With numerous European trips under my belt, I can honestly say that I have never once felt threatened or unsafe. Maybe that is because my 6'1'' husband (who looks fierce even when smiling) is with me. Or, maybe it is because I try to be keenly aware of my surroundings. Nevertheless, here are a few things to watch for while visiting European cities:
- Gypsy thieves. Along Trajan's Forum in Rome, three ragamuffins approached my husband. Two tried to distract him by ranting wildly in Italian. The other touched him in a way that implied she was searching for a pocket. He swiped the girl's hand away and shouted NO very firmly. They ran away.
- Metro bag snatchers and pickpockets. Thieves look for unsuspecting people in the subway and on trains. Seconds before the doors close, they can snatch a bag and jump off the train. On crowded trains (which many of them are in tourist areas), thieves can masterfully pickpocket those standing around them.
- Fake police. These are costumed people claiming to be police officers. They flash fake badges and then quickly put them away, asking to see identification. They then attempt to steal passports, money, and other belongings.
- Scam artists. On our first visit to Rome's Colosseum, men in gladiator costumes invited us to have our picture taken with them. One posed while the other snapped the photo with our camera. Then, they demanded 5 euro for the photo. Another example: a girl in ethnic attire approached us in Paris asking if we spoke English. She then handed us a notecard detailing a tragic story that ended with a plea for money.
- The overly helpful stranger. In Paris, a stranger stopped my husband and stooped to pick something up off the ground. The man handed him a silver ring (akin to a wedding band), rattled something off in French, patted him on the arm, and then skedaddled off. Because my husband's ring was still on his finger, we assumed the ring had been lost by someone else. It wasn't until later when the same exact scenario happened a few blocks away that we realized it was a pickpocket scam.
- The distressed tourist. Usually an English-speaking person claiming that he/she has been robbed and desperately needs money for a hotel room, flight, or something else.