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steverhodes

Pickpockets and how to deal with them

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I am a hobby photograper so take my camera and a lens or two. I try not to think of the cumulative dollar value of what I carry: photo equipment, iPhone, camera bag, wallet. Add in all the distractions of beautiful buildings, new things, interesting people, crowds, public transportation, finding your way.

 

Holy cow, no wonder we are targets.

 

I try to take reasonable precautions, be alert, and look confident.

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Sounds exhausting to be "acting" while out in public everyday. Also exhausting to avoid public transportation which is quite often the fastest way to get around.

 

Just the opposite! It's not exhausting at all as 90% of the time we are traveling on business anyway. Wearing business type clothes is our norm and behaving as business people is also normal for us since my husband and I are both business people. Having a private driver in most places means we can get to tourist sites hours BEFORE the crowds and be in and often out before the crowds even arrive. So much faster, simpler, uncrowded and better!

 

We sometimes use public transportation for covering long distances like taking the train going into Rome from Civitavecchia and back. Public transportation can be faster sometimes, but a lot of the time it doesn't go where we want to go or if it does go there, it is at the wrong time. That's another issue for us as we don't tend to stick to the beaten path.

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A most interesting thread! What I have learned so far:

 

1. Pickpockets have lots of different techniques. No matter how aware you are, they will probably manage to surprise you with one of these techniques. It is probably impossible to avoid all of them, all of the time. It may be a "tourist tax" that we'll have to pay in order to visit some of these places, and a strategy to limit the losses may be quite valuable. I've heard of most of these strategies before but I've learned a few new ones from this thread. Thanks...more to think about!

 

2. We all have different ways to try to avoid (to the extent possible) being their next victim. What works for some of us may not work for others. This actually makes good sense; the thieves have different techniques, so why should we all do the exact same thing in response? There are some good suggestions here but all of them may not work for each of us. Read all of them, and incorporate those that may work for you, and realize that some which sound odd to you may still work for someone else.

 

3. So far so good for us, but I do think I have to start being more careful to limit potential losses. The law of averages says that we'll get picked at some point, and I've probably been more lucky than good. I definitely had a hand almost in my pocket while I was just walking down the street in Rome; luckily I swing my arms when I walk, and I whacked her hand pretty hard as it reached the top of my pocket. Hopefully it left a mark!

 

4. I know that we won't blend in and pass for locals, no matter what. And as we've learned from the stories above, even the locals (tour guides) get hit too. So that's no defense.

 

5. Some of these stories are a little scary. The pickpockets seem to be getting much more brazen, and they are very close to getting violent. That bothers me more than a stealth attack. I don't want to get into a physical confrontation.

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This has been an interesting thread. As dogsarepeopletoo says, if you add up your "toys" you travel with, it can surprise you. I purchased a Pacsafe day pack that will hold all our important stuff while we are travelling on public transport, and it will also double as something to carry around water etc for touring. We will probably have the problem of being to "friendly" if someone asks for help...it's just our way, but I will try to be diligent now I see how the pickpockets operate.

 

I figure you can be as careful as you want, but I also want to enjoy my trip, so I am hoping we have nothing to upset us.

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I NEVER carry a bag and if I wear any jewelry it is obviously cheap plastic. I do attempt to look and act like a business person instead of a tourist.

 

 

My husband also wears clothes with hidden pockets and looks like a business man.

 

 

We try to give the impression that we are headed to work and not tourists.

 

 

Sorry if I misconstrued...your comments seemed to indicate you were trying to give the impression of being business travelers while actually being a tourist. If you're just being yourself then no need to try to give an impression, right?

 

I don't work anymore but when I traveled for business I did feel more insulated when using a car service and not having to use public transportation but even business travelers get to robbed.

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Sorry if I misconstrued...your comments seemed to indicate you were trying to give the impression of being business travelers while actually being a tourist. If you're just being yourself then no need to try to give an impression, right?

 

I don't work anymore but when I traveled for business I did feel more insulated when using a car service and not having to use public transportation but even business travelers get to robbed.

 

No worries.

 

My husband and I don't have two different wardrobes - one for work and one for travel - it's all just one contiguous business wardrobe and then I have some evening wear and my husband has a tux. About the only way someone can tell if I am touring or going to work would be if I am carrying my knife case or knife roll.

