5 Ways to Avoid Getting Ripped Off in EuropeJune 12th, 2011 by The JetSetter Team | Comments Off on 5 Ways to Avoid Getting Ripped Off in Europe
Usually a Yankee in Europe sticks out like a sore thumb. While it’s very rare that we find ourselves the victim of a violent crime, petty theft, pick pocketing, and purse snatching are another matter completely. Imagine YOU were a European thief. Wouldn’t the prospect of an unwary American wandering aimlessly around your neighborhood fill you with glee? You just KNOW he’s loaded down with all the latest electronic gadgets and gizmos, and too enthralled by surroundings to properly protect his belongings.
By the time he realizes trouble is afoot, you’re gone around the corner while he’s trying to figure out what just happened and who to call. Americans in Europe – don’t be that guy! Listen up and we’ll give you five good tips, courtesy of uber-European traveler, Rick Steves, to keep you and your belongings safe the next time you jet across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Old Reliable Money Belt
This one is non-negotiable. Get a money belt when you travel anywhere outside the United States – maybe even certain parts of Detroit and New York City – and use it. A money belt stored safely in your purse does no one a bit of good except the thief who snatches the whole kit and kaboodle, as one woman unfortunately discovered in her travels. For those unfamiliar with money belts, it’s a small, zippered fabric pouch worn around the waist. Into it go all your important traveling documents as well the bulk of your traveling cash (no, hotel safes aren’t always a good idea).
Crappy Luggage and other Low Profile Methods
When a thief has the opportunity to quickly grab a suitcase from a pile,
guess which one he goes for? The most expensive-looking one! If this isn’t a four-star advertisement for plain luggage, we don’t know what is. Okay, so it doesn’t have to actually be “crappy” but it should not stand out in any way. Get the plainest, least obtrusive set you can find. Remember those electronic gadgets we were talking about? We’re referring to your camera, PDA, cell phone, iPod, iPad, Kindle. Watch them all like a hawk. Don’t set your high dollar camera down beside you, even for a minute. Thieves are trained to watch for such opportunity and it will be gone before you finish feeding a peanut to the pigeon in the park who immediately goes into spasms because he’s allergic.
European train stations are notorious hotbeds for thieves eager to make off with your luggage. Our best suggestion is to keep it physically attached to your person by a strap or clip. Around your wrist or slung over a shoulder will do quite nicely. And don’t set the thing down beside you while you turn to gawk at whatever it is you like to gawk at. As with the camera on the park bench, a bag left alone for a few seconds in a train station has a habit of growing Olympic sprinter legs and disappearing into a crowd.
We’ve seen professional pickpockets practice the “bump” in movies so many times it almost seems like a joke. Almost. Don’t make the mistake of falling victim to it. Open air flea markets frequented by tourists and public transit stations are this kind of thief’s office. They sometimes work in teams, with one creating a distraction while his accomplice does the bumping. Luckily, this sort of crime is rather easily negated. The only reason it ever works is when a tourist stupidly leaves valuables easily accessible in pants, shirt, or jacket pockets. If the thief can’t get it out without you knowing within a fraction of a second, he won’t mess with it. There are too many other easy marks out there. Once again, a money belt is key. Don’t keep anything in your pocket that you don’t want to lose. Actually, it might be kind of funny to keep a loaded mouse trap in there and see what happens.
The violent act of carjacking is not as much of problem in Europe as it is America. Thieves prefer to shake down your car at night while you’re locked safely in your hotel room. There are a few methods to prevent this madness. First, ask the hotel concierge where it’s safe to park. He’ll know and be glad to tell you. Put valuables out of sight in the trunk or, better yet, take them up to your room with you. Leave the glove compartment open so a passing thief can look inside, see there’s nothing worth taking, and not waste his time breaking a window to get in.
Nothing ruins the mood of a long planned vacation like losing valuables to petty criminals. Implement these five travel tips and you’ll stand a much better chance of arriving back home with the same stuff you left with.
The Jetsetter Show Team
Flickr / matiasjajaja