St. Petersburg Stories and Tips

Pickpocket Defenses and Personal Safety

Russia, especially the big cities, are dangerous for minorities. Anyone who does not look Caucasian should only travel with a group. Otherwise, personal safety is a little worse than in most large cities, except for pickpockets.

Pickpockets are endemic in St Peterburg and a real problem in several other European cities. On our first trip to Prague, our Cruise Director, in warning the passengers about the pickpocket problem, said that he had brought 50 tours to Prague, and not once had there been a trip where a pickpocket did not steal at least one passport. On the other hand, he said a single woman could walk any street in Prague alone in the middle of the night without fear.

Pickpocket defenses: MEN leave your wallet in the ship or hotel’s safe. Put the valuables– passport, money, credit cards, etc– you need in a small wallet like pouch that hangs around your neck and tucks inside your shirt. Take it out of your shirt only when you need something in it. Have nothing in your pants pockets. As for backpacks, they can open a backpack without you ever knowing it. Cameras– keep them well attached by heavy duty straps. In cool weather, keep everything you are carrying inside your jacket, but not in the pockets. Cash can also be divide up by tucking some inside your sock, above the pants cuff, on the inside of your leg. I have a shirt with a zipper pocket in the armpit, which has worked well so far, but it was a rare find.

LADIES: Follow the instructions for men. If you must carry a purse-- a bad idea– take on with a strap long enough that you can sling over your head and carry the purse under the opposite arm The strap must be heavy enough that a sharp knife cannot cut it easily. Carol carries a small purse with a long thick leather strap, and so far, so good.

When on the metro, bus, tram, etc., never leave your purse or any packages out of your hands. Put them on your lap, and wrap both arms around them.

Before your trip, check the web sites for the US State Department and UK Foreign Office for the latest advice on personal saftey when traveling overseas.

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