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Thread: First trip to Europe! (Pickpocket/safety concern)

  1. #1
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    First trip to Europe! (Pickpocket/safety concern)

    My fiance and I are currently planning our first trip to Europe! We'll be in Paris for a week and we're now thinking about our bag needs.

    We'll be staying in an apartment, so we'll be able to do laundry, which will be handy. We're planning on picking up a Tri-Star each for our main luggage for the trip (we do not want to check bags), but we also want bags for daily use while we're out and about the city. We're thinking the medium or large Cafe Bags, although the Ristretto has come up as well. I currently use a small Cafe Bag as my daily purse.

    I've read and heard enough warnings about pickpocketing in Paris to be concerned, however. Someone told me the other day that he saw a woman who had her purse slit along the bottom, so the thief just pulled her wallet right out that way and she never knew a thing. For me, the buckled Cafe Bag with the organizer wallet clipped in sounds safe enough, but since it sounds like the pickpockets are pretty sophisticated, I thought I'd try to check in with some more experienced travelers.

    We're also trying to figure out whether we should go with the large or medium CBs; I think our needs on a daily basis will be just carrying our wallets, water bottles, phones, maps, any souvenirs we might pick up. Plus we are planning a couple of day trips to Versailles and Giverny. Primarily, though, I was concerned about safety and making sure we actually keep our belongings. Thoughts? Recommendations?
    Last edited by JeanBees; 01-14-2013 at 01:58 PM. Reason: clarify post title

  2. #2
    Registered User Fat Crip's Avatar
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    Remember that most of the big European budget airlines, including the two biggest, Ryanair and EasyJet, have very strict one bag rules. Much as I love the Ristretto (I have two and use one as my EDC), they are relatively bulky and heavy when you're getting extreme with 10Kg, 55x45x20 baggage allowances. If you want to take them, think about the Aeronaut. If you fancy Café bags, the MCB fits in the larger front division of the Tri-Star, but if you really are serious about one-bagging, try the Packing Cube Back Packs or even the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag that's perfect in the smaller front division of the Tri-Star. I'm using the PCSB at the moment and it works great, weighs nothing and also works brilliantly as a packing cube.
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  3. #3
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    One thing you can do is buy a Side Effect in addition to the Cafe Bag.

    Put the Side Effect inside the Cafe Bag and use two key straps to connect it to the "o" rings inside the Cafe Bag. Then put any valuables inside the Side Effect. Should someone slash the bottom of your bag, nothing will fall out as the Side Effect is held in place by the key straps. Pickpockets are opportunists and not going to hang around to slash a second bag. If you keep the Side Effect zipped closed, it will be even more difficult for a pickpocket who might try to get his hand inside the bag. Additionally, you could clip pouches to the "o" rings for other valuable items.

    In addition, I suggest you wear some type of money belt. These are worn underneath your clothes and hold your passport, money, credit cards, etc. It is your deep storage. Keep just enough cash and perhaps one credit card in your bag. This way, if you should get pickpocketed, you don't lose everything.

    Depending on when you are going, the Side Effect may be available without a waist strap which would make it lighter.

    Oh, and if you do want to one bag and put the Cafe Bag inside your main bag, use it as a packing cube and fill it up. This way you don't waste any space. I put mine in the center section of the Tri-Star.
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    I carried my MCB all over Paris, out to Chartres and back, on the Eurostar to London, and then all around London for a total of almost three weeks last summer and never had a problem. I had worried about the same thing before I got the MCB, but with my wallet securely clipped it so it could not fall out even if the bag were sliced, my belongings felt safe. In crowded areas like on the Metro or Tube, I turned the bag so the clasp was toward my body and made certain there was nothing in the open outside pocket. And I almost always walk or stand with my hand under the bottom of the bag, which gives another measure of security.

    Back to London in the early spring this year, and I'm seriously considering a Small (!) Cafe Bag this time. The less space I have to load up, the less I'll carry around during the day and that's kind to my back! But I am totally sold on a TB cafe bag of some size as my everyday bag when in Europe.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeanBees View Post
    My fiance and I are currently planning our first trip to Europe! We'll be in Paris for a week and we're now thinking about our bag needs.

