Safety should always come first when it comes to travelling. In this case, I mean safety from being scammed or pick-pocketed or tricked, etc. Careless tourists can be an easy target. Europe is known as one of the most civilized region on earth. However, it does not mean that it is 100% safe! In major big cities, scams and pick-pockets are all over the place. I did not believe it until I learned it the hard way. When travelling, especially in a group, I have to admit that sometimes I become a bit careless. I used to think that Jakarta was the winner when it comes to petty crimes, but apparently I was not entirely correct! Here goes my list of unfortunate events during my trips over Europe.
#1 Petition Scam
“How do you react when a little girl approach you and give you a paper when you have just finished climbing the stairs in one of Paris Metro station?”
If I may suggest you before you even think to answer my question: do not take the paper! Do not even bother! It was one of the infamous scams that have been lingering around Paris. I was not aware that this scam existed until I experienced it. I was walking with Maya to go to the Notre Dame. Suddenly, a six/seven-year-old girl approached me and put a pen on my hand to sign a petition. It read “petition for deaf people”. It could also read something else, depending on how creative the scammers are.
Without thinking, I signed the petition and tried to walk away. Acting as if she were deaf, the little girl asked me to give her some money. “Give me five euros!” she said using body language. At the beginning, I said no but at the end I gave her two euros as she was really persistence! Meanwhile, Maya successfully walked away when she knew that the girl was asking for money! Smart move, May! But next time, please
grab me with you! ^^
EUR 2 and a life-time embarrassment for being fooled by a little girl!
The second time was even worse. I got pick-pocketed on my first day, just few minutes after I arrived from the Airport. It was actually the first time in my life when someone stole my wallet including all of my money, cards and passport!
It happened when I was walking down the stairs in Gare du North to reach my hostel. I already felt something was wrong when I took few steps down. I used a backpack with a clip-on pocket which can be opened very easily. Stupidly, I put my wallet exactly there – as though I was not aware it was the city of pick-pockets.
I heard a sound of clapping clip of my bag – meaning that the pocket was opened. I looked back, nothing was suspicious. There was only a blond-woman behind me – who could be the person behind the scene! I continued to walk without checking my bag.
When I arrived at the platform, I checked my bag. To my horror, it was opened! My wallet was not there. I rushed back to the path that I took. I saw a yellow wallet lying on the stair case. It was mine. It was tightly closed. Probably I sounded naïve, but I thought that I just accidentally fell down. I continued my trip to the hostel without being suspicious at all……until I wanted to buy lunch.
Again, to my horror, I found my wallet was without any cash. I looked for it again and again. It was everything but cash. A sudden realization that I had just been pick-pocketed finally came. Luckily, I had pants pocket full of coins. I dug it and paid my lunch.
As an Indonesian, of course* I would still consider myself lucky, though. As the pick-pocket only took the money, I got the rest of my stuffs back. I could still use my atm card to withdraw some money – preventing me to rely on someone else’s money. I still got my passport back, meaning I could save some cost of getting a new passport from Indonesian embassy, etc. On the other hand, it was really a hard way to realize that being alert is very important. I took safety for granted for a really long time until it happened!
EUR 88, CHF 20, GBP 50 and USD 100
Oh well! Let what happened be a lesson to learn! I always leave my passport and some of my money in the safe at the hostel ever since. If I ever come back to this city again, I will make sure that I will not be an easy prey anymore!
This city has always been my favorite. It is indeed one of the most magical cities I have ever been to! However, it does not make it immune from pick-pockets! I survived my first trip there without any hassle though I took public transportation a lot. So, I thought that the city was safe enough. Obviously, it was safer than Paris, but still uncomfortable experience occurred.
When I was there with Grumpy Girls, it was during Christmas week. Many shops and restaurants were closed. On the other hands, tourists kept on coming. Public transportations and u-bahn stations were quite crowded. One day, we wanted to go to the zentrum. While we were standing on an escalator, there was a young woman gave me a please-give-me-a-space-to-stand-behind-you look to me. I gave her some space only to find out that the she actually meant ‘please give me a space to stand behind you so I can open your bag and take your money’.
