Tourist Scam Alert: 2007
Tourists are targeted by scam and rip-off artists everywhere in Europe. If you know the games (spilling the mustard, bus 64 in Rome, and so on), you're less likely to be a victim. By sharing the latest scams (and learning from each others' mistakes) we'll all travel more safely.
Remember, pickpocketing attempts throughout Europe can be expected unless you wear a moneybelt under your clothing. Smart travelers leave wallets at home and store their credit cards, passport, paper money and rail ticket(s) in a secure moneybelt. Visit our Travel Store for Rick Steves' recommended moneybelts.
What cons and scams have you encountered?
Read the Distillation: Tourist Scams, 2005
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Ripped off in Prague!
I recently returned from Prague with a painful lesson learned -- Beware of money changers. I haven't used a money exchange in years and I was very careless & stupid, so I hope to prevent this from happening to someone else. There are numerous exchanges in Old Town Square, all very official-looking. I had Euros which I needed changed into Crowns, otherwise I use ATMs only. I should have calculated ahead of time ... I should have carefully counted & examined my receipt before leaving the window. But ... I didn't. I handed the young woman my Euros, saying "Good Day" in Czech. She never said one word to me, never looked at me ... counted it out in front of me, shoved a tourist map at me & while I was putting the map in my purse she layed out an impressive amount of Crowns in multiple colors and denominations -- and she did this incredibly rapidly. She then shoved the receipt at me, turned her back & closed her window. I was a bit surprised by her brusqueness & also a bit intimidated, with many people in line behind me. It wasn't until later that I realized she had short-changed me by 100 Euros (~$150) and charged me for the map. Talk about adding insult to injury -- I had stupidly assumed the map was a freebie! So don't do what I did. Thieves are everywhere. Be smart, be careful, don't use money changers unless you have to, know how much you should be receiving, count your change before you move from the window & don't be intimidated!
Oak Harbor, WA USA Fri 12/28/2007
Drug Dealers/Pickpockets in Turin
Just a heads up to anyone traveling in Turin: Try to avoid walking along the Po River at night. The city guide in my room said it was a good place for drinks and nightclubs, and while that may be true in the high season it was deserted when I got there. I decided to walk along the river for a bit, and three young men approached me offering to sell me drugs. I politely declined, not wanting to start anything. One of the men shook my hand--I was suspicious but wanted to be polite in what was fast becoming a less than ideal situation--and then attempted to pick my pocket (a rather sloppy attempt, as I'm not particularly trusting of drug dealers and was watching his other hand the whole time).
I managed to get out of the situation without a problem--I'm a fairly large man and they were not, so I pushed him back with my elbow, checked my pocket, and walked on. However, it was a touchy situation and could easily have gotten out of hand. Turin is a beautiful city and I recommend visiting; just be careful.
Salt Lake City, UT USA Fri 12/28/2007
Beware of Frenchmen bearing gifts in Rome
My wife and I almost fell for this our first day in Rome (before joining our tour). The Frenchman pulled up, asked for directions, hit us with the Versace representative line and a whole bunch of handshakes and smiles. He started asking for directions, then after giving us the jacket (worth 900 euros, and we shouldn't sell it) started asking for 20 or 30 euros for gas. I gave him 10, and he wanted more. I was already picking up on the scam, but didn't want anything to get dangerous. My wife, caught up in the moment, gave me the nod to give him more. I gave him another 10, and he wanted 20 or thirty more. We insisted we didn't have any more. His face got pretty angry/frustrated, so I offered him his "gift" back and took back our money. We did a loop of the block, chatted, looked in a bookstore, and when we got back to about the same place, he was STILL THERE! He made eye contact with me, got really angry, and changed lanes. I couldn't decide if I was angry or amused. In the end, it was a learning experience that only cost me a little pride.
Sterling, VA USA Wed 12/26/2007
Leather jacket scam
My husband and I fell for the leather jacket scam in Rome a few years ago. The Frenchman does ask for gas money after giving you the jacket. In our case we got 2 "designer" jackets. But it was worth the lost money for the laughs it gave us. It was even funnier because my husband was so irate that the gypsies in Florence tried to pick his pocket.
Newport, RI USA Mon 12/24/2007
RE: What is this scam about
Carl - You almost fell for the leather jacket scam. The "leather" jacket is actually a cheap vinyl jacket. Usually they will give you the jacket and then say that it is a reward for helping them (giving directions, etc) or they need gas money. They give you the jacket then ask for some Euros in exchange. The jacket is only worth a handful of Euros but they'll ask you for 50 Euros. In the end, the tourist always get scammed.
Harlingen, Texas USA Sun 12/23/2007
avoiding becoming a victim of ATM fraud.
The following tips are intended to assist you in avoiding becoming a victim of ATM fraud. Do not reveal your PIN to anyone. Do not keep your PIN and card together. Make sure that you are not observed when keying in your PIN. Key in your PIN only when prompted to do so by the screen. Don't let anyone distract or assist you when you are using the ATM. Make sure the card in your possession is in fact yours before and after a transaction. Avoid poorly lit ATM's. If only one ATM is working in a specific area, the others could have been sabotaged to direct you to that one. Do not count your money at the ATM. Lower your daily and monthly withdrawal limits. Cancel your card immediately if it is lost, stolen or retained by an ATM. Immediately report your lost or stolen cards to your bank and police.
Be aware of what is going on around you and carry yourself in a confident manner. Remain calm if ever placed in a life-threatening situation. Avoid persons who appear to be intoxicated or irrational, whether in traffic, a social setting, work, etc. Avoid walking alone or in dimly lit areas and be watchful for suspicious persons or passing vehicles. Stay away from ATM machines, especially at night and be cautious of bogus auto accidents. When out after dark, carry a flashlight in your car, purse, or pocket. Be mindful of what kind of target you present to a potential attacker: are you carrying packages that look inviting, is your purse or jewelry visible and vulnerable, are you wearing headphones while taking a walk etc. Workplace Realize that you are very vulnerable as you leave the work-place and approach your vehicle or public means of transportation and vice versa, especially during hours of darkness. Be aware of your overall environment and mentally rehearse emergency plans before they happen. Know the locations of nearby telephones, emergency exits and possible escape routes. Do you have access to self-defense aids such as personal alarms or a pepper gas product? Keep all valuables such as a purse or wallet out of sight at all times, even during regular working hours as this might become a motive for a larceny or possible robbery. Avoid working alone if possible. Use the "Buddy System," especially when leaving the office. Keep all entrance doors secured and noise volume to a minimum when working alone. This would allow you to hear someone talking or trying to forcibly enter your location. When working in the office by yourself, do not spend a lot of time by or next to windows or glass walls which allows you to be seen by a passerby. When working after dark, realize that interior lights will allow a passerby to observe you in the work area (from the outside) but inhibit your ability to see them. If available, keep a portable phone with you when working late hours. This is also beneficial to have in your car when traveling alone or late at night. Make contact with a friend or family member prior to leaving your job to tell them that you are leaving. Include your planned route and any stops you will be making along the way. Always park close to the ATM and in a well-lit area. Take another person with you when possible. If the lighting at the ATM isn't working, don't use it. If shrubbery around the ATM has become overgrown, or if a tree blocks the light or your view, use another ATM. And in every case where you see a problem or can't use the ATM, notify the bank immediately. During the day or night Always have your card ready and in hand as you approach the ATM. Don't use the ATM if persons or circumstances look suspicious to you. Never let anyone see you punch in your PIN (personal identification number) and take your receipts with you. Immediately put your money, ATM card and receipts away. Count the money later. If in your car at a drive-up ATM, be sure the car's passenger windows are up and the doors locked. If you leave your car to walk to the ATM, lock the car. Notice anything or anyone suspicious? Don't use the ATM. If you've already started a transaction, cancel it, and leave!
If you are followed after making a transaction, go directly to an area where there are people
Memorize your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Don't write it on your card or carry it in your wallet.
Never give your PIN over the telephone
Never let anyone see you enter your PIN at an ATM
If your card is lost or stolen, or you think your PIN has been compromised, notify your financial institution immediately.
Look around and observe your surroundings - if the machine is poorly lit, or is in a hidden area, use another ATM.
Have your card ready - avoid having to go through your wallet or purse to find your card.
Make sure that anyone waiting to use the ATM after you cannot see you entering your PIN or transaction amount.
Don't count your cash while standing at the ATM - put your cash, card, and receipt away immediately.
Cancel your transaction and leave immediately if you see anything suspicious. Confirm, as soon as possible, with your financial institution that the transaction was canceled.
If you are using an indoor ATM that requires your card to open the door, avoid letting anyone come in with you that you do not know.
Lock the car doors and roll up the other windows when you use a drive-through ATM.
Do not leave your keys or valuables in the car when using an ATM - and do not leave your car engine running.
Do not leave your receipt behind - take it with you. Compare your ATM receipts to your monthly statement. It is the best way to guard against fraud and it makes record-keeping easier for you.
If you lose your Visa card or your ATM card, contact the financial institution that issued your card immediately.
Amman, Amman Jordan Sun 12/23/2007
What is this scam about?
In Rome last fall, I was approached twice for some kind of scam. While taking pictures near the Coliseum, a driver pulled over to ask directions. As I was clearly a tourist, asking for directions in itself was strange. He represented that he was French and in town for a fashion trade show. To thank me for my help, he said he wanted to give me an "extra" leather jacket that he did not want to carry back on the plane. I declined and walked away. Two days later near the Vatican, another man in a car asked for directions and also wanted to give me some item of clothing. To this day, I have no idea where it would have gone if I had accepted these "gifts". Perhaps, once they created a sense of obligation, would they have asked for cash for cab fare when they landed back home? Would they have wanted to take me someplace to see more goods and rob me? Would they have tried to sell me additional goods that were stolen?
Chicago, IL USA Wed 12/19/2007
Giving to the poor
I am reading all these posts and I hope they don't deter people from giving to the poor. The world is full of thieves, but it is also full of people who need help. I definitely take the scam threat seriously, but for example, there are a lot of homeless/downtrodden locals in Dublin, but none of them were rude or aggressive towards me, nor did I ever feel in danger of being robbed. On the contrary, they were friendly and as a Christian I felt I should give when I could. There were a lot of (what I assume were) Gypsies/Roma by the churches, and if anything they were polite and gracious.
Actually I've been to Turkey as well (Adana, Incirlik, Mersin, Tarsus, Antioch…) and yes, children will follow you and there are people who beg for your money, but I never had anyone cross the line. Always be aware, and err on the side of caution, but also trust your instincts. I would rather give to someone who doesn't need it than shove away someone who really does need a few cents.
The Commonwealth, VA USA Wed 12/19/2007
Just an observation: My wife (100 pounds and probably the most vulnerable person i know) who spent 4 months in Florence and has traveled up and down Italy, has never run into anything mentioned here. I think this is a great place for information, but also will ruin people's vacation. Please just watch your back and use your moneybelt. But more importantly...ENJOY YOUR VACATION!
Lancaster, PA USA Tue 12/18/2007
EU traveling is pretty safe
Traveling through Europe is great. The only thing bad about "Night Train Travel" is sometimes the A/C goes out (during the summer) and you have to sweat it out. There are pick pockets almost everywhere. Just use common sense. I talked with a couple from the UK when we were in Italy and an experience they had was with a woman holding an infant, with one fake arm, while using her "real" hidden arm to pick pockets on busy buses. Luckily the guys wife pushed him away, which caused a bit of a scene but ruined the thief's pick for the moment.
Tacoma, WA USA Thu 12/13/2007
Money Belt Design
Oh please, oh please, wear your money belt! We met a lady the first day who had her purse stolen from between her feet while at the tower of london on an uncrowded day. I know many money belts are a little bulky if you like to wear skinny jeans or other tight clothes (like me), so I designed my own. Ten minutes to make with a sewing machine. No excuse for not wearing it! Sew an ace bandage into a cirlce that fits you comfortable. Make a simple pocket (mine was just 2 flaps, one facing up, one facing down, with no velcro or anything). It fit like a glove. I slept in it and everything. No worries!
Chicago, IL USA Wed 12/12/2007
Tours of Vatican Museum
A British woman stopped my wife and me as we were headed toward the end of the line to get into the Vatican Museum. She said there were so many people in line that the wait was 90 minutes or more unless you got into an organized tour, which she was offering for 45 euros a person to tour the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's. If I remember correctly, the entrance fee for the museum was 13 euros, and St. Peter's was free unless you wanted to climb the dome, which was 6 euros. I think a tour of the museum with a Vatican guide was something like 21 euros. So this woman was offering a tour for a pretty large markup on the premise that we wouldn't have to wait for a long time to get in.
I remembered reading Rick's comment about the line at this museum being about 10 minutes for every 100 yards of people, and I could see the line wasn't 900 yards long, so we passed on the offer. We ended up waiting in line for only 35 minutes, not the 90 minutes the tour organizer told us it would take.
Seattle, WA USA Sat 12/08/2007
Theft in Rome
ROME WARNING: Once again, a warning to everyone regarding hotel rooms, expecially in Rome, Italy. Under NO conditions allow anyone, including hotel staff, to enter your room once you have arrived there and received your key. Do NOT answer your door unless you know who it is and then make sure you step into the hallway, closing the door behind you. Do not allow anyone to isolate you from your belongings in your room. The most daring theft being used in Rome today is where two thieves, acting in concert, enter your room with tie and clipboard, pretending to be staff "checking" the room you just arrived in. While one person diverts you away from your belongings, the other (Often hiding in the hallway) enters the room and steals anything on the bureau. The first thief who enters makes sure the lock is "flipped" in the open position so that the door does not lock when closed. These suspects seem to target big hotels where the crowds and staff are overwhelming. Clues to watch for with thieves: Their English is often poor; their clothes are not quite right or shabby; Their actions are out of step for the area you are in; They often appear out of no where when you least expect it and they are very smooth in the game they play with you. They should, as they practice every day. Of course, be aware that some thieves wear fine clothes and appear business-like, but these are not the norm. NEVER assume anything during a vacation in any city in Europe.
San Diego, Calif USA Sat 12/08/2007
Pickpockets on the Paris Metro
I brought a backpack on the Paris Metro with zippers only--no locks or PacSafe cladding--and had an expensive camera stolen from it in a very crowded car right under my nose. I had spotted an obvious setup on the previous car, passed it up, and got nailed by a fresh crew on the following car. Assume that pickpockets are smarter than you are, that they work in groups, that they have lookouts posted and are in cellphone contact. You're in pretty good shape if you have a good grip on anything worth lifting, and keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.
Riverside, CA USA Fri 12/07/2007
short changing in Italy
I recently returned from spending three weeks in Italy. It was 98 percent wonderful but I did notice something that I had not read about prior to going. You must be totally vigilant when buying anything or you WILL be short changed. Clerks will give you the euro coins and paper back knowing you can be easily confused as we are used to paper dollars. AT first I thought it was me but then as I paid attention I realized that every where I shopped if I didnt stand there and count my change I would be out a euro or two. And clerks making snake lips at you when you point out the descrepancy seem to this old lady to be upset at being caught not embarrassed at making an error. So take your time and count your change. Oh yes do indeed be careful of the pickpockets they tried to get me at the Florence rr station as Steve warned and it was only because I had lived on this web site for days before I left that I was alert and it turned out to be funny where it could have been traumatic. Happy traveling everyone.
Richardson, TX USA Mon 12/03/2007
Scams in Greek and Turkey
We just got back from a month in Turkey and Greece. At one historical site a post card seller came up to me and also offered me some ancient coins. As I have been a loyal reader I knew about the scam. I asked him where he got them and he said 'from his father'. I said these are really valuable - 'don't sell them. Hang on to them valuable and you can give to your kids like your Dad did to you'. He got mad and said 'You joke with me'. He walked away. The other attempted scam was in Athens at the McDonalds on the Plaka. A lady came up to me as I was leaving and said' Do you have your receipt? I think the staff are stealing the money'. I looked in my bag and I did. She wanted it and I am sure she would have gone in with my receipt and said she never got her food. I wouldn't give it to her and walked away. By the way, her English wasn't as good as my Greek. And my Greek is bad! Dean in Canada
Red Deer, AB, Canada, Sat 12/01/2007
Best advice I've seen to avoid scams. From DJ (Philly)
I been to europe four times in as many years and this ALWAYS works.
Responding "no thanks" is languages other than english (like Polish) helps too
"What worked well for me was to always walk with a purpose, don't make eye contact, don't stop for those people; keep moving. They won't waste their time on someone who isn't going to be an easy target. Don't answer questions, just ignore them or shake your head and act busy or annoyed."
Columbus, OH USA Fri 11/30/2007
Bait & switch in Firenze
I took a taxi home after an awful experience with Aquaa 2 restaurant in Firenze. Not only were the other 3 Americans I had met on the road lousy company, especially two witches from NYC, but the taxi driver tried to tell me that even though the meter originally said 10.40 euros when I got back to my B&B it was 14 euros "because it was nighttime". What a creep! I was a single woman traveling alone. I argued with him but was kind of tipsy, depressed and just plain homesick so I threw the money at him just to avoid dealing with it. Shame on me! Never again.
Prices in some shops were jacked up and then they would put a 50% "sale" on them but the sale price was really the original price.
Stay away from shops near Ponte Vecchio in Firenze especially for clothes. All the same stuff can be had in smaller cities like Lucca or Siena or in other shops in Firenze that are away from the piazzas near the major tourist traps for much cheaper. And watch the labels. Not everything is "Made in Italy" anymore. In fact, there is a lot of junk that is made in China.
Overall I found Italy super pricey and not a good value. Not just because the dollar was tanking against the euro, but also because everything there is just plain expensive. And you do get what you pay for, the better quality products cost significantly more money. I get better deals on Italian designer goods here in the US at Neimans and Saks when they have sales.
Fortunately no one tried to rip me off on gelato or some of the other food scams I've seen on the graffiti wall. I felt like I had been nickled and dimed to death in Firenze and next time I'm going with a companion, preferably a very savvy world traveler.
Reston, VA USA Wed 11/28/2007
Barcelona Scam alert
We were on a conducted tour in Barcelona (as part of a cruise) and before we disembarked at the church of "La Sagrada Familia" and the tour guide WARNED us of pickpckes who can open velcro closures SO silently ---- EVEN SO THREE yes 3!!! men had had wallets lifted from "safe velcro" pockets !! -------- GUESS where MY man had his money etc? -- in a "hidden pocket --- and that's where I had mine too
Perth , Australia Mon 11/26/2007
Italy - Off season for thieves as well?
Just got back from visiting Rome, Florence and Venice. Before leaving for Italy, I printed out and read all of the scams listed here on this thread. Luckily, none of them happened to me or my girlfriend. Whether that was due to luck or being aware of all types of scams, who knows. But I definitely want to thank everyone for posting their experiences, since I'm positive it helped me come away scratch free.
I heard about those gelato scams and only ordered from small shops that served and took money from the same location. I also asked for "il piu piccolo" (the smallest size), whether or not that's actually gramatically correct.
We traveled by train between the different cities and tried to keep our bags overhead, where we could see them. However, I did put my big bag in the "baggage area" (front/rear compartment of each train car), but made sure to lock it up with a cheap cable lock I bought at Longs Drugs for less than $10. It might seem excessive to lock your bags to the train itself, but NOTHING will prevent anyone from taking your bag at the next train stop and walking away with it. $10 and a little hassle for a lot of piece of mind.
My girlfriend and I kept most of our money, passports, and credit cards in our money belts, safely tucked under layers of clothes. My wallet was in a zippered chest pocket in my jacket. The only thing I kept in my pants pocket was a map of the city.
At first I was beginning to think it was also "off season" for gypsies and thieves. But I'm thinking we didn't encounter any scams because we were prepared and on "high alert" for anything suspicious. I hope everyone continues to use common sense, locks their luggage, and uses money belts. Safe travels.
Los Angeles, CA USA Mon 11/26/2007
Scams in Paris France
Just got back from a great trip to Paris. Fantastic city with very friendly, helpful Parisians. However, scammers are all over the tourist attractions. Five big ones I saw constantly (mostly from Gypsys) 1) "finds" a gold ring next to you and says you are lucky 2) constantly asking "Do you speak English"? 3) random person who doesn't look like a tourist asks you to take his picture but camera is broken, or some other spin. 4) Gypsys begging all over the place. 5) not really a scam but constant pressure to buy trinkets. They almost beg you to buy them.
