how to avoid being pickpocketed
The first thing you might’ve learned when planning a trip to Europe is the possibility of being pickpocketed. It can happen almost anywhere you go in Europe, but it’s especially prevalent in Rome and even more so in the touristy areas (Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, etc.). After living in Rome for over half a year, spending lots of time walking around the city in touristy and not so touristy areas and taking lots of public transit, neither Jaime or I have been pickpocketed, knock on wood. In the United States, we are so used to leaving our bag on the chair next to us or across the back of our chairs, not worrying about wearing our purse across our body, keeping our phones and wallets in our back pockets, and even leaving our phones on tables at bars and restaurants. In Rome, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your surroundings and your belongings. Pickpocketers don’t have a specific look, you probably won’t even notice they’re around and have stolen your things until it’s too late and they’re long gone. You can wear those under-the-shirt money belts if you want, but I found that it’s not necessary if you’re careful. Here are some tips on how to keep your valuables safe when exploring the Eternal City.
ALWAYS BE AWARE
Never let your guard down. While I feel much more comfortable in my non-touristy neighborhood, I still always know my surroundings, who is walking across the street from me, in front of me, and behind me. Even being aware of your surroundings, keep your valuables in a zipped bag in front of your body or in your front pant pockets. Pickpocketers are sneaky and sometimes no matter how aware you think you are, things still get stolen.
DON’T LEAVE YOUR VALUABLES OUT
This sounds like a no brainer, but a lot of people still have their things stolen this way. We know people who have had their phone stolen multiple times because they continue to leave them on bar counters when grabbing coffee or a drink or because they leave their valuables in easy to reach spots like their back pant pockets or the chair next to them when dining. The only time I don’t keep my purse in my lap is when we’re eating inside a restaurant or we’re sitting in a covered and enclosed outdoor space and aren’t near the walkway. The same goes for my phone, but most times it’s kept in my bag.
BRING A SECURE BAG
If you plan to explore the city with a backpack or a purse, make sure it has a zipper or drawstring. Before we moved here, I purchased this crossbody bag with a zipper and continue to use it every day. I wear it across my body and it’s ALWAYS in front of me and zipped. If I’m walking around in touristy, crowded areas I will place my hand over my bag. Since living here, I wanted a backpack to use when I was attending language school and for the days when I need to run errands. The best thing I did was take lessons from the locals. The most popular backpacks I saw in town either had a zipper or a drawstring with a flap. I purchased this drawstring flap backpack and have had no issues with it. If you’re walking through a touristy, crowded area or you’re on public transit, make sure to bring the backpack in front of you for safe keeping. Make sure your bag or wallet has RFID protection.
CHECK YOUR PHONE AND MAKE A GAME PLAN BEFORE STEPPING INTO A CROWD
We know the city well enough now to get around without Google Maps in most areas, but that wasn’t always the case. When we’re in the touristy areas we always see tourists walking around or standing in the middle of the crowd with their phones out, bags open, lost, and looking very confused. Unless you want to make yourself a pickpocket target, don’t do this. No matter where you are, there will be areas to step aside to be in less crowded areas. Find a less crowded street and stand along the wall if you’re near the Pantheon or Trevi Fountain or walk a few feet to get away from the busyness near the Colosseum. From there check your phone, look at the directions to get to your next destination, post on Instagram, etc. Roman streets can be confusing, especially in the historic center, so take some time to understand the map and where you are. Learn the name of the street you need to go down or count the number of streets you need to pass until you get to your destination. I do as much as I can to avoid having to walk around with my phone out.
BLEND IN WITH THE LOCALS
The first thing I noticed when we moved here is that Italians are fashionable, but the clothes and accessories they wear don’t scream name brands and that it’s rare to see engaged or married women with diamond rings. American culture puts such an emphasis on both of these and both will make you stick out. I love my wedding ring, but I’ve purchased a much simpler, non-diamond ring to wear most days. It’s not the fear of having someone assault me to steal the ring off my finger (because this is rare in comparison to the pickpockets who will steal your things without you knowing), it’s to help myself blend in. I’ve heard multiple stories of people who’ve had their Airbnbs broken into and conclude it was an inside job. All it takes is for someone to notice the diamond ring and wait for the opportunity to arise. It’s not a bad idea to leave your diamonds and other high value items at home.
Rome is a beautiful and fun city, but don’t let your trip be ruined with a pickpocket incident. Let us know your tips and tricks to avoid being pickpocketed when traveling. Buon viaggio!