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Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

Novato, California
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Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

After painstakingly planning a trip to Europe for my family (me, my husband, and our 7 year old son) that includes England, France, and Italy, I was dismayed to read that pickpocketing is apparently RAMPANT there now, particularly in Italy. So unlike how it was when I was last there (LONG ago, just out of college) and pickpocketing was something to be aware of but not much more than a minor concern! Sad, actually. But anyway, my husband and I are going to take all the precautions --PacSafe backpack for him and purse for me, luggage locks, money belts, a personal alarm, copies of everything with a friend, etc --plus we have read up on all the "tactics", but I am still particularly concerned about the train stations. What is the best course of action when you are changing trains and have to wait a while for the next one? Wait on the outgoing train's platform? Try to find a cafe to "hide" in? I am particularly concerned about keeping my son safe and not allowing anyone to even entertain the thought that they can use him as a distraction or even get close to him! We have a 40 minute wait at the Milan train station, and I guess that's pickpocket central! Any advice appreciated.

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

Pickpocketing is not rampant. We warn people to take care because it is the careless people who find things missing, but many thousands of people go through Milan Central station (and any other major station) without a problem each day.

Put your valuables into a money belt under your clothes and stay close to your luggage, and all will be well.

Liguria, Italy
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2. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

You needn't be so concerned for your son. You will see when you arrive in Italy that the train stations are normal, bustling train stations, with people like yourselves, with children in hand, carrying suitcases, etc. Milan is a bright, light train station (quite beautiful actually), with wide platforms where you can move around easily, and not be worried you are in a crush of strangers.

For a 40 minute wait, you might very well want to go into a cafe. There is one upstairs that overlooks the entire station. It has big "SKY TV" signs, so you can't miss it. Whenever you sit in a cafe, keep your luggage very close where you can see it at all times. Never put a purse on top of it. Keep your purse in your lap.

There are some particular tips to follow whenever you are in a train station to keep you safe from pickpockets:

1) Hide your wallet and other valuables very well and don't take them out to make small purchases inside the train station. Before you get to the train station, take whatever money you will need to buy things out of your wallet or purse and keep it is a shirt pocket or your hand (I have a small wrist wallet).

2) When you are standing waiting in a train station, stand close to a wall.

3) When you are getting on the train, have your child get on first, then one of you should put the luggage onto the train, while the other helps from the platform and gets on last. When you leave the train, your child and one adult should descend first to the platform. That adult should help the other adult remove the luggage from the train.

But you really shouldn't worry tremendously about this. Pickpockets are looking for travelers with loose totes over their shoulders, who have balanced their purse atop a heap of luggage, or who are bent over their luggage with their wallet clearly visible in their back pocket, or who are constantly taking their wallet out and putting it back again.

Edited: 4:40 am, April 26, 2012
Liguria, Italy
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3. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

PS: In case it wasn't clear, waiting for a train, you should stand with your back against a wall or a billboard, so you are not in the middle of swirling traffic. Getting on and off trains with luggage, don't have one adult on the platform alone struggling with luggage without another adult standing guard behind.

But this is, honestly, an excess of caution. I take these precautions myself in train stations, throughout Europe, even in the US, because I'd rather look foolish than be foolish and have my trip spoiled.

Final tip: Don't talk to anybody or offer help to anybody. Just move right along.

Norwich, United...
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4. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

If you've not already seen it, you might also try the various advice here:

tripadvisor.co.uk/…40388392

But I wonder if some of the confidence of your youth has been replaced by an adult, maternal caution?

Can't now find anything older, but those reading the guidebooks of 2002 might have been equally concerned...

pbase.com/isolaverde/image/142921379/original

Take reasonable "big city" precautions at Milan Central, and you should be amongst the vast majority of the 320,000 people who pass through there each day without incident!

Peter

Novato, California
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5. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

Thank you so much for all your replies. I really appreciate the reassurances, tips, and even the description of the Milan train station! I was imagining it to be dark and teaming with ominous looking people! Knowing how it looks and where the cafe is located is very helpful. And, to Peter, yes, you're right --I do indeed think it is maternal caution kicking in! I think every mom has her internal Mama Bear come out when she detects even a whiff of a threat to her child. I know I probably sound a bit neurotic, but I guess it comes with the territory. ;-)

One more question: Is there a good place to find maps of the train stations, just so we can familiarize ourselves with which way to walk, etc?

Norwich, United...
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6. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

And who'd want you to be any different?

Not very helpful, but this is about all that TI offer for Milan station...

www.grandistazioni.it/cms/v/index.jsp…

Use the list on the left for some of the other large ones!

And if by any chance you'll be going to Pompei or Sorrento, I prepared this recently to assist those negotiating Napoli Centrale...

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187785-i421-k5220…

...but don't feel obliged to visit!

Peter

Chicago, Illinois
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7. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

the key to not being pickpocketed is to not be a walking buffet -- if you don't have a wallet in the pocket, it won't be taken from your pocket. if you don't leave your purse on your train seat while you arrange luggage overhead, it won't be swiped. thieves target the careless.

so stow valuables securely and then don't worry about it much.

Johannesburg, South...
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8. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

Sorry to disagree with No. 2, but pickpocketing IS rampant throughout Europe, with Spain very badly affected.

However, this does not mean you need be nervous and not enjoy your holiday. Simply take all the necessary precautions which you seem to be aware of.

I pass through Milan Station several times a year and have never felt threatened.

I do take EXTRA care though when purchasing tickets at the Fast Ticket machines as there is always someone 'trying to help.' Do not accept help and do not be afraid to tell them in very simple language to ...............

Have a great holiday, you will be fine.

Novato, California
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9. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

Thanks, Peter. Wow --the Milan station is actually quite beautiful! Even though they don't have a map, it helps to see the photos. We'll also be passing through Florence SMN, so it's good to see the info on that, too. Funny that they don't have Turin PS, listed! That is the other Italian train station will be coming through. I see that you're "A Brit in Ischia". How long have you lived in Italy?

Novato, California
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10. Re: Avoiding pickpockets/thieves at train stations

Thank you, JanetTravels and loverofmilan. I've got all my tickets purchased, so no worries there. And I joked with my husband that we'll be like a walking Fort Knox with our array of Pacsafe bags, luggage locks, money belts, etc!

Edited: 4:19 pm, April 26, 2012