I saw this all around me at the tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph, on the outskirts of the Louvre. Not too much at Napoleans tomb (too many police and army folks hanging around there)
You don't see too many scammers if you venture off into the non-tourist areas (or less popular tourist sites). Spend some time in the regular parts of the city; it's awesome. What worked well for me was to always walk with a purpose, don't make eye contact, don't stop for those people; keep moving. They won't waste their time on someone who isn't going to be an easy target. Don't answer questions, just ignore them or shake your head and act busy or annoyed.
I also dress like the locals or blend-in as best as possible, hide the camera, and use a GPS rather than a big conspicuous map.
That big map is like a banner advertising you are a tourist and you are lost.
Happy and safe travels!
Philadelphia, PA USA Fri 11/23/2007
An Ounce of Prevention
Develop the habit of avoiding eye-contact and moving right along, especially around questionable situations. If someone tries to hand you something, it is not required that you politely take it. You can practice this at home; when people try to hand you a leaflet or flyer, don't take it. If necessary, keep your hands in your coat pockets. If things get dicey, make noise. Yes, women can make lots of noise and this at least embarasses culprits.
Napa, CA USA Wed 11/21/2007
I personally also experienced the string trick at the Sacre Couer, they were EXTREMELY persistent. I found that completely ignoring them and not letting them get close to you worked best, acting like you don't understand also works wonders everywhere you go. I French lady passing by yelled at them in a very scolding tone.
There are also a large amount of very young gypsies trying to scam visitors at the Arch de Triumph.
LOS ANGELES, Ca USA Mon 11/19/2007
Avoid black immigrants near Sacre Cour with "strings" who ask you to put your hand in it. It's a distraction game where #2 man cleans out your pockets.
Also Avoid the black immigrants who offer a "coin" in the portable toilet, once you come out the harass you (to the point of robbery) for some money for paying your toilet.
Avoid the "my camera is broke" scam when someone asks you to take his pic w/ his "broken camera" & asks if he can use yours.
In metro, avoid groups of black immigrants asking for directions with a map, the distracter gets your attention & the "pick" man cleans out your pockets.
Avoid the "group of gypsies" anywhere. If they get around you, they'll clean out your pockets.
Avoid the people w/ collection buckets near churches, if they don't have an ID, they are FAKE.
Avoid the petty photo takers around tourist sites, they harass you, use cheap Polaroids & charge about $30 (US).
TRAIN STATIONS: Keep an eye on your luggage AT ALL TIMES, this means AT ALL TIMES. I saw teams working the TRAIN STATIONS for luggage pick ups.
New Jersey, NJ USA Wed 11/14/2007
Bus luggage theft scam
I was traveling from Assisi to Siena on the recommended bus line operated by SENA bus company. Our bus made a stop in Perugia. At the bus station there, the driver's assistant opened the cargo bay doors down below and just let every passenger getting off the bus help his/ herself to their own luggage. I watched from inside the bus as I saw a young woman wheeling away what looked like my luggage. As I bolted off the bus after my bag (which had my name and address on it), the driver stopped me at the door to inform me that we were not in Sienna yet. Thanks , jerk! I quickly checked the cargo area of the bus- no bag. By then, she was gone- and so was my bag. The bus company has yet to return my calls and e-mails demanding info on their lost luggage compensation insurance. When stopping at any stop that isn't yours, and your bag is being stowed out of sight away from you, get off the bus and HOLD your luggage until you have to board again for the next stop. These thieves are clever and bold.
Sebastopol, Ca. USA Fri 11/09/2007
re: florence gelato scam
In regards to "Florence gelato scam", I paid 12 euro(!) for a cone in the piazza outside the Uffizi. Then some idiot walking out of the gelateria coughed on me and my gelato. Did I eat it? You bet I ate it! I paid 12 friggin' euro for it!
Sebastopol, ca. USA Fri 11/09/2007
Florence gelato scam
I did see plenty of the gypsys and the african knock off vendors, and yes they were annoying, but usually went away after either ignoring them or saying no enough times. There was a gelato shop however along one of the main streets from the train station in Florence that pulls a scam. You order from the outside where all the yummy flavors are up for display. The cups and cones are on the top of the counter with the prices, so you point to a cup or cone and say how many scoops you want (uno, due,tre). You are expecting your cone to be 2.30 euros which is average price for 2 scoops. Your cone is made, you have to walk into the shop to the back where you pay, and there the clerk says "8 euro". You say..."8 euro!! I asked for a cone with 2 scoops" and she points to a picture there with several different cones, some bigger, more of the waffle cone variety, and a price tag of 8 euro. That's the one she has made for you. Of course that isn't evident at the front of the shop where you order after seeing only the other choices. OK, gelato is really good...but 8 euro? I don't think so. The old bait and switch stikes again!!
Newcastle, wa USA Sat 11/03/2007
Tourist Scam Alert
Our first morning in Lisbon, we were at an outdoor cafe. Before we sat down, a man, seated nearest to the sidewalk, asked me if I wanted to sit in the sun (where he was). I declined. After being seated for about 10 minutes, I noticed that my purse, which was at my feet, was gone. Prior to this discovery, there was a lot of noise behind me, namely the moving of chairs. This activity was done by a woman and two children - my husband saw them as he was facing them and nearly offered his help to one of the kids! I was not wearing a money belt as recommended. In my purse, were passports, credit cards, glasses, a brand new camera. I will definitely follow Rick's advise in the future. These thieves , I believe, were just waiting for a tourist to sit down and I was the perfect mark. We eventually worked everything out, but it was a hassle. When we went to the police to make a report, there were 5 other tourists there, who had wallets or purses stolen. This police unit is set up for tourists and is next to a TI. We loved Lisbon and other places we visited in Portugal. We missed a few sites because of the theft, but were very positively impressed with the many helpful people we met.
Seattle, WA USA Sat 11/03/2007
That is a sad report. But it is not the Rome we have experienced in our four trips. True it is chaotic but it is a big, old city. It may be cluttered and a little dirty but filthy is a not word that I would use. You didn't say how the taxis ripped your off. You do need to be firm with the taxis and make sure the meter is running, Got into a taxi once and the meter was not on. We immediately got out and walked to the next taxi.
In our four visits have never seen a pick pocket or anything that put us at risk. You experience has obviously colored your opinion but I am not sure it is completely justified.
Centennial, CO USA Fri 11/02/2007
I agree that that is really a sad report on Rome. I think that it brings it all back to how one carries themselves when visiting a foreign city. I was in Rome in early October and did not experience one problem with "scam" artists of any kind and I , too, am a so called "laid back" Californian (Southern California at that ). We stayed in a hotel in a wonderful central location and did not use public transportation (one reason was because of everything that I had heard about scams.) We walked everywhereand even splurged on a taxi once. Rome is a very big, congested, chaotic city but one should expect that when you make your plans. I also agree that filthy was not a word that I would use to describe Rome. I am not a "big city" person , preferring the quiet of the countryside, but I did find it fairly easy to get around Rome and see all of the sights that were on our "must see" lists. The only place that I did have some diffuculty with was the tour of the Vatican Musuem and Sistine Chapel. Although, we did a private tour, it was so very, very crowded to the point of feeling very faint and nauseous many times during the tour. Rome is Rome. Big city with alot of people and an awful lot of wonderful things to see.
Laguna Niguel, Ca USA Fri 11/02/2007
Chance favors the prepared?
We went to Italy last month. I had been 12 years ago, and it was pretty impressive how many more scammers there were. Not like I would have recognized them then, but I would have remembered getting scammed (as would have inevitably happened). As we went south, there were more and more. By the time we got to Rome, there were so many gypsies around with the "clicky magnets" and floating discs, it was as if there was a chorus of glowing, floaty crickets at all the touristy sites. I had a shoulder bag (there was a digital camera in it, but an old one) that we carried the maps and guide books in. We had money belts, and I carried a large old film SLR over the other shoulder. My husband and I are by no means large, but we dressed pretty conservatively (slacks and skirts for me, sport coat for him), and we tried to do our map-reading "off to the side" if we got lost. I always kept one hand on my camera (partially for security, partially to protect people from the lens and the lens from people), we walked pretty purposefully, and avoided any eye contact with the gypsies. The last was the hardest, since keeping someone in your peripheral vision without looing at them is quite a feat, and any hint of eye contact would trigger a sales attempt. I think that for the most part they were targeting easier marks-- especially the parents with young children that always seemed to be buying their crap. Part of the game seems to not be running faster than the bear, but to be just running faster than the guy behind you...
pittsburgh, PA USA Fri 11/02/2007
I've been to Roma quite a few times since my first trip in 1951 and I have seen every scam there is and had most tried on me. It is a big city. Rome, London, Paris, New York, they all have their scams and their thieves but in Roma they won't assault you at least. My advice is: Read Rick and follow his advice, especially about wearing a money belt or neck pouch. Be alert. Walk confidently and do not look afraid. (People who look afraid are like finding gold on the street for pickpockets) And finally enjoy yourself.
Charles M. Luther
USA Fri 11/02/2007
Rome: City of thieves
After two perfectly lovely weeks in the North of Italy, we made the mistake of spending our last Italian weekend in Rome, which was filthy, chaotic, more expensive than Venice (!) and swarming with thieves of every discription. We were cheated by two out of the three cab drivers we used, simply because we couldn't bring ourselves to be as agressive as they were- another drawback to being laid back Californians, I guess, and in the Metro I was boxed, frisked and let go by a swarm of teenaged girls before I knew what was happening. Happily, I was wearing all my valuables in a pouch next to my skin. The rest of the hussles and scams coming from all directions just wore us down, and we were SO happy to get out of that town. Rome has been ripping off tourists for more than two thousand years, and they've become very, very good at it. Ultimately there's no way to defend yourself against it. Rome takes what it can and gives as little as it can in return. If you must go there, be on your guard at every moment. They'll still get you, but maybe for less.
Oakland, CA USA Thu 11/01/2007
glod ring scam
paris gold ring scam i saw this one four times.in the end i decided to see how many rings i could get for free.i nearly got 1 of a gypsy woman,,took it and kept walking but gave it back after she carried on and embarrased my wife..but i propose a competition to see who can get the most rings,,heheheh
paris, USA Sun 10/28/2007
In Paris I used an ATM and immediately afterwards was approached by a well dressed and articulate gentleman who was holding out a 20 euro bill.
"This is yours", he said. He explained that the ATM had not stopped disbursing money and that I needed to put my card back in or the machine would empty my account. As I was trying to figure this out my wife said, "Walk away, it's a scam." He had achieved his first objective by confusing me with a semi-plausible speech. However, when my wife intervened I immediately realized she was right and we walked on.
Oh, by the way, I still had his 20 euro bill in my hand. This time the scammer lost!
Redondo Beach, CA USA Sat 10/27/2007
Overcharged in Prague
Just got back from Prague. Most people we met were helpful and polite. However avoid the Budwieser tent in the Old Town Square. While it is fun for the music and beer, The staff there will rip you off every time. They will not give you an itemized bill for your food and drink and will then overcharge you and add extra items to the bill. When questioned about it they will claim they can't speak English and insist on being paid. Either you have to make a scene or just give up and pay. A couple other resturants tried the same thing but they gave you itemized bills, and when questioned, quickly removed the charges. Be careful and review your bill before paying.
Tacoma, WA USA Wed 10/24/2007
Pickpockets in Spain
gum stuck to my shirt sleeve on packed metro train in Barcelona. Nice man offered to clean it off with kleenex. Meanwhile someone else was picking my back pocket. I had put a decoy billfold there just to see if I would get pickpocketed during my trip to Spain and sure enough I did!
Springfield, Missou USA Mon 10/22/2007
Stay out of Morroco, constantly accosted on the train, at the ferry, etc. by people claiming to be with the Tourism bureau. Fake ID cards and everything. After reading all the scam alerts I wonder why we even bother going to Europe and North Africa.
Springfield, Missou USA Mon 10/22/2007
Below is an account of the abuse we suffered at the hands of KLM:
KLM FL 651 - July 8th, 2007
KLM refused to allow us to board our connecting flight from Rome saying we did not check in on time (1 hour limit). However:
* several time during the week and that day we tried to check in and received boarding passes for our connecting flight and KLM REFUSED to issue them;
* we were delayed for no reason by the woman at Transfer desk 2 for elite passengers leading to our missed flight;
* we had to race across Schipol Airport to be refused our boarding (my wife has severe asthma and they would not allow us any assistance);
* After pleading with KLM for FOUR HOURS for a flight home that day, we were stranded 24 hours in Amsterdam;
* we were not compensated for a room;
*since July numerous requests to KLM have been ignored.
We are frequent travelers and this happened to us so use these clowns at your own risk. We will never deal with KLM again
Jersey City, NJ USA Sun 10/21/2007
Tim's short-changed story is common, especially in Italy where some shopkeepers, museum ticket-sellers, etc., practice what is called the "slow count." They pause in making change, hoping the customer will think he/she has gotten the right amount and leave. Just pay attention, and let them know you are keeping track.
Utah USA Sun 10/14/2007
London Apartment Scam
I booked an apartment thru VRBO.com. in London. Within hours of wiring the money, I got an email from vrbo saying they were taking the apartment off their webpage. VRBO was absolutely no help. Western Union gave names of people to cantact for help. Be very careful who you send money to. Vacation rental by owner takes zero resposibility for the listings on their webpage and will not even tell you why they deleted them.
granite bay, ca USA Sun 10/14/2007
Fake tourist/fake police scam in Paris
Beware of the fake tourist/fake police scam at Le Marais in Paris!!!! I had not read about this scam so was not prepared for it.
My wife and I rented an apartment in this area (which we thought is one of the safer areas of Paris)and on our every first night we experienced this scam. After dinner at around 9 pm we took a walk on Rue de Turenne Street in Le Marais when we were approached by a man holding a map and speaking English, asked whether we knew the direction to Notre-Dame. As we had only just arrived in Paris and did not know ourselves where it was, I answered NO. I thought it was odd that a tourist would be looking for it at this time of the night. The man persisted and kept asking us to help him look at his map to find the place. Before we could walk away, the next thing we knew, two men in dark clothing surrounded us and said that they were policemen - one took out his wallet and flashed what was supposed to be a police ID card (I recall it had the word police on it with a photograph). The two 'policemen' asked for our passport or other forms of ID. The 'lost tourist' took out his wallet to comply, but I was suspicious, and queried why they wanted to see our id. They then said that it was to make sure that we were not drug dealers or criminals. I was not satisfied with their answer and told them to come with me to the nearby restaurant, were it was more public, and I quickly walked over to the restaurant telling my wife to do the same. Once we did this, the 3 men promptly walked away.
I have no doubt that had I taken out my wallet to show an ID, they would have ran off with it.
All this happened very quickly. These theives prey on tourists' vunerability and lack of awareness and in situations like this it is very difficult to think and assess the situation rationally as it happens so quickly.
Being a novice traveller, the one advice I can give from this experience, is that if you are faced with a situation which just doesn't feel right, quickly move yourself to a more public areas such as a restaurant, cafe, etc. where you are in view of other people.
We won't let this experience ruin our Europe trip which has been great so far. It has however, put us on our guard, and unfortunately, has made us more suspicious of the people around us.
Australia Sat 10/13/2007
Here in the USA, when I make a purchase, I am used to my change (coins and bills) being handed to me at the same time.
While traveling in Europe last month I found myself leaving before I received all of my change that I had coming back to me.
I would purchase something, and they would first give me my coin change, and then a moment or two later, they would hand me my bill change.
I don't think its a scam but I found myself leaving right after they gave me my coin change because (a) i was "used to" one transaction for the receiving of change here in the states and (2) i asked my friend why they make two transactions when returning change (coins and then moments later) dollar bills, she said they don't want to make a mistake.
solution: i will slow down from my hurry up usa pace, i will not make small talk in the local language, i will count to myself how much change should be coming, and if i don't understand, i will ask.
i hope that made sense.
Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles), CA USA Sat 10/13/2007
Keep It On You At All Times
It never matters where I go travelling (domestic or international), I wear two "attached at the belt but hidden under the pants" pouches.
in one i carry my passport, atm cards, credit cards.
in the other, my plane ticket to get home, 500 us dollars cash and anything else.
my thought: the hotel can rummage through my backpack while i am site seeing and they get nothing.
i can get robbed of my backpack and fake wallet while walking or on a train. they get nothing.
my only goal is to "at all times" carry (hidden on me), everything i will need to get back to the good old usa with no problems.
the 500 us dollars is just in case my atm fails me or my credit cards don't work.
if i take an overnight train, those pouches are under my pants while i sleep (sure, a bit uncomfortable) but better than standing in line at the us embassy and my entire trip ruined eh?
by the way, when i shower in the hotel, my money pouches go into the bathroom with me and are hidden under a towel in plain view of me.
what keeps a hotel employee from hearing the shower water and quickly entering to rummage through my belongings.
i never go anywhere , ANYWHERE without my two hidden money pouches securely under my trousers and hidden.
22 countries and 35 international cities later, i have had run ins with gypsies but i have never been robbed.
Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles), CA USA Sat 10/13/2007
New (to me) scam
Just recently in Paris, my daughter and I got the gold ring, the "do you speak english"- I said nine, nine, which is german for no and they left. I did run into one that I have not seen in this section. I sat outside my hotel waiting for the shuttle to bring my daughter. A young man came up to me with a form in french that had "invalides" underlined on it and had a bunch of signatures. It looked like our forms to get a proposition on the ballot. He kept pointing to the "invalides". Anyway, he wanted me to sign it and I noticed, tho each name was different, they were all in the same handwriting and green pen! I kept saying no and he finally turned the page over and wrote 7 euros on the paper and pointed to it. I continued to say no and he finally left. He never spoke a word. I think I would have been "charged" if I had signed the petition.
Sisters, Oregon USA Wed 10/10/2007
Asian Couple Scam
I consider myself a seasoned traveller - and always wear a money belt, and never keep too much cash in my zip-leg pockets. Mostly everything stays in the hotel safe (including passports) I have never once had to show it to anyone (except at the airport). While in Paris, near the Louis Vitton store, my husband and I were approached by an Asian couple, claiming to need assistance to purchase a wallet at Louis Vitton. As I had never heard of this scam we agreed to help (I did not want to since I had a "funny feeling" but my husband is Chinese and felt he should). The Asian couple gave us $500. in Euro - the bills looked perfectly fine (I work in a bank and am accustomed to handling currency). I still had some major misgivings about the request and felt as though I was doing something wrong. Well, thankfully, the Louis Vitton store would not sell us the requested item without seeing our passports - we always leave our passports in the hotel safe - therefore, we could not "buy" the item. We left the store and gave the money back to the Asian couple, and explained we couldn't buy it. They counted the money as if they didn't believe us, but my husband is a 230 lb. bodybuilder and I suppose they decided against trying to pull anything else with us. Now after reading the posts about the Asian couple scam, I feel very relieved that we were not part of a fake-currency scam!!! Lesson Learned!!! p.s. best way to avoid Gypsies is just make up a fake language (gibberish will do) and yell like a crazy person.
Canada Tue 10/09/2007
Don't carry a purse! Always use a concealed monebelt!
Toronto YYZ, ON Canada Sun 10/07/2007
Note: There are no perfectly safe places in the world anymore! Always be on guard! Lisbon is NOT safe. Flight Crew who layover 4 days a week there, 2 or 3 times a month KNOW THIS WELL! Lots of Gypsies hasseling/selling stolen/inferrior goods. Young and old men with old world notions about women! Rude gestures and cat calls are common. A group of unesscorted women is often considered to be open target for men's advances. Some street cafes are considered to be for local men only. Although they don't post signs saying so...A woman buying a drink will feel rather unwelome with wandering lustful eyes. The WC at these places are often still a squat toliet and most women don't like these, anyway. Geared to men only. IME, it's still very much a man's world. A straight man's world, at that!
Toronto, Canada Sun 10/07/2007
Rome Termini and taxis
1. In the elevator of the Rome Termini to store my luggage in the basement, I was almost pickpocketed by 2 young girls. They crowded me in the elevator, and starting messing with my purse, I yelled and they stopped. 2. The taxi driver from the Termini in Rome to my hotel overcharged me, but I wasn't able to communicate with him, and I was too tired to deal with it.
