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Old Mar 2, 08, 11:50 am   #1
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Pickpockets in Europe

I'm going to europe this summer (Brussels, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague) and i heard that pickpockets are a bit of a problem, especially in prague. Since i'm going to be taking a lot of night trains and might end up sleeping in some train stations/airports (not alone of course), i was wondering: How do you stop yourself getting robbed in europe?

Is there anything you can do to stop people robbing things like your passport, train tickets, interraill tickets etc...? Is it safe to leave your bags in hostels and where can you leave your valuables when you are going out on the town???

Are there any precautions you can take to ward off thieves? (fake wallets etc...)??
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Old Mar 2, 08, 12:00 pm   #2
  
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My wife and I watched a group of pickpockets stalking their victims in Prague. The overcoats were a giveaway.

Best strategy I know is to have a zippered pouch sewn into the lining of your slacks, hanging from the waist. Carry a bit of walking around money in your pocket, and your credit cards, cash stash and other valuables in the zippered pouch.

I usually leave my passport in the hotel room safe if they have one. You don't need the hassle of replacing a passport overseas. (just in case, scan the bio pages of your passport other critical documents and email the scans to your gmail account to ease the process of replacing a passport)

The pouches that go around your neck on a string under your shirt are also good. Get them at any travel store.

Enjoy, Prague is a great city.
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Old Mar 2, 08, 12:15 pm   #3
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I have done night trains in Europe numerous times over the last 5 years.
When I was 24 in 2004, I did Interrail for 2 months all over Eastern and Western Europe, and spent 2 months again in Europe this past summer

The worst place for pickpockets in Europe are Spain and Italy, you really have to be on your toes there.
Most hostels in Europe have lockers in the rooms for valuables, use them!

There is absolutely no need to carry your passport around (unless youre in one of the countries that cops are on the take and ask for ID just to nab you, like Moldova or Russia).

The idea of a sewn-in zippered pouch is a good one, and an easy alteration before you leave. Do not bother carrying a money belt around (may as well paint a target on you) A fake wallet is a good idea as well, but a couple monopoly bills in it too

When going out on the town, especially if indulging in Prague's finest ales, its a good idea to just take some cash, and maybe one card, leave the wallet, and definetly the passport at the hostel.

As for sleeping in train stations... never done it, and wouldnt recommend. Much better to take a night train. When on a night train, keep your valuables on yourself, not in your bags, always lock the compartment and most importantly always appear "poor", never flash cameras, etc.
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Old Mar 2, 08, 12:21 pm   #4
  
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Definitely don't sleep on any train station. You would probably be kicked out anyway. The three train stations in Brussels are probably the crime hotspots of the city so I would move away from there quickly.

Munich is probably the safest city of the ones you quote.
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Old Mar 3, 08, 8:14 am   #5
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Munich is probably the safest city of the ones you quote.
But has also a lot of problems at the metro stations.
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Old Mar 4, 08, 11:42 am   #6
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i have lived in europe for over 30 years, taken trains all over the place, some of them overnight, and never had a single item stolen from me personally.. common sense is all you need.
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Old Mar 4, 08, 12:01 pm   #7
  
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Take a little combination lock for those hostel lockers. You can usually rent one, but having one along saves a little and you will be familiar with it.

Somebody said to "look poor". Definitely a good idea. No gold jewelry, better watches, even expensive clothes.

The big clumpy white tennis shoes are usually the first indication of an American tourist, so if you can wear something else that is good.

Watch for short-changing too. If you can, pay in exact change. If not, have the math done in your head and count what you get before you leave the counter. Generally, people in the stores are really good about it, but I've been nicked a couple times. And in both cases it was right after I got off the plane and was still totally jet-lagged. One trick is to slooowwly give back all the smaller stuff and then a big pause before returning the last and largest bill. It is not unusual for people to think they have everything and just walk away, missing that last large one.

Standing on a street corner reading a map isn't a great idea. If you can, try to memorize your route in your hotel room, or stop and find someplace a little less conspicuous.

The less you take in the first place, the better off you will be.

Build into the budget a minor loss or two (hat, jacket, gloves, etc. left behind) and then you will not feel so bad about it.

Take all the precautions you can, and then just have a grand time.

Romelle

For the record, the only time I've even been pick-pocketed is right here in the US.
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Old Mar 4, 08, 12:12 pm   #8
  
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Originally Posted by rankourabu View Post
A fake wallet is a good idea as well, but a couple monopoly bills in it too
I have often fantasized about having one that has a mousetrap-like device to snap fingers when opened or one that sprays indelible ink when opened.
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Old Mar 4, 08, 1:19 pm   #9
  
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Originally Posted by rankourabu View Post
The idea of a sewn-in zippered pouch is a good one, and an easy alteration before you leave. Do not bother carrying a money belt around (may as well paint a target on you)
Do you mean not to carry a money belt or fanny pack? We carry use a money belt (zippered pouch with an elastic waistband worn inside the pants) to carry our important items (passport, railpass, most of our cash, etc). If we need discreet access, we'll typically slip into a washroom stall.

-----------

Other thoughts...
- Personally, I don't bother "hiding" my camera. It's a bit of a trade-off buy I usually keep it in my pant pockets for easy access.
- Kind of stupid looking but I walk around with my hands in my pockets in crowds of people.
- I also carry a small backpack with a half dozen zippered storage areas. I keep most of them locked with a small three digit combo lock.
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Old Mar 4, 08, 2:55 pm   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay71 View Post
Do you mean not to carry a money belt or fanny pack? We carry use a money belt (zippered pouch with an elastic waistband worn inside the pants) to carry our important items (passport, railpass, most of our cash, etc). If we need discreet access, we'll typically slip into a washroom stall.