Few seconds after she stood behind me, as if an angel whispered to my ear, I began to feel that someone opened my backpack – it was the same backpack that I used for my second trip to Paris. I automatically grabbed my backpack to the front and found that it was half opened. Apparently, her trick was to cover her hand with her big bag so people do not notice. “Not again!” I screamed silently.
I quickly checked whether I lost anything. I did not. I even had the chance to scream “Don’t steal from people!” to that young woman because I saw her walking with her colleague trying to look innocent.
Nothing but a feeling why I put my backpack at my back again!
The experience was similar as the one I had in Vienna, but with a little bit more spice. If the potential pick-pockets in Vienna went away when we yell at them, don’t expect that happen in this city!
We went to the infamous Terror Museum in Budapest. The stations were not crowded that day. There were only us and two other men. I walked up the stairs slowly and peacefully, so did the others.
“Eva! Your bag!” Diana suddenly warned me. I took my bag and looked behind. All of the other girls looked at me. One of the men was there right behind me. He then walked angrily towards Diana. He probably said “What did you do that?!” He clearly did not realize that I was not alone but with some friends.
I just stood there, reluctant to continue my step. The man tried to corner Diana, but Diana was so brave! She whispered at us to continue walking. The man finally left us alone.
We resumed our journey with another line. We started to laugh and joke around. The subway was quite crowded this time. I started to put my backpack at the front so I felt less worried. Nonetheless, I felt something was wrong. I looked around and found a middle-aged man was looking at me from my head to toe. I gave him a bitchy look to make him stop looking at me. It did not work. He kept on staring at me as if I were an ET. He got off at the same stop. Even when we walked, his eyes were still after me. Until now, I am still not sure whether he was just curious because of my look or not. To be honest, it was scarier than pick-pockets.
It took me four hard lessons to learn how important safety is! I applied it when I went to Milan with Ranila. I googled the typical scams in Milan. It seems that friendship bracelet scam is the most common one. We had many people throwing friendship bracelets when we were near Piazza Duomo. Some tried to target us, but they did not insist when we did not pick them up.
Though we successfully avoided such scam, we got scammed eventually! This time, by an Italian restaurant – this makes it ambiguous whether it was a scam or really good persuasion!
After walking around Milan, Ranila and I were famished. We looked for a nice restaurant by walking some more. When we were lost in one of Milan’s small alleys, some waiters came to us. They handed us the menu, said that they had wifi and good food. We finally went inside the restaurant. We ordered a pizza and a plate of pasta. The taste was disappointing. Even more disappointing, they were actually overpriced! They also charged us more for something that they called “service”. In short, they were only sweet to us when they persuade us to come in. After that, everything was bitter.
After we paid, Ranila was still angry about that bad experience. She drafted a long bad review of the restaurant on TripAdvisor. She wanted to post it with their wifi yet without any success. The wifi was too slow to send it through.
Approximately EUR 40
In summary, having a lesson learn is nice as long as it is not through being scammed. 😀 The ones that happened to me are just few of tons of scams in Europe!
These days, I prefer using a small sling bag which I can protect from the front, instead of a backpack. I know, it is less efficient compared to backpack. But it is safer. Sometimes, I bring another small backpack just to put some snacks and a bottle of water so I don’t have to carry them with my hand. 😀
Also, travel insurance is important! I did not realize it until I lost my money in Paris. It is cheaper than losing something. You will be grateful when you buy one!
To minimize the risk, I left important documents in a locked safe at the hostel/hotels. Some hostels provide a lock while some others don’t. My suggestion is, have one! It is not expensive and it is very useful.
Finally, don’t let scams discourage you from exploring a new place! Be alert is all you need. 🙂
*still (being) lucky is the terms that Indonesians used whenever we experience unfortunate events. For example, when someone get an accident, he/she will still say “I am still lucky that I am still alive”. Or, when someone gets pick-pocketed in the public transportation, he/she will still say “I am still lucky that I only lose some money, I can still look for them.” Indeed, we are such grateful people. 😀