Minneapolis, MN USA Sat 10/06/2007
The most effective policy with these rose sellers seems to be simply to turn your back on them. Saying "no", especially a polite "no thankyou" just seems to encourage them more.
San Francisco, CA USA Fri 10/05/2007
Robbed at Milan train station
In 2005, my mom, uncle, and I were switching trains in the Milan train station. They left me with three suitcases and three carry-ons. A man approached me from behind and kept speaking in Italian and pointing at his watch. I told him I didn't speak Italian. He kept it up until I got irritated and turned towards him. Well, as soon as I turned my back, one of his "partners in crime" got my uncle's carry-on. I turned around and they both ran off. My uncle had placed his passport and all his prescriptions in the bag. Long story short, we ended up at the consulate in Florence and spending an extra day to get a passport for him. We also took a night train from Florence to Paris, but had no problems, we put our luggage in from of our door. I can't say you can sleep, but at least you are not sitting up! There are a lot of pushy beggars in most of the European cities we have visited. A lot of them hand you a note in broken English, funny thing is, they all have the same story.
Athens, TX USA Fri 10/05/2007
Adena is the classic example for why we have always (almost always) run a cable lock through the handles of our bags whenever we put them down even if we cannot attach the cable to something solid. And second. if you are gong to put your bags down with one person guarding them, try to get your back to a wall.
I have posted before that we have never had any serious problem in our travels but have seen a few questionable situations. We were in the Rome train station this summer waiting for a train when we put our two carryon bags and two small shoulder bags in a pile next to a wall. I sat down on the floor next to the bags to read a box and Marcia wondered off to shop. We were off to the side where there was little regular foot traffic. Suddenly there were two well dressed, middle aged Italian men playing the coin toss game about 15 feet away and slowly getting getting closer as the game progressed. But at the same time acting like I wasn't there. Made me nervous, bad vibes, and I knew we had not locked our bags together. So I put the book down, quickly ran the cable lock through the handles, and went back to reading my book. I am sure they saw me do that. About three minutes later one of them answered his cell phone, or pretended to do so, and they walked aqay. Was I being set for a distraction to grab and run? Don't know !! I envisioned a coin accidently coming to the side away from the bags and close to me. If I reach over to pickup the coin my back would have been to our bags. Did the cable lock kill the set up? But on the other hand maybe the two guys were playing the game while waiting for a call. Who knows??? Always secure your bags!!! And try to stay alert.
Centennial, CO USA Fri 10/05/2007
Scams and Rose Vendors
The two prior postings really contrast the problems. Jackie had none, the rose vendors loved Beth and both were basicly in the same area. I am with Jackie, we have never had in problems in all the years we have traveled. The pickpockets, the vendors are professional in their own way and will not waste time chasing a mark that they judge as not productive. Jackie has to be doing something different from Beth -- either dress, age, body language,etc. -- have no idea what that is but something has to be different. Wish we knew !! Would love to see video of both ladies in a crowd. Maybe one of them has a 6-8", 250 lb husband/boy friend/son.
Centennial, CO USA Thu 10/04/2007
In response to Frank, I am a 55 year old woman, average height and weight, my husband is 55, 5'10" and weighs around 170. Even walks with the aid of a cane. Maybe it was the cane. He could really whack someone with it!
Laguna Niguel, Ca USA Thu 10/04/2007
I was in Italy several months ago with my husband and two children and found the people selling things quite annoying. They did follow us and were preying on my children, putting things into their hands, so that I would have to pay for them. I am a quite polite person, but I did say NO loudly to get rid of them. I don't remember Italy being so overrun with people selling things the last time we were there. It was especially bad at the Trevi Fountain. It took away from some the of pleasure of just sitting down and relaxing.
Reading, USA Thu 10/04/2007
Aggressive Rose Vendors in Italy
Not really a scam, but we jut got back from Italy, and there were very aggressive Rose vendors everywhere. Rome and Florence were bad, but Venice in St. Mark's square was the worst. They would practically force the roses into my folded arms and ask for money. They would not leave us alone and were very invasive of physical space. They would follow you as you tried to walk away. Very annoying!
Baltimore, USA Wed 10/03/2007
After reading all the posts on tourist scams before leaving for Italy, I was pretty freaked out thinking that I would be knee deep in gypsies and scam artists. I bought a Pacsafe bag, which I love and used the entire trip. However, in our 2 week trip throughout Italy, we never felt threatened, never experienced or witnessed (and believe me, I was watching for it) a robbery or scam. The rose scam mentioned earlier was there, but we just ignored them and walked on , no problem. No problem on the train, never felt threatened or in danger anywhere. Did have people standing around asking for money when you passed them, but we ignored them and never stopped walking,just as you would do in any city in America. We were very aware of our surroundings, kept our money and credit cards close. This was my second trip to Italy and found the same thing last time even with it being 2 women alone the first time.
Laguna Niguel, Ca USA Wed 10/03/2007
Visit Portugal. Virtually no scams, only honest hard-working people. Also beautiful cities (Lisbon, etc) and countryside...
Orlando, FL USA Tue 09/25/2007
The postcard scam is everywhere. One got me on the Champs when I was sitting on a bench digging around in my handbag for a mint. She asked me if I spoke English and I made the mistake of saying "a little". That is when I looked up and saw her postcard detailing all sorts of tragic crap. I told her "no" and she acted like she was going to grab onto me, which I made a backhand motion at her and she backed off. Then she reached out and tried to put her hand on one of my shopping bags. I really yelled at her then, and I got up and moved. After this happened, I saw this scam everywhere! We saw one poor family at the ferris wheel ticket line fall for this same thing. They admitted they spoke English and as soon as they told the kid they wouldn't give him any money, he got on his knees and grabbed a hold of the adult male's leg!
Two different young males tried to pull the gold ring scam on us. We were in a park, near the giant ferris wheel, sitting on a blanket, when we saw something fly through the air. We were then approached by a boy, approximately 10 years old, who picked the ring up and tried to give it to my husband. My husband told the kid "no" but this kid was persistent, told us that it must be good luck, etc. He finally got the hint when I started yelling at him. We watched him try to pull this same thing on an American backpacker and a Frenchman who was getting in his parked car. Anyway, about 10 minutes later, we saw something fly by us again, and here came another boy, this one was older, maybe 12 or 13. I figured he was working with the other one and had come over to steal our stuff. He started to approach us with the fake gold ring, which made me mad and I yelled at him. He was still trying to get near our blanket and I kept on yelling at him and stood up and shook my fist at him. He took off running.
The worst scammers we encountered were the men that hang out at the bottom of the funicular at Sacre Coeur. They are very aggressive and I think they really scared some of the elderly ladies that got off the funicular at the same time as us. These guys approach you waving these ugly woven bracelets that they would have to pay me 20 Euro to wear. They will try to grab you, put the ugly bracelet on you, then force you to cough up money. We saw a couple of very unhappy looking people pulling money out of their bags. My advice is not to let them get a hold of you in the first place. When I saw those men coming at me, I put my elbows up and out like a basketball player (this also works well in the metro if you are being aggressively pushed) and yelled "no" along with a few other choice words. When they saw that I wasn't going to let them grab me, one of them tried to follow me and start a conversation, telling me I was pretty and asking where I was from. What a load!
A couple of other notes...In the evenings, there are a lot of students and hippie-types that hang out at the park under the Eiffel Tower. It can be fun to sit there, look at the Eiffel Tower lit up and listen to the street musicians. However, you will constantly be approached by Arab youth with plastic grocery bags, offering to sell you a bottle of wine or champagne. The wine and champagne appeared to be actual stuff (not like water in the bottle) and a lot of people were buying from these guys, however we suspected that everything being sold down there was probably stolen out of a legitimate shop so we declined to buy anything (I don't know for certain they are selling stolen wine, but they are also really annoying). Finally, we made a very foolish mistake of taking a shortcut through the park next to the Eiffel Tower at night. It was full of groups of scary looking men. I don't frighten easily and I really thought we were going to get mugged or worse. I have since read that there have been some pretty violent attacks in that park at night--do not go in there after dark!
San Antonio, TX USA Tue 09/25/2007
Italian Train Conductor Scam
I am a foreign airline crew and it was the first time that i was scheduled for a flight to Rome.
Decided to visit Pisa via the train.
Bought the train tickets, and while walking to the platform, chance upon a train conductor and ask for instruction for the right train to Pisa.
He instructed us to board the train and insisted that no validation of tickets was required. Coming from a country where our rail system does not require validation, we didnt give a second thought about it and boarded the train. About 2 hours into the ride, the same conductor came up to us and demanded 50 Euros for the penalty of not validating our tickets.We paid our "fine" after some commotion.
Upon reaching Pisa, we brought our case to the station's customer service officer and it seems that they are used to such "decoy by train conductors" on tourist.
Advise: Always check for the requirement/procedures for train/bus/ferry tickets. DO NOT TRUST ANYONE (INCLUDING EMPLOYEES)
USA Mon 09/24/2007
Italian night train robberies
Here's a Guardian article on train robberies in Italy, saying it's a recently increasing problem:
Washington, DC USA Sat 09/22/2007
Just back from Paris. On a cool rainy night my wife and I went to see the Eiffel Tower lit up and twinkling. We were on a footbridge over the Seine when a man asked in broken English for directions. When I told him I didn't know, he continued to follow and talk, asking me where I was from etc. I was suspicious and about to tell him to go when the "police officer" came running up and grabbed him by the arm and flashed a "badge". I had not actually heard of this scam but it just seemed so bogus that I got mad (having been pickpocketed in Rome several years ago). I told them loudly to get the F away from me and they left quickly. I was not sure as to how the scam worked until I read it in these scam alerts after I got back. They prey on you being a polite and cooperative tourist and unfortunately, turn you into an untrusting, rude tourist.
Trenton, Ont Canada Fri 09/21/2007
I read this whole section on scams. I've been to Western Europe over 40 times in the past ten years, a few times for 6 weeks at a time. I have never, ever once even witnessed such crimes, let alone been victimized. I think it has a lot to do with the way you carry yourself. These criminals are looking for easy marks. Not so much weak or small people, but distracted and/or confused people (first time tourists, people with children, even disjointed groups, etc). I look at them, I laugh, I make eye contact, etc. I walk away and I even talk to them...letting them know I know it's all a scam. In fact, if they get aggressive, you may need to get aggressive back…especially if there is no easy way to disconnect…yell, shout, push if you have to. Then again, I think part of this is that I am a cop (and about 6 feet tall and 260lbs.) and these people don't intimidate me or fool me (and they should not intimidate you either...just walk like you have a purpose and look in them in the eye). Don't divert your gaze. It shows weakness. Lest you think I'm trying to come off as some tough guy, be assured that I know my limits… never resist a robbery where the assailant shows a weapon. If someone has a weapon and tries to rob you, they'll usually show it to you before they rob you, not after you start to resist…so keep that in mind if you decide to resist. The fake breakdowns on the side of the road are pretty dangerous. Do not stop unless you are convinced someone is injured (a few European countries have samaritan laws dictating that you must stop to render aid)! Call for help at one of the aid boxes on the side of the highway.
All you have to do is look the pickpockets, scam artists, gypsy, etc., right in the eye, show your disgust and keep walking. They don't need the problems or the trouble. Remember, they are usually NOT part of the native culture and although savvy, are actually quite fearful of the local police (who make cops in the U.S. look like alter boys). DO NOT MESS WITH THE COPS OF ITALY OR FRANCE….or MONTREAL (believe me on this one). Notice what happens when just one or two cops approach the base of the Eiffel Tower on foot....all the peddlers and scam artist pack up and RUN! They are scam artists….they are not knocking off armored cars.
Boston, MA USA Thu 09/20/2007
Bus 64 in Rome, as usual
Last Spring I was in Rome and had 3 separate attempts at pickpocketting on the 64 bus. Watch out for the usual scams like the gypsy woman with the baby. Wear a money belt! Also don't buy stuff from the gypsy venders, you aren't helping them. And don't give money to the beggars, put it in the poor box in the church.
Washington, DC USA Thu 09/20/2007
Train robbery in Italy
There are lively discussions going on at Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet about the NIGHT TRAIN in ITALY post. Almost everyone is skeptical about the claims of the poster.
Please don't get freaked out about such claims. Traveling in Europe is quite safe.
Paris, France Thu 09/20/2007
Barcelona Bird Poop Scam!
Just got back from Spain and Portugal, and while we didn't make it to Barcelona we talked to a couple that got robbed TWICE there. One was the Bird Poop scam; someone up high dribbles/sprays what looks like bird droppings on you, and his buddy comes up offering assistance, has tissues/water, leads you over to assist you while nicely taking your wallet. The husband lost his wallet this way while his wife was being assisted with the poop removal! They also had their purse and camera stolen from the rental car, almost right in front of them (had the window halfway down while they were getting something out of the trunk. Now, nothing happened to us, we are always cautious, and I think we intimidate people, cause the rosemary gypsies didn't really bother me at all in Spain!
Stoughton, WI USA Thu 09/20/2007
Robin - Please tell us where the one credit card they did not find was hidden? Since you were "gassed", I assume they had plenty of time to search everywhere.
seattle, WA USA Tue 09/18/2007
First time I'm hearing about being drugged on a train. I would go to the media to expose this. I will now take a battery operated door alarm with me, even for hotel rooms. Please post this on tripadvisor.com also.
Verona, NJ, USA Mon 09/17/2007
Gassing on European Trains
The urban myth of thieves gassing a night train is just that, a myth. Don't believe such nonsense. I have been going to Europe, particularly Italy and I have NEVER been able to find anyone to whom this happened. It is always a "good friend" or somesuch who had this exciting and romantic adventure. It doesn't happen.
Charles M. Luther
USA Mon 09/17/2007
If you thinking about taking a "NIGHT TRAIN in ITALY"….. Do yourself a favor….. DON"T!!!
Let me tell you about our "vacation" in Italy! My husband and I have been married for 12 years and since he is from Europe, throughout our marriage, his dream has been to get me to Europe to see how "the other side lives". Being Italian myself, I was very excited to visit Italy! We started planning our European vacation back in April and decided to take a Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity Millennium from Venice to Barcelona because the itinerary was excellent and also wanted to see Paris. We got busy booking our cruise and all the travel arrangements from place to place. My husband was thrilled with the fact that we would start in Paris and take a sleeper train at night to continue our journey to catch our ship in Venice. He said it would be wonderful experience for me and a great way to travel in addition to all our flying. Our three days in Paris were phenomenal. We boarded our train #221 Paris-Venezia on Tues. Aug. 28, 2007 for our journey to Italy. We got in our coach 95 couchette 45-46 and got cozy for the nights ride. We ask our conductor who collected our passports for two blankets which he delivered later , locked the door and went to sleep at around 23:00. We awoke around midnight and checked our watch for the time. Falling back to sleep, we awoke around 5:00 am and discovered my husbands' watch was missing. We checked around the floor and my husband said somebody took it and immediately went for our money and documents in his "fanny pack" only to discover every bit of cash we had for travel, 1500 Dollars + 500 Euro's was GONE!! We were robbed while we slept with our door locked and money in the "fanny pack"! My husband immediately went to the conductor to report it and found him standing with two "undercover officers" who never show any ID's. They came back to the couchette and did a "report". After train stopped in Venice we went to the police station and filed a report. We then went to get a cash advance off our credit card that was not stolen and the lady informed us it happen every day. I said there is no way somebody would come in my room and I would not wake up and she informed me that thieves use conductor's key's to open your couchette and spray your room and it knocks you out so you won't hear anything and that how they rob you. What a horrible nightmare it is to make plans for months, make all the arrangements, take time off from work and packing for a wonderful vacation only to be robbed of all your cash while you sleep before you even arrived to your cruise ship! For these people to invade our privacy and break into our couchette and drug you while you sleep to steal all our money is something we will never get over. We arrived at our ship and began our journey at sea. Along the way, we met a couple that travel by train from Paris to Venice two days earlier with four people in their room and she was robbed off ALL her currency as well. She had it tucked away in four different envelopes and the thief had time to go into every envelope and empty them one by one while four people slept. We got a copy of their police report if you are interested. This is my first trip to Europe and my first and last ride on your train was a horrible and frightening experience. After have returned home, I decided to go on the internet to read about all the other victims of this horrible ordeal. We feel TRENITALIA is a 100% responsible for the safety of its travelers and we paid approx. $500 to travel on your train only to be invaded and robbed!!! We do feel company is 100% responsible for allowing this theft to occur every day, on a regular basis and feel it OK to accept this behavior from your own employees. There is no doubt in our minds you are fully aware of this incredibly horrible crime and allow it to happen on a daily basis. We also feel your conductors are definitely part of the whole operation and you as a company are fully responsible for allowing people to pay for ticket to ride your train only to be robbed on a daily basis. Why there are no cameras on the sleeper trains to prevent this? We are planning to go to the television with our story so we can let the world know about our wonderful TRENITALIA experience. This has been a devastating event for our trip which completely ruined our desire to EVER visit Italy again! If this was your goal, congratulations…You have succeeded! With sincere regret of traveling TRENITALIA…
Virginia Beach, VA USA Sun 09/16/2007
Marc, a much greater possibility is that someone had installed a "spyware" program that captured all your key strokes. Could have done without the hotel's knowledge. And, assuming, that you had accessed your e-mail earlier at a different location, it could have happen at that time. You have to assume that there is NO security on public computers. For that reason we use an email address that is exclusive for travel and our regular email is forwarded to that address. That way if the travel address is compromised then nothing is lost. Most folks have a poor understanding of email security and often chase the wrong target. The hotel is most llikely innocent.
Cenennial, CO USA Tue 09/11/2007
The day after checking my email from a hotel lobby computer, someone hacked into my account, changed the user name and password, and started sending out Nigerian bank spam. It took a couple of hours of a transatlantic live chat to sort it out. Fortunately, my address book and saved messages were left intact, and none of my contacts received any of the spam. I also lost use of a user name that I've had for 10 years. No one was behind me in the lobby, although there was a big window where someone could've watched from outside or even been out of sight with binoculars, however, that is merely speculation. I had even made sure to clear the history, cache and cookies on the computer after finishing. Wife used the same terminal without incident. I have no reason to suspect anyone at the hotel, so I hesitate to name them, but just for full disclosure it was the HEM Hotel in Amsterdam. There are lenses that can be placed over screens so only a person directly in front can see it clearly, and I may look into this for future trips.
ca USA Mon 09/10/2007
Having warned my family about "do you speak English" scams we ignored the gypsy woman at l'Arc de Triomphe(hard for my intrinsically helpful son). Hadn't mentioned the gold ring thing, so after I went to find the boy at the carnival in the Tuilleries Gardens, some guy asked my wife if I'd dropped the ring he had. He then got a euro out of her with a sob story.
FREMONT, ca USA Mon 09/10/2007
Rome and It's Pregnant Pickpockets
When in Rome we were approached by a pregnant mother and her son. The mother distracted us by begging for money and tapped a piece of cardboard into my chest. Having been made aware of this trick by Senore Rick Steves, I brushed the cardboard aside to find juniors hands halfway into my front pocket. Hmmmm just another good reason to wear a money belt. They went home empty handed but got an earful from my wife who harshly derided her and her son for their thieving ways in Castillian Spanish. You bet they understood! It was interesting to watch this exchange... I guess they figured we were just another of dumb American Tourists.
San Diego, CA USA Mon 09/10/2007
We were short changed all through Italy in the spring. Always check your money when they give it to you.
Reading, USA Fri 09/07/2007
We were short-changed at the vaporetto ticket booth by the venice train station. Count your euro change before you leave the counter especially if it's your first time to use euro bill.
san jose, ca USA Wed 09/05/2007
Do you have the time?
On the Paris Metro, watch (pun intended) for people asking for the time using your watch, or more often than not, your cell phone -- then making a grab and run for the exit.
Sacramento, CA USA Fri 08/31/2007
ice cream eating targets
While in Florence having a lovely after-dinner gelato, along the passegiato(I think that's what the after dinner stroll is called in Italy.) I remember a woman came up and really strongly begged money from us. She appeared pregnant at first glance and was repeating loudly "money for the baby" and seemed angered when we denied her requests. I hated to believe it but I did have my doubts as to the authenticity of her baby; but later the next day, we saw her sans belly and was sure!! Glad we didn't fall for that one!
