We have traveled the world non-stop for a little over two years visiting 26 different countries and countless cities. In all that time we have only seen pickpockets at work in one city, Rome, Italy. Pickpockets can be found all over the world, but Rome has got to be the world’s capital for pickpockets.
You safely booked your Rome accommodation through Venere and now you are wondering how to keep your wallet safe? Here are some tips that will help keep you safe from pickpockets in Rome and elsewhere.
The Packed Subway Trick
We have all heard that pickpockets can be found on the subways, but here was one we personally witnessed in Rome that left many people missing items.
After a full day of exploring Rome we hopped on the Metro to head back to our hotel. Once on the Metro it became packed and I ended up standing near the side of the door. At one of the stops I witnessed a group of 3 girls, about 16 years old, start pushing the people waiting on the platform onto the train. If you have ever ridden a packed subway, this is actually kind of normal. But what was different about this was that they were reaching into everyone’s pockets and bags and grabbing whatever they could, and then stepped off the train just before the doors closed. They were a pickpocket gang! As the train started rolling everyone was checking their stuff to see what was stolen. At the next stop, the exact same thing happened again with 3 different girls.
When you are boarding a subway train you are worried about being caught in the doors or getting separated from your friends and family. With all of the pushing going on you are completely unaware of people reaching into your pockets and bags. The easiest way to protect your belongings is to wait for the next train, which will often be less crowded. But if you must board a packed train, have nothing in your back pockets and nothing in loose front pockets that could easily be reached into. Before the train arrives, take your backpack off, if you have one, and hold onto it in front of you, or wear it backwards. If you have a purse or other bag, make sure it is zippered shut or secured in a way that makes it harder for someone to reach in and grab whatever may be inside and keep it in front of you and off your back.
The Staged Fight
Another common trick for pickpockets is the staged fight or staged commotion. You will be walking along when a fight breaks out between two people. Our curious nature says to stay and watch, but for safety reasons, keep moving! If you stop and watch, they will run into you and someone behind will grab your wallet, mobile phone, or whatever else might be in your pockets. Best to keep moving!
Don’t Look Like A Tourist
Tourists have a look about them: the brand new quick-dry clothing that makes them look they are on a safari, the camera hanging around the neck, and most likely a wallet full of cash. Thieves target tourists and the best way to not be a target is to not look like a tourist. Avoid the “tourist uniform” and stick to your normal street clothes. Don’t flash a lot of cash around. Keep your camera in a bag that does not look like a camera bag, and only take it out when you want to take a shot. And please, don’t wear a fanny pack or belly bag.
Use a Money Pouch
A lot of people use money pouches to keep their money and passports safe. We started with one, but soon abandoned it. They do work, but if you need to get your money they can be a real hassle trying to access it. If you don’t mind them, use one.
Use a Travel Wallet
Leave your regular wallet at home and use a thin travel wallet that only contains a couple of credit/debit cards, ID, and a small amount of cash. I use a cheap nylon wallet that I place in my front pocket or in a side zippered pocket. Never place a wallet in your back pocket, even if it has a button or zipper.
Padlocks and Zip Ties
Place small combination padlocks on your backpacks when traveling and walking around. This will make it much harder for someone to access your bags. Instead of a padlock, you can also use small zip ties to secure your bags.
We hope that you find our tips helpful and that you stay safe while traveling. If you would like to share your own tips for avoiding pickpockets and thieves, we would love to hear them.