Health & safety
Naples has a certain reputation for being unsafe and recent events have done little to improve it. Most spectacularly, a turf war between Camorra gangs left up to 47 people dead in late 2004 and early 2005. And while you’re unlikely to be caught in mafia crossfire you’ll need to guard your valuables closely on the streets. Petty crime is rife and pickpockets and scooter snatchers are active in the main tourist areas.
Travellers should be careful about walking alone in the streets at night, particularly in the Quartieri Spagnoli, La Sanità and Mercato districts and around Piazza Garibaldi.
Away from Naples there are no great issues, although in Pompeii you should watch out for touts posing as legitimate guides and, in the ruins, the occasional stray dog.
The classic Piazza Garibaldi scam is the mobile-phone dodge. Basically, you buy a brand new mobile phone at a knock-down price only to get home to discover that you’ve bought a box with a brick in it. There’s really no way to avoid this other than to ignore all dodgy offers of phones and other electrical goods.
Many cons play on people’s insecurity with foreign bank notes. Short-changing is a common trick. One popular dodge goes as follows: you pay for a €4 panino with a €20 note. The cashier then distractedly gives you a €1 coin and a €5 note before turning away. The trick here is to wait and chances are that the €10 note you’re waiting for will appear without a word being said.
Note swapping is another thing to be aware of. This con involves you paying for a taxi fare or a train ticket with a €20 note. The taxi driver or ticket seller then deftly palms your note and produces a €10 note claiming that you paid with this and not the €20 you thought you had given. In your confusion you’re not quite sure what you did and so accept their word.
Pickpockets are most active in dense crowds, especially in busy train stations and on public transport. A common ploy is for one person to distract you while another whips through your pockets. Beware of gangs of dishevelled-looking kids waving newspapers and demanding attention. In the blink of an eye, a wallet or camera can go missing. Remember also that some of the best pickpockets are well-dressed.
When going out, spread your valuables, cash and cards around your body or in different bags. A moneybelt to hold your essentials (passport, cash, credit cards, airline tickets) is usually a good idea; however, to avoid delving into it in public, also carry a wallet with enough cash for the day. Don’t flaunt watches, cameras and other expensive goods. Cameras and shoulder bags are an open invitation for snatch thieves, many of whom work from motorcycles or scooters. Wear cameras and bags across the body and keep under your arm. Also be very careful at cafés and bars – always loop your bag’s strap around your leg while seated.
Parked cars, particularly those with foreign number plates and/or rental-agency stickers, are prime targets for petty criminals. While driving in cities, beware of thieves at traffic lights – keep doors locked and windows rolled up high. A favourite ploy of snatchers is for a scooter rider to brush past your car, knocking the side-mirror out of position; then, as you reach out to readjust it, an accomplice on a second scooter races past snatching your watch as he goes.
Car theft is a problem in Naples, so it pays to leave your car in a supervised car park. If you leave your car on the street, you will often be approached by an unofficial (that is, illegal) parking attendant asking for money. Clearly you don’t have to pay them, but if you refuse you run the risk of returning to a damaged car.
In case of theft or loss, always report the incident to the police within 24 hours, and ask for a statement otherwise your travel-insurance company won’t pay out.
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