-----------

Other thoughts...
- Personally, I don't bother "hiding" my camera. It's a bit of a trade-off buy I usually keep it in my pant pockets for easy access.


Definite no to a fanny pack to carry important stuff in....
Definite yes to a money belt under your clothes to carry passport, cash, etc as long as it stays invisible!. But a big no-no is to access in a public place the contents of said money belt. Last thing you need people seeing is that you have a stack of 50s on you.

I often put my camera in my pants pocket too, I bought a smaller one just so I can do that. There is no need for bulky cases/carrying it around your neck, etc

I dunno, I backpacked around the entire continent 3 times (ok I missed out on Moldova), and never, knock on wood, had a problem. Its really about common sense.
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Old Mar 5, 08, 10:42 am   #11
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... most importantly always appear "poor", never flash cameras, etc.

good point. that shouldnt be a problem.
I heard a good bit of advice somewhere. if you ever need to sleep in an airport/trin station. tie your bag(s) to your arms/legs, so if anybody tried to steal them they'll wake you up. or else they just wouldnt bother untying them. I think ill get a money belt for my passport/tickets/cash and then just use my wallet for small notes/coins. i'll get an old wallet from my house and fill it up with a load of old Irish Pounds to give to anyone who mugs me.
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Old Mar 5, 08, 1:32 pm   #12
  
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the pickpockets in prague are pretty well confined to specific areas:

old town square and environs
wencesles square and environs
castle and environs
public transport in the city center during busy times.


if you stand around gawking at the astronomical clock for five minutes with your wallet in your coat pocket, you've got it coming.
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Old Mar 5, 08, 4:08 pm   #13
  
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All of the above posts offer excellent advice, especially having an inside pocket/wallet worn around your waist (ones on your neck are obvious), leaving your passport safe (definitely photocopy it), a fake wallet is good as well as a front pocket wallet...think you can get them from Magellan's, at least we did several years ago. Only carry one credit card and leave the others locked in your room. Squares and train stations as well as prominent tourist locations can be your greatest risk, especially if you take a moment to look around and see which way to go. That is exactly what happened to my husband and I in Italy...standing still, deciding which way, ten year old approaches me and asks the time, I lift my arm to look at my watch, get half way and think, "Oh, my gosh". Meanwhile my husband has been approached by another kid about ten, husband grabs me to run, I look around as he pulls me and see a woman about forty going straight for his wallet...he has stepped back, knocks her down (not even knowing she is there) and off we go, having escaped something that could have been unpleasant if his back wallet wasn't a dummy, which it was. Italy and Spain are definitely a problem...don't know about Praque or Brussels. I have seen women crying at large tourist sites b/c purse was taken...we have been lucky, but we do take precautions.
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Old Mar 19, 08, 1:20 pm   #14
  
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Not a Pickpocket Spotted

I just returned from 11 days in the Barcelona (the pickpocket capital of the world, according to Rick Steves) and Italy....in late winter (early March).

I was amazed not to notice anything that created discomfort....and no pickpocketing. Perhaps they only work in summer.

Winter is a good time to travel. Crowds tend to be smaller, and perhaps the presence of thick coats, multiple layers, and various zippered inside pockets makes it slim pickings for pickpockets.

Even on the perenially crowded 64 bus in Rome, described by Rick as a pickpockers delight, I saw nothing out of the ordinary and of course did not experience any problems myself despite really crowded conditions.

So, where did they all go?
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Old Mar 19, 08, 10:22 pm   #15
  
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European Travel + Safety

Knock on wood, I've never had a single problem during more than 40+ trips to Europe over the past ten years. However, a friend of mine did. We were having a coffee in London at a cafe just north of Oxford Circus when someone apparently managed to take a single credit card from his wallet. A couple of hours later, noticing the card was missing, he called Citibank and was informed it had been charged upwards of $500 [this was before chip+pin]. Lesson learned.

Keep your wits about you, maintain pace in your face, don't flash jewelry/money, and move quickly through areas where tourists congregate.

Riding the Tube and public transport, I am especially aware of my surroundings. Riding the Tube, I make sure my back is against the end of the carriage if I can't find a seat and when I get off the trains - especially at rush hour - I wait until the crowd exits the station so I'm not jostled heading out. On escalators, I'm always moving up/down - to prevent someone from standing right behind me and at the ticket gates I have my Oyster Card or day ticket separate from my wallet; so I don't have to be handling it in public.

Good advice about making a copy of your passport; make sure the photocopy is separate from your passport.

I generally avoid areas that I know are going to be crowded with tourists: Oxford Circus, Leicester Square, Oxford Street, etc.

One other consideration is atm's or 'cash points' as they're referred to in Europe: A friend's mother was robbed while getting cash during the day on the busy high street in upscale Hampstead Heath. The thief didn't know she was a tourist; but it just goes to show that it can happen to anyone; anywhere.

A new study out recently said you're more likely to be a victim of a crime in Oslo than Manhattan. For anyone who has been to Oslo, that's saying something. A couple of year's ago, confident of my mastery of Norwegian, I purchased the wrong ticket for the Oslo metro system at a vending machine and had to get it exchanged. The attendant - after realizing I was a tourist - went out of his way to caution me about the rampant pick-pocketing problem on the city's metro and trams. I was quite surprised to hear him be so blunt about it; but he was adamant. I didn't have any problems - riding day or night but even in pretty Oslo there are problems and we, as tourists, have to keep our guard up and not assume everything will be ok.

My final advice: don't use an iPod in public. Those white ear buds are an invitation to get robbed. iPods are a hot commodity in Europe [more expensive than the U.S.] and there have been reported muggings for them [along with cell phones]. If you want to bring your iPod, I'd only use it privately - especially in London.

Lecture over. Have fun.
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