I recently had a conversation with my daughter, who lives in Rome, how she recently helped a family who was being offered “help” with their luggage on the train from Rome’s Airport to the central station She quietly, but quickly, intervened alerting the family to decline the assistance. This so called “helper” is preying on unsuspecting tourists who are jet-lagged and perhaps a bit disoriented in an unfamiliar city.
Before I continue let me preface this weeks newsletter with that I have traveled all over Europe and have never felt unsafe. Crime towards tourists largely consists of pickpocketing or causing distractions that allow them to grab your suitcase or snag a wallet out of a pocket. My purpose is to make you aware of the schemes that can sometimes be used and to offer tips on keeping your valuable safe.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings AT ALL TIMES
Thieves love to prey on the crowds surrounding major tourists sites as, while you are distracted taking photos, they are moving in. The same goes for restaurants, bus stops, train stations, and airports.
I cannot stress this enough, as this not only limits the risk of having valuables stolen, but will make your vacation more enjoyable not lugging several heavy bags around.
Secure Your Valuables
- Keep all suitcases bags securely closed and near / on your person at all times.
- Leave valuable items in the hotel safe or, better yet, back at home.
- Store your money and identification in a money belt hidden beneath your clothes.
- Do not place your wallet or phone in your back pocket and never leave on the table at a restaurant.
- As large purses and backpacks are typically not allowed in tourists sites only carry a small crossbody purse with only necessary items.
- When sitting keep your purse / bag on your person or lap. Do not hang on the back of your chair.
- Make copies of your passport and other important documents you are traveling with. Leave a copy in the hotel safe and leave one with trusted family member or friend at home.
Causing a distraction such as a fight or other disturbance to grab your attention
- Example: While a client was standing at stoplight with her suitcases in Rome a gentleman suddenly dropped several coins. When she reached down to help retrieve them his friend swooped in and grabbed her smaller bag.
Striking up a conversation
- Example: I was sitting in the Frankfurt train station when a young man sat next to me attempting to start up a conversation. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a lady watching us intentely obviously waiting for me to be distracted. Saying nothing I stood up and walked towards a police officer. They quickly disappeared.
Walking closely behind you
- Example: In Siena recently I was walking by myself admiring the catherdral and noticed a woman walking fairly close behind me. I stopped, then she stopped seeming to talk on her phone. After this happen a few more times I turned around, smiled at her, and stood my ground until she moved on.
Trust No One
- I hate to be so negative, because meeting and conversing with locals is one of the great joys of travel, but I always keep my guard up. Thieves come in all shapes and sizes including young children, a man in a business suit, or friendly lady who seems to be a tourist just like you.