ur bag there:-)
I’ve used the metro several times in rome, and each time i was paranoid that somebody would steal my wallet. It happened in the bus instead:-)
I usually keep some money in my front pockets, but nothing happened until now…maybe i should move it to an inside shirt pocket…I’m seriously thinking to stitch in some inside pockets into my t-shirts, but maybe i’m just being too paranoid:-)
One guy was signalling he is getting off the next stop and keep emphasizing on it after asking if I am going to drop off the next stop and there is another FAT belly guy at the exit of the door (no offence to the rest, but I just can remember his stupid face cos I think he is part of the group). This guy that signal to me so many times, was already doing that when the train had yet to move off from the current station. This 2 faces, if I see them again (of course I wouldn’t want to), I can recognize them. These LOSERS will only make the current economical situation worse cos it will just turn off people like us from going again. And most likely people around us who knows what happen to us will think twice going to Italy.
Just to answer your question, he/she just have the audacity to pick my wallet from my front pocket and use the crowd getting off (could be a few from the same group) to escape and I can feel my pocket is loose the moment my wallet was pickpocketed. But due to so a few people getting out, it was difficult to pinpoint who slip his/her hand into my front pocket.
thanks for sharing ur experience. I think the 2 guys u who did this to u were gypsies, peope who don’t work and only live off the back of other ppl by stealing or begging.
I’ll tell u how I got robbed in the bus: there were 3 guys, one of them was very tall, he held on to the bar of the bus (we were all standing because the bus was crowded.) I noticed the tall guy looking into my bag, but I held tight onto it. When they got out at the next stop, the 2 smaller guys created an ambush, and so the taller guy could operate and dug his hand right into my purse. It’s incredbile what dexterity he had, as my wallet was at the bottom of my bag!!!!!!!
I’ll definitely not go to Italy again, as the prices for tourists are very high (you never get what u’re paying for). Many times it happened to me to pay 50 euros for a hotel and have the shower at the end of the hallway or to pay 20 euros in a restaurant and get up more hungry from the table as when i came in. No offense to Italians: you have one of the most beautiful countries, the sceneries are wonderful, the art is great, but the way u behave to tourists is just bad. and to this adds the huge amount of garbage on the street:-( not good at all…
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
Just popping in to say, while I really like people sharing their stories as it can help a fellow traveler, I don’t want this thread to become some sort of Italy-bashing thread.
@Thea I’m sorry you had some bad experiences in Italy but I definitely think your statement is a gross exaggeration and generalization – Italy is a beautiful place to visit, treats tourists very well and doesn’t have to be expensive.
Hi Ms. Adventures in Italy,
thank you very much for your reply! I’m so sorry if my messages sounded offensive towards Italy or Italians, it is just my humble (and of course suggestive) opinion, it should not be taken for granted. Please do not understand me wrong, I DO love Italy and the people in it, I just think that many of them try to make some money off the back of toursists that’s all. I mean, it’s much more expensive than other countries (for example in Germany, Spain or even France prices are lower:)
Thank you also very much for this board and for the opportunity of sharing experiences with other travellers!
I am going to Italy and France for the first time this fall, and this blog has helped me prepare, but has made me quite paranoid! I am still uncertain how to conceal my camera and make sure it is safe. Would it be wise to carry it in a vault pro slash proof cross body bag? should I purchase the pac safe anti slash strap? These items should help right? And if confronted, would it be okay to become a kicking, punching, screaming human tornado?
I travel extensively (Europe and Asia) but my pickpocket story comes from home, specifically IAH (Houston). I had just landed and I was walking at my normal unaccompined pace (2/3’s faster than most people)and I was carrying my wallet in my back pocket (oops). Anyways, I felt something back there and I sped up my pace not hinking, only later did I feel something odd. The thief had slixed an X into my jeans backpocket but it wasn’t big enough to get the wallet out. I think my fast pace saved me but lesson learned anyways.
Whoops, corection, the thief sliced an L into my back pocket, not an X.
What’s the punishment for breaking the arms or fingers of a pickpocket in Rome? or all of Italy? Are they protected as someone said the local gendarme seems uninterested.
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@CaptPete – I definitely don’t want to promote violence as a reaction to a pickpocket.
hi there, this is my first time to italy and i’ve witnessed the pickpocket in front of my very eye. the target was my mum. we were getting ready to get on to the tram in torino when this guy was seem opening the zip to my mum’s backpack. thankfully nothing was stolen.
my first reaction was to grab his hand and shift it away and i gave him a hard stare and he walked away. would just like to check if there can be other ways to deal with it.. should i shout?
it was kind of weird as when we boarded the tram another 2 guys came up and one of them squeezed up really close to her and as the tram was going to move the 2 guys just alighted.. what is the implication ? is this a sequel?
i hope that someone would be able to help.
