European Travel Skills: Money & Safety


This video is an excerpt from a much
longer European Travel Skills Talk. To view other topics, or to watch my Travel
Skills Talk in its entirety, visit ricksteves.com, or check out my Rick
Steves YouTube channel. Thanks. Money and safety. You’re going to spend your money
in Europe, and you’re gonna have a lot of people wanting your money. They’re gonna
want it in a legal way, and there’s people that want it in an illegal way. I
want to talk for just a few minutes about money and money issues. Remember, in
Europe these days nearly everybody has the same coins jingling in their pockets,
euros. 300 million people have the same euro coins jangling in their pockets. In
the old days, we had to change money with every border crossing. Now, the luxury is, you cross the border, you got the same coins. You change too much money and you
fly home with it, you go back next year, you got the same coins, it’s still good. So,
that’s a beautiful thing. When it comes to changing money, the days of travelers
checks are so long gone, the beautiful ATM is there and it is my– I just
have nothing wrong to say, nothing bad to say about ATMs. You get the utopian bank
-to-bank rate, 24/7, instead of the miserable tourist-to-teller rate.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any bank that would change cash right now. You
gotta find an ATM machine, and you slip your traveler– you slip your debit card into
that machine, you got your four digit numeric pin numbers, and you get hard
cash. Don’t change a bunch of small exchanges,
because every exchange, you lose a little bit with the conversion rate, but
you also lose with a fee, so you want to minimize– you can’t avoid the excursion– the
conversion rate problem, but you can minimize the fees. So instead $100 a day, change for $400 every four days, and you’ll cut your fees by 75%. You’ll find ATM machines everywhere you go. In the old
days, we used to bring some cash with us from home to get started, no more. You can get your cash while
you’re waiting for your baggage at the airport. it’s very, very cool, 24/7, in front of the
casino, at the airport, at the train station, you don’t need to worry that
there’s a holiday or a strike tomorrow. Remember, it’s expensive to employ people
in Europe these days. Europeans are very well paid, and there’s
a huge incentive for companies to automate. If you’re like me, you’re
uncomfortable giving your credit card to machine in a foreign country, you’d
rather talk with a person. If you insist on that, you’re gonna pay a
premium, you’re going to get lousy service, and you’re gonna wait in a long line. You
are the last priority, you’re bucking the system. It’s really important to
recognize that next to every long line at a ticket office, there will be a
machine that says self-service tickets. This is for you. Now, you go there and
stick your credit card in or your debit card in, and you punch English, and then
you do your thing , or you put in the cash. This is really a blessing and
we have to get used to it, and frankly I think we need to trust it. When I’m hanging– I’m disinclined to do this, but I’m getting better and better at it–
when I’m hanging out with my European guides, they just swing from one machine
to the next and they go very fast. I’ve missed a lot of trains because I didn’t
know how to use the machine, or wasn’t comfortable with the machine. Try to
figure out the machines, and when you do, you feel good about it. The credit card is something that is
causing a lot of American stress these days, because Europeans have a more
advanced credit card than we do. They have a card called a chip-and-pin card,
and we have a traditional magnetic strip, or we have a chip in our card that is
not a chip-and-pin, but it’s just a pin where you still have to sign. So, you could
even have an up-to-date card here, and you’re gonna still have the frustrations
that Americans have in Europe, because Europeans have more high-tech cards than
we do. Now, you’ll hear scare stories about this, but I’ve got the lousy
American-style debit card and credit card, and I use it all the time, and it
rarely a big deal. It’s just a little bump in the road. Automated gas stations, after midnight,
you can’t buy gas with an American credit card, right. Getting a Coca-Cola from the machine
down the hall in your hotel, you can’t use your credit card. Automated parking booth, you can’t use your
credit card, you gotta go to the ticket guy and pay for it in cash. So, just remember with our American
cards, you got a little bit of a glitch, but it’s not a big deal, you can
certainly get your cash advances from ATMs, you can certainly pay for your hotel,
rent your car, buy things on the Internet, and so on. Europe is a very safe place from a
violent crime point-of-view, and it’s a very dangerous place, especially if
you’re a tourist, from a petty purse snatching and pick-pocketing point-of-view, and
from a con artist point-of-view. Con artists are fascinating in Europe,
and you’ll see them all over the place. You’ve got the classic shell game going
on, any of that, also too friendly people that wanna buy you a drink, and these
kind of things that you got to be pretty naive to sucker for it, on the other hand
