Violent crime in European cities is rare and is certainly no reason to be nervous when traveling. If you fear becoming a victim of violent crime then stay out of downtown Salt Lake City or don’t go to Washington D.C., but don’t worry when in Europe!
That said, petty crime such as pickpocketing is rampant in Europe, especially where American tourists go! But with a little preparation and some common sense you can travel just about anywhere in Europe with complete confidence that you are not going to be a victim of a thief.
Pickpockets in Europe can see an American cash cow coming a mile away, and do they know how to milk you! The answer to protecting yourself against thieves lies in prevention, and the single most important item for you to use to prevent becoming a victim is a money belt. I NEVER travel in Europe without using one – only a fool would.
Money belts are basically large pockets with their own belt or cord that you can obtain from any department store’s travel section. There is the kind that you belt around your waist, or the kind you hang around your neck, or the kind that loops through your belt. Either way, the money belt goes under your clothes and out of sight. In that money belt you keep your ATM card, your passport, your cash and credit cards. You keep that money belt secured to your person and under your clothes and then just forget about it! You how have complete peace of mind. Tourists get pickpocketed, not pickjocketed. No thief is going to reach under your pant or down under your shirt to try to get your money belt. They are thieves of easy opportunity, looking for wallets and outside pockets. So use a money belt, keep it next to your skin, and relax!
I keep a days worth of spending money in my front pocket for the sake of convenience. If that gets stolen in is no big deal, just another journal entry about some guy reaching his hand into my pocket! But if I kept all my cash and credit cards and passport in a wallet in my pocket, then I am asking for a tour disaster. So I repeat – DO NOT GO TO EUROPE WITHOUT USING A MONEY BELT. Have I made myself clear? All the excuses about money belts making you look fat, or being uncomfortable, are utterly lame. If you want to feel uncomfortable over there then allow your money and passport to be stolen! You are crazy not to use a money belt and use it properly. Every year I am amazed at American tourists who have a money belt but keep it in their purse or backpack rather than against their skin! Insane!
Who are the pickpockets of Europe? Cute little kids who distract you with a newspaper or a homemade sign, and the gypsy woman carrying a pitifully filthy baby in one are while lifting your wallet with the other. These people are professional thieves, not poor beggars, and they make a pretty good living at it. Avoid them. They are particularly prevalent in Italy – Rome and Florence in particular-so be aware. Trains, busses, tourist areas, and train and bus terminals are havens for thieves. Be on your guard in those places. Do not wear fine watches or jewelry on your trip. Be careful with expensive cameras. These items are targets for thieves.
The other safety issue has to do with the insane traffic in major European cities. Keep a sharp eye out for traffic when crossing streets in Europe. Pedestrians have the legal right of way, but drivers don’t see it that way. Only cross with the light and be sure to make eye contact with drivers coming your way! It seems sometimes that stoplights are optional over there, so be aware! And when in Britain, Look Right! The traffic is coming from the wrong side!
Females traveling in Italy can face harassment from Italian men. The amorous men of Italy are quite serious in their intentions to get you into bed with them and are not to be flirted with, unless you are interested in that sort of thing! You are perfectly safe so long as you do not encourage their actions in any way with flirtatious behavior on your part. You give them the least encouragement, and they will not give up and will not leave you alone. Also be aware that a pat on the rear will likely come your way a time or two while in Italy. Ignore it, or give the offender a vehement look and walk away, and you will be fine. Or you could wheel around and shout “Sono lesbica!” That should keep most of the men at bay!
Relax! Take the proper precautions and you have nothing to fear. Peace of mind comes with a money belt and knowing who and what to avoid. We are going to be very safe and we are going to have a great time!