Most European cities are as safe as any major city in the US, but tourists can be a target for petty crime like pick-pocketing and rarely more violent crimes like mugging. There’s no fool-proof way to avoid being the victim of a crime, but you can reduce your risk by staying alert and heeding the following advice.
Carry a minimum amount of cash
It’s like Murphy’s Law – you’ll only get pick-pocketed when you have several hundred Euros on you, not when you’re down to your last twenty. Don’t take the chance that you’ll be a victim (or even lose the money on your own). If you are traveling with large amounts of cash, keep it locked up in the hotel safe. Take only what you need for each day or excursion. If you are using ATMs, don’t take out a ton of cash at once. Any extra withdrawal fees you’ll rack up are worth the security.
Spread out your valuables
Reduce the risk that you’ll lose everything – credit cards, ID, passports – in one fell swoop by distributing your valuables between you and your travel partner, among several people or at least several pockets, if you must carry everything at once. When you can, just carry a copy of your passport and one credit card, leaving everything else locked up at the hotel.
Tourists are much more likely to be targeted by thieves than locals because they may be more easily distracted trying to take in the sights or find their way around. Dress to blend in with the locals and don’t wave your map and guidebooks around. Avoid walking down empty streets at night, but if you do, walk with a purpose, as if you know where you are going.
Stay alert and don’t fall for scams
Pick-pockets often work in groups. One will distract you while another expertly snatches your wallet. If you are approached by someone asking for directions or offering to help you, just be sure to keep a reasonable distance between you and them, stay aware of their hands, and keep your hands on your belongings. Pick-pockets also tend to work in distracted crowds, so if you stop to watch a performer on a crowded street, stay alert. Be extra careful on crowded public transportation, where a seemingly harmless “bump” may actually be cover for a stealthy pocket-picking.
Know where your Purse is at all times
When dining in a restaurant, never sling a purse over the back of your chair as it is very common to lose it this way. Instead, keep it on the table, in your lap, or under your feet. Keep your hand on it in crowded places, and make sure it zips or closes securely.
While no one expects to be robbed, if you have prepared properly, the experience can be much less stressful. Make photocopies of all your documents and cards and keep them in your hotel safe, or better yet, scan them to your email so you can access them anywhere. Also save the international numbers for your bank to your phone or email so if your cards are stolen, you can quickly call and report the theft before too much damage can be done.