Q&A: Expert Advice on Travel Safety

Bob Arno and Bambi Vincent have traveled the world and learned the tricks that travelers can unwittingly fall into on their vacations. In their new book, Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams While Traveling, they offer tips to help you hang on to your valuables on your next trip. Below they answer questions from ABCNEWS.com readers.

Question: How much protection do you have with a fanny pack? — Dorothy Greet, Detroit

Answer: Some or none, depending on where and who you are. Where pickpocketing is rife, thieves are expert at opening fanny packs, extracting the goodies, and closing them back up. They always hold something over the fanny pack to hide their moves. A piece of cardboard, a map, something they pretend to offer for sale, even a baby!

Question: How can I make my pockets safer?

Answer: In a crowd, or when someone you don't know gets close to you, you have to put your hand over or in the pocket with the valuables. Believe it or not, pickpockets do not even have to put their hands into your pockets to get your wallet or money out. They have techniques to move the wallet or money up to the top of the pocket. Then they grab the edge, perhaps jostle you, and you walk away from your own money! In some places, thieves cut pockets. To be safe in iffy areas, carry your money, credit cards, and I.D. in a pouch under your clothes.

Question: Why don't designers include an inner pocket in Women's jackets or coats like they do for men?

Answer: Some do. Tilley, Travelsmith, and other purveyors of travel-specific clothing include all sorts of hidden pockets with zippers and Velcro.

Question: Is using phony plastic credit cards you get in the mail inside your purse or wallet while hiding the real ones a good ploy? My mother uses a large safety pin to secure her pockets!

Answer: We don't see much point in carrying the phony ones at all, unless you're planning to be mugged. You can hide your real ones, but remember: you have to live life in this world, and that probably includes the frequent use of credit cards.

Keep them safely zipped away, perhaps in an inner compartment of your purse.

Don't leave your purse gaping open, or hanging behind you on your back. Always keep a body part on your purse when you set it down.

Question: I'll be traveling to Italy — Rome & Sorrento. What is the best way to carry money & travel docs? Are backpacks ok as long as no real valuables are in there? Carry a purse at all? — R. Ketchum of Indianapolis

Answer: Rome, one of the world's great cities, has some of the world's best pickpockets, and dense concentrations of them. We suggest carrying money and other important documents in pouches under your clothing. There's a whole variety of them out there in travel shops, at AAA, and on the internet. In crowded areas, put your backpack on your chest, if you can. Be extremely careful on public transportation, which is where you're most at risk. If you choose to carry a purse, try to find one with a wide or thick strap, either very short so the purse is up under your arm, or long enough for you to wear it diagonally across your chest, with the purse in front of you. Never put it under or on the back of a chair.

Question: I was pickpocketed on a very crowded subway in Rome. My wallet was in a zippered pocket below the normal pocket on my slacks. The zipper was "hidden" in the seam. Any recommendations next time I am in Rome? — Weldon Martens of Henderson, Neb.

Answer: We call that the cargo pocket, and it's an unsafe one, primarily because it's harder to feel what's going on down there. We strongly recommend pouches that you wear under your clothes. See the previous answer. We especially like a flat pouch that hangs from your belt inside your pants.

Many varieties of these are available. In most cities with a pickpocketing problem, your greatest risk is on crowded public transportation. For the few minutes you're on that bus, tram, or train, hold your hand in or over your pocket. Just be sure to get your hand in there before the thief does!

Question: Where can I get a video/DVD of your tips? — M. Austin of Charleston, W. Va.

Answer: We're not selling a video just now, but we might in the future. E-mail us (go to www.BobArno.com) and we'll keep your name for future notification. In the meantime, you can get our new book, Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams While Traveling. It's packed with tips, stories of thieves and how we found them, pictures, and anti-theft travel advice.

Question: My wife and I are going to Europe, Paris, Florence, Venice and Athens. What advice is there for luggage and having a money belt. We are going to travel by train to Italy. — Larry Desch of Fresno, Calif.

Answer: What a fantastic itinerary! You're smart to take precautions before you leave. First, strip your wallet of everything you don't need, and especially your social security number. Then, make a photocopy of both sides of everything left in your wallet. You know how the back of your credit card says "if lost or stolen, call this number"? Make sure you can read that number on your photocopy. Put the copy in your luggage, not in your handbag. Better yet, email a scan of it to yourself, and be sure you don't delete it from your mailbox. Then it's always as close as the nearest internet point. As to luggage, be aware of the size and weight limits when flying within Europe. It's drastically less than in the U.S.

We like hard-sided luggage, and we like to see it scanned at the airport, then make sure it's locked. In reality, that's not always possible, though.

On trains, try not to leave your luggage on the racks at the end of the car if they're out of your sight. It's best to keep your luggage close to you. I hate to say this, but beware the good Samaritan who may help you onto the train. This is sometimes an excuse to get close to you and get your wallet or bag. As to money belts, we prefer pouches over the actual classic money belt. See our previous answers. These are marvelous cities, all of them. Have a safe trip!