a lot of us are just in a good mood over there, we want to trust people, and we
find ourselves in trouble. I hesitate to say be paranoid about it, because you
lose opportunities to meet people. But I would say, it’s better to be safe than
sorry when it comes to connecting with people that can get you in a jam that
are gonna cost you a lot of money to get out of. So, be on the ball when it comes
to meeting strangers on the streets, certainly steer away from any kind of a
scam. In Germany I recently– I was in Berlin, and the police were actually
demonstrating how the shell game works, because it was so prevalent, and so many
people were falling for it. So it’s fun to be on the street, I love to be on the street with all the commotion, but remember, when you see these games going
on, not only are people getting ripped off playing the scam, but they’re
getting ripped off watching the scam, because wherever there’s a commotion,
there’s pickpockets at work, they’re working together. If there’s a commotion,
it’s a fake commotion. If there’s a pushing match on Plaza Mayor in Madrid,
people gather around, people jostle people are getting their pockets picked.
If there’s a commotion getting onto a train car, people’s pockets are being
picked. If an old lady falls down the escalator in the Underground in Munich,
step back, pockets are being picked. I know that sounds kind of harsh, but then
you can move in and help out. But remember, when there is a jostle, when
there is a crowd, when you’re on the most popular tourist bus going from the train
station to the Vatican in Rome, that’s where the thieves are you gonna be. A lot
of people with beautiful eyes, beautiful children, and sad stories. They step right
up, “euro please, give me a euro.” They don’t
want a euro, they want your wallet. Beggars are pickpockets, you should
just understand that. European thieves target Americans, not because they’re mean, but
because they’re smart. We’re the people with all the good stuff in our purses
and wallets, and they know how to get it. I like to watch it, for me it’s kind of
sport to see this in action, but I know that when somebody comes up to me and
asks for a euro, they really want my wallet, and they target tourists and they
target tour guides, they’re very, very good. It seems like she’s holding her
baby, but she’s got a long arm. It’s her scarf that may be holding her baby, and
she’s got a long arm that knows how to do the work. Again, if you have a
commotion, if you’re jostling to get onto that subway car, that’s the perfect time
for a pickpocket to grab your wallet. And this is remarkably easy to get, isn’t it.
I mean it’s right, there it’s amazing to me how easy that is to get, and it’s
amazing to me, it’s invasive to me, when I’m targeted that way. So, use a wallet,
use a purse, but expect to lose it, okay, expect to lose it. Everything that matters should be in
your money belt. It’s a nylon pouch that you wear around your waist ticket,
tuck it in like your shirt tail. You don’t get at this for every nickel, dime, and quarter, this
is your deep storage for select deposits and withdrawals. When you’re
wearing a money belt, its luxurious peace of mind. Think about it, when you’re wearing a
money belt, all of your essential documents are on you as thoughtlessly and
securely as your underpants. Ever think about your underpants? You put em’ on in the morning, you don’t even think about them all day long, and every night they’re exactly where you put them. And now when I’m traveling, my Eurail pass,
my passport, my credit card, are just as securely out of sight, out of mind.
That money belt is so important. If you’re wearing a money belt and if you know the pickpockets–
the beggars are actually thieves, it just it takes all the stress out of it.
in fact when you’re wearing a money belt and you know that the beggars are
pickpockets, having a gypsy’s hand slip slowly in your pocket just becomes one
more interesting cultural experience. It happens to me a couple times every year,
a stranger’s hand gently slips into my pocket, I just leave him there. I just
leave him there. Now, you don’t need to be paranoid, they’re not gonna strip and mug you, that’s what they have to do to get your money belt. Zip up your pocket, you know, button it
away, if it’s zipped up or buttoned away, it’s good. If it’s in the hotel, it’s good, if it’s
in your day bag, it’s bad, if it’s in your pocket, it’s bad. Okay, so you just gotta know that the most
dangerous place is in your day bag. The second most dangerous is in your pocket,
unzipped. The safest place is in your hotel room. I’ve never used a hotel safe, I just
don’t bother. Hotels– now remember, your door’s open for hours at a stretch, you
don’t want your computer and your money sitting on the bed, tuck it away. But I’ve
never– I just pride myself– it’s just sort of my quality of life in Europe, I’m
not paranoid about my valuables in my hotel room. And I’ve spent a lot of time
in hotel rooms, and I just take things away, out of sight, but I don’t worry about
locking it. It’s much safer there than on the streets. Now, when it comes to your
money belt, there’s three different kinds of money belts that we sell, and I think