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Sorry, follks, but forget to "look like..." whatever... You´ll be recognized as a tourist from 100 m away whatever you´re wearing!

 

steamboats

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I have to agree with steamboats. My estimate is that a layman can recognize a very high percentage of tourists from a distance. Pickpockets are experts and will almost always recognize you.

 

It depends on country and crowd, but I play spot the tourist when I am out and about, often even getting the country of origin right. I sort of manage to blend in in the UK but only after years of practice as it has become my home from home.

 

steamboats, if I came to Munich and you saw me there I fear you would spot me as a "foreigner" from the Rhineland. :D

 

notamermaid

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Sorry, follks, but forget to "look like..." whatever... You´ll be recognized as a tourist from 100 m away whatever you´re wearing!

 

steamboats

 

Disagree 100%. We just spent a week in Paris and were asked no less than FOUR times (maybe it was five, we lost track it was starting to be too comical), by Parisians, for directions, We don't even speak French. We apparently did NOT look like tourists.

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I think looking like a tourist can be less about clothing but more about demeanor. I wear my emotions on my face -- no doubt my excitement and awe shows on my face as I take in my surroundings. I smile at strangers. I'm likely going to be saying "look at THAT" or gesturing at something interesting.

 

My husband likely looks like a local -- very little outward emotion; a more sober expression. He likely looks like his is walking to work or the grocery store. Now, if he was to wear a baseball cap and a Green Bay Packer tshirt, it might be different.

 

One thing I do make an effort to do in Europe is speak more softly. One thing I notice about Americans is we speak at a louder volume; we laugh louder.

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Demeanour - that's right. As a tourist one tends to look at buildings longer, up facades, etc. And tourists tend to give the impression of having more time. Unless I really want to take in what a place is about I try to not walk leisurely. In Budapest I could not help it and lingered, really lingered, at the British embassy. They have a nice emblem outside and I wanted to take a photo but one of those street sweepers' vehicles was in the way. So by the time I had taken my photo I had caught the attention of the security guard at the front door. Oops! When I noticed that I tried to look reassuringly like a harmless tourist. Come to think of it, at that moment I was probably as safe as one can get as regards pickpockets.

 

I have heard that the famous clock in Prague is a perfect place for pickpockets as there are so many tourists looking at the clock when it strikes.

 

I wonder if a local supermarkets plastic carrier bag would be a good disguise for photo equipment? In France Carrefour springs to mind, you know, in the style of walk fast with your shopping, as if you want to catch the bus? But then again one is probably spotted and followed for a mile before being "approached".

 

 

notamermaid

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steamboats, if I came to Munich and you saw me there I fear you would spot me as a "foreigner" from the Rhineland. :D

 

Just open your mouth :D! And as my great aunt said "Düsseldorf, that´s in a foreign country" (in a deep Suabian dialect).:D

 

steamboats

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Disagree 100%. We just spent a week in Paris and were asked no less than FOUR times (maybe it was five, we lost track it was starting to be too comical), by Parisians, for directions, We don't even speak French. We apparently did NOT look like tourists.

 

Anita, I would ask a tourist too for directions.. they tend to carry a city map with them ;)!

 

steamboats

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Demeanour - that's right. As a tourist one tends to look at buildings longer, up facades, etc. And tourists tend to give the impression of having more time. Unless I really want to take in what a place is about I try to not walk leisurely. In Budapest I could not help it and lingered, really lingered, at the British embassy. They have a nice emblem outside and I wanted to take a photo but one of those street sweepers' vehicles was in the way. So by the time I had taken my photo I had caught the attention of the security guard at the front door. Oops! When I noticed that I tried to look reassuringly like a harmless tourist. Come to think of it, at that moment I was probably as safe as one can get as regards pickpockets.

 

I have heard that the famous clock in Prague is a perfect place for pickpockets as there are so many tourists looking at the clock when it strikes.

 

I wonder if a local supermarkets plastic carrier bag would be a good disguise for photo equipment? In France Carrefour springs to mind, you know, in the style of walk fast with your shopping, as if you want to catch the bus? But then again one is probably spotted and followed for a mile before being "approached".

 

 

notamermaid

 

One thing I always try to do is learn some of the language and use it as we travel. I can order, ask for directions, greet people, etc.

