I told my classmates I was going to Rome, and one of them told me, “Oh, Rome is one of my favorite places.”
“Really?” I said, skeptically, reflecting on my first trip from 2006. “Why?”
He said, “Everywhere you turn, you run into something beautiful.”
Okay, I thought. I’ll give Rome a second try. It had to be better than my first visit, which started off with Chris getting pickpocketed within 20 minutes of us being in the city. His wallet and passport were stolen, including his U.K. student visa. This incident put us off on the wrong foot in Rome and made us take time out of our vacation to sort out our credit cards and the passport. I was intent on having our trip go differently this time.
We were young and less experienced travelers before, and there are a few things I have learned about going to a city like Rome. This list definitely doesn’t apply to every city. There are certain regions, though, where our looks make us stick out as tourists or cities with high unemployment, which makes it enticing and easy for people to go into crime. Pickpocketing can happen anywhere in the world. Read ahead about crime activity, so you can choose what strategies to use.
- Just take a cab upon arrival (especially at night): We were trying to save money by taking the subway, but the subway platform and car were so crowded and we stuck out with our ghostly-white skin and bright red suitcase. A cab would not have been that much more expensive the night we arrived.
- Split up money: We did this when we got to the airport, so at least I was carrying half of our Euros when Chris was robbed.
- Split up credit cards: The thieves racked up over $1,700 in charges by the time we got a calling card and could call the credit card companies. We had to cancel all the cards we jointly owned together. The only reason we could continue our trip without having to get money wired was that I had a UK bank account card that Chris wasn’t eligible to have from the bank. In our recent trip, we only took a couple of cards, and I insisted on splitting up our bank cards. One of us held on to our German bank card, and the other carried our U.S. bank card. That way, if one of us got robbed, we would still be able to get money easily.
- Be careful where you carry your money: Split it up on your own self. (I usually put 10€ in my sunglasses case or in my shoe if I feel really uncomfortable.) Try to put money in a zipped inside pocket in your coat
- Be wary of children or people trying to distract you: Once in Mexico, a woman was trying to act crazy to distract people in my group. Her child was behind my friends charged with stealing from their pockets while she distracted them. Being aware of the situation, I yelled out to my friends to watch the kid, who ended up getting in trouble with the crazy woman for not stealing anything.
- Ladies, consider an alternative to your purse: I’ve met women who have had their purse straps cut or the bottom of their purses sliced open. This time in Rome, I carried a small purse with a wristlet that I could hold in my hand with only my wallet and camera in it. I also carried a small tote bag with replaceable items, like my sunhat, snacks, water, etc. In the winter, you can carry money in your inner layers (e.g. fleece zipper pockets).
- Don’t think you’re invincible: Thieves are professionals. They can slip a hand in your pocket without you even feeling it. It can happen to anyone.
This list isn’t exhaustive, and it doesn’t have to be used everywhere. It also isn’t the end of the world if your credit cards get stolen. As long as you report it in a timely fashion (like we did), you are not liable for any of the charges.
There is good news. We did not get robbed this time. (We better not have after all the work I put into making us safe!) And, I really saw the beauty in Rome this time, exactly as my classmate had told me. I will show you in my next posts.