Belleville, NJ USA Tue 08/28/2007
Emily's experience illustrates the point that I often make concerning pickpockets. It is only in the movies that a pickpocket bumps you and walks away with your billfold, watch, and gold tooth. Most pickpckets are crude and rely on a big diversion and partner. For Emily I would suggest that you should have moved some distance away if you thought it was unusual for him to be bumping and pushing. However, it is not uncommon for you to get push further away from the door as more people pack into the car.
We had a potentially similar experience in a subway car in Rome. The car was packed and a large guy got between my wife and myself and pushed her with the crowd a good couple of arm lengths away. To me his movements didn't seem natural. I didn't like it and she didn't either. Over the years we have used a number of silent signals in very crowd situations when we didn't want to speak English. The train was slowing for the next stop, caught her eye and gave the signal for "Get Off." She quickly moved into the flow for the door and as we got nearer the door we just stepped back and stayed in the car but now are severeal feet from her pusher and well isoluated by lots of bodies. We stayed on till our stop with no further problems. Later on I noticed that he was making contact with another guy who was further back in the car near the original door that we had entered through. Were we being set up or just paranoia? Will never know. But my big point is ----If you don't like something, do something --- move, get off, don't be predictable, Even if you get off, all you are losing is ten minues for the next bus or train.
Centennial, CO USA Sun 08/26/2007
Emily, Thank You so much for posting your experience in Rome. I'm heading there with my daughter in a few months and I've been reading up on other's experiences. You've worded it so well - I know now to really watch for commotion on a train, and for both of us to watch each other's backs!
USA Fri 08/24/2007
Pickpockets in Rome
We all know that pickpockets will often create a commotion to distract you while they rob you, but I didn't know that, sometimes, they will use you as the distraction.
I was in Rome with my family, and we were on the Metro, heading back to our hotel after a young girl attempted to rob us at the Forum (she failed, by the way, and was caught by an undercover cop). The train was very crowded, and the man next to me kept pushing against me, moving me further away from the door. As the train pulled into Termini (our stop, as well as a pickpocket's paradise), the man suddenly elbowed me hard, nearly knocking me off my feet. Before I could react, he ran off. I cried out in pain, and my father, who was a few feet away, turned to make sure I was all right.
We managed to get off the train, and my father told me that he had felt someone unzipping his pocket and trying to get inside. We realized that there had been a group of pickpockets together on the train, and they figured out that my father and I were related. They assumed that if I was hurt, he would stop to help me, and it would give them the perfect opportunity to reach into his pocket. Their plan worked. Thankfully, my father's pocket was closed with Velcro and a zipper, so they didn't have time to steal anything, but we were all shaken. I was left with a nasty bruise and an interesting memory. It was a reminder to us all to be careful and to wear money belts.
Seattle, WA USA Thu 08/23/2007
I was walking with my backpack on my back through the Paris Metro when I turned to say something to my husband. I had no idea there was a man right behind me lifting the flap of my bag. I yelled at him and he ran away. He scared the heck out of me!
Fl USA Wed 08/22/2007
I have visited NYC, and lived in Las Vegas and Orlando. I feel safe in the tourist locations of these cities because these cities know that tourism pays the bills. I have also visited Germany (which is never mentioned in in this section) without a problem.
I have read here that at certain tourist spots look out for this or that. This is the purpose of this section. I have also lived in Atlanta and there are areas to avoid, mostly because there is nothing there to see.
Ft Worth, Tx USA Mon 08/20/2007
If there was nothing to be worried about - then why does this board even exist?
I've found it helpful as a warning to new travelers - scams to watch out for, etc.
I have seen a pickpocket in action on a metro in Rome....never experienced that before. I was aware and informed and that helped me. I use the info I learn on this board when traveling in NYC too. I live in a small town, and don't experience big city crime too often.
The world is not a safe place anywhere. it's good to be informed.
I travel to Europe to learn, experience new things and open my eyes to the world, not just my hometown newspaper and TV news. I want to interact with all cultures and learn history. I don't go just to take pictures and complain that I didnt' get waited on quickly in a restaurant - I realize that other cultures are different. We don't have 2-3 hour breaks in the afternoon here for siesta! We don't close down the main street and walk with our neighbors after dinner here...I travel to experience these things, and I want to be safe and educated when I do go!
WI USA Mon 08/20/2007
Beggars Along the Seine
We encountered the gold ring scam on the pedestrian bridge south on Pont d'Alma in Paris. Two younger women work together: One approaches you claiming to have found a gold ring. She wants to know if it is real.
Beware of the supposedly crippled old women wearing long coats and babushkas. The appear to be crouched along the Seine, but I suspect the overcoat hides the fact that they are seated on a low stool. They turn one foot out to look crippled. I saw the same one two days in a row and each day a different foot was turned.
The babushka hides the fact that they are men. Look closely at their faces and hands.
Midwest, USA Sun 08/19/2007
The PacSafe products are the only way to travel worry free. Because of the wire mesh inside the bags and straps...they are slash proof, tamper proof and snatch proof.
Why leave home with out them.
CA USA Fri 08/17/2007
Safer Purse / Day Bag
I, too, purchased a PacSafe metrobag and used it as my day bag/purse. Its anti-pickpocket features were well worth the cost of the bag ($30). It gave me great peace of mind. The PacSafe has a number of other products that will provide security for travel: http://www.pacsafe.com/
Austin, Texas USA Thu 08/16/2007
Barcelona great city a lot pickpockets
Barcelona is a WONDERFUL city but FULL of pickpockets. I was there in April with 14 people and 3 had attempted pickpockets but without success. There are signs in stores that say beware of pickpockets. My cousin who lives there told us ahead of time to be careful. He also told us that the citizens of BCN are very, very upset about this and will usually try and get involved. Which is not a scam. I was walking with my family and we saw this girl actually put her hand right in my aunts bag. We screamed and an older man came over and started screaming at the girl in Spanish. I ALWAYS carry a money belt in Europe. I carry a bag cross over me with my hand on it most of the time. The only thing in my bag is a camera and a decoy wallet with nothing in it. If they take my camera then it is much better than credit cards and cash. Enjoy Barcelona, the people, and the food.
Brooklyn, NY USA Wed 08/08/2007
They got my money...
Here's one you may not have heard of but it happened to me in BARCELONA a few years ago. It was dark in the early evening as I walked through a park at the beginning of La Rambles. Three local guys surrounded me laughing, smiling and yelling "futbol" as they playfully kicked at my feet. As my attention was diverted to my feet one of them took my wallet out of my back pocket. It took about five seconds to figure everything out. I turned and saw one of the guys removing the cash and throwing my wallet to the ground. He got off with $60. A cheap lesson learned. That was the last time I carried a wallet in my back pocket. And now, I always leave a credit card in my hotel room in case of emergency. Moral of the story? Soccer is boring. I should have known better.
Los Angeles, CA USA Mon 08/06/2007
Barcelona is great, just be wise and it's fine
The pickpockets in Barcelona are really good, I got my wallet stolen (with only my drivers license and 4 euro coins in it, luckily). People post such negative things about the city and it's really unfair... It is amazing, the culture, the people, everything. Just go and be savvy, like every other European city!
USA Sat 08/04/2007
various experiences in Europe
Crime I've witnessed in relatively few travels:
*the bump on the subway . . . check your pockets!
*two men approached my father in broad daylight in Madrid. One threw himself on the ground, hugging my father's legs, while the other went for my father's backpocket. My father yelled, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" loudly, we came running, and they ran away. Passersby were unfazed.
*I saw another pickpocket eye my father at Montmartre in Paris and start to walk towards him (his back was turned). I jumped to get between them, and he saw me and ran away.
*A gypsy broke into our train car from Paris to Rome. My friend had to battle him to close the door on his face. Meanwhile, I slept peacefully thanks to eyeshades and earplugs. Our bags were locked to the shelf above with cable had he been able to enter, and I was sleeping with my money belt around my waist with all important items inside.
*A man approached me as I watched the finish of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees, asking me if I spoke English. I was smart enough to shake my head and look confused instead of answering, but then he began rubbing my knee and shoulder and I gave myself away by saying, "No! Don't touch me!" This only encouraged his behavior, so I used reverse psychology to get him to go away: I adopted a mischievous smile, looked him straight in the eye, and began pretending that I was extremely thrilled to have an ugly old man touching me. This response confused him and he fled (my husband hates this story, but I turned the tables on someone who trying to make me feel powerless and confused and escaped with my valuables intact and no violence). I'm not sure if he was just mentally disturbed or was a pickpocket, but he didn't get whatever he was after.
Richmond, VA USA Sat 08/04/2007
I just purchased one of those Pacsafe purses and am very impressed. It is a shoulder bag (comes in 2 sizes) with 2 stainless steel cables running through the shoulder straps to prevent someone cutting the strap, stainless steel webbing along the front of the bag, under the material, to prevent someone from cutting into the bag and the contents falling out, a metal hook on the shoulder strap which allows you to disconnect the strap and re connect it around a chair arm, etc. and a great hidden hook holding the front flap down. I wish I had had it on previous trips! I got mine through www.discountluggage.com or, in the US 1-800-551-7090.
Sisters, Oregon USA Fri 08/03/2007
Warning: do not use cheapoair.com to buy tickets on the internet. Their website is misleading, you end up paying much more than is shown and their customer service is non-responsive, deceitful and disrespectful.
Salt Lake City, UT USA Fri 08/03/2007
5 rand coin mistaken for 2 euro coin
Beware the 5 rand coin from South Africa! When included among euro coins in change received during a transaction, you'd take it for a 2-euro coin. It looks very similar to it from a distance. But closer inspection shows it to be a 5-rand coin from South Africa. It's the same coloration and width as the 2-euro coin, but the rand's edge is slightly higher (juts out more) than the 2-euro coin. In google, type "5 zar in euros" and response shows this coin to be worth about 0.51 euros.
Has there been a lot of dumping of these coins in countries using euros?
Detroit, MI USA Fri 08/03/2007
Here in Las Vegas recently we had people installing some kind of box at some of the gas pumps. When a person used his ATM card to pay for the gas, the magnetic strip was read and and the information recorded. The boxes were apparently easy to install and uninstall because it took awhile to find out what was happening. Check out the Las Veges Review-Journal if you want more information.
Las Vegas, NV USA Thu 08/02/2007
Sadly the sleeves can and do read the magstripe on the back of your card and that info is used to clone your card.
It's a really large scale and very professional crime run by very serious organised crime.
For this reason I will never use an ATM in any tourist area - ever. I withdraw cash from the bank in an 'over the counter' transaction using my card. I'm not paranoid about travelling, I work for an airline, it's my job to travel. I've travelled over most of Europe, a lot of Asia, a great deal of Africa and of course North America. I NEVER use an ATM.
Nottingham, UK Wed 08/01/2007
ATM ID theft
There was an article on the internet (MSNBC, I think) in the last year about how thieves steal your card information. In the example they showed, a thin slotted plate was put over the front of the ATM where you insert your card. It allowed the card to go in normally, but read the magnetic strip as the card was inserted.
To get the PIN, a tiny camera was placed in the bottom of a broshure rack next to the machine, and a person in a nearby car watched you punch in your number.
So, some people think it is smart to use ATMs instead of bringing cash. However, you can use a moneybelt to protect your cash, but you are will always be vulnerable when you use an ATM.
CO USA Wed 08/01/2007
It pays to be careful, but I think some of these comments only unduly scare people. Remember, for this ploy to work, either the thief has to have a way of retaining your card while capturing your pin or reading your magnetic info on the card while capturing the pin.
So, here is what I ALWAYS DO, when using foreign country atm's:
1. only use an atm where the person in front of you got his card back with money. (that eliminates the first ruse) 2. then, examine closely the slot where you put the card in. these fake plates the thieves put over the slot can be spotted because the normal atm slot has no raised plate area surrounding the slot (examine the atm's you now use to familiarize yourselves in what the card slot area should look like). remember, this fake plate is only temporarily attached and the thief has to retrieve it. secondly, cup both hands around the pin pad and stand extremely close to the atm machine while entering your pin. It makes it extremely hard for the thieves to then record your keystokes by any method.
3. third and equally important is use an ATM ONLY card, not an atm/debit card. remember, a thief only has to get the magnetic card data to replicate your atm/debit card and can then use it anywhere (except an atm machine to get cash). an atm only card is useless if lost, stolen or replicated without the pin.
4. minimize usage by taking out the maximum per transaction up to your needs. less usage means less chance of a problem. and always bring an atm card from another bank (with cash in the account) as a backup if all else fails. I have traveled the world over the past 6 years, always have used atm's and have never had a problem using these techniques above.
Use a credit card (capital one is the best-no foreign fees at all) for your large expenses (lodging, car rentals, fuel or other big purchases from reputable merchants). And don't let the card out of your sight. This cuts down on your cash needs. On a typical two week trip to euro countries, I will only use an atm 3-5 times. Obviously if you cover alot of countries with their own currencies, that means more uses. We also apply excess currency to the last hotel bill on the morning we leave that country, down to the last coin.
USA Wed 08/01/2007
Debit cards at ATM machines - WARNING:
I had heard about "sleeves" that thieves can slip into ATM slots to prevent your card from being returned to you, which they later retrieve. What I didn't know until we just discovered about $900 worth of fraudulent ATM withdrawals coming from Italy, is that these "sleeves" can also be used to take a picture of your card, from which a fake card is then produced. Our cards had always been returned to us from the machines, so we weren't the wiser. And our cards had never been out of our possession. We did wonder once or twice when we weren't able to make a transaction, once at least in the Milan train station. This fraudulent activity didn't commence until after we had been home over a month. So beware, and follow your banking closely once you get home. Fortunately our bank is reimbursing us. Also, always call your bank beforehand and let them know the dates of your trip. In the future, I would cancel a debit card as soon as I get home and get a new one.
Monroe, WA USA Tue 07/31/2007
Eastern Europe Travels
Be careful of anyone speaking unsolicited english to you when you are traveling Eastern Europe. I have been in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic and I find that anyone who goes up to you speaking English is up to absolutely no good. Just tell them "No!" and walk away. Especially if your in a place with a lot of tourist (i.e. train station or metro stops). It works 99% of the time. Eastern Europe is well worth your time and a better "bang for your buck" you just have to watch yourself more than usual. Happy travels!
Dekalb, IL USA Sat 07/28/2007
Scams, ruses, tales
In the London subway, in the tunnel between platforms, a decently dressed person says, "My phone card has just run out on me, can you help me". As we are boarding a train in Gare de Nord, Paris, a well dressed man comes out of the train saying, "My bag has just been taken can you help me"
Phx, AZ USA Fri 07/27/2007
Motorway Scam in France
We were driving from Paris to the Loire valley. Shortly after leaving the tollway we came across an expensive looking car that had apparently broken down, with three well dressed men standing around it. They waved us down, asked if we spoke English. The three of them came up way too close to our car for our liking and tried to lure the driver out of the vehicle, the feeling was very aggressive. Not sure what they were trying to do (ours was a French registered car, a few years old and certainly no trophy if they were trying to hijack it!). Our driver put his foot to the pedal and we got out of there. It saddened me, because it's just human nature to help out someone else when they are in trouble, but we felt very vulnerable when this happened to us.
Sydney, NSW Australia Thu 07/26/2007
Gold Ring Scam
My wife and I visited Italy and France in March and April of 2007. We were in Paris in early April. The Gold ring on the sidewalk scam is still alive, even in that season. We emphatically shouted ...no, no, no, keep it... to the creep who then turned and left. We kept all valuables including cameras in the inside the coat, zippered pockets, our money in money belts, and had no other problems. I suspect there may be a dearth of creeps that time of year. On another note, I learned some elementary Italian and know a bit of French which enabled our daily transactions immensely.
San Anselmo, CA USA Thu 07/26/2007
LVMH limits sales on purpose. The problem underlying this is well known in the luxury goods business. There are a number of Chinese and Japanese who have made it their profession to travel to Europe to buy designer ware and to sell it in Japan, where the designer stores generally sell at a 40% premium of European prices. The designer stores obviously don't like this kind of competition, which is why they've been trying to prevent these kind of imports into Japan at source. Many stores have posted personnel around their European offices to spot traders who ask Japanese or Chinese tourists to buy goods for them, because they themselves are already too known inside the stores to be sold anything.
MN USA Wed 07/25/2007
For prevention of the bracelet scam, cant you just tie some string around your arm before going out, and if some approaches you, they'll see the string bracelet and leave you alone?
USA Tue 07/24/2007
Taxi scams in Istanbul
Be careful in Istanbul with taxi drivers. If you give a 50 Turkish Lira note along with other bills, the taxi driver will put it in his lap and then bring back up your bills with a substituted 5 Lira note and tell you you owe more money. If you only have a 50, count the bills out loud into the hand of the driver one at a time to prevent this slight of hand trick.
Windermere, fl USA Mon 07/23/2007
Sidewalk Chalk Artist
We just got back from Rome where we saw this amazing sidewalk artist working on an almost complete version of Caravaggio's Conversion of St. Paul. We stopped for a moment and were amazed by how good it was. We threw some change in his box.
About an hour later we saw the same guy but now in front of a different building. We were confused for a second but then realized the truth. Turns out it the chalk painting was a large poster print (of a chalk painting) that was taped down to the sidewalk. He must have moved from the first spot when someone called him out, or the police chased him away.
Don't give this scam artist any money and feel free to point him out to others if you see them being taken in. It was a good scam fooled me and I make a living as an artist.
Philadelphia, PA USA Mon 07/23/2007
Has anyone ever taken a small pair of scissors with them and just started cutting away the stupid thing once payment has been demanded? Would be interesting to see their facial expressions.
USA Thu 07/19/2007
The deal is this: If you use your own money to buy the purse, the street person will now reimburse you in fake Euros.
If the street person gives you money (fake) up front to go in and buy the purse...guess who gets arrested for attempting to purchase goods with counterfeit Euros??? You!
USA Wed 07/18/2007
Ice cream scam???
Paul - gelato is ice cream. perhaps you didn't get the real homemade sort (ice-cream bars that make their own ice cream advertise that it is homemade) and got factory made stuff (like algida or carte d'or brands). It isn't a scam.
Stresa, Italy Wed 07/18/2007
When visiting the Sacre Coeur in Paris be wary of the large number of scammers attempting to make you a "bracelet" out of colored rope. Naive as I am I stopped when one of them approached me and I didn't realise it was going to be a scam until it was too late. When these lowlives are done doing practically nothing they'll demand payment, 10 euros. I paid him off because I didn't want to get into an argument, but it pissed me off.
Reading about all of these scammers and thieves in Europe is pretty disheartening by the way, the police should take a tougher stance.
The Netherlands Wed 07/18/2007
Same as poster below. We experienced this in May. Milan's piazza is terrible now with South American's offering corn to feed the birds, then demanding money. Don't fall for it. It's not Free. Also the South African men are agressive on the sidewalks by the Duomo. They walk up and almost grab your arm to tie on some string bracelet.
I looked them in the eye and said in a loud voice "NO" and kept walking.
Do not fall for these scams! And, watch your daypacks, purses while confronted by these people.
USA Tue 07/17/2007
Paris Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur
As many people here have posted before, the two "scams" I personally noted was the Gypsy girl holding a postcard "Do you speak English" and asking for money in front of Notre Dame. She at least was not invasive of personal space. But the African men that surround the steps leading to Sacre Coeur are aggressive! They will force their way in your path and they block almost all paths leading up to the church. They say they want to give you a gift and try to tie red string bracelets around your wrist. Then they harass you for money after giving this "gift". They were downright pushy and it almost got physical between one of men and my husband. We just kept firmly telling them "No thank you" and "Leave us alone", held our bags close and tried our best to avoid them. That was probably the worst experience we had in Paris. Most times, you can just avoid eye contact with street vendors and they leave you alone, but watch out for these guys - it is extremely unpleasant and you almost cannot avoid them. I think the police should keep these guys from blocking all the entrances. It's very intimidating and is basically harassment.