    We'll be staying in an apartment, so we'll be able to do laundry, which will be handy. We're planning on picking up a Tri-Star each for our main luggage for the trip (we do not want to check bags), but we also want bags for daily use while we're out and about the city. We're thinking the medium or large Cafe Bags, although the Ristretto has come up as well. I currently use a small Cafe Bag as my daily purse.

    I've read and heard enough warnings about pickpocketing in Paris to be concerned, however. Someone told me the other day that he saw a woman who had her purse slit along the bottom, so the thief just pulled her wallet right out that way and she never knew a thing. For me, the buckled Cafe Bag with the organizer wallet clipped in sounds safe enough, but since it sounds like the pickpockets are pretty sophisticated, I thought I'd try to check in with some more experienced travelers.

    We're also trying to figure out whether we should go with the large or medium CBs; I think our needs on a daily basis will be just carrying our wallets, water bottles, phones, maps, any souvenirs we might pick up. Plus we are planning a couple of day trips to Versailles and Giverny. Primarily, though, I was concerned about safety and making sure we actually keep our belongings. Thoughts? Recommendations?
    Where will you be staying in Paris (which arrondissement)? The usual places where you should be alert for this kind of activity is around the transfer stations between the Métro stops and the lines for the airport, and on the last few stops. (People distracted by trying to keep track of lots of bags make an obvious target.) The subway and rail lines are intermixed, so if you're staying near an RER B stop, such as one near the Jardin du Luxembourg, you might be able to board from the station at CDG (Charles de Gaulle airport) and travel directly to your stop. Another option is to take the Air France bus in, if you're staying near one of its stops. I've used this for the stops near the Tour Montparnasse.

    If you're going to be shopping locally, I recommend that you bring along a Shop Bag to carry groceries. I bought one these in Solar before that color went away for some friends who were visiting Paris, and also traveling out to Giverny. I think that. medium Cafe Bag should work pretty well for you.

    HTH

    moriond

  6. #6
    Registered User WendyK's Avatar
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    This is great advice! I'm also planning a trip to Paris this summer and will take my SCB with various organizer pouches to use as a purse. Sounds like I may have to invest in a Side Effect and Shop Bag too!

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    A great and light alternative to the Side Effect is the newly created 3D Dyneema/nylon Organizer Cube - Ultralight organizer pouch - TOM BIHN

    I also suggest loading up on everything Dyneema, not only because the darn European airlines weight everything but because it makes everything lighter for EDC.

    Dyneema can be used everywhere but the most formal workplace,

    The weight difference is significant and makes for great urban and province leisure travel.


    Get your museum and entertainment tickets in advance, online is the way to go. Tourist lines at major attractions are prime targets.

    On the metro, the key is to not ride at peak time and avoid crowded or almost empty cars.

    One of the key to avoid belongings being taken is to not use a regular wallet but a RFID Blocking Passport Pouch - Passport holder that blocks RFID signals - TOM BIHN or two.

    Place cheap plastic wallets in usual places fill them with old electronic hotel keys and a couple of paper currency.
    (I advise against using expired credit cards or even reward cards because the strip contain information that can be read and used against you)

    Speaking of credit card, dedicate one no interest for one year, exclusively for the trip expenses. Check the statement against the receipts. Pay at the register.


    I have seen law enforcement professional demonstrate thieves techniques on shows and websites.

    The groping on crowded place is one tactic, making a diversion raucous is another or the two can be combined.

    The person shoving a cardboard scribble/leaflet/stuff in your face, grabbing your hand to put something on, then demand you pay, crowding you to offer to give direction then demand compensation... (mostly done by women and children)
    Don't make eye contact, don't stop, don't smile go on your way.


    Always go to an ATM inside a bank, take minimum cash, everybody takes credit card.

    Your best souvenir bets are fabric accessories, things that you will not get outside of France like scraves, they are lightweight and make perfect gifts.
    Last edited by backpack; 01-16-2013 at 09:54 AM.