it’s just a matter of personal choice. I like the standard nylon pouch tucked around your waist under your pants. You can wear it around the back, women like to wear it around the back sometime, but that’s the
standard thing. Some people like to hang it around their neck under their shirt, other
people like this sort of side deal where you hang it on your belt, and you
tuck it in. Either way, as long as it’s not in your pocket and is under your
clothing, that’s what it’s all about. Exactly what you put in your money belt,
its kind of common sense just the essential stuff. You want to wear it
comfortably, it’s got to be very light, so you just put your your irreplaceables
in it. And then, as I mentioned, I function with
a wallet. I expect to lose this wallet. In it, it’s got a day spending
money, odds and ends, and a funny little note to the thief. It comes with a piece
of paper that says, in five different languages, “Dear thief, sorry this contained so
little money. Consider changing your profession.” The point is, you can lose your purse or
you can lose your wallet, if it doesn’t have your passport and your
driver’s license it’s really not a big deal. When it comes to security, here’s sort of your options. As I mentioned, you’ve got your day bag, that’s the most
dangerous. You’ve got your wallet, and if you’re in a comfortable situation you
can rely on that. You’ve got your money belt, which I wear when I’m feeling like
it’s a risky sort of venture, and also in our bags we design a security pouch
that’s like a money belt, but it clips into the inside of the big bag. And
security pouch is the same fabric as the liner of the bag, so it’s invisible and
it’s not locked in or anything but it’s just clipped there, and that’s a place
where, you know you got your money, you know you got your valuables. And a thief
doesn’t want to grab your big bag, a thief walking out of a hotel with a big
bag is just not something they do. They just want to rifle the bag and grab
your valuables, so I find that to be quite, quite a good place to put my valuables.
The security pouch that we clip into the bag, of course you can unclip it
and put it in the hotel safe, or take it with you, or clip it to your day bag, and
so on, but you need to think about your personal arrangement for your valuables.
Remember in Europe there are lots of soft targets, and there’s a lot of
concern about terrorism. Europe is a very safe place from a terrorism point of
view, every year twelve million Americans go to Europe, and twelve million come back.
If there’s a terrorist event tomorrow, it doesn’t change the reality that it is
safer in Europe than it is here in the United States. Without belaboring that,
please understand that every month in the United States, a thousand beautiful
people are killed on our streets. That’s real. Tomorrow, if an American is killed
by a terrorist in Europe, that’s a tragedy, but it doesn’t change the fact
that it’s safer in Europe than it is in the United States. Europeans laugh out
loud when they hear that Americans are staying home for safety reasons. You are statistically
10 times safer on the streets in Europe than you are here in the United States. In other words, if you care about your loved ones, you’ll take them to Europe
tomorrow. That’s how we sell tours. Now, Europe is gonna have its glitches, its
gonna its terrorists event, and if you hate terrorism as much as I do,
please understand the most powerful thing you can do to fight terrorism, is
not to over react to it, not to freak out just because it’s a media fest and
they’re going to bump up their viewership with hysterical coverage, and
remember that the most powerful things we can do, as Americans, to fight
terrorism, is to get out there and better understand the rest of the world. When we
travel, it makes it tougher for their propaganda to dehumanize us, and it makes
it tougher for our propaganda to dehumanize them. It helps us all connect,
and gain empathy for each other, and celebrate the diversity of this planet
and find ourselves more inclined to build bridges, and less inclined to build
walls. This is a powerful force for peace, and a powerful way to fight terrorism, I
think, is to travel a lot. Please don’t let terrorism mess up your
trip. Now, you’re going to find that security over there, and you’re gonna
have to be patient with it. In a lot of cases, to get onto a train you have to go
through security, and a lot of cases to get into a great museum you got to go
through security. In a lot of cases, you won’t be able to check your bag anywhere
’cause they don’t have baggage checks because of the concern about bombs. Europe is just
on guard, they’ve got a lot of challenges, and they’ve got a lot of soft targets. If
you do check your bag in a place that has a security machine, it’s going to
cost you seven or eight dollars because you’re having to pay for that machine. When
you’re traveling you need to take care of your money, and you need to recognize
that you are targeted by people who want your money. When you master those two
areas, you’ll travel better. If you’ve enjoyed this video, you’ll find
lots more at ricksteves.com, and on my Rick Steves YouTube channel. Happy
Travels, and thanks for joining us.