– Go around with any kind of weapon well apparent – to the pickpockets, not to the “normal people”. A fake gun stock or dagger popping out of the pants or the purse will calm down pickpockets, in the same way as nazi flags, violent posters on the wall behind the window and apparent wepons will discourage break-ins at home.
– Always keep keys in your hand around your finger to smash them in the guy’s face right after any pickpocketting / assault attempt
– or you can just… scream.
– I always, always, even when with no valuables on me:
– Never walk around drunk in unfamiliar places
– Never walk around looking up
– Never walk around without constantly, constantly
– Never stop for random people. People have NO reason to stop you for good in places assaults and robberies happen.
– check for backup routes in case of not only aggression, but simply accident, car smashing on sidewalk, or fight involving other persons (i’m referring here to gang fights in Paris when you’re stuck in the middle of 2 gangs in a train station) etc
– Never go to any place without carefully studying maps and important places – this is my thing I like to know where I go :) so i usually don’t even need maps once there.
– Never get to shitty districts without company that can make people think twice before doing something they WILL regret.
For the camera it’s hopeless unfortunately. It’s getting unlucky, trying to conceal a 2000$ DSLR + a bunch of lenses worth 2-4k $ is impossible. Too big. Just watch long in front of you and back and don’t do street-photo when the place stinks embush. I’m myself a photographer, and if you’re not paid and don’t have access to free/cheap/insured gear, sometimes you have to give up shots… so you don’t give up your camera.
I’m from Spain and here too, it’s easily for tourists to become a victim of pickpockets or scams.
When it comes to gypsies (most of them romanian gypsies, local gypsies are involved in other kind of stuff) my advice, as a spaniard, is the following:
If you feel annoyed don’t be afraid to be openly violent. I’m not talking about punching them in the face as soon as you see them. But just with the right look you can make sure they understand you know what they’re after and you wouldn’t mind kicking their asses (even if it’s not true) if necessary. In the event of a physical confrontation, the local people will help you and romanian gypsies know it. In these times of crisis racism and the “i’m pissed at this parasites” feelings of the local population will play in your favor.
This might be sad, this might be wrong, but that’s how it is.
Belle, don’t be afraid to shout, scream or make a scene either. If you feel threatened (not necessarily physically) and the robbers are not backing up don’t be afraid to ask for help or shout.
Jane Smith says
I was pickpocketed professionally at Parc Guel in Spain. Next time, I’ll be ready and prepared to use physical force.
Linda Gee says
So,if i am traveling on a train with a reserved seat, where do i put my bag to keep it from being stolen? Is it safe if i go to1st class?
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Linda – I’m not sure if you’re talking about a piece of luggage or your purse. There should be space for your luggage either overhead or directly behind your seat or the seat across from you. If you can keep it in line of sight that’s probably a good idea, too. I think first class on average provides a better experience but I couldn’t say if it’s much safer to warrant the price difference! As for your purse, I’d either keep it with you at your seat and/or hang it off your knee, etc.
Hi, I’m about to go to Italy with my school. I’m not taking my mobile at all and all our money is handed in to the teacher. I want to take my camera and I was thinking, if I have a backpack, with my camera at the very bottom, with a jumper or coat on top and a few other bits and pieces, like a bottle of water or something, will I be ok? We will be around in a large group, so that will make us look like targets (40 school kids) but we aren’t really going on trains at all, I think one maybe, we have a private coach instead. I know I’m getting paranoid, I always do, but I just want to go back with good memories AND all my stuff.
I wished I had read all these advises before I go to Rome. The pick pockets got my mobile phone from my pocket in the number 14 tram. Luckly it was off and my screen has a password as my sim card. I reported that to my phone provider and they block it immediately. I lost all my beautiful pictures. Now I know that as been said to have more memories cards. I am really upset and shocked. I the police station they said that I was the 7th victim that morning. Be careful in the Termini station and in the busy transports.
Pox on Pickpockets says
Don’t sit on public benches. A pickpocket bounced onto one right next to me, sitting way too close, with legs spread to take up any extra space, and next thing I knew, my Kindle was gone. What a creep. I felt something, and looked, but he was way too slick. Wear a travel jacket with valuables zipped up INSIDE its zippered pockets. Alas, I had gotten too warm and taken mine off and had it at my side. A travel jacket is no good unless you are wearing it. I LOVE the idea of carrying a purse full of set mousetraps. Next trip to Europe I will! I would LOVE to catch a pickpocket in this manner! The police said the area I was in was prime pickpocket territy.
My husband was pickpocketed on the Tram going into Venice from Mestre this morning. We got into the tram and people were blocking the ticket activating machine. We made a point of activating our ticket. An old woman got on the next stop and started stretching out and asking us to activate her ticket. She was the diversion and left the train at the next stop. In Venice we realised that they had taken his Euro’s out of his from short pocket.