  8. #8
    Registered User papids2000's Avatar
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    I just ordered the small cafe bag for daily carry overseas for the same concern about pickpockets also.
    The reasoning a smaller bag makes a harder target to pick or slash and it stays
    closer to the body. With the organizer pouches clipped to the inside of the bag then your
    smaller electronic and various goodies can be even more secured. Besides the less
    you carry around the less you look like a tourist.

    I also found a very useful website called Thiefhunters in Paradise | Pickpockets, Con Artists, Gangsters, Thieves, and Travel. The author of the blog travels all over the world uncovering the various scams, con-artists and pickpocket techniques various scams, con-artists and pickpocket techniques use to rip tourists off. You might find this useful also.
    Last edited by papids2000; 01-16-2013 at 09:22 AM.

  9. #9
    Registered User Lani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank II View Post
    One thing you can do is buy a Side Effect in addition to the Cafe Bag.

    Put the Side Effect inside the Cafe Bag and use two key straps to connect it to the "o" rings inside the Cafe Bag. Then put any valuables inside the Side Effect. Should someone slash the bottom of your bag, nothing will fall out as the Side Effect is held in place by the key straps. Pickpockets are opportunists and not going to hang around to slash a second bag.
    I second Frank's suggestion about clipping things in the Cafe Bag. The new Dyneema SCB is practically an everyday-carry for me, but I'd likely switch to a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag for overseas trips simply because you can't zip the top of the Cafe Bag shut, and it's just asking for a sneaky hand to poke around in.
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  10. #10
    Registered User Fat Crip's Avatar
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    One thing, of course, Western Europe isn't a third world country; we're actually quite civilised! The same precautions you might take in any city in the US will suffice - wave a big was of cash about and don't be surprised if you get mugged or pick-pocketed, but go about your business modestly and you'll be perfectly safe!

    In my 46 years in Edinburgh, London, Paris and everywhere else in Europe I have only faced one attempted street robbery. I was pushed up against a wall by three teenager who demanded my wallet. Now I'm a big lad, and in those days a rugby player - they left empty handed! However I thought about it later and realised I was dressed in a jacket and tie, smart overcoat, nice shiny brogues and carrying a huge bag, or in other words I looked like easy pickings! From then on I used a sub 30ltr ruck sack, wore jeans and no tie. That was almost 30 years ago and I've had no trouble since!

    Where you will get robbed is by European airlines! An oversized carry on bag, or, God forbid, two bags will cost you £50 ($80) to gate check!

    One last ting, we all know about Dyneema's legendary tear strength, but has anyone any experience of how it bears up to a knife compared to Cordura or Ballistic Nylon? I'm not sure I want to experiment with my Ristrettos vs my PCSB vs Aeronauts!

  11. #11
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    What everyone has already said about clipping pouches to your bag. Don't forget you can even clip your small tablets--use a padded organizer pouch or the dedicated Nook/Kindle pouches. I have my Nook clipped to an O-ring in my EDC cafe bag (small or medium, depending what I'm bringing). My (small point and shoot) camera is in a padded organizer pouch, clipped to an O-ring. But another important thing to remember is, if you are carrying your bag cross-body, keep the bag in front of your body. The traditional way of carrying a messenger bag is to swing it around behind, and that is how pickpockets take advantage. Keep the bag in front and it's harder for anyone to just walk up behind you and rummage/cut. Of course you'll still have to be careful in crowded situations--keep a hand on your bag when that happens. It's all just ordinary common sense precautions in my opinion--and I use it daily, not just while traveling. Have a GREAT time!

    P.S. And what Frank said about the moneybelt. In a foreign country, where it's that much more difficult to replace passport, credit cards, etc., it's another level of security.

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    Thank you everyone for the excellent advice!

    I think, given what folks have said, I'm going to go with the RFID blocking Passport pouch for my passport, money, and cards, worn around my neck or my waist (depending, I think, the clothes I'm wearing -- but at least it will be in my clothes either way). I think this will serve the same basic function as the money belt... right?

