You are as likely to be pick pocketed in Paris, Bangkok and Istanbul as in Barcelona. Rome however enjoys a rather well-known and unwelcome reputation for this particular type of larceny. So when visiting the city and its remarkable treasures you need to be just that little bit more alert.
We have put together a few tips to help ensure your trip to the eternal city is not forever ruined by a lifted wallet.
Try to blend in: Of course you will never achieve a 100% blending but try and be as inconspicuous as possible. Pickpockets are great at identifying their mark and especially tourists. A good way to attract pickpockets’ attention is to flaunt your bling and expensive camera. Don’t! The idea is not to be their target.
Be attuned to your surroundings: This is probably the best and most helpful thing to keep in mind. It applies at all times – whether you are in a crowded area or quiet/deserted one. Don’t get so lost, in that perfect photo shot or conversation or an item you are examining in the street stall, that you forget all else.
Crowded places and popular public places are happy hunting grounds for pickpockets – solo acts or gangs. Crowds at railway and bus stations and markets provide great opportunities for pickpockets and purse-snatchers. In Rome some of the more high-risk areas where you should stay alert are the Termini (train stations), Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum.
Keep your wits about you.
Don’t make a pickpocket’s work easy: The most vulnerable spaces are your back pockets. Don’t put your wallet or anything valuable in them. Keep your attractive possessions out of sight or better still keep them in your hotel.
Wear a money belt strapped under your shirt. Don’t put all your cash in it though. Figure out how much cash you would need during the course of the day and spread it around your person and not all in one pocket. This is so you avoid exposing yourself in public every time you pay for something. This may be just a tad inconvenient but better that than cashless in Rome.
Don’t use a fanny pack. Nothing screams ‘tourist’ louder. It puts you squarely in the crosshairs of pickpockets’ sights. Don’t leave your purse, bag or backpack dangling off the back of your chair or on the ground near your feet.
If you must carry a purse or bag then make sure that it has a zip and not an open topped one. Even then carry it at the front of your body with your arm around it.
Don’t place your camera, mobile phone or purse on a café table or shop counters. It is easy for thieves to grab your valuables and take off.
The pickpockets’ bag of tricks: Pickpockets are a very talented lot and don’t need your help or carelessness to ply their trade.
Pickpockets have a wide range of scenarios designed to separate you from your valuables. Many of their plays involve several cast members seemingly unrelated to each other. Here are some frequently used tricks to be alert to.
If you’re in a crowd and you suddenly get a shove – watch out! It is at that precise moment when you are unbalanced and distracted that your wallet will be taken.
Other favourite situations for pickpockets are in crowded buses or metro compartments. When there is obviously no room, they will push their way in and work their talents as they squeeze past you. Or they will board the metro just before the doors close, snatch your bag, purse or wallet and exit as the doors are closing. A variation is surprising you by shoving your first.
Then there is the scam played out on streets, in markets or around popular tourist sites. It will involve a child or two and a group. The modus operandi has the kids pester and distract you while other members of the gang lift your wallet or valuables.
When you witness a disturbance or commotion avoid it. It is quite often a cover used or created by pickpocket gangs to distract lookers-on while members of the team ply their trade.
When all’s said and done, a little pre-planning, awareness, steering clear of badly-lit, deserted areas and a spoonful of prudence should see you safely through your travels.
Travel carefully – travel happily!