Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

As happens everywhere in the world, tourists are prime targets for scammers and pickpockets and it pays to keep your wits about you whenever you are out and about. Security should be of the highest priority when travelling, not only in Europe but wherever you choose to travel.

How to avoid scammers when travellingImage © HappyAlex / Adobe Stock Photo

When I'm travelling, my husband always carries our valuables (passports, credit cards, bank cards and cash) in a moneybelt around his waist and hidden under his shirt. We prefer a flat moneybelt, not the old 'bum bag' style. Touch wood, we've never had anything stolen but I've heard plenty of horror stories including people having the straps of their backpacks cut whilst they are wearing them.

On my first trip to Europe 25 years ago, I did a Contiki tour and I can still remember the tour guide telling us to wear our backpacks on our front so that we could see them at all times. "You might look stupid," she said, "but it just might mean you keep your valuables." It's advice I still heed to this day.

I've also learnt never to consult maps in places where there are lots of people - this is a dead giveaway that you're a tourist and in most cases, a soft target. Metro trains in most cities have a map on the wall inside the carriage - use this map instead as it's less obvious than poring over a printed version.

Tricksters are always coming up with new ways to try and fool tourists and if you know about them before you travel, you're one step ahead of the crooks. I recently read a post by Rosemary from Aussie in France about an encounter she and her husband had on a train in Paris.

Would-be-thieves distracted Rosemary by dropping some coins on the floor. One indicated a coin had rolled under the seat and whilst he bent down to retrieve it, his friend reached for her husband's backpack and was about to take off with it - they had timed the incident perfectly with the arrival of the train at the station. Luckily, Rosemary's husband realised in time and managed to grab the sleeve of the guy who had hold of his backpack. The backpack was dropped and the thieves fled the train. A close call!

Thief stealing from backpackImage © Jacob Lund / Adobe Stock Photo

Also in Paris (and probably many other cities), a common scam is for a 'golden' ring (the kind you wear on your finger) to be dropped on the footpath in front of you by another person. The person then bends to pick it up and offers it to you. Whilst you converse with the person telling them it's not your ring, their accomplice robs you. Or, the person claiming to have found 'your' ring, will try to sell it to you at a 'special price'!

Years ago, when visiting Athens, I was shocked by the number of beggars with missing limbs. A local tour guide warned our group to ignore them and not give them any money. I was even more shocked when he told us that parents often maim their children so that passing pedestrians will have more sympathy for them and therefore give them more money! Horrible!

If you need to withdraw money from an ATM (hole-in-the-wall bank teller) when you're on holidays (and who doesn't!), be super vigilant. When my husband and I were withdrawing money on one occasion, we had a close encouter.

We were standing side by side right in front of the teller making our transaction. About half way through our transaction (just as we were about to enter the amount of cash we wanted to withdraw), we felt ourselves being pushed and I looked down to see a boy of about 12 years old between us. I automatically shouted at him loudly and he fled - but not before he'd pushed a button on the teller machine.

Our €200 withdrawal was now €500. Thankfully, we realised what was happening and scared him off but it left us feeling slightly uneasy. No doubt he was hoping to arrive between us just as the cash was coming out of the machine - on this occasion he was a little too early.

Whilst on the subject of ATMs, I recently came across this video which shows how scammers can extract your PIN whilst you're withdrawing money from a cash machine. I've also heard of the same method being used on automatic fuel pumps (the ones where you have to put your credit card in before you can access fuel) in Europe. From now on, I'll be double checking before I insert my card into any machine.

One scam that we noticed for the first time this year occured when parking our car. On two occasions, in France and Italy, a self-appointed 'parking attendant' was telling patrons where to park in public car parks. After showing drivers where to park, the 'attendant' then stuck his hand out for his 'parking fee'. Apparently this is becoming more and more common.

Our friends in Italy, who were with us at the time of the Italian incident, told us that the police regularly move these people on, only for them to return again the same day. "Don't give them money," they warned us, "it's free to park here."

Don't let these scams put you off travelling, just be aware that there are people out there who would love to share your holiday dollars or to relieve you of your Smartphone. These (and other) scams are as likely to happen to you in Paris or Rome as they are in Melbourne or Sydney, so wherever you travel, be vigilant, especially when amongst crowds or on public transport.

Safe travels!


Have you fallen victim to a scam when travelling?








# Carolyn 2013-11-15 11:42
Hi Pamela,

Thanks for the great tips. That's a wise move sharing the valuables equally - even when out shopping together it's easy enough to get separated so if each person has at least some of the valuables on them, it's a good security net.

Good advice about the ATMs, too. I'll definitely be following your lead in future after our close encounter in Paris!

Thanks for stopping by.
# Pamela 2013-11-14 22:28
We always share valuables equally: one has principal bank travel cards the other back-ups and vice versa, likewise share credit cards. Also split cash from ATMs, in money belts, worn under clothes. Our belts are made from strong white cotton (easily laundered, cool,comfortabl e), 2 zip-up long pockets (so notes not folded), and sit under waist. The belts have 2 double buttons at back and a strong tie, so v. secure. Invisible under pants, specially if wearing a T-shirt, or button down shirt tucked in.
W'd never have husband carry all valuables, what if something happened to him and/or you do things separately and need money urgently?
Also never use ATMs in street. So dangerous. Many have skimmers. A friend used them in L. America,his account was relieved of $18,000. We always use ATMs inside banks. Much safer,entry is often more guarded(also airlock entries). Also less risk of skimmers.
# Carolyn 2013-11-14 10:54
Gosh, Susan, there's always a new scam out there, isn't there?! It must have been quite scary being flagged down and realising someone was attempting to scam you. And imagine them using the 'Good Samaritan' law as a way to get people to stop!

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
# Susan Walter 2013-11-13 23:56
The most recent attempt at a scam I have personally experienced was being flagged down whilst driving through the forest and asked for money for petrol. The man, who looked like a gypsy, claimed to have run out of petrol and told me his cash card was blocked. I realised it was a scam fairly quickly and drove off, but it annoyed me because there is a 'Good Samaritan' law in France which obliges one to stop and render assistance. This guy was taking advantage of the fact that a lot of people would stop. I know it was a scam because when I returned along the same route about 15 minutes later he was gone. There was no way he could have got any petrol in the time frame.