    I'm still thinking of the MCB for a day-pack, but with an organizer pouch (or two!) clipped inside it with the key straps. What a brilliant suggestion! This way, my point-and-shoot camera and other odds and ends should be reasonably safe. I know the MCB doesn't zip shut, as Lani mentioned, but I believe clipped and held to the front, with things all clipped and zipped inside, that would be fairly safe. If someone takes my water bottle, it won't be the end of the world, but I certainly want to keep my camera and photos, my Kindle, and my phone (assuming I take one).

    I already use an organizer wallet that I keep clipped inside my everyday purse (SCB), so I'm used to having things clipped inside. I'm training myself to hold my SCB to my front rather than my side or back -- really, this is a good habit anyway, I figure.

    Honestly, I sort of wish a small Swift would work, but I worry that it really is too open. Besides, I don't think I'd want to have to carry something on my shoulder all day. I do like to take my knitting around with me, though, so I may have to see how that would work with the MCB or LCB. Or, if I want to take a small knitting project with me, is there another option I should be considering?
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    JeanBees, I always have a small Yarn Stuff Sack containing a small knitting project clipped to an o-ring of my SCB or MCB. Sometimes I pull the pouch out while knitting and let it hang outside the bag. But if the SCB/MCB isn't too full, I'll just knit with it inside instead - this is when the lack of a zipper is a good thing, since there's nothing to catch the yarn!

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    Quote Originally Posted by teresapoet View Post
    JeanBees, I always have a small Yarn Stuff Sack containing a small knitting project clipped to an o-ring of my SCB or MCB. Sometimes I pull the pouch out while knitting and let it hang outside the bag. But if the SCB/MCB isn't too full, I'll just knit with it inside instead - this is when the lack of a zipper is a good thing, since there's nothing to catch the yarn!

    Honestly, I would leave the knitting behind and just take a Small Yarn Stuff Sack then stock up on French Yarns and knitting tools while you are there. Start a project while you travel and ship the whole stuff before flying back home.

    Sometimes, some countries or airlines or individual security personnel become finicky about needlework tools for no apparent reason.

    I got a Small Travel Stuff Sack which can be used as a Small Yarn Stuff Sack, while at the destination(s).


    During the flight(s), games, reading material, audio and videos included in electronic toys , sightseeing, food and rest should be enough to occupy the time.

    The FJN with a couple of pencils/gelpens for sketching, letter writing, travel journalling can also be used.


    I would also suggest leaving the camera but take a smart phone with picture taking ability and buy a French Sim card or a limited time French (overseas) plan.

    See Bchaplin experience below:

    traveler's report: first overseas trip with an unlocked iPhone 5


    About the water bottle, buy a glass one and refill it with water, use a bottle ring attached to carabiner clip, which you will clip to the handle, you then place the bottle in the back pocket so that the hand that holds the bottom of the bag is over the opening.

    You will walk a lot, when you feel tired, stop by a cafe or a restaurant, keep your bag on you, (that is why the SCB is so awesome).

    You don't need to buy a lot a spend a while, nursing a cup of coffee or enjoying your meal really really really slowly (outisde of normal lunch hours).

    Besides museums and really big department stores, cafe and restaurants are the places for powder room time.

    Remember to slow way down from your usual pace.
    Last edited by backpack; 01-19-2013 at 03:55 PM.

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    There will definitely be French yarn stores involved in this trip! Still, the idea of being on the plane for 11+ hours with no knitting project vaguely horrifies me. I haven't ever had any issue traveling with knitting, but in fairness, I haven't traveled internationally, and I appreciate the reminder that it's always up to security personnel in the end. If I do decide to take knitting along, I will have to be sure to take needles I can bear losing.

    And FatCrip, of course I don't mean to imply that Europeans are criminals! I just know we are going to be in a city where tourism is extremely high, and there are always some people who will take advantage of that. I don't want to be paranoid -- just cautious.

    I'm really excited about the trip and it's wonderful to get so much terrific feedback and advice from more experienced travelers.

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