81 Replies to “European Travel Skills: Money & Safety

  1. I remember a girl that ran up to me in berlin frantically saying something to me in german i just glared at her & kept walking … she just disappeared as fast as she showed up. no pockets were picked

  2. money belt is the best choice for safety, but u could use your regular wallet, its just fine! But u have to do one of two things, put the wallet in the front pocket of your pants or put the wallet in the back pocket, but sideways! its incredible how its difficult to a thief to grab your wallet like that! In some nat geo channel or something like this one guy explain this things on a trip to Naples… he is a scamm buster!

  3. Hi Rick, I am a chinese student who is currently studying in New Zealand. I love to watch your traveling TV series. Thumbs up!

  4. I recently bought a crossbody bag with the intention of keeping it all in that. Kind of tempted to get one for under my clothes too which I can keep my passport and some spare cash in. This is just in case they somehow steal the bag despite the strap being slashproof. Anyone feel this is paranoid or unnecessary?

  5. Yeah, hate to say it but those gypsies are the WORST. They act all sad and destitute, but they're not. They're part of gangs and they make good money of your pity. They exploit and abuse their children as props. By giving them money you only encourage them. They often collect handsome benefits too. Don't fall for it. Remember that most European counties,, especially the western ones, unlike the US, have excellent social security and benefits programs and NGO's! Nobody has to live on the street and beg for money. If they do it's because of choice or serious mental illness that prevents them from accepting any help.
    Keep that in the back of your head when visiting our beautiful Europe. In western European counties, nobody is that poor that they have to beg to survive. Period.

  6. The problem with Europe is with all THE STUPID TERRORISTS, is that the borders may go back up . I hope not , but then , nobody knows, what the future shall hold.

  7. In 2 weeks I am heading to Europe, for 3 months. I want to share this video with those (few) family members who are worried about safety and the 'T word'.

  8. Some European ATMs have withdraw limits. They want you to withdraw money in small amounts several times to earn their commission.

  9. I don't have a credit card so I've gone 3 times to Italy in 3 years with circa 2500 euro cash each time and had no problem . ( Despite harsh warnings and discouragement from online travel  message boards )  I prefer the concealed necklace for my passport / papers ( easier access at airport security … the money waist strap belt for the big cash and an extra id ( or my shoe on occasion if I didn't  want to wear the belt   )  and my pocket for small amounts .  I've never liked using a wallet ; I've always carried a over the shoulder bag …  . Been to Napoli / Genoa / Milano / Brescia / Tivoli and had no issue with theft .  If there is a safe in the room I try to open it twice before putting anything in it so you know it works properly … usually you set your own code for them if they are digital . I once stashed my money belt far under a bed mattress … then realized I forgot it when I checked out and had to go back .-  So Steve's idea of not worrying about it in the room has its merits …esp. ( in my experience )  if it is a bed and breakfast . One thing I learned after my first visit to Italy that helped considerably ( esp. since I would have paid in cash ) is to pay in ADVANCE ONLINE  for your stays / hotel and bed and breakfast when possible .  Be sure to bring a printed out receipt for proof of reservation and payment (  if needed ) when checking in …

  10. I went to England in May with a chip-and-pin card. It worked everywhere, with no problems at all at ATMs, which was great. However, I still had to sign my receipts in restaurants, etc. at which locals did not. Very odd and a bit frustrating. I'm not sure if our chip-and-pin cards are exactly the same as those in Europe.

  11. me being a female I would have a wallet with the same line as Rick put in the fake wallet for theives or have a purse with the same thing thanks for the tips

  12. pick pockets? solution, literally keep your money's on your person e.g bra, draws, secret compartments within clothing etc. why is it so hard!

  13. Travelling from Australia to Europe, before starting holiday be sure to inform your bank you will be out of the country and will be making withdrawals in foreign countries, otherwise they may refuse transactions.
    I had this problem twice in the past when visiting Europe and also USA.

  14. There is no country in Europe that has a higher criminality rate the US. He do have some fair points about pickpocketers, especially in the major cities in the south of Europe.

  15. Not all countries in Europe use the euro UK uses ££££ Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland don't have euros they use different currencies

  16. I knew a gal who traveled all over the world, by herself, and she always kept a few bucks in her pocket – she called this "mugger money", and everything else she carried in her money belt.

  17. 19 of 28 member states use Euro
    (France, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Finland, Austria, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) officially.
    Plus 4 micro state have agreement to use it (Andorra, Monaco, Vatican, San Marino) then there's 2 countries using euro as thier de facto monetary unit (that's Kosovo and Montengero).
    Czechia, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary are the future member of eurozone.
    Sweden is in consideration
    Denmark and UK are opt out

  18. Even the liberal Huffington Post disagrees that Europe is safer. I love traveling and look forward to traveling in Europe, especially France. But I think it would be better to share with people the tools they need to avoid the hot spots to stay safe instead of giving them a false sense of security, like the State Depts travel app and where to find travel groups for solo travelers. Also, the European government is responsible for making Europe less safe because of their policies.