 

I do this it to have fun and to be polite.

 

I've gotten pretty good at German without personal refresher lessons. But I also learned and used:

 

French

Italian

Portuguese

Spanish

Serbo-Coatian

Russian

Japanese

Chinese

Dutch

 

However, I soon forget these after the trip although a few random words remain in my brain.

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Me too, I look like a tourist when I´m in Hamburg... of course... I do carry my funny pack and maybe the camera in my RCI squirrel backpack hanging on my funny pack doesn´t help either...

 

My office is in a street which is highly frequented by tourists. I can tell you in an instance who´s a tourist and who´s a local. I recently walked with my DH through downtown Munich on the way to catch our tram. I suddely said... hey, look at all those people... do you spot a single local besides us? His reply was no. Yes, you can see it by the way the people walk and look.

 

steamboats

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Anita, I would ask a tourist too for directions.. they tend to carry a city map with them ;)!

 

steamboats

It would also be a perfect foil for a team of pickpockets. One distracts you to ask for directions, and speaks to you in a foreign language so you're trying hard to concentrate on how to respond...while the other one swipes your wallet. I'm always wary when this happens.

 

Sent from my SM-G930T using Forums mobile app

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Just open your mouth :D! And as my great aunt said "Düsseldorf, that´s in a foreign country" (in a deep Suabian dialect).:D

 

steamboats

 

Yes, I am afraid so. While I do not have a strong accent you can always tell I am from somewhere North of Mannheim and West of the line Dortmund to Frankfurt. An ancestor of mine did actually immigrate to Prussia from Bavaria, I always say he was the foreigner in my family.

 

jpalbny,

 

interesting thought. Another method for sure to get your valuables. After all locals do carry cash and credit cards. I saw a girl the other week with her smart phone easily accessible in her back pocket. Easy prey.

 

notamermaid

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Me too, I look like a tourist when I´m in Hamburg... of course... I do carry my funny pack

 

I just read somewhere that fanny packs are getting trendy in Europe. You are just fashion-forward. ;) I decided recently to get a fanny pack for dogwalking for those days when I don't have pockets.

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Ahh, as I recall you're a chef, correct. You cook in business attire?

 

I wear business attire on the street and change to my coat and black chef's pants in the restaurant. My coat and pants are cleaned along with other employee uniforms and left at work.

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Just open your mouth :D! And as my great aunt said "Düsseldorf, that´s in a foreign country" (in a deep Suabian dialect).:D

 

steamboats

 

You just took me 50+ years back in time to high school German class. One kid,whose parents spoke German at home, decided to show off the first day of class. After just a few words came out, the teacher stopped him with, (and my apologies for foggy memory and bad German) "Herr ... das ist nicht Deutsch, das ist Swabisch."

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It would also be a perfect foil for a team of pickpockets. One distracts you to ask for directions, and speaks to you in a foreign language so you're trying hard to concentrate on how to respond...while the other one swipes your wallet. I'm always wary when this happens.

 

Sent from my SM-G930T using Forums mobile app

 

 

 

Agree! On our last trip to Barcelona this is exactly what happened to us. A couple of young ladies who appeared to be Eastern European or a Russian approached us and were persistent in seeking directions to a place that was nearby and they kept saying they did not understand our directions. I got a bad feeling and told my husband we needed to leave. In retrospect I believe they were potential thieves.

 

 

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You just took me 50+ years back in time to high school German class. One kid,whose parents spoke German at home, decided to show off the first day of class. After just a few words came out, the teacher stopped him with, (and my apologies for foggy memory and bad German) "Herr ... das ist nicht Deutsch, das ist Swabisch."

 

:D:D:D Regarding dialects I´m mulitlangual... born in Suabia, raised in Franconia and Upper Bavaria plus German with a Southern accent (which of course is recognized as soon as I travel North... I order a Brezn not a Brezel or a Semmel not a Brötchen = roll).

 

steamboats

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I just read somewhere that fanny packs are getting trendy in Europe...
Fanny packs have always been enjoyed in the UK:cool:

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Anita, I would ask a tourist too for directions.. they tend to carry a city map with them ;)!

 

steamboats

 

The times we were asked for directions we were carrying baguettes from the boulangerie and a bag of groceries from the grocery store - just like all the locals were doing. No maps.

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