USA Tue 07/17/2007
Asian couple in Paris
When we were in Paris, 2 Asian/Chinese couple came up to us asking us to help them buy a purse in Louis Vuitton. Not sure what this was about, and they spoke very good English. I read about these people and told them NO!
Thought I'd post this as a reminder
USA Tue 07/17/2007
Map over the purse.
My wife and I sat at a train station in Venice Italy. A man sat next to my wife and struck up a conversation about sites and destinations. He unfolded a map over their laps and began describing places to see and so forth. I was beginning to become very suspicious after a little while and asked my wife to retrieve something from her purse. Her purse was opened, but fortunately nothing was missing, and regardless the bulk of our currency and important documents were in our money belts.
This person appeared to be an American and spoke a dialect of a US citizen, and presented himself as a tourist. Just pay attention to any attempts to distract you especially if someone gets into your personal space. Money belts equal piece of mind.
Seattle, WA USA Tue 07/17/2007
Gold Ring Trick, Pickpocketing in the Louvre, Change
Yes, the gold ring scam is still going around. I sat on some steps near the Louvre to get rocks out of my shoe and here came this man who reached down to pick up a gold ring. I was the only person there and it wasn't there when I sat; it was like he dropped it and picked it up right in front of me. I ignored him. My husband then came and sat down. He kept trying to basically sell the ring to my husband which was so obviously not real gold (take this ring but give me money sort of thing). We both ignored him as much as we could. He was standing over and kept leaning in really close to my husband, almost like he was looking over his shoulder to possibly check for a wallet. He finally gave up and walked away and did the same trick to someone else 20 feet away. I was glad we were wearing money belts! I was tempted to take the ring and throw it behind me into the Seine.
That same day we went to the Louvre. My husband went to the bathroom where he found a women's US passport and credit card along with US dollars thrown in a very visible corner. My husband stood back, and everyone else going in and out ignored the situation for at least 5 minutes. My husband turned the items in. It was obvious that a pickpocket reached in someone's purse, took the items to the jon and threw out everything but the euros. There was no ticket scanning in the Louvre, so really anyone could walk in there without paying. The entry was very lax.
I also got a very strange coin back in error instead of a 2 euro in Ireland. The clerk was probably 15 years old at a fast food joint and really didn't realize and was glad to swap it out. Just count your change.
Oak Park, IL USA Mon 07/16/2007
In Milan beware of gypsies in the stazione centrale train station. They are very very aggressive, and stand around the ticket machines, offering to help you buy your ticket. They would not go away, and were constantly in our face. We encountered a similar problem at the Duomo in Milan. The minute we emerged from the train station we were accosted by African men offering us bracelets and trying to tie them on our wrists. Also, there were men thrusting corn kernels at tourists to feed the birds and then demanding payment. We were only in Milan for a layover, and we enjoyed the sights but I was glad to leave because of the constant presence of gypsies.
Traveler to Milan
Baltimore, MD USA Mon 07/16/2007
Seeking Medical Assistance
Beware children begging for help, in broken English, requiring emergency First aid. There was a scam going around in Latin America where children will set up a mock senario which looks like their little brother or sister has injured themselves and need you to help them right away! They make it look like they fell down the hill at the back of the hotel. They lead you to believe it is a head and spinal injury with bleeding. Yes, they are that good. For awhile they were targeting International Flight Crew as they arrived on the crew bus. They were smart and knew we had emergency skills/first aid kit and would probably want to help. They have you run down the hill to assist and in the flurry you don't notice the others take your valuables and in two cases, your passport. Remember, the first rule of First aid is to make sure it is safe to assist and to secure your belongings. When you are exhausted sometimes it is easy to forget this, especially when a little kid begs for your help.
YYZ Toronto, ON Canada Sun 07/15/2007
Not a scam as such, but I noticed that in eastern Europe (where the bill is in some Slavic variant) that some restaurants will add a tip (usually 10%) but it can be hard to tell. I know that on at LEAST one occasion (might have been Budapest) that I paid for a gratuity and left a tip. One often just has to ask to have a bill explained.
Portland, OR USA Thu 07/12/2007
Rome around the Palatine Hill
Walking up to enter the forum from the Circus Max metro, my wife and I encountered a car driver scammer who pulled over saying he was looking for the French Embassy. Said he was going to give us 900 Euro samples of Armani leather coats for a little gas money. They were Vinyl Crap. Total scam. We didn't fall for it, but this guy was good and had all the right lines and the sequence of a con.
Everyone has the natural inclination to help out.
This didn't add up very quickly. He got pissed when we told him to go away.
P.S. Now I have read that this happened to more folks. This guy has been doing this for a while.
He got very close to scamming us.
Springfield, OR USA Thu 07/12/2007
the gold ring scam in paris near the louvre
watch out for the ring scam in paris, lol, we just got caught by it but only for a few euros so we can laff about it.a woman apparently picks up a ring right infront of us then asks us if it is gold i told her to put it in her pocket she says its too big for her fingers so gives it too us for good luck,we stroll off and the woman starts to follow us to tell us that she needs money to eat anyway we give her a cpl of euros and she toddles off the ring is pretty good with a gold mark but tottally worthless ,you have been warned ..................steve,jean kent
kent, england Tue 07/10/2007
RE: Barcelona scam
After reading the below entry on Barcelona, we also suggest avoiding Barcelona and going somewhere else in Europe. We are Americans that have lived in Europe for over 4 years and traveled to numerous major cities throughout Europe. Barcelona stands out as a city with a huge crime problem targeted specifically at tourists.
It is too bad because it is a great city, but until the authorities there get serious on the criminals, it is better to avoid.
Chris and Melanie
Amsterdam, Netherlands Mon 07/09/2007
Yes, it sounds like a scam, but you should be to dispute this charge with your credit card company easily and still NOT lose your depost.
USA Sun 07/08/2007
Online Hotel Booking
This one's called hotelrentalgroup.com and looks impressive with hundreds if not thousands of hotels worldwide that can be booked. The scam--they add a $15 surcharge per person on bookings, not on the billing form (where you make your credit card payment), but on the email confirmation of your reservation, when it's too late to back out, without forfeiting your entire payment.
Abu Dhabi, UAE Sat 07/07/2007
Not 2 Euros
I know it's been mentioned before, but when in Euroland, inspect your coins carefully when getting change back. Twice now, I've been given an asian coin of some sort (I can't tell what country it's from!) instead of a 2 euro coin. The first time, in Rome, I caught it and was able to rectify the situation (to the embarrassment of a waiter). The second time, at Roissy-CDG Airport in Paris I was less careful and didn't notice until I was back home again. I have a feeling I'll never be going to the place that coin was from, but I wonder how far it has come and through how many countries?
Nottingham, UK Wed 07/04/2007
Florence Ice Cream, not Gelato
When ordering a gelato in Florence always ask the price and make sure that it's gelato and not just regular ice cream. My wife and I didn't pay close attention one time (we had LOTS of gelato in Italy) and ended up paying way too much for regular ice cream.
Santa Clara, CA USA Tue 07/03/2007
Scams and Tips
First of all, to the "pretty fit guy" in Paris, of course, sir, you would have a different experience than even someone like myself, "a pretty fit" gal.
My partner and I are frequently mistaken for Germans-- in
europe it the language with which we are adressed most often- even in non German speaking contries. We wear drab unstylish clothing and shoes (last trip we played "spot the American" -- it was easy: white shoes, ball caps, new stuff, loud voices, different body language) We are energetic and fit but try very hard to fly under the radar. We have had wonderful times and met great people and use common sense (and money belts). We wouldn't yank out a map and guidebook in the middle of the Port Authority bus terminal either, and we're from New York originally. Sorry to hear of all the issues, and maybe we have just been lucky.
Quincy, MA USA Sun 07/01/2007
I recommend the PacSafe products for safe and worry free traveling. The back packs, fanny packs, etc., are slashproof, tamperproof and snatch proof. Their prices are within reason. There is a wire webbing protecting the bag, including wire in the straps. The zippers locks are wired in. In my opinion, the best thing ever for traveling and knowing your valuables are safe during all situations.
The link for their products:
CA USA Thu 06/28/2007
My sister and I arrived in lovely Venice on June 19, 2007 with reservations for 3 evenings. We were booked through our travel agent into Hotel Ca'Priuli. Do not be mislead by pictures on internet! Yes, most of the rooms are beautiful! However, upon arrival we were put in the ATTIC! The room was up 3 flights on lift--great as it was very hot and humid. We then walked 16 steps up to an attic room. The room had a small "parlor" with a window over our heads and a fireplace. The bedroom was entered through an opening shaped in a triagle which was 5 feet on one side and and about 5'8" on the otherside. The ceiling was "beamed and low". Immediately called to ask for another room and was told none available until next day. (They did come to fix air conditioning) I am 5'4" and I had to lean the the middle to get near the bed. Only a sky light (too hot) and could not find a smoke detector. Had to sleep with the bathroom light on because of danger of hiting head getting up and out of room, low door and step down. Staff was indifferent and reluctant to give another room for the next 2 nights, but did. Limited response from manager (with cravat).....checked price and same as lovely room we got in other building. Be VERY specific about placement of your room as they are in several buildings. We are not picky people, but we did not pay high fee to be put in an attic!
Buy Rick Steve's rolling luggage! It is awesome!
Becker, MN USA Wed 06/27/2007
Rome Bus 175 - May 25, 2007, 10:00 PM Experience is certainly the best education. Arriving in Rome, our last stop before home and the 16th day of our trip, we spent the evening at the Spanish Steps and were returning to our room via the bus to the Roma Station. Unfortunately, this 15 minute ride was the moment of the trip I would most like to forget but unfortunately is the one I will never forget. I encountered what I would best describe as a professional pickpocket - but I didn't know it until the next morning when I opened my purse to find it empty. I had my purse and camera around my neck hanging it front of me; both were zipped and snapped shut with the flap over the top; and I was holding onto the straps of both of them. My other hand was holding a pole for balance. In front of me, eye to eye, was a woman standing with her elbow in my chest. I remember wanting to push her elbow away but there was NO space on the bus and everyone was touching the person next to them. So I did nothing - a huge mistake. It is obvious to me now that while I was focusing on the discomfort from her elbow, she, or someone else, unsnapped and unzipped my purse removing my wallet. If it hadn't happened to me, I would not have believed anyone who told me, "That's not possible, you would feel it". Well, I didn't!!! Money, passport, debit card, credit card and insurance cards were all gone. Since it happened on a Friday and Monday was Memorial Day the embassy was not open until Tuesday and my flight home was leaving on Monday. Needless to say, I didn't make it and after countless hours of "fixing it" I left for home Wednesday morning. The Rome police described her as a "gypsy" and I could even today identify her in a lineup. Fortunately I had copies of everything which enabled me to prove who I was and shorten the passport process somewhat. I was also traveling with my daughter who still had money and before she left make certain I had enough for "emergencies" as if I needed anymore. This was a very frustrating experience for me - as I always over prepare and during my 22 days in Europe I never laid my purse down - except in the hotel room. However it was put in perspective on the overseas flight home from Amsterdam - while over the ocean one of the passengers expired and we made an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Labrador. Life is certainly not guaranteed.
Saginaw, MI USA Mon 06/25/2007
Uffizi Gallery Reservation - Scam?
I just returned from a concert tour (45 kids, 21 adults) of Italy and I had reserved the Uffizi Gallery for all 66 people two months in advance. This requires a fee of 3 Euros per person, which I wired directly to their Museum headquarters as instructed, two months ago. When I went to pay for the tickets at the reserved ticket desk, the clerk very rudely stated that I had NOT paid the reservation fee and was going to charge me the full ticket price for all 66 people. Luckily, I brought a copy of the page my bank had given me showing that we had in fact wired the money before. She kept the page and said it was okay, and the price went from about 800 Euros down to about 400 Euros. She never explained why there was no record of our payment (why would there not be? You are not even supposed to HAVE the advanced reservation as we did without having paid for it!) So, when reserving your spots at museums, if you have to pay anything in advance, be sure to bring proof of payment with you or they will try to scam more money out of you!
USA Sun 06/24/2007
Our hotel made reservations for us at both Uffizi and Accademia for no charge. I think most hotels will do this for you.
USA Sun 06/24/2007
Scam in Barcelona
We traveled to Barcelona in May and were robbed as soon as we entered the city. A man on a motorcycle slashed the tire of our rental car (without our knowing it)while we waited at a stop light. When we pulled over to deal with the tire, he stopped and talked to us on the sidewalk while his accomplice reached into the front seat and stole my bag, containing cash, credit cards, my passport, digital camera and ipod. They managed to charge $3300.00 on my cards before I could cancel them (about the space of 30 minutes). The tire shop charged us $400 to replace one tire!!! Apparently we were robbed twice. At the police station we were told there were three people in front of us waiting to file reports with the same complaint. When we went to the U.S. consulate to replace my passport there were two other American couples there who had been victims of the same scam. Rather than going to Barcelona, I highly recommend Cadaques, Spain. It is beautiful, relaxing, and has a much lower crime rate!
Brent and Lisa
Hudson, WI USA Fri 06/22/2007
Rome Theft from Hotel Room
ALERT FOR THEFTS FROM HOTEL ROOMS IN ROME! I am sitting here in Rome effective June 20, 2007, entering my story into this site, a posting I never dreamed I would submit. I have read these postings hundreds of times during my many travels to Europe and have always been very alert to scams and thefts, in particular with Rome. Two days ago, 10 minutes after checking into a Best Western Hotel in Rome, a man dressed like hotel staff came to my door with a clipboard and wanted to inspect the room. He entered and began writing on his papers, showing me all of the settings for the A/C and so on. He then drew myself and my wife into the bathroom area to show us the tub. Before doing that, he set the deadbolt in the OUT position, preventing the door from closing. He then claimed an item in the bathroom was broken and that he would return promptly. He left and returned moments later, again drawing us into the bathroom area. He began talking loudly and running the water. This prevented us from seeing the front door. At this point, unknown to us, a 2nd subject entered the room and stole my money belt laying on the bureau containing all of my funds, my passport, my credit cards and I.D. The first subject in the bathroom suddenly left the room as we exited. He told us keep the water running for several minutes. It 15 minutes before we realized the belt was gone. I later discovered the hotel staff had seen the suspects briefly in the lobby. The clipboard contained writings that were only scribbles. It later became clear that after walking around in our room, the first suspect observed what items to steal. He then left and notified his companion just outside in the hallway. On his 2nd entry, he diverted us once again while his friend entered, the door being open due to the deadbolt. It was over in less than 2 minutes. In retrospect, several things should have alerted me: His English was very poor, his tie was shabby, he did not have a name tag and finally, I have never had anyone inspect my room in all of my previous visits to Europe. Yet, because this was an expensive Best Western hotel with marble floors and all of the extras, it seemed completely normal for this hotel to offer this service. They do not. Ater 30 years of travel, fighting gypsies and street cons, riding the Number 64 bus many times, always having my money belt and being aware of those around me.....I still was taken in by a smooth con. I never saw it coming. I am angry with myself, having developed a great sense of safe travel over many years. Please take this advice: DO NOT LET ANYONE INTO YOUR ROOM AT ANY TIME OR FOR ANY REASON. Notify hotel staff and save yourself a terrible experience.
San Diego, CA USA Wed 06/20/2007
I've returned from a month in Rome with weekend trips to Venice, Florence and the Cinque Terrre. We were with 15 college students on a summer program (my husband is a professor.) We had one girl lose all cash and her passport to a pickpocket on a Rome bus--no money belt and she carried a shoulder bag--big no no! While in Florence, two girls had someone come into their room at night and take the cash out of ther purses while they slept. (The key was at the desk all night--don't stay at the Hotel Alamani or Gemini Studios in Florence.) The moral is that you might even sleep in your money belt!! Watch also for the well dressed thieves. Our hotel owner in Venice made arrangements with me 3 months ahead but then when my husband checked out with the university credit card (I was out the door already) we were charged 10 euro x 23 people more than I had arranged. We also experienced scams at a couple Rome restaurants where they bring food you didn't order or upgrade your appetizer because they "ran out" of what you ordered and it's of course on the bill. We did have a fabulous month, however, and had to shrug off the inevitable encounters with thieves.
Don't be polite to the peddlers of roses, toys, purses etc. Just walk past without looking. They can smell your fear or weakness. I had no one really bother me in a month and only one persistant beggar woman and when I firmly said "SAY NEE VA" (get out of here) she was ticked off and promptly went away.
Harrisonburg, va USA Wed 06/20/2007
Fake undercover police scam
In Barcelona, I was approached by a man with a map asking if I spoke English and could help him find a location for him. I wanted to be helpful, but was wary. Looking at his map, suddenly 2 other men ran up saying in English they were undercover police. They flashed a badge and demanded that I show them my wallet so they could see if I had gotten any money from the map guy. I knew they were fake cops because I read about this in Rick's 2007 Back Door book so I told them they were fake and turned and walked away. When I looked back 15 seconds later all 3 had completely disappeared.
Portland, OR USA Sun 06/17/2007
Re: Petition scammers in Italy
The scam that we came across in Italy were young adults, holding clipboards, approaching tourists.
They all were claiming to have turned their lives around from using drugs.
They ask you if you are against drugs - then ask if you will sign their petitions, then ask you to pay them to stay drug free.....(pathetic)
On a humorous note, the first time this happened to us, I was eating a gelato, which had melted all over my hands which 'prevented' me from using their pen to sign my name. I did hear their sales pitch though.
After that, when approached by the scammers, I just kept walking past the groups with their clipboards. Just ignore them unless you'd like to donate your hard earned $
USA Mon 06/11/2007
Current scams in Paris
Paris this May had Gypsy begging at most major sites. The most frequent was younger women holding up handwritten notes and asking, "Do you speak Eenglish?" Don't answer and don't stop.
The most menacing scam is from the guys at the bottom of the stairs to Sacre Coeur. You'll see them trying to stop tourists to tie colored string on their wrists. If the tourist stops, he or she gets a charming Rastafarian rap about how the string signifies happiness or love. Then comes the demand for money as others gather around. There's no overt threat, but if there's no money, angry shouting ensues.
If you plan to visit Sacre Coeur, be prepared. When you start up the hill, push through and don't stop. Yell "No!" loudly if you have to; it works.
Portland, OR USA Sun 06/10/2007
Is it good to stay in a crowd even though crowds can be known for pickpocketers??
USA Sun 06/10/2007
Thanks for the tip, Jay, I will be sending confirmations to all our hotels. It would be even more useful if you could specify which sites were responsible for your experiences.
Fremont, CA USA Sat 06/09/2007
When you see someone approaching with things in their hands, picking up gold rings just don't make eye contact and keep walking. They do not persist and leave you alone. Try it - it works.
USA Thu 06/07/2007
We found that some of the online hotel sites will post very attractive price to get you to book a hotel thourgh them. They will take your money right away but doing nothing to secure a room for you until the a few days before your arrival. If the hotel has a room left, they'll get it for you (that's how they get a last minute good price). If not, you are out of luck. Although they will pay back your money in this case, the immediate big problem for the tourist is to find another place to stay on the spot. So always contact the hotel about your reservation, imediately after you paid for your online reservation and do not take a "tracking number" as a confirmation number.
Toronto, Ontari Canada Thu 06/07/2007
Dummy Decoy Wallet
I carry a dummy wallet. It contains those fake credit cards you get in the mail, plus fake money. That deters pick pockets from getting your real stash hidden in a money belt or neck pouch. I've had it stolen maney times and have retrived it because usually it is immediately thrown away when they find the contents. One man grabbed it and I saw him down the street angerly throwing in down when he himself was scammed by Mr. Dummy Decoy Wallet.
Auburndale, FL USA Tue 06/05/2007
Phone card scams
I wish I would've read Rick's advice more closely about phone cards which was: 1) Don't buyy a pre-paid international calling card in the U.S. and 2) Buy them at the NEWSTANDS throughout Europe. Instead, I bought the first $20 phone card in the Minneapolis airport. A 5 minute phone call to the US from Edinburgh exhausted it due to exorbitant rates. But much WORSE was the card I later bought from a very reputable looking, large franchise type currency exchange place in the London Stanstead airport. The lady who sold it to me asked what countries we'd be using it in (later re-read Rick who I think said they only work in the country you buy them in) and kindly wrote down additional access codes. None of the codes worked from multiple phones in the Czech Republic. So that I didn't "waste" it, I later made a 30 minute call home from my London hotel, thinking I was informed because I read the hotel fine print and realized I'd pay local phone rates. HOWEVER, it was a $100 phone bill upon checkout! At first I thought this was a hotel scam, but later determined that the access code was not a "toll-free" number and so was billed at exorbitant rates as if I hadn't had the card. Do your homework before you buy the pre-paid calling cards!
