I've seen the videos and read the tips on how not to get pick-pocketed, but until it really happens, all those tips don't work unless you stay VERY aware of your surroundings and secure your valuables.
For most of our excursions, I had carried my small wallet containing my driver's license, credit cards, cash, etc., hooked with a carabiner inside my small purse. I had always read to 'wear' a money belt inside your clothing but never followed that advice. Believe me, that's a good idea and it's on my shopping list.
The one time I had forgotten to hook that wallet in my purse was the very day it was deftly removed from my purse.
We were leaving Pisa on a narrow, crowded sidewalk. It was hot and people were shoulder-to-shoulder moving in every direction. An older lady carrying a cardboard sign approached me from behind begging for money. I kept walking, adamantly saying, "No." She persisted by coming next to me and whacking me on the side of my head with her sign. I continued to pull away from her and was at the same time keeping my left hand firmly clutching my purse. She then grabbed my right arm, pulling me off balance, and got directly in my face, crying, and begging. She even had tears running down her face. At that point, my left hand came off my purse so I could re-gain my balance. In that split-second, another woman came up on my left (unknowing to me), unzipped my purse, and removed my wallet.
In doing so, a tube of hand sanitizer fell out onto the sidewalk, Hans picked it up, and handed it to me. I looked down to see my purse. . . . unzipped.
Immediately, the lady on the left who was holding a baby, stuck my wallet out in front of me and asked if it was mine. Believe me, Houdini and David Copperfield have nothing on this woman !
This all happened in a matter of seconds !
I can't describe the feeling I had seeing my wallet in the hands of a stranger. It was at that point I realized she wasn't going to give me my wallet back until I 'paid' her.
The ten Euros that was extorted from me was nothing considering the amount of time and trouble it would have taken to replace what was in it.
I replayed the incident over and over in my mind trying to figure out how this all happened so quickly. At first, I was bummed about it but came to the realization it was a great learning experience that only cost me about $13.00.
Whether I'm traveling in Europe or walking down a street in Grand Junction, I will keep my wallet in a more secure place from now on. I will also be more aware of my surroundings and what's happening while getting bumped around on a sidewalk, especially in Pisa !
If you're planning on visiting there, let me warn you that the sidewalk that takes you to the train-waiting-area has a team of two women, one with a piece of cardboard, and the other with a baby who will relieve you of your wallet in a matter of seconds.
Assume that beggars are pickpockets !
Don't carry your driver's license and passport in the same place, but always have your passport with you. It is required at all hotels when you check in.
Make a copy of your passport and keep it somewhere other than with your passport. (Also, make copies of it and of itineraries, room and rental reservations, etc. and keep with you. Also, leave copies with someone at home. )
Tripit.com is a great place to save confirmations and have directions to places.
Consider taking a couple of passport-type pictures with you just in case you need to replace a lost passport. It can expedite the replacement process.
If you wear a backpack, lock the zippers together. Don't keep valuables in it because even the most amateur pickpocket can empty it, and you'll never know.
Beware of two people on a scooter. If you're walking along the street with a purse hanging off your shoulder, this team can rip it off and be gone in a flash, possibly leaving you with nothing but a bruise on your shoulder where that strap used to be. This is something that happens a lot in Naples.
Crowded area such as train stations, sidewalks, buses, escalators, turnstiles, waiting lines . . . anywhere there is a group of people is a distraction for pickpockets. Yes, turnstiles are a common place for a pickpocket to wait for you to go through, grab your purse, and run the other direction, leaving you stuck behind the turnstile unable to follow. As if you would pursue him/her anyway.
MEN: Do NOT carry your wallet in a back pocket, even with a button or in your front pocket thinking you will feel someone trying to remove it. Even a zippered compartment is not that secure. Just keep small bills and change in a pocket that's handy so that you don't have to dig into your wallet everytime you need money.
Leave fancy bling at home, especially your 'real' stuff. It only attracts attention to you. It's less expensive to replace the fake stuff. Jewelry is heavy, so try to take as little as possible. My fingers swell when I travel, so I very seldom wear rings. Don't wear pierced, large loop earrings. This is another way pickpockets can distract you by 'accidentally' pulling on one. Besides, they can get hung on something or someone in crowded situations.
Luxurious luggage lures thieves because they generally choose the most impressive suitcase in the pile. I take the one with duct tape on it. Not that the duct tape is necessarily holding anything together, it just makes the suitcase look like there probably nothing expensive in it. Have identification in two places on the outside and also on the inside. Airlines are notorious for ripping them off.
If you're traveling on a train, be sure you have your luggage in sight at all times. Trains make many stops along the way, and it's easy for someone to grab yours and be off the train before you realize it. These will be the topics of two posts all by themselves: PACKING & TRAINS. Believe me...it's much more pleasant to take only a few clothes and not have to lug a large suitcase everywhere you go. Whether you're renting your own car or not, travel lightly.
Rick Steve's book has a plethora of travel tips. Before leaving on your trip, at least check out a travel site that tells you what to do and not to do in order to have a positive traveling experience.
(Here's where my obsessvie-complusive-anal-retentive personality shines through: I always make a list of what I've packed. Just in case the airlines sends your suitcase to parts-unknown-never-to-be-seen-again, you'll have an inventory of what was in it. It is difficult to remember everything that was in your suitcase. Six months later after you've filed your report, you'll remember that cashmere pashima or Asic's shoes that weren't listed on your claim. )
This list could go on-and-on, but hopefully the information here will keep you from experiencing what happened to me in Pisa, Italy.
And yes, if you noticed that this was posted at 3:50 a.m., you read correctly. My body still thinks it's 11:50 a.m., time for lunch.