Safety tips in Rome

Safety tips in Rome: some tips for special security in the city of Rome, tips particularly valid for foreign tourists.


Safety tips in Rome

The traffic

Probably the biggest safety risk in Rome is traffic. Be careful crossing streets in the congested city centre: it’s safer to cross with other people. Keep your eyes peeled for reckless scooters. Even if you cross at zebra crossings, you will find that some Romans will not slow down, although they will try to veer around you.  If there is a pedestrian traffic light, you still need to look both ways to be sure it’s safe to cross.

Pickpocketing

While Rome has no more crime than most large cities in Europe (and is safer than many), travelers need to be cautious about petty crimes.  These precautions shouldn’t cause you to worry any more than having insurance does: pickpocketing is the most frequent crime perpetrated against tourists, as in other large cities in Europe. Be careful above all in tourist locations, train stations and in any crowded place. Physical violence against tourists is extremely rare in Rome.

On bus

Tourists on certain crowded buses are particularly vulnerable.  On buses and on the Metro, it is safer to stand well away from the door if you can’t find a seat; thieves may try to grab something near the door as the train or bus is approaching a stop, and then jump off. Bus lines # 64 and # 40, which connect the main train station (“Roma Termini”) and the Vatican, are normally loaded to capacity so they provide excellent opportunities for pickpockets to ply their craft. However, thousands of people ride these routes every day without problems, and any crowded bus or metro requires extra vigilance. The person bumping you may be distracting you so an accomplice can reach into your purse or pocket and remove your wallet, jewelry and other items without you noticing.  A couple may be kissing passionately while an accomplice unloads the distracted onlookers. Someone may block the door on the Metro, so that someone else can snatch something as you’re trying to push past. They are very good at what they do, and you may not realize you’ve become the victim of a crime until you reach for your money hours later. If someone blocks you from getting off the metro, first back up instead of pushing, and say loudly, “Coming out”, or  “Please move out of the way”. It’s better to miss your stop than to lose your wallet, but usually you will still have time to get off even if you back up first and  then exit when the way has been cleared.

The Metro

The Metro, as noted above, can be an ideal place for pickpockets to act, but they will usually concentrate at the more crowded ( i.e., touristy) stops – like those between “Piramide” and “Termini” on line B or the ones between “Vittorio Emanuele” and “Ottaviano”, on line A. One must also be careful of gypsies and beggars, who have devised several distractions that could lead to you being separated from your valuables.  Sometimes, a baby or a large piece of cardboard is pushed toward you and, in the seconds it takes you to brush either aside, you will be relieved of your pocketbook, camera, wallet, and other valuables: try not to let anyone approach you too closely. If someone offers you something, or begins to get too close, say, “No thanks, I don’t want anything!” Say it loudly enough to attract attention, because thieves don’t like attention.

Colosseum

Be careful around the Colosseum and Forum area, as it is regularly worked by pickpocketing “gangs.”  Wear a money belt, keep your camera in hand, be aware of where people are around you, and don’t expect every pickpocketer to look like a street urchin – they dress like tourists (complete with cameras), businessmen… you can never tell.  Also don’t think that by simply clutching your bag close to you, that you are safe: some people have had their purse sliced open at the bottom, and their wallet (and passport) spirited away before they noticed.

One recommendation for the Colosseum area is going early in the morning, start with a walking tour of the Forum, then enter the Colosseum when it first opens, and immediately go back across the street to Palatine Hill.  The crowds will be small and most pickpocketers will still getting ready for “work.”How to protect yourself?  Be vigilant in crowds and on escalators, buses, trams, subways.  Don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk to read your map or guidebook or to take a picture. Women should carry purses on the side away from traffic, where they cannot be snatched by Vespa motorscooter drivers or passengers.

Don’t be taken in by the phony gladiators and centurions in front of the Coliseum. They are there for the tourists who want to take photos with them, but they may insist on being paid an outrageous price if they see you take a picture in their vicinity. Again, if you feel bullied, threaten to call the police.

Taxi prices

Be careful of taxi prices. Fares within the city of Rome should never be more than 20 euros. Within the historic center, 7 to 15 euros is typical. Before entering a taxi, ask for an estimate of the fare, and if it’s out of bounds, don’t get in. There are meters on the official taxis. Make sure they are being used, and observe the fare from time to time. If a hotel or restaurant calls you a cab, or if you call yourself, the meter starts to run when the cab leaves the cab stand, so don’t assume this is  trick. Just make sure the amount on the meter when you get in is not outrageous. Some drivers pull a switch, claiming you gave them a five instead of a twenty, for example.

Small bills

Try to keep some small bills on hand for paying taxi drivers; it’s a good way to avoid this problem altogether. If you only have a 20 or a 50, say the number as you give the bill to the driver. It’s also better to get out of the taxi before paying so that you can be face to face with the driver when you pay. Most drivers are honest; there are drivers who will return money to you because  you  paid too much, and drivers who insist on reducing the fare because they made a wrong turn. However – do not allow any of this to discourage you from visiting Rome.  Criminals and the downtrodden might try to use illegal means to get money from you, but Rome is in general very safe, and recently the level of safety has increased. If you take the precautions above, you will probably have no problems at all.