Carlsbad, CA USA Tue 06/05/2007
low life paris 2007
Paris may 2007,the gold ring scam is still alive and well . and although I did not understand how this scam would work I just knew it was a scam and told my wife not to engage in any dialogue with the thieving Gypsy scum , this ring trick happened twice in 2 days , I felt like a extra in Lord of the bloody rings!, I did despite my suspicious nature get conned out of 5 euros by the jamacian low life at the bottom of the sacre couer funiculaire , this is for a useless cotton bracelet rapidly tied around your wrist with a meneceing group of black guys standing around you ...no charge just a donation they said , so I felt obliged to cough up , what really makes me sick is the I want your cash for nothing mentality that pervades many of the European dregs, I work 2 jobs to pay for my vacations and I am damned if I will give up the money easily...on a brighter note Paris is lovely and quite safe if you are careful
gloucester UK, UK Sun 06/03/2007
Deruta pottery scammer
5 years ago we were in Deruta and ordered pottery from Luca at Ceramiche Fanny in Deruta. It never came and he stopped responding to emails. I noticed on google hits that he is very good at scamming tourists. This year we had the opportunity to return to Deruta and take all of our documentation. He looked it over, said "you may be right" and whipped the 310 euros that he owed us out of his pocket. No arguing or other questioning.....
Olympia, WA USA Sat 06/02/2007
Please check the following website: www.findmadeleine.com. And (1), learn about(NOT) leaving your child unattended in your room (even though you are close by). And then (2), while you are in Europe (PLEASE) keep an "eye" out for this missing four year old.
Newport Beach, CA USA Fri 06/01/2007
Scam astists and beggars in Paris
The scam artists near the Eiffel Tower are now using a gold ring scam to distrist tourists. They "find" a ring and ask you to tell them if it is gold. While one has your attention, the other picks your pocket. They are young women, working in pairs. And the "old woman" beggers who crouch along the Seine in head scarves and overcoats are really men pretending to be lame. I suspect sit on little stools that allow them to look crippled and bent over. They often may it look as though they have a deformed food. I saw one guy twice. On Monday his left foot was deformed and on Tuesday it was his right foot. Hmmm.
Green Bay Area, Wis. USA Fri 06/01/2007
I am a firm believer in PacSafe. Just wish knew about them sooner.
You camera and equiptment should be very safe.
CA USA Thu 05/31/2007
I recently purchased a packsafe backpack for our trip to Italy. It has a layer of stainless steel wire pressed between the fabric making it slashproof. The zippers are tamper proof an it includes a cable so you can lock it to a fixed object (like a cafe table). This is not a commercial for the product, I am just wondering if anyone out there has used one. Before I put my DSLR in it that is.
Philadelphia, PA USA Wed 05/30/2007
Sacred Coeur Scam, Paris
Beware of african born men at the base of the Sacred Coeur church in Paris France. The approach you and tie your finger or wrist with colored strings trying to sell you a braided bracelet. From the start shout NO. It took us several NO's and heavy confrontation to get these guys off our backs. It seems they do it with tourists only. Stay away from them or they will ask you 20 Euros for the bracelet.
Fred and Erine
Allentown, NJ USA Tue 05/29/2007
ATM scam - again
I want to reinforce the comment in January about using atm machines in front of banks during banking hours. In Rome (April/May 2007) we used an atm machine in front of a bank a block or two from St. Peter's during the afternoon break. The machine gave us money but did not return the card. A person came by and said reenter the pin number but the card did not come back out. HE went to the closed bank and waved to some one inside and the card popped back out. My daughter was in sight of the machine and nobody approached it. When we got home a week or so later, some $2900 had been withdrawn by a bank headquartered in France. Our bank made good. We had informed them of our itinerary, only in Italy, but the info was not recorded in our file. BTW, the thieves tracked the amount we had subsequently withdrawn on daily basis and took out the limit.
Palo Alto, CA USA Sun 05/27/2007
When we arrived in Prague a reservation with 'Pension Prague City'became an offer of a room on Fifth floor (no elevator) or a flat several miles away. The third night in the flat we came in to find a burgler inside. He attacked me just as I discovered the broken lock. I grabbed him and we went down with him on top. My wife kicked him several times and he scrambled on over me and down the stair rump first. He ran out. My wife's screams brought a resident out of a flat who called the police. They advised that if we wanted to file a report we would need to come to the station for several hours paper work. We declined. They did not even ask our name. Obviously we did not become a crime statistic. The thief got nothing as he had loaded his booty into my suitcase but left without. We talked to another tourist couple who had witnessed a mugging in daylight. I believe Prague is dangerous. The police blamed gypsies.
C H Russell
Corsicana, Tx USA Sun 05/27/2007
something I do when overseas and using an atm. only use an atm where there is someone in front of you using it. discreetly observe and make sure they they get both their cash and card back without a problem. if they have a problem, you will probably be clued in by how they act. If there is a problem, use a different machine. while not foolproof, as nothing is, it at least is worth something.
also avoid small atm withdrawls. every time you use an atm card, the risk is there of theft one way or the other. it also may save you maoney as many banks charge some sort of a fixed fee for each atm use.
WA USA Sun 05/27/2007
Having just travelled through Italy and Paris, I've encountered pretty much everything mentioned in previous posts.
Luckily I didn't fall for any of these scams and managed to come out unscathed.
I was approached by gypsies, beggars, etc.. many times but avoided interaction by completely ignoring them, or even just grunting and turning away when they ask "do you speak english". Do not fall into the trap of speaking back to them. Pretend you don't speak english and you don't understand them and walk away. This WORKS ! They move on quickly to the next person.
At Rome Termini, whilst looking for a Taxi to take us to our hotel, we were approached by several men asking if we wanted a taxi. Do not accept a ride from these men as they are not official taxis and do not use a meter. One man offered a ride for 45 euros to our hotel which we already knew was only 5 minutes away. Genuine taxi fare turned out to be only 12 euro. Make sure you go to the proper taxi rank and don't accept any other offers. I would also suggest that you do some homework before you arrive and know approximately how long your taxi ride should be, and follow on a map where you are being taken so you know you aren't being taken via the "scenic" route. Even if you can't follow it, the driver will think you are and will think twice about scamming you.
I also managed to wear a money belt low on my hips, in the front, with low rise jeans (works if they aren't too tight). Push it down low so only the top of the money belt (zip / opening) peaks above your jeans so you can open it up while still wearing it. I also put a lock on my back pack and wore it in front in crowded locations (you will see many others doing this also).
Don't access your money belt in public. Go somewhere quiet if you need to retrieve something from it. When using an ATM and typing your PIN, cover the keypad with something (e.g. your other hand) so anyone looking over your shoulder cannot see the numbers you entered.
And finally, read Rick's books over and over so you know exactly what to expect and how things work before you arrive. Refresh the night before if necessary. Knowing how to buy a train ticket, for example, will enable you to pass through potential scam areas quickly and hassle-free. You will look confident and less like a target.
Good luck !
USA Thu 05/24/2007
It's a scam everywhere.
*Do you know of any merchants in the USA that would automatically convert the price to a pumped up Euro amount for European visitors?*
Car rental companies, hotels and airlines in the USA all try this *service*.
Nottingham, UK Wed 05/23/2007
Padua NOT friendly to Americans
Your review of Padua was a SCAM!! It's not a friendly place for Americans AT ALL and unless you speak Italian pretty well you will have a hard time getting around.
Charlottesville, VA USA Tue 05/22/2007
Isn't a scam???
Yes, I think that definitely qualifies as a scam. Do you know of any merchants in the USA that would automatically convert the price to a pumped up Euro amount for European visitors? I don't think so! You have the right to pay in the local currency. Demand it next time, and even pitch a fit if that's what it takes.
USA Mon 05/21/2007
Currency Conversion Fees
This isn't exactly a scam, but on a recent trip to Switzerland, I was frustrated to discover that a few merchants converted my credit-card payment to US dollars without consulting me, adding a 2.75% transaction fee to my bill. The credit card I was using did not charge a conversion fee, but I ended up paying a fee anyway. Merchants pay 1% less to the credit card company when they convert the payment to dollars, so it's to their advantage, but not necessarily yours. Of course, I didn't pay any more fees after I noticed what was happening!
Hudson, WI USA Sat 05/19/2007
Petitions in Florence
In Florence one of the biggest scams going on was people comming up to you on the street asking for you to sign a petition against drugs. In the few days I was there I must have been asked 6 or 7 times. Normally I would just ignore anybody approaching me like that. But the first time I was approached I just laughed as I walked past the guy. It was just too funny to think that anybody would fall for that. By the 5th or 6th time I was so fed up I told the scammer I was "Totally For Drugs". They had no idea how to respond to that. Though of course, the best response is to always ignore them.
Boston, Ma USA Fri 05/18/2007
Please describe what the petition scam is. I've seen petitions, but I never knew there was a scam involved.
USA Fri 05/18/2007
Rome Taxi Drivers
I had read all of Rick Steve's safety suggestions and the comments on this web page. So, I thought I was well prepared before heading off to Rome. I was ready for anything. Well, I still got scammed on my very first taxi ride from the train station in Rome. When we arrived at our apartment, the bill came to 14 euros. I handed the driver a 20 euro note. He looked at the bill, flashed it back in front of my face saying, "No this is only a 5, I need 14." Well, the driver switch my 20 obviously. The 5 and 20's are both blue. The guy had me so confused. It didn't help I was totally exhausted from staying up all night on the plane trip and seeing Euros for the first time. My advice for taking taxis in Rome. Before giving the driver any cash, hold the bill out with two hands, showing the driver the euro, snaping the paper in and out, and stating what the denomination of the bill is. Let him know that YOU know exactly what you're handing him.
Boston, Ma USA Thu 05/17/2007
We took taxis all over Rome. The only times we had trouble with Taxis was when the trip started or stopped at Termini.
USA Thu 05/17/2007
i've been all over europe and no place is worse than any other.
keep larger notes in your shoes. it works for me.
in your hotel put small things like jewelley, watches, cash inside the light fittings. they never look there.
keep your camera with some snacks in a local supermarket carrier bag not a camera bag. Nobody wants to pinch what they think is an apple and a bottle of water.
london, uk Fri 05/11/2007
Rome gold ring trick
Don't fall for the gold ring trick. A guy points out a fake gold ring on the pavement and asks if it's yours. You say no and he picks it up, declares it's real and offers to sell it to you for a small price. On a good note, taxi's in Rome are getting better with the new computerized navigation. No problems there.
Verona , NJ USA Fri 05/11/2007
Prevent ID theft
If a longer stay in Great Britain is planned involving the rental of an apartment or house it is worth taking preventative steps to stop junk mail being delivered in the post. Such junk mail from banks and credit card companies can easily get into wrong hands when the property is vacated and a fraudulent application for finance can be made. To stop junk mail it is easy to register at no cost with the official Mail Preference Service. The website is www.mpsonline.org.uk I recommend registering al present and previous addresses - by doing so it will also reduce waste and help the environment!
London, UK Wed 05/09/2007
pickpockets in Rome
I was in Rome and Florence last month. I was with a school group, and one of my chaperones followed Rick's advice to wear a money belt underneath his pants. Well, he was riding on the metro (mid-afternoon) and a pickpocket actually cut right through his pants and into the money belt. he had no idea until somebody pointed out the hole in his pants a few blocks after he had gotten off the train. So be careful, the money belt isn't foolproof.
USA Wed 05/09/2007
Diapel Pins & Twist Ties
Diaper pins are great for securing zippers on back packs, fanny packs, purses, suitcases, etc. Better than a regular safety pin because they are a little trickier to open. Also, twist ties are good for securing suitcase and other zippers together.
Perkasie, PA USA Mon 05/07/2007
very bad hotel
Avoid stonebridge park hotel in north london - complete pit. The place - which likes to alternate the Stonebridge name with "Bridge park hotel" and just "hotel" on the building itself - has little/no running water and is in a dirty condition. Food is questionable -- undercooked meat in the free breakfast, the free tea came with whole milk, but the milk was left unrefridgerated and was room-temprature warm by the time we checked in. Also, talk there is a beer garden is false, no room outdoors, unless they plan on using the street. the staff left exposed wiring (live?) across the floor, old sinks against the walls, unhelpful staff - one made us wait for 10 minutes at midnight just because of a game he didn't want to miss. yeah, it's cheap, but its NOT worth it. btw: it is NO WHERE NEAR the stonebridge park Tube stop
dallas, TX USA Mon 05/07/2007
Tube scam in London
In London, a frequent scam at the Tube stops is scalpers trying to sell you discount tickets for subway rides. They'll approach you like they want to give it to you for free, but they'll charge you a fee before you walk away. problem is, you don't know if the ticket will work in the system unless you buy it. just don't take the ticket - they will say stuff like "i'm just trying to help you out" etc., will argue with you and get in your face (happened to me twice in five days.) ignore and get a Tube worker if needed. One fellow I saw getting accosted - he saw through the scam - asked the scalper "why are you doing this?" it's not even a good deal - the scam tickets are three pounds, and real ones (which will work) cost four.
Chicago, IL USA Mon 05/07/2007
Jen, think you may have had an over active imagination. Been reading too many postings on this sight. BUT, if you believe that you are being followed -- STOP. I worry most about the block and grab set up when someone stops in front you and someone bumps into from behind and you don't notice they are going through you pockets. When approaching escalators, loading trains, or other situations when this can occur we often will stop, slow down, step aside, and just try to notice if someone else stops with us. If I thought someone was following me, I would stop in a very public area and wait even if it meant missing a bus. Take your time.
Centennial, CO USA Thu 05/03/2007
Rome - suspicious
We were returning to Rome after almost 3 weeks exploring the rest of Italy and we had all our luggage with us (which was 2 backpacks and a small travel purse). We had a car earlier that day and returned it to the Rome airport and took the train from there into the city. We had a guy follow us all the way from Rome Termini on the Metro and then onto a city bus that was heading to the residential section of Rome where our B&B was located. He was dressed in a suit and had some sort of briefcase with him. After getting off at Mancini, the guy was about to get on a different bus but my husband noticed he changed his mind at the last second and saw we got on a different bus, so he got on the same one as us. He sat at the front of the bus where he could see everyone in the reflection of the windshield. We thought he was suspicious, though we didn't know what he was up to. We think he gave up on whatever he was planning though, because he probably figured out we were on to him and he got off the bus a couple of stops before ours. I don't know what we would have done if he had gotten off the same place as us. It's probably a good thing we didn't have to find out.
Salt Lake City, UT USA Wed 05/02/2007
When we got out of the taxi at the Istanbul Airport the rear seat passenger paid the driver 30 ytl (about $18) one 10ytl and one 20ytl. I was in the front and was getting out. I saw the driver throw something on the floor. He turns back to my friend and shows him the money. He says"You only gave me a one and a ten!" He had thrown the 20 on the floor and pulled a one from his shirt pocket. Very funny. We were pretty frazzled getting everything to the airport after a long trip. Could have cost us a bit more. I pointed it out to the driver and we walked into the terminal. Do not trust cabbies in Turkey. Use the meter even if they turn it to night rates.
Olympia, wa USA Mon 04/30/2007
Taxi & Counting Money
I don't think I have ever had a short change or a bill switch problem BUT years ago I started counting in a loud, firm voice as I handed the money to anyone. Will use the local language if I know it but English works just as well. If I am handing someone a ten and twenty. I will say "Ten !", "Twenty" and same for the change I receive back. I am not shouting but trying to use by voice to indicate that I am paying attention.
Centennial, CO USA Mon 04/30/2007
Be Careful in Roma
Be very alert in Rome. I went with a tour group at the end of December. We had one girl that was mugged and I was almost pick pocketed. The girl that was mugged was carrying a small purse and a group of three people were walking together after dark. She slipped back by a couple of steps and a man dodged out of a dark corner, pushed her to the ground and grabbed the purse. My incident wasn't half as scary but could have caused just as much trouble. I was walking with 3 3 other people, during the day, to the metro. A couple of little kids almost got into my book bag. I didn't have anything of extreme value in there but they were swift. So be aware... even of the little kiddies.
East Meadow, NY USA Sun 04/29/2007
Big bills for small purchases are not always well looked upon here either.
I feel the purchaser should have asked if they could change that big of a bill before they were consuming the product.
USA Fri 04/27/2007
Not to nit pick, but it seems to me that the problem of not being able to give change for a 50 Euro note was the pizza shop's problem and a problem THEY needed to fix. The customer is under no obligation to "fund" the pizza shop's change shortage.
Someone tried pulling that on me in Germany once - I just stood there and said: Sorry, that's the smallest I've got." Guess what? They came up with the change.
Now, I agree that it's not fair to try to pay for a 50 cent post card with 50 Euro bill - that's common sense. But a 50 Euro bill for a pizza doesn't sound outlandish to me.
Richmond, VA USA Wed 04/25/2007
I would have given the pizza joint a choice. Correct change for my 50 euro note or get the pizza back, with or without a few bites out of it.
People get scammed many times only because they let themselves. One time in spain a kid kept hanging on me aggressively. I put up with it for about 10 seconds. After getting in his face and telling him in no uncertain words which bones of his were about to be broken, he meekly slinked away. Acting like a psycho-pathic crazed lunatic is what it takes sometimes.
USA Wed 04/25/2007
Just like any large city US - you will find the bad people Europe
We had the distraction game 2 times once by a group of kids,flipping the cardboard you at you and litterally hanging on your arms to get to your pockets. and the ladies all pointing up for you look too and grabbing your bag - just don't let your guard down here either
USA Tue 04/24/2007
Watch the Big Bills
A couple people we toured with got taken by a scam at a pizza place in Rome. They already had the pizza in their hands (and likely had taken bites) when the worker said they couldn't make change for the 50 Euro note. They had to buy 40+ Euro worth of pizza to make up for it.
Richland, WA USA Sat 04/21/2007
When asking for a taxi from the airport in Perugia - a new destination added by RyanAir last December - to the hostel in Assisi, I should have remembered my taxi experiences from two years ago in Florence: they will often have their meters already set at 12 euro or more, so either tell the driver to lower the amount to about 5 euro, or choose a different taxi. Anyway, this driver has a brand new silver station wagon Mercedes, he is in his 50s I would say, and wears glasses. He was very assertive as well, saying "..only 30 euro!" We get to the hostel [14km away] and he asks for 40. I was too bagged to fight this, paid and that was that. I later learned that a group of different taxi owners charges a flat fee of 25 euro to this hostel [one way] - quite a difference! Here is the telephone number for them - and they know the hostel well. [It is Ostello della Pace and I could not recommend it highly enough. Daniela is the owner/operator, and it is a 10-minute (uphill) walk into town.] 335.6686736 Unless they cannot be contacted, DO NOT go with the Mercedes guy. TIP: the meter in his taxi is hidden in the lower part of the dashboard behind a flip-up cover. As far as I am aware that is supposed to always be visible to passengers. He is very gracious, friendly and smiling; beware. I have sent letters about this to the Comune in Assisi, the Italian Tourist Board in Rome and to the Italian Embassy and Tourist Offices in Canada. This kind of unscrupulous behaviour can only put a damper on tourism in Italy; it certainly spoiled my first couple of days. Feel free to email me if you like.
The absolute least expensive route is to take the bus from the airport to Assisi, about 1 euro fifty, and a ten minute walk (downhill this time) gets you to Ostello della Pace. See its Web site for more info. This bus leaves the airport soon after the plane lands, so don't dawdle. Get a ticket in the airport itself - a friendly small building - and away you go. There are no other buses until after the next flight lands, which could be the next day.
Canada Fri 04/20/2007
Velcro in pants pockets
If you want an alternative or addition to a money belt, consider having a tailor sew a couple of 2 inch velcro pieces into your jeans front pocket(s). It is almost impossible to ignore the tug and sound if someone is trying to take anything from your front pocket.
