If the worst happens – don’t panic. If you have done the 10 tips to prepare for trouble then you do not need to worry. I have been mugged three times, robbed twice, pick pocketed three times and hustled once. The good news is I can tell you what I did wrong. Quite a few European cities are known for their pickpockets so be prepared.
1. Robbery – report this to the hotel or restaurant if that’s where it occurred then ask for the police. Generally there is a procedure to report a crime to the police and in my experience this involved going to the local station making a report and then getting a copy of the report. Most police stations are used to this but not all, particularly if you are in a town not used to tourists, Twice I had issues. However I kept a note of everything that happened what was stolen and my insurance company dealt with the claim. Keep receipts for everything to resolve your issue.
Lost this twice. To replace it you need to find a British embassy, high commission or consulate and get an Emergency Travel Document. An emergency travel document allows you to leave the country you’re in and travel to your destination via a maximum of 5 countries. You will need around £95 in local currency two passport photos and a photocopy of your passport. I took a photo of my passport stuck it online and then it can be printed. An embassy may be far away from where you are and therefore keep receipts of necessary expense incurred.
Insurance companies have been good when I needed them I never claim for more than I am due and always keep expenses to a minimum. They have always paid out. Cheaper insurance has quite a lot of exclusions and it’s good to be aware of them. I had my bike stolen and they didn’t pay out as bikes were excluded from the policy on page 47 paragraph 12.
Do not wear valuables in big cities. Keep your valuables inside a zipped pocket inside something else. I separate valuables credit card in one pocket and wallet in another. Three times I have been subject to attempted pick pocketing and I have seen many more working the crowds. My favourite one on public transport is three people stand close to you on a crowded train or bus in the standing area. They are usually older ladies or gentlemen. The gentlemen will have a jacket over the arm so you can’t see what they are doing and the ladies will have shoulder handbags for the same effect. They will surround your personal space press against your body because the train is “busy”. At this point your body desensitises itself a little and their hands will be in your pockets. Even knowing these tricks the women got one zip undone and with the three guys when I looked down one of their hands was in my pocket. He just looked me in the eye shrugged and moved across the carriage. Safest option is to move away.
Another trick is a group of people surround you slapping your back or saying stuff like “are you from Britain” and patting you in a friendly manner. They are desensitising you and their hands are in your pockets when you are being distracted. If successful or if caught they run in 4 different directions after the snatch.
Public transport is another prime spot. A pickpocket will board a crowded bus at one end then move to the back before moving to the front. Their eyes will be everywhere looking for an open handbag or an opportunity. Getting on off transport in a crowd is a prime time for a snatch.
Generally pickpockets are not violent and if caught just shrug. Otherwise they would be called muggers. The worst incident was the woman who had her necklace ripped off as the train doors opened at a station. The guy ran off and she was shaken. Don’t wear expensive items.
5. Muggers and Violence
Give them what they want, run away fast or curl up to protect vital areas. That’s my advice. I was lucky with my mugging as I did the second in that list and it was “Chariots of Fire” stuff until I burst through an emergency exit in a building to end up on a stage where they were calling numbers for pensioners bingo. It’s a frightening experience but the adrenaline kicks in. If you are cornered then hand over everything. If you use the wallet and credit card in a separate pocket trick mentioned elsewhere then hand over your wallet and they may not search elsewhere. If you have prepared then you need not worry too much.
6. Petty Theft
I had a €10 note stolen from my room. It was in a book and I think the person who took it thought I wouldn’t report it. I did. It’s not nice when someone takes your property. Cases with side pockets on a bus in the underneath lockers have had things disappear from them. In some areas anything not bolted down may be lifted. You will probably know when you are in such an area and in these cases keep your eyes on everything at all times.
7. Hotel and Accommodation Problems
Hotels can see a lot of people every day who they probably will never see again. Sometimes you can get the crummy room that looks nothing like the pictures, sometimes the problems occur during your stay – no water or hot water, electricity or internet problems, noise or other issues.
Complain politely to the front desk and suggest what they might do about it. I always address them in the local language first – just a few words. Spanish, French, Italian and German I can manage and other language a simple “please” followed by a “do you speak English?” is a good way to open conversation. I have rarely seen the aggressive/assertive approach work as an opening gambit and have watched as the local employee puts up all sorts of barriers to resolving the problem. You do need the assertive approach though if the polite approach does not work.