Whenever any of my friends go to Spain, I try to warn them about pickpockets. It turns out, according to Trip Advisor, that Barcelona is ranked at the top of cities for pickpockets. Madrid comes in fourth. Rounding out the five are Rome, Prague, and Paris. Europe makes up eight of the top ten!
Hanoi and Buenos Aires are the only cities outside of Europe on the Pick Ten. Where might you be safest? Trip Advisor says Iceland! Most cities in Japan are safe, with Kyoto the safest. I agree!
Less than an hour from many U.S. cities, Montreal is a safe place for travelers, especially the solo traveler. Ireland, just a hop, skip, and jump from eastern cities, is another safe haven for travelers of al kinds.
Here at home, the obvious city to avoid Peter Piper would be New York City. But older downtown areas, in cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Chicago, and Detroit are home to many Peter Piper wannabees.
But the main reason this article strikes out on is the reason why Spain is prime for Mr. Piper. It is the prevalence of “gypsies” or “gypsy-like” bands of people. They quickly gather around tourists, find myriad ways to distract you, and even try to touch your face! During this period of distraction, any number of methods are used to grab your money or passport.
The most clever is making a quick slit on the bottom of your purse or backpack with a sharp blade, razor, or knife. The contents drop easily and quickly into waiting hands, while you are distracted by the touching. Or other forms of distraction and confusion.
Having been to Spain numerous times, I can spot these bands of gypsies quite easily. But often, they come up from behind, or from the side, when you least suspect them. Crowded buses and public transport are also easy pickings for them.
In Rome, young women are the easiest prey. Why? The tall, dark, and handsome Italian man often distracts young women, looking for romance, or at least a coffee date. However, Paris and Prague utilize both methods, gypsies, and handsome men!!
While I did not encounter issues in Hanoi or Buenos Aires, I can imagine the scenario, particularly in the poorer neighborhoods. A favorite ploy in Hanoi is the “moto” or motorbike. When you grab a cheap ride to the Opera House, your back pocket is in a prime location for Peter Piper. Or in Buenos Aires, they send a pretty girl wanting to teach you the tango. Fortunately, I had Mr. Mike with me, and they may not have been gypsies, though it crossed my mind during the photo shoot, and tipping process.
So, what do I do to prevent this from happening? I carry only about $100 in cash, leave my wallet and credit cards in the hotel safe. I also carry a COPY of my passport, not the real thing!!! And my pocket is secured in some fashion, with a zipper preferably. Front pockets are better than back pockets. I attach a thick rubber band around my money clip to increase friction during removal. I never carry a backpack or laptop case.
Of course, it goes without saying to avoid wearing flashy jewelry and “smart” clothing. My trips are not fashion shows! Shoes are often a good indication of what is in your wallet. Wear comfortable but well worn shoes. And never flip flops, as you will not be able to run very far or very fast in them.
And your cell phone? Carry it in a pocket. Holding it in your hand, staring down at the phone is the most vulnerable position possible. Pull it out only when you are sure it is safe to do so. I know that sounds obvious, and rather cautious, but phones are worth as much as credit cards to the right Peter Piper.
Bottom line, just be smart, always vigilant, and never get into a place or situation where you might be at risk!!! Easy for me to say, but my years of travel have taught me a few things. This is one!