Carmel Valley, ca USA Wed 04/18/2007
We just returned from Rome in the end of March and had a wonderful time despite the graffi on nearly every building and hordes of beggars, gypsies and guys trying to sell knockoff purses and sunglasses. I felt safe even when walking at night but also used a money belt and never carried a purse. We saw other people being pickpocketed at Trevi and Termini. We learned from a local that the beggars sitting outside the churches with a dirty sleeping child in their arms often drug them to keep them sleeping and quiet. Upon leaving one church we saw a well dressed man get out of a decent looking car and drop off two small children with the woman sitting on the steps outside so I didn't feel bad walking past these people without a second glance.
When leaving the Vatican we went to the taxi stand and got into the first vehicle in line, which happened to be a small minivan with the same taxi sign and the cars. Halfway to our hotel I noticed the meter did not look like the others we had seen and upon arriving the driver charged more than twice the fare and claimed it to be a "limo taxi".
USA Fri 04/13/2007
What's with the "sign a petition against the drugs and HIV" thing we saw in Rome recently? We encountered these folks a number of times and just said "no, thank you." One of them actually responded by muttering English obscenities under his breath as we walked by. We were suspicious that it was some kind of scam, but have no hard evidence. They always had a table set up near a church.
Nottingham, UK Mon 04/09/2007
Rome Train Station Tickets
Don't use the ticket dispensing machines at the Rome Train Station. Buy your tickets from a human at the window. My daughter and a friend were scammed. The ticket that came out was not for their destination and by the time they had gone back to the machine to see what happened, the correct ticket was gone. When they complained at the ticket window the lady said "Oh, we know, that happens all the time." She wouldn't give them a refund. Apparently theives put a cancelled ticket up into the slot and then they watch to see someone use the machine. After the passenger has removed the bogus ticket, they go to the machine and pull down the new ticket and get a refund at the counter.
CA USA Mon 04/09/2007
Athens April 1-6 2007
I am happy to report that Athens seems to have cleaned itself up. I am currently here and have not seen any gypsies anywhere. There are police everywhere. They do this show of force every day where this huge tour size bus of police pulls up to an area and about half the police get off and post themselves on the street corners. The ones that stay behind are the muscle if something happens I guess. They also chase the fake handbag sellers around the city like cattle. It is actually very funny to watch as the spotter announces the police are coming and they quickly wrap up their blanket of goods and run off, but there is like a crowd of 50 of these guys. They get herded up and then wander off to other parts of the city only to be chased away again in 15-30 minutes. And sometimes when they do get caught nothing happens. The police kick their bags around yelling at them to hurry up but that's it. They are tolerated by the city I guess. Even in the port town of Piraeus I saw this happen many times by the Metro station. Pickpockets were not noticeable either. I was in Paris 2 years ago and you could hear and see the teams working the crowds by whistling and hand signals. Even in the Paris metro stations this was going on. Nothing like this in Athens. There seems to be a lot of security everywhere at stores, in the metro stations and on the street corners (even the outer edges of the city).
And since I am posting I have a complaint to all visitors to Athens regardless of what country you come from. At the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, DO NOT POSE FOR PICTURES WITH THE GUARDS!!!! IT IS A TOMB FOR GODSAKE!!! THESE GUARDS ARE HONORING THE FALLEN SOLDIER. THEY ARE NOT THERE SO YOU CAN TAKE A CORNY PHOTO WITH THEM. PLEASE RESPECT THE SITE AS YOU WOULD RESPECT YOUR OWN COUNTRYS MEMORIAL. Sorry for the rant but please have some respect.
And if you are looking for a quality place to stay that is not that expensive and is far above the so called economy (flea infested) hotels in Athens, then check out the St. George Lycobettus in Kolonaki. Only a few blocks from any of the Embassies and just up the hill from the British Council. Only 140 Euro per night (240 with an amazing view of the acropolis and the whole of Athens) and it's a 5 star! It is way up on the hill (can't go any higher), but they have shuttle from Syntagma metro station that is free. It is a nice getaway from the noise of the Plaka or Syntagma areas. Plus you can dine on Milioni Ave with the famous and wealthy of Athens. Not much English on the menus here, but that is how it should be. This is outside the realm of the Rick Steve's experience but sometimes you just want to live the good life.
As a side note, stay away from the Hotel Rio. They are 60 Euro a night and should be free. I have seen better rooms in college dorm (In college my room even had a window). I was there 1 night (thanks Travelocity) and left. Noisy, broken bathroom fixtures and was in what I found to be the most unsafe area of town (by the train station).
Gloucester, MA USA Wed 04/04/2007
Update to Barcelona theft.
Our credit card company contacted us from the US to let us know that apparently the dirt bag that pick pocketed us has been using the CANCELLED card to drive around Barcelona and pay his highway tolls which add up to over....$350! Apparently the highway organization in Spain doesn't bother to verify whether cards are valid or not. We've had to sign statements 6 months after the theft verifying this is Fraud.
As experienced travelers in Europe, we strongly recommend AVOIDING Barcelona until such time as the city seriously addresses and controls their crime problem which seems to specifically target foreign visitors.
Whether one wears a money belt or not (money belt is highly recommended), who needs the aggravation of being sprayed with poo while on Holiday and after? If the police cannot (or will not??) address the problem, one may wish to go somewhere less risky.
Chris & Mel
Amsterdam, Netherlands Fri 03/30/2007
Is Barcelona THAT bad?
We have been to Barcelona 4 times (3x for more than a day) and have never been robbed or scammed. We know that this occurs, as it is common in every large city. Paris is loaded with scammers pretending to find "gold" rings near tourists, then trying to sell those "valuable" items to them. This, and the many other kinds of frauds and thefts, are everywhere. We'd place Barcelona low on the list. There is much more begging in the streets in Washington,DC and in San Francisco.
Paul n Sara
USA Fri 03/30/2007
Beggars at Church Entrances
While in Venice last week we encountered a lady who was standing in the entrance of one of the huge cathedrals attempting to collect an entrance fee. Yes, I know there are some churches that actually do charge for admittance, but they always have a "real" booth and a "real" attendant just inside the entrance with a clearly marked entrance fee and instructions written in Italian and English. This lady was standing in the doorway holding a small wicker basket - like a collection plate.
I first spotted her from a distance and told my wife that she looked like she was trying to force people to pay her to get past. She really was quite forceful by reaching out and touching you as you past by and saying "Scusa" if they ignored her. She wasn't charging a specific amount - just any coins would do fine for her. Then I saw several people just blow by her and walk in and drop some coins in the actual offering coin box at the front of the church. One couple actually huffed at her, rolled their eyes and went and dropped coins in the official box. Later on the lady took a "break" from her extortion and went inside the church to rest. There were 3 entrances to the church with doors standing open. However, she was only manning one of the doors...another sign that she was probably pocketing all of this "entrance" money.
USA Thu 03/29/2007
but it's not only Americans who are targeted by scam artists or pickpockets at major tourist sites in Europe- I recently heard from some Norwegian friends who experienced one of the kinds of jostling/pickpocketing situations often described here. After having traveled to various European countries, including the usual large cities, for over ten years, I have been a theft victim twice: once on a crowded bus in Boston when I was in college (wearing my backpack on my back with my wallet in it) and the other time in high school when someone picked the lock on my locker and took my purse. That was fifty years ago! Presumably if you were a foreign tourist coming to New York City (or any other large American city) you would receive the same advice as is posted here. These are not violent crimes, but crimes of opportunity- and the postings here are so helpful for staying on top of what the current trends are!
USA Thu 03/29/2007
Gold Ring Gypsy Scam
I got taken by the 'gold ring I found' scam, but fortunately only for small change. A woman bent down in front of me on a deserted street and "found" a gold ring that presumably must have been lost and seemingly was a most interesting find, I thought (she smiled); so, I chatted with her about it. She insisted I take the ring because she was "divorced" and couldn't wear it, then asked for money for her two kids and resisted selling the ring herself because she didn't have "documents." Great details! I gave her a couple of euros for her troubles and walked off with a fake brass trinket. Don't get me wrong, I was fooled; but my wife knew better when I came home with the news, however. Keep in mind, MANY GYPSY STREET SCAMS ARE PLAYED OUT BY THOSE NOT DRESSED LIKE GYPSIES. Commenting on an earlier posting on how much in need these people 'could be:' Sure, thieves need to be eat; so if and when I get beat for money I thank my stars I got away with my life, that I have a good life, and that nobody was hurt. But it's in our nature NOT to get scammed as it is to be concerned about keeping clear of those trying to get something for nothing. All life requires that you interact. I doesn't require that you pay for someone's dinner. I suggest: don't delude yourself into a non-judgmental, it's all good nirvana. Be smart and watch your a&%! Then, along the way, laugh about the little scams you were taken for in the comfort of knowing you avoided a bigger one.
Vicenza, Italy Wed 03/28/2007
While in the Prague metro waiting to enter a car, I was shoved from behind into the car by about 10 people, all dressed in black. They continued to surround me and push against me while someone lifted my elbows uo in order to reach my back posket. My wallet was lifted but after making much noise and with one of my party assisting my wallet was thrown to the floor. Beware of any group approaching just before the train pulls out, they hide somewhere until then. Keep your money in a front pocket or better yet a moneybelt.
east brunswick, nj USA Sun 03/25/2007
i am going to italy end of april, and have heard all the cautions about pickpockets..[one was there are some that will actually knife the bottom of your backpack..i am thinking "that's not pickpocketing, thats ROBBERY!!"]..but the coolest thing i have heard to date: there is an apparent difference between "pickpockets", and "gypsies", and if you carry or have something RED on your pack, for some reason, that deters them [gypsies?] from botherng you: there is something about the color red...
nederland, co USA Sat 03/24/2007
I always wear a money pouch around my neck instead of a money belt. It's easier for me to get things out when I need too and it's easy to hide if you wear heavy cloths. Not good for summer cloths because you can see a buldg, and it does look like you are hiding something. Best to wear a money belt in the summer. But the neck pouch is great when you wear sweaters so you can hide it. I mostly travel in the colder months. Salute!
Austin, TX USA Sat 03/24/2007
Have read a lot about money belts and how useful they are. What about Rick Steve's money pouch hanging from one's neck? Do they work as well?
Joseph T. Sinclair
Vallejo, CA USA Fri 03/23/2007
Barcelona and Madrid
Just returned from nine days in Barcelona and Madrid with my family, had a great time, walked a ton and didn't have any trouble. I wore a money belt, kept valuables in the hotel safe and kept my cash zippered in the security pocket of my TravelSmith pants. My wife kept her possessions in an REI secured shoulder bag. Made it through some crowded areas including various museums, Las Ramblas and El Rastro. The only time I felt really uneasy was one night very late coming back from dinner on Las Ramblas (felt like the male antelope leading his herd in front of the lions). However, I feel much safer and would much rather wander the centers of the major European cities than the streets of the cities where I've lived –Los Angeles, Atlanta and Phoenix.
Chandler , Az USA Fri 03/23/2007
Best Value: Italy Wine Tours, Bike Tours and Tours
The best value for tours in Italy is offered by licensed tour operators. In Italy anyone selling tours (including wine tours) to the public must be a licensed tour operator or travel agent. Licensed tour operators have appropriate insurances and have to respect European laws on safety and standards. Illegal operators can do tours at lower prices because they have none of the stringent overheads required by law in Italy. Illegal operators may be pleasant and good guides.however the risk the traveler takes is great as it is not possible for illegal tour operators to have appropriate insurances. Common signs of illegal operators are: not advertising a registered company address in Italy and a fixed phone. If solely operating in Italy be suspicious if they are not registered with local authorities. Doing a tour with unlicensed operators may not be the best value. There is no real value in the possibility of being left 'high and dry' by a fly-by-night operator disappearing over night.
USA Fri 03/23/2007
Budapest Bar overcharge
It's the same in Prague and there is a similar scam in Soho in London.
Nottingham, UK Tue 03/20/2007
Budapest Bar overcharge
Being approached by girls and taken to a bar where drinks cost $100 each is still live and well in Budapest as of February. I was approached multiple times by "lost" Hungarian girls who were new to Budapest and wanted to go for a beer.
USA Tue 03/20/2007
I was in Paris in Oct of 2006 and did quite a bit of shopping and received my two Vat checks in US dollars about 60 days or so after I returned. It was very easy.
NYC, USA Mon 03/19/2007
I have stopped going the VAT refund route. They are hard to actually get and not worth it, in my opinion.
What works alot better, at least many times is good old hard cash. You can get many merchants to give you tremendous discounts for purchases in cash. My guess is they don't report it as income, if it is cash and they save on visa/mastercard merchant fees also. Our traveling party of two couples do this all the time, and quite sucessfully. So for modest purchases, I would recommend trying it.
USA Fri 03/16/2007
Duty free shopping in Germany
My family and I visited Germany in 2004. Germany has a program that supposedly refunds you duty taxes on purchases made from shops displaying a sign or sticker in their window. All you need to do is ask the store clerk to give you a receipt and an application for each purchase. The receipt and application come with a pamphlet that describes how to get your refund. As we were on our way home, I asked the ticket clerk at the airport in Frankfurt where the Customs office was located so we could collect our refund. She told us it was located past security in the terminal. After going through three different layers of security, I located the German customs office only to learn that Customs requires you to bring the merchandise to them for inspection prior to issuing the refund. This never mentioned by any of the clerks in the stores. I re-read the pamphlet twice before finally locating the instruction to bring merchandise to customs officials on the last page of the pamhlet in small writing near the bottom of the page. Clearly and predominantly indicated in the pamphlet was the instructions to ask for a receipt and application at the sotre, bring them to the airport upon departing, and collect your refund. Obviously, it was too late to retrieve our bags and get the merchandise out of our suitcase. I explained to Cusotms official that the pamphlet does not clearly state that the merchandise needs to be inspected and that it was not possible to get the merchandise. He smiled and said, "That's your problem." and literally showed me and my son to the door and ushered us out. I don't think it is a coincidence that the pamphlet does not clearly say that the goods MUST be inspected before a refund is issued and that the customs office is located three layers of security checkpoints away from the ticket counter. We only lost about 40 euros but the fact that the German government has stooped to such petty measures to generate cash flow is really disturbing. By the way, my letters to the consulate went unanswered, even by form letter.
Los Angeles, Ca USA Fri 03/16/2007
Two Paris scams
We just returned from Paris (3/07) and encounted two different scams. The first scam was a woman who came up to us asking if we spoke English. When we said yes, she produced a paper that said she was from Kosovo and had kids in the hospital. She wanted money. This happend to us 2 times in the space of 3 days. The second scam happened to us 3 times in 3 days, twice by the SAME guy. This involved the person bending down in front of us ostensibly picking up a gold ring that someone "lost" He showed it to us and tried to give it to us. When we suggested he sell it. He then said he was a "Baptist" and could not profit from it, but then asked for several euros for his lunch.
Brookeville, MD USA Fri 03/16/2007
Seems like a lot of the issues noted below could have been avoided by simply wearing a money belt.
USA Wed 03/14/2007
A lot of people have mentioned Barca on here so I thought I'd throw my two cents in. I was there for 7 days, and while nothing happened to me personally a few things happened to the people I was traveling with. One at a night club had his small bag slung over his torso but when he put his hand in it, his camera and money had been stolen. My friend Mimi had her whole bag stolen and it contained her passport.And it was on the table with about 8 of us sitting around. You just have to be really careful and have you wits about you if you go.
Toronto, Canada Wed 03/14/2007
I spent 4 days in Barcelona in 2006 and did not have any of the below mentioned problems. Nor did I witness any crime. I wore a money belt and did not let my guard down. Barcelona is a beautiful city, I would hate for travelers to be diverted from the city based on one couple's post. Barcelona is just like any other big city. Just be street smart. Don't let your guard down and wear a money belt. Have fun.
USA Tue 03/13/2007
Barcelona- Don't Go
Ditto the note below on Barcelona. We spend about a month a year in Europe and have never witnessed or experienced anything to rival the pickpocketing, scamming, and lying we experienced in Barcelona. Drunks lying in the streets (in even the best sections of town) are not enjoyable to look at, either. We couldn't get out of there fast enough, even getting scammed by the hotel concierge making our air reservations. We didn't care, we just wanted OUT of that place!
Portland, OR USA Sat 03/10/2007
There was a cabbie in the Paris CGD airport that insisted we would get a better deal letting him take us to our hotel for only 75 Euro. He was very firm when he told us that the metro would easily run 65 Euro for the three of us. We fended him off and took our chances on Rick's travel guide being right and it paid off big time!
Plant City, FL USA Fri 03/09/2007
Barcelona bird poop scam
BARCELONA HAS AN OUT OF CONTROL CRIME PROBLEM: Consider other European cities!
After 4 days in Barcelona in November, we witnessed and experienced more crime here then in 4 years in the rest of Europe and 16 years in NYC and Chicago combined!
My wife and I encountered what I've recently found out is the notorious bird poop scam. We were splashed with brown crap in the back and on our heads. We unfortunately fell for the nice person who appeared and offered to help us clean our clothes while at the same time helping himself to my wallet which was zipped in a travel vest.
We're Americans who have lived and traveled in Europe for almost 4 years and must have let our guard down. I feel personally violated but was naive for allowing such a thief to get close to me let alone clean my clothes. It happened very fast.
We heard and saw lots of other crime while there including other pickpocketing and meeting two Europeans who had been assaulted by a group of 10 men (I guess we were lucky). The police appear to be overwhelmed and the judicial system does not keep the thieves off the street (if it is not violent, it is a "minor problem"). The police officer that took my report told me his station (central Barcelona) gets 100 reports a day of robbery!
Out of all the cities I've been too, I recommend taking your vacation time and money elsewhere until they decide to get this under control!
For all parts of Europe....wear a money belt and use a wallet with little if anything only!
Regards -- Chris and Mel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
chris & mel
Amsterdam, Netherlands Wed 03/07/2007
Pickpocketing and Scams
I've been to Europe each of the last 5 years...including London, Paris, Rome, Florence. While I do make every attempt to wear moneybelts, be cognizant of my surroundings, and attempt to educate myself of these scams - I've never been pickpocketed or scammed. Yes, I do believe all of the stories, and it might even happen to me on my next trip. But I think you get the wrong idea that it happens at every street corner by reading these posts.
I think if you are educated, cognizant, and wear a moneybelt you will be fine.
I'm leaving for Venice in 10 days, so I hope my advice to myself continues to hold true!
USA Wed 03/07/2007
Mike, while people can get robbed or scammed anywhere, Europe is facing a dramatic increase in scams, attacks and property theft, and the borders opening up made it worse than ever. The police here will be very happy to fill out a report, but that's not the norm over there. They just don't care. It happens so often to locals and tourists alike that they don't think it's worth their time putting these people behind bars. I've even seen officers on travel shows admit this fact!
It's easy to say "look like a local," but they get robbed every bit as much as the tourists. Think about it. Who's a better target in Milan? The tourist in jeans and sneakers, or the local wearing Prada and handmade shoes?
Atlanta, GA USA Sat 03/03/2007
Scams and the world
Something to remember here is that these scams people post about are not exclusive to Europe. They happen every day in Boston, NYC, Washington, Los Angelas etc. Wherever there are easy targets, there will be people trying to take advantage of them. Remember to simply blend in with the locals. Look like you know where you are going even when you don't and ignore those that approach you in odd places like the metro stations or on city streets.
The Paris metro gypsies are still there? I was there in 2004 and she was working then. Would approach every "non-french" person saying, "Do you speak english?" Saw many people get mobbed by the kids who were just standing off to the side waiting for you to acknowledge her and be distracted. Just keep walking and ignore them and they usually move on to the next target.
I passed by her every morning and evening for a full week and every time it was the same line. Never had a problem by ignoring her.
Gloucester, MA USA Sat 03/03/2007
Paris Metro - Lady Pick Pockets
BEWARE PARIS METRO PICK POCKETS. Weary from an 11 hour non-stop to CDG, I take the train into Paris. Then I head down into the Metro. The train is suddenly packed and 4 Gypsy girls push up against me. The most attractive girl is in front of me appearing to flirt. The 2nd girl pretends to be lost and asks me if I know which direction the Opera Metro station is. I point to the Metro sign above my head and soon realize that the 3rd girl is feeling me up! I push her away, the doors open at the next stop and all 4 girls sprint out of the train, 3rd girl with my with my pack of gum. My lap belt is still inside my pants, but my jacket and shirt are un-buttoned. Only a pack of gum is lost. I knew something was not right. My only protection was being prepared with a money belt and a firm grip on my luggage.