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-costa/is-america-safer-than-eur_b_9996568.html

  19. I am excited. I've spent a bit of money on extra security features, travel pacsafe backpack and wallet. I am also buying a cross over bag with security features (same as pacsafe, just a different brand). I've also purchased the money belt with RFID protection to carry my passport and extra money. The wallet or bag will only contain a days amount of money like your suggestion, however, how much is a "days amount of money in europe?"

  20. Good information for the time that this was presented, in 2016. Now most US cards have chips, which make it very easy.

  21. You talked a lot about hotel rooms. Why do you stay in hotels? Have you tried private apartments like Airbnb or VRBO? I find them much superior to hotels.

  22. My Dad puts a wide rubber band around his wallet, then puts in in his back pocket sideways
    mmaking it hard for someone to pull it out of his back pocket. Not sure if this would work in Europe or not.

  23. About ATMs – I don't really agree – if you know what you're doing, you can get a better rate at an exchange place that the ATM would give you… also there's a lot of scamming ATMs out there offering to charge you in your home currency and then obviously overcharging you

  24. Let's be realistic Rick Steves, the Americans you are talking to or watching your videos are NOT the Americans who are in danger of being shot by a gang member. They most likely live and work in places as safe or safer than big European cities. Get off your high horse.

  25. A fanny pack is a sign your a tourists and makes you a target my wallet ha a chain on it plus it locks so ill feel a tug if my wallet is being taken my passport and id is on my person and its not possible to get it without being stripped

  26. When you say at 0:36 that "nearly everyone has the same coins jangling in their pockets" you are misleading people. The euro is used in 19/50 countries and by a minority of people. Even within the EU there are 3 countries that don't (currently) use the euro.

  27. As of hotels: i store my valuables in my luggage locked for staff not to try sneak into and potentially stealing anything important to me.

  28. i travel all over usa and i have never got pick pocketed. i am living in nyc and no prob. but i know europe is a whole different ball game. i am getting everything ready. just purchase a moneybelt

  29. I agree with Rick on everything. He doesn't mention but others have that you need to notify the holders of your credit/debit cards that you will be abroad. BE SURE to also include your layover cities. i had breakfast in a layover in Heathrow and couldn't use my credit card, because I hadn't told them I was going there, just my destinations!

  30. I am safer in the United States then I would be in Europe because I can carry my gun anywhere in the United States I go.

  31. It'd also be a good practice that when you are standing in public or on a train, do not stand with your back to people , sit or stand in a corner where you can see if someone is a potential threat.

  32. Chip-PIN and US cards. You usually can get a PIN assigned by your bank. I have a 90+% success rate with automated gas pumps – and I travel by motorcycle, so I'm buying gas often.

  33. This came up on auto play so I am seeing it long after posted but I am loving this. Pick pocket hand in your pocket reminds me of Times Square on NYE several years ago (SEVERAL!) I could feel a hand go in to my pocket and I just chuckled to myself because there was NOTHING in there. It was cold so I was wearing multiple pairs of pants and my money was on the pair underneath. Yes it was more difficult for me to get to but nobody was stealing my goods! 🙂

  34. I've been to most European countries. I've seen a few scam games going on, but I've never seen or experienced theft of any kind. Same with all of my travelling friends. I think the problem is greatly exaggerated, but it's still smart to follow these tips just in case.

  35. Your claims about Europe being safe versus the United States are not supported by the facts. If you go to the World Bank site and check, Europe & Central Asia (excluding high income) has a homicide rate of 6, if you include high income areas the rate is the rate is 3. You are not "10 times safer" in Europe! The homicide rate in the US is 5. The source for the data is the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's International Homicide Statistics database. I am disappointed you didn't do even the lightest research before making this video. With that said, I travel to countries with much higher homicide rates on a regular basis and always feel safe by using good travel skills, much of which have been inspired by your videos. People need to do their own research and make informed decisions about their travel decisions. Someone trying to sell tours should not be the source.

  36. What Rick fails to mention is that not all ATM machines are created equal. There are many ATM machines like EuroNet that will charge you an exorbitant amount in exchange rates and fees. Don’t naively think you can go to any ATM and you’ll be getting the best rate of exchange possible with no fees.

  37. Something about the 1000 people per month killed in U.S. streets, I would like to know what that number would be if gang wars and drug deals gone bad were subtracted. Or if so called "low income" areas (ghettos) were subtracted. Where I live there is a murder about every week, but if you read the addresses, you find they are in the bad part of town. NEVER in high traffic upscale shopping and dining areas, and very rarely in any sort of nice neighborhood, except for a rare domestic situation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *