General Question

SundayKittens's avatar

Travelling with a group to Rome/Athens this summer. Are pickpockets really THAT bad?

Asked by SundayKittens (5816 points ) May 12th, 2011

I’ve been warned by several folks to watch for pickpockets and the like, especially in Rome. Is it worse than any other city? We will be in a large tour group..
Thanks!

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20 Answers

bob_'s avatar

I’ve been to Rome, didn’t have any problems.

You should be careful, perhaps even more if you’re traveling with a group, which is easily noticed. One easy tip: keep your cash in different pockets.

sliceswiththings's avatar

I got pickpocketed three times in Europe, twice in Spain, once in Athens. The “Omonia” metro stop is supposed to be really bad, and sure enough, that’s where my incident happened.

The first two times, I kept my wallet in my backpack. The bad guy saw me take it out to make a purchase, then put it back in and keep walking. He or she then closely followed me and got it out. So don’t keep your wallet in your backpack. Also I had my ipod in so I couldn’t hear well.

In Athens, the guy tried to grab my whole purse. It was hanging off my shoulder, rather than crossing my body (my sling for my broken arm was crossing my body and conflicted). Keep your purse crossed!

It seems like you can’t blend in, being in a large group, so you should take precautions. Keep your wallet in a purse you can clutch or in a pocket with a zipper or button. Definitely spit up your money, and I’d advise not bringing a bank card with you (you’ll have to cancel it, then you’ll be without money, unless you have other sources). Keep your eyes and ears open and be aware of your surroundings, holding your possessions close. Be aware of rouses with groups to distract you while someone else does the picking (looking at a map, etc.) Don’t accept babies from gypsy women to hold, obvs.

Only carry as much money as you’ll need that day, so it won’t be a huge tragedy if you get picked. Good luck!

SundayKittens's avatar

If y’all don’t think I’ll drop an infant, you’re sorely mistaken.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My SO and I spent a week in Rome last year and experienced no problems or questionable circumstances. The hotel room had a safe where we stored our extra money and passports. We also used waist packs for money that fit snugly under our sweaters and coats.

A niece spent a semester living in several places in Italy, and while Athens wasn’t one of them, Rome was. She never mentioned any problems in her detailed reports of her adventures.

It all comes down to playing it safe. You may come off as a moving target for being part of a group with maps/tour books in hand.

bob_'s avatar

@SundayKittens Drop an infant?

Judi's avatar

Our friend had a little girl pull his wallet out of his front pocket near the train station in Rome. He grabbed her but she had already passed it on to someone else.
If you look like a tourist you are a bigger target. Don’t wear white tennis shoes.
Also, keep a color copy of your passport in your suitcase. I don’t know why, but it makes it a lot easier to replace if you loose it.

bob_'s avatar

@SundayKittens Ah, sorry, missed that part. I would advise against endangering minors, since that is against the law.

Nullo's avatar

I was not pickpocketed in Rome, but I did keep my wallet up front.
Buy a pair of pants that has an inside pocket – you might also buy a money belt. Treat your documents with as much care as you possibly can.

Blackberry's avatar

I’ve been to some European countries, including Rome, and I didn’t have any problems. Just use common sense: Don’t keep your wallet in your backpack. I always keep my wallet in my front pocket. Women, use a clutch that you carry.

SundayKittens's avatar

Thanks, guys.

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WasCy's avatar

Like most other things, it depends on where you go, your amount of awareness of your surroundings, who you go with, and when.

If you’re out alone at night, drunk, in questionable parts of town, then you will probably be robbed. At lunch time, in a crowd of people who are sober and aware of their surroundings and in public areas, probably not so much.

But do be aware that “pickpocket” covers a lot of ground. In some places the scheme is for a passenger on a motorcycle or scooter to cut your purse straps with a razor and grab your bag as they whiz by, then duck into an alley so that police in cars can’t follow.

Mamradpivo's avatar

In my experience, always be careful in crowds. My wife had her phone stolen off of a table in Prague, and the number of people I know who’ve had things lifted in public in Amsterdam is quite high.

That said, be smart about what you’re doing. If you’re in a big crowd of people, whether it’s Athens or New York, don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket where it’s easy to reach. Always close your purse, and carry one that you can strap over both shoulders. And don’t be flashy: leave nice jewelry at home, don’t leave your cellphone out on the table, etc. Basically, use the same amount of caution you would at home.

Have a great trip.

LuckyGuy's avatar

A friend of mine was inside a bakery looking at the goodies. He was pushed from behind and to prevent his fall, he reached out against the sloped counter. Hands immediately grabbed his wallet from his front pocket – supposedly the safe place.

They consider you big, dumb, helpless, rich prey – and for the most part, they are correct.

Don’t tell me nobody saw anything. Want to bet the shopkeeper gets a cut?

JLeslie's avatar

Like any large city, stay on the beaten path, walk like you know where you are going, tall posture, decent pace, and have valuables zipped up and to the side or in front of you. A backpack or a handbag that is open on top like a tote bag not a good idea. Don’t dress like a tourist. A big dumb American tourist. Sneakers used to be a big give away, not sure if the Italians are wearing sneakers now and that generalization has gone by the wayside. I felt very safe in Rome, I was there many years ago, but I treated like any other city, NY, Miami, Toronto, Tokyo, I folow all the same rules pretty much, even if a city has a much better crime rep than another.

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HungryGuy's avatar

I’ve been to Rome and many other cities around the world, I never had any trouble. But then I’m careful anyway. When traveling, I keep my wallet in my deep front pants pocket and keep my passport and spare cash in one of those pouches that I wear around my neck.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes. But this goes for Paris and London and other cities too. Especially when it’s crowded, like standing in a subway.

answerjill's avatar

Someone mentioned money belts. I would second that. I also like the pouches (not sure what they are called) that you wear around your neck and under your shirt. This one is kind of like mine: http://www.eaglecreek.com/accessories/wallets/Natural-Silk-Neck-Pouch-40117/ I would have to say that it is not the most comfortable thing, though.
Sometimes, I keep money in my backpack or other bag and I use a small lock to keep the stuff safe. The potential downsides: someone might just grab your whole bag or slash it with a knife to pull out your stuff.

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