Rogue River, OR USA Fri 03/02/2007
Seems that as europe opens the door to more countries, the scams, pickpockets and crimes against tourists grows larger. It has been and will continue to be a problem as long as no physical harm comes to the victim. I had 2 friends robbed in Amsterdam by a gang that jumped them. Seems they were setup as they walked back to the train station. They were a little bloody, but the police told them it happens all the time and if they were not going to the hospital, no report would be filed. Also, it does not pay to resist if you are not trained in defensive techniques. Take only the money you need for the day and 1 credit card, split the money with your travel mate. Lock the rest at the hotel desk, pay the fee for the box, it is worth it.
MD USA Mon 02/26/2007
I also use the bra pouch. The small, zippered silk ones that you find in a novelty shop are soft against the skin. I pin it to the bra with a diaper pin.
Verona, NJ USA Fri 02/23/2007
Money belt? Ladies, use your bra instead!
I recognize the necessity of carrying money, credit cards and my passport in a money belt under my clothes. I stick it all in my bra, instead. I carry a small credit-card sized Coach wallet (the same one as another poster), and that and my passport fits nicely in my bra, flat against my chest. A sports bra, that comes up high on the chest, is ideal. A plunging "wonderbra" would not work at all.
It is more comfortable, for me, than a waist money belt. It is secure, and no one would get their hands in there without my knowning about it.
It's one less thing to pack and worry about. I'll always go out with a bra; why not use it to carry my passport and wallet, as well as its intended purpose?
Los Angeles, CA USA Wed 02/21/2007
Robbed in Munich Hotel - inside job
In a NICE Munich hotel near the Banhof, we had a room safe with a 6 digit combination of our chosing, but apparently a former employee not only had a key to our room but also to our safe. We were relieved of 650 Euros and some cash, but the manager made it right - after extensive police reports, etc. It had happened there before. It was eye-opening to realize that a nice hotel with a seemingly OK safe was not SAFE!
Windsor, CO USA Sun 02/18/2007
I live in Rome and here are the latest scams on th street:
-There is much construction between the Vittorio Emanuelle monument and the Colleseo, constricting some of the sidewalks into small chokepoints where no one can see you. Groups of 5-7 Gypsy women are usually waiting at each choke point (usually wearing a fake plastic baby in a pouch on her chest). My advice? Walk on the sidewalks on the opposite side of the road (stick to the Colloseo side) until you want to cross over.
-Fake 200 euro notes. Some restaurant printed these up as advertisements and you'll see them laying around Rome. I'm pretty sure this summer you'll find them being used a distraction to make some unwitting tourist bend over to pick it up - exposing his/her wallet.purse.
-Common sense. Don't leave anything in a pocket hanging wide open. Not two days ago I saw some Gypsy kids working the open pockets as they worked their way through the cars. On the metro, keep your bag zipped and under your arm. Try not to stand too close to the door since its easy to grab your stuff and run, just as the doors are closing.
-If the bus or metro is packed wall-to-wall with people, wait for the next one. Downtown Rome is not so big so walking may be a better option at that time.
-Money belts are good but be smart in where you open them and remove cash. Not on the metro, a street corner, etc.
-Don't let these things get you down. You'll see amazing acts of kindness here every day.
Rome, USA Thu 02/15/2007
Money and Money Belts
Venessa -- How about a when and where on the fake bills. We wear our money belts in the little hollow area of your lower back and with the pouch obviously to the rear. Doesn't show and if hot the pouch doesn't get as damp in that area because it is not as tight to the body. Marcia may wear hers a llttle higher just below her bra. Either way it is secure and out of sight.
Centennial, CO USA Tue 02/13/2007
Beware of fake bills especially in cabs. You'll pay with a real bill, but the cabbie will give you change in fake money. It has happened to my friend.
New York, NY USA Tue 02/13/2007
Money Belt Location for a Female
I'm a female and I wear my money belt on the front, below my belly button. I keep the pouch tucked in my (low-rise) jeans with a lose fitting shirt over it. It can be a bit uncomfortable and sweaty at first, but after an hour, you'll totally forget it's there. I keep the pouch tucked into my pants, so if someone cuts the straps, the pouch will still be in my pants instead of fall off. Plus, if someone should try to remove your belt, you'll feel it right away. I've kept my passport, credit cards, and cash in there with no problems. I always keep some money in a pocket just in case I want to buy food, drinks, or souvenirs. This way I don't have to keep going into my money belt everytime I want to buy something. This prevents people from knowing I'm wearing one.
Just a note: Because a passport is square and rigid, it will create a funny look on the front of your pants. The edge is a bit noticeable, but not a problem if you're wearing a long, loose-fitting shirt.
New York, NY USA Tue 02/13/2007
Clark Howard, our Consumer talk radio guy, was in Madrid last week. Two guys came up to him at the train station. One tackled his legs and the other grabbed his wallet. He ran after and tackled the guy who had his wallet and did manage to get it back. He was lucky he wasn't injured.
I am sending him a Rick Steve's money belt today as I have an extra one.
Snellville, GA USA Tue 02/13/2007
RE: avoiding atm scams
Why did you say "in Germany"? You need to know that, according to the EU's own language survey (www.europa.eu), you have a much better chance in Germany of someone speaking English than in most other western European countries. Although only half of Germans (51%) can speak English as a 2nd language, that is much higher than France (34%), Italy (29%), Portugal (26%) or Spain (20%). On the other hand, Denmark with 83% and Netherlands with 87% have a high rate of English speakers.
USA Fri 02/09/2007
No translation needed
" i hate to go into the bank--in germany, it is almost impossible unless you are fluent or have your interpreter with you "
We lived in Germany for several years and found that nearly all the bank tellers in a wide variety of locales spoke English.
Gettysburg, Pa USA Thu 02/08/2007
avoiding atm scams
i hate to go into the bank--in germany, it is almost impossible unless you are fluent or have your interpreter with you. but we have found many that are inside the entry and can only be accessed with your atm card. we try to use them whenever possible. i have used atms all over europe with no problems so far.
pacific grove, CA USA Tue 02/06/2007
Money Belts with Low rise pants
I have worn a money belt with low rise pants. It's not a problem. Put it around your hips and wear a shirt that covers the belly. Not a problem.
SF, USA Wed 01/31/2007
I have always made it a practice to only use ATMs that located outside or even in the bank during banking hours. That way if I have a problem, Marcia guards the ATM and I go inside. Also I always run my finger across the card slot to see if anything is there. Never found anything and have never had to go into the bank.
Centennial, CO USA Tue 01/30/2007
Using the bank instead of an ATM
There is one other problem with going into a bank in Europe to get local currency. In Europe they charge for teller assisted transactions. They not only charge a few but they may charge you a higher exchange rate. Before I learned this, a number of years ago, I paid over $50 to get $500 in local currency.
Charles M. Luther
USA Tue 01/30/2007
ATM Scams are happening more and more wherever you go. The simple way around it is to leave them alone and go into the bank and do a counter transaction. OK it takes a little longer and it means that you can only withdraw cash during banking hours but it does provide you with peace of mind.
Nottingham, UK Tue 01/30/2007
back from london
Just back from London. saw the Police by the bank in the vicinity of the Glouster tube on Cromwell. The Nat West ATM near the hotels, was surrounded. The police said there was suspicious activity around it and it was very common that thieves place a fake ATM over the real one that looks identical so they can read your card info. The police said, if you look really close, you can see the glue. So check the facing first. This was a crowded, local area outdoors as well, so don't think it happens only in questionable areas of London. The bank was open at the time in broad daylight.
Verona, NJ USA Tue 01/30/2007
I was robbed twice on Italian trains. 1st time I was trying to put my rolling bag on the train in Rome (to Florence). A gang of teenage girls surrounded me and were pretending to help me get the bag on the train. I didn't realize that the other half of the gang was already behind me on the train and slitting open my purse and stealing my wallet with everything; passport, money, creditcards, checkbook. I realized while this was happening, that the girls were up to no good, and why weren't they in school? 2nd time was on Florence to Venice train. A very organized gang of professionals, Russian or Romanian, refused to give us our first class seats. These guys were dressed in Armani, and had 2 women, 2 children and an elderly woman with a walker in their gang. They hit you all at once. The kids are on the floor under the seats causing a distraction. The old woman walks down the train aisle bumping and knocking over bags, while the guys stole my purse and handed it off to the other women who obviously stashed it in their bags. When I accused them of the theft, they told the conductor they were going to sue me for defamation. They also pretended not to know the other members of their gang. I took all their pictures and gave them to the Italian Carbinieri who said they would turn them over to interpol. I will be wearing a money belt from now on....
Dallas, TX USA Sun 01/28/2007
Thieves in Europe
As Frank said, there are lots of kinds of money belts (neck, waist, etc) and lots of places one can wear them, all of which work pretty well with some obvious but often ignored caveats. DO NOT wear them OUTSIDE your clothes. What is then point then? I see this all the time in Europe. Do NOT wear the ankle ones. A common distraction is for the thief to drops coins or papers at your feet then quickly kneel in front of you and grab your pants leg and shake it, shouting to you to move your foot so he can get his money/papers. What he is actualy doing of course is distracting you while his partner empties your pockets and/or he takes your ankle belt. THREE SIMPLE RULES: Wear a money belt. Be alert. Do not think you are smarter than this professional thief. You're not. Then relax and enjoy yourself.
Charles M. Luther
USA Sun 01/28/2007
Re: Getting ripped off as charity
According to an earlier post, only the wealthy go to Europe. I'm a 19 year-old college student scrimping and saving while I'm in over $2,000 in credit debt. I'm at the bottom of the barrel but I'm managing to make it to Europe this year. By her definition I should throw away my hard earned vacation and skip Wicked in London because somebody wants to take advantage of me? No.
USA Sun 01/28/2007
Wearing A Money Belt
I think how to wear a money belt is one of the most misunderstood issues. Unfortunately the word 'belt' implies that the money belt is worn at the waist. It can be but that can create some problems. As a male I wear mine about half way between the arm pits and top of hip bone so that the pouch part of the money belt rides in the small, concave part of my back. Very comfortable in that location and stays reasonably dry. My wife wears her belt higher just under her bra line and finds it comfortable in that location. But we both always wear fairly loose fitting shirts so the location of the belt is not obvious. I see many tourist wearing the belt at the waist line and in front where it is fairly obvious.
Centennial, CO USA Sun 01/28/2007
Low-rise money belts!
Money belts have an adjustable elastic waist strap that can extend to pretty big, which means it should be able to be worn on your hips versus waist. Comfort might be an issue, though- instead of it strapped to above your lower spine area, it's going to be riding along the top of your butt (depending how low-rise)! Which may or may not be annoying. Do you have a friendly sporting goods type of store? They usually have a travel section and might be willing to let you try one on and walk around to see how it feels. Otherwise, unless you wear really midriff- baring shirts, your tops will probably be long enough to cover it-another thing you could try in the store.
USA Sun 01/28/2007
Money belt troubles
Does anyone know if it is possible to wear a money belt with lowrise jeans? Most images of money belts have them clipped around the waist and I was wondering if they can go lower and not be seen or be a nuisance to myself.
Canada Sat 01/27/2007
For women, I travel with a sling purse, made by Coach, it has an adjustable strap that I can make long enough to wear cross body, with a coat or sweater on, you can't really see it, or I can adjust it to wear around my waist. Also, another great Coach item, their small credit card sized wallets, I have a small Coach lock with a key, I lock my wallet to the key fob inside the purse, if they try to steal the wallet, the purse and myself will be going along with them. It does cost a little more for the Coach item, but the outlet stores always carry them for under $100. My Coach sling has been around the world with me and is getting ready for another Europe trip. I have never had anyone try to steal my purse/wallet while carrying this purse this way. It also has an outside zip pocket, I carry it so the zip is facing my body, I carry a xerox copy of my & my husbands passport in this pocket. The inside still has plenty of room for wallet, lipstick, other papers, etc. and not heavy to carry around, especially if it is riding on your hips like a money belt. I simply slide the bag around so it is conveniently positioned in front of my groin, most people aren't going to go for a purse riding in that spot! Try one, you will love it!
Houston, TX USA Sun 01/21/2007
Andrew - Wear a money belt and put everything valuable inside!!! Only carry enough cash in a pocket for the day. Rick and everyone else recommends this and I certainly always wear one. The only thing that will take one is a gun.
Tucson, AZ USA Sat 01/20/2007
Italy Taxi- Ethiopia Pickpocket
Well about an hour ago I was pickpocketed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
As a professional security officer for the USG who has traveled all over the world. I was pretty shocked (and embarrassed) that it happened to me. Not that I ever think that I'm better than the people I counsel who have been robbed, it's just that I'm very aware of my surroundings and to potential scams. I got nailed by a professional group.
Could it happen to you? My wallet was in my front pocket (where I've carried it for years). It was covered by a jacket tied around my waste and I was walking at a brisk pace back to my hotel. I was on an uncrowded main street about 200 yards from the hotel having just about finished a 1 hour walk around the city (just out getting some exercise). Two guys walk in front of me and suddenly one guy falls to the ground and grabs both my legs in a submissive posture while the other guy starts kicking him. I instinctively knew that something was amiss and instantly freed myself from the guy that had my legs. I checked my wallet and it was already gone. I grabbed one of the guys but he slipped free and they we went on a foot chase for several blocks until they started running down pretty shady looking alleys. I decided that discretion was better than getting beat up too and gave up the chase. The theft took less than a second and I'm sure that they were surprised that I even realized something was going on. How can you defend against a professional group like this (must have been at least three people)? Frankly, I've racked my brain and you can't. I had never even taken out my wallet during the walk and all of my pants pockets were covered by the jacket. The only difference between this and an armed mugger sticking a gun in your face while taking your wallet was the threat of violence. From a psychological aspect, I guess I'm glad it happened this way. In both cases (assuming you're smart enough to give a guy pointing a gun at you your wallet), you're getting robbed whether you like it or not.
So my piece of advice is to leave some stuff in you hotel room and carry the rest on your person. I just got off the phone canceling debit and credit cards. I normally leave credit cards in my room safe or locked in my suitcase when I travel in countries like this where they are useless except at the hotel. I wish I would have done this in this case. I still haven't figured out how I'm going to pay for the hotel without any credit card since I'm leaving before a credit card company could even get me a new card. I cancelled them all immediately since this is the internet age.
And on Rome Taxi's I've taken real taxis from the Airport to termini (and other destinations in cities in Italy) without problems. Watch out for the guys who are trying to speak with you before you even get to the taxi line. At the airport recently, we were getting in the taxi line and a guy asked us "taxi?" We said yes and he started helping us with our bags. Then we realized that he was taking us out of the taxi line (I thought he was the taxi expeditor- he had an airport ID around his neck and everything). I stopped him and he explained that he was a "private taxi." Probably worked for some limousine company. He futher explained that he would take us to our destination (Termini) for a discounted price of 85 euros. We said no and got back in the taxi line and took a real taxi to the same place for 40 euros. The only weird thing about taxis in Rome is that if you call one to your location via the telephone, then they get to start the meter from the location where they are dispatched to you. When they show up the meter will already have money on it. This is normal. If it bothers you, find a taxi stand at a larger hotel or train station.
Dulles, VA USA Fri 01/19/2007
I just came back from Paris and didn't see much activity as far as scam artists. I did see a man with a dog that I gave some change to that I wanted to get rid of. Maybe he isn't homeless or whatever but it was something that I wanted to do.
I did see quite a few people peddling the flashing Eiffel Tower trinkets. I felt quite safe in the Metro. Of course, I was wearing my money belt and had a lock on my day bag.
I thought most Parisians were friendly if you acknowledged them from the onset of any conversation.
Atlanta, GA USA Fri 01/12/2007
I just finished browsing the new Magellan's catalog and saw the zippy socks, too. It looks from the picture like you could fit some cash and maybe a credit card in there- which would be handy for going out for the day (assuming you aren't wearing them with sandals for summer travel :) ) But I always use a real money belt when in transit- to hold the paper plane tix, passport, etc...I don't think there'd be any way to squish all that in the sock pocket! It's a clever idea, though.
USA Thu 01/11/2007
Zip It Socks
I am GUESSING that they are too small to hold anything of significant size. And you would have to watch out for midgets :-)
Centennial, CO USA Thu 01/11/2007
Zip it Socks??
Has anyone had experience using Zip It socks? They seem like a good alternative to a money belt but I wonder if they are as safe and comfortable. Thanks!!
Paso Robles, CA USA Wed 01/10/2007
rich to afford to travel?
Giving to scammers and those selling (deceptively) trinkets as more valuable than they really are does no one a service. It only encourages the behavior by more people more often. As to those who think travelers to europe are "rich"- in the majority of cases they are just plain wrong. We choose to spend most of our surplus money traveling. Those who choose to spend their surplus money gambling or smoking or make their second home sitting on a bar stool or buying the latest flashy toys, autos, etc., will many times only be travel dreamers.
USA Mon 01/08/2007
Share "the wealth?" I save, economize and do without to take ONE trip a year to Europe. Most of the year I'm working 50 hours a week (but I do like my job ...) Scams are just that -- SCAMS. If you feel the need to make a donation, donate to a legitimate organization.
I've never been wealthy and probably never will be ....
IL USA Mon 01/08/2007
If you're lucky enough to be able to afford it then by all means make a contribution to help those less well off in any society. You can do this by donating to any one of numerous worthy charities in the countries you visit. Knowingly allowing yourself to be scammed won't help anyone, anywhere, anytime. It will just encourage petty crime, no matter how well intentioned you are.
Nottingham, UK Mon 01/08/2007
Diane, who says they're poor? Some panhandlers most definitely are, but there's a whole crowd that's getting rich off of a tax-tree income they get by begging or selling worthless trinkets.
I remember a tv crew following one man who was holding a "will work for food" sign, and when he was offered work, he begged off. At the end of the day, he walked back to his Audi, and it was estimated he was making at least $60,000 U.S. tax free.
Besides, just because you can travel doesn't mean you're rich.
Atlanta, GA USA Sun 01/07/2007
Wealthy enough to go to Europe??? I work my hiney off with 2 jobs to be able to afford Europe. Why should I give the scam artists anything at all?
USA Sat 01/06/2007
Maybe they are desperate to eat
I found that keeping my mouth shut (they don't hear my accent) and a dismissive flick of the wrist with an averted gaze seemed to work.
But who are these people all over Europe trying to sell you something? Are they penniless immigrants, desperate to feed their families, but not allowed to work?
Perhaps they are not dishonest, just desperate. If we can afford to visit Europe, then can't we afford to share our wealth a little?
If you do get scammed by the flower/trinket/gampling street people, maybe you should just see it as a tax going directly to the poor.
I realise the taxi drivers, pickpockets and restaurants are a different kettle of fish.
Brisbane, Australia Sat 01/06/2007
Sacre Coeur Bracelets
Alright, maybe I'm the only one... but I don't view the Sacre Coeur bracelet scam as a scam at all... it was a way that I got a dirt cheap keepsake of my trip to Paris. The secret was that I just played dumb when the guy was asking for money. I'm a pretty fit guy, so the "physical threat" wasn't really there. Maybe he could have beat me up if he wanted, but it wouldn't have been a plesent experience for him either. He started at 20 Euro, I just laughed and told him to take it off (knowing that he won't/can't). Eventually I got a cool looking bracelet for 1 Euro, and it helped me when any of these other guys approached me (just show it to them... you are not part of the "club"!).
San Antonio, TX USA Thu 01/04/2007
While in Paris in November, I was standing taking a photo when I was approached by a man who started talking to me. He asked where I was from and when I told him, he started talking about football (soccer). He then pretended to play football with me and tried to dribble past me. When he got up close, I felt his hands go through my pockets and into my jacket pocket. I had nothing in them and as he was twice my size, I ignored it. I just told him I had to go and walked away before he tried to take my camera!!
D W Fife
London, UK Thu 01/04/2007