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2018 Travel Safety Tips for Italy (By a Former FBI Special Agent)

Melissa Thomas is a retired FBI Special Agent and a former Assistant Legal Attaché in Rome, Italy.  She currently serves as the in-country Point of Contact for Salus Security Services in Italy.

1. Do Your Research

So you booked your flight and accommodations to Italy – now what?! Don’t assume you’ll figure everything out once you land at the airport – plan ahead, so you don’t have to worry. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process, remember that you’re not in this alone! There’s a wealth of information available online and in guidebooks that can help you anticipate specific risks.

2. Stay in Touch

Leave a copy of your itinerary with at least a few friends or family members, and tell them the best way to reach out. U.S. citizens should register all international travel using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the U.S. Department of State. Take your U.S. cell phone abroad, and be sure to look into your international phone plan options (you don’t want to get hit by hundreds of dollars in roaming fees when you get back).

3. Keep a Low Profile

Dress to blend in. It may seem obvious, but avoid wearing clothes that scream that you’re a tourist. Speaking of screaming, try to minimizing speaking in loud American English in public. And leave the expensive jewelry at home. Anything that looks valuable (costume jewelry included!) could make you a target for theft abroad – just don’t risk it. Consider bringing your wedding band and leaving the engagement ring at home. If you are bringing any jewelry or watches worth over $500, make sure they’re insured for loss and theft.

4. Avoid Demonstrations

Public protests and demonstrations are a common occurrence in most of the large cities in Italy, but they can be very dangerous. Even a peaceful protest or demonstration can become violent without warning. Observe them from afar or better yet, stay clear from the area.

5. Keep Your Guard Up

Don’t engage with anyone who asks to take your photo, wants to sell you jewelry or merchandise from the street or tells you they miraculously found a piece of jewelry on the ground near you. This is a popular scam, especially in busy attractions, designed to distract you while they attempt to steal your money or valuables. Always trust your intuition – if something seems fishy, it probably is.

6. Be Careful Who You Trust

If approached by someone who identifies themselves as a police officer who asks for your ID, even if he/she is in a uniform, don’t give it to them. Ask to go to the local station first. Asking for their ID may not help if that person is also carrying a fake official badge.

7. Stick Together

Since solo travelers are an attractive target for criminals it’s better to travel with another person or a group of people. In a large group, it’s best to stick to the buddy system, so you never leave a member alone – if you plan to venture from the group, let someone know exactly where you’re going and when you plan on returning – be sure to confirm when you’ve returned safely.

8. Only Travel With What You Need for the Day

There’s no reason to carry around all your important documents every day while you’re traveling; leave your passport in your hotel room unless you specifically need it. Most places will accept your Driver’s License or ID card. You should also make copies of all your important documents and try to bring only as much cash as you need for the day.

9. Only Use Trusted ATMs

If you need to withdraw money, only use an ATM attached to a bank or even better, use the inside lobby ATM machines. Never use an independent cash machine and always cover the keypad when entering your pin number.

10. Never Lose Sight of Your Items

Keep your luggage and personal belongings close at all times. If traveling by train, keep your luggage where you can always see it, preferably on the shelf above your seat. Use a bag with zippers, not snaps and don’t keep any valuables in easily accessible pockets. If you’re carrying a backpack, carry it to the front, especially in crowded areas – crossbody bags are great for traveling. Try to keep your ID and money separated. For men especially, remove your ID and wallet from your jacket pocket before you put the jacket on the back of a chair in a public place. Women should never put their purses on the floor or back of a chair.

When traveling abroad, US Traveler Assist is an invaluable aid, providing contacts, trusted advice and assistance when needs arise. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter @us_assist

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