Travel Tips for Paris – or How to Avoid Ruining Your Weekend

Note: for the taxis to be available, the sign must be either completely lit up in white or green. Anything other than that means he ain't free.

I was out for St Pats with a friend of mine that is here for work over from the US until the O’Malley pub closed last night. So far, so good. Unfortunately, there was an initial strategic mistake made: when you get out of the bar in Paris at a few minutes before 2am and you see some empty taxis rolling by – YOU GRAB ONE! You don’t wait to say goodbye to the stragglers still topping off their last drinks, you just cut and run. The reason: because from 2:00 to about 7:00 there are absolutely no more free taxis. Oh, you’ll see 100s of them zooming by – but with drunk folks other than yourself in back.

So, since my friend wanted to be polite, we missed the last wave of free taxis and headed up to the Grands Boulevards where I mistakenly thought that there was a microscopic but still realistic shot at grabbing a free cab. Well, besides getting held up at gun point or forced to listen to Lady Gaga in a shitty bar, about the worst thing I could imagine happening actually happened to my friend – his iPhone 4S was stolen out of his (open, despite having a zipper) jacket pocket. It was a classic bump and run which – as planned – surprised him so much that he didn’t turn to see who it was. We tried using my iPhone to call his and try to pick the robber (or robbers) out of the crowd, but there was no luck there at all. We tried using the Find My iPhone from mine, but since he didn’t have data roaming and that is required for the tracking to work, we were basically SOL. The next morning, we tried to file a police report, but were rebuffed because we didn’t have the IMEI number. So, a few lessons here: Keep your phone in an inner pocket of your jacket – or, as I do – in your front pocket with your hand on it. Now, as I know on the wood of my desk, I have not yet been pick pocketed, but this reminded me of how we are all vulnerable to criminals and the moment we let our guard down – particularly after drinking and in a crowd – we have a good chance of getting ripped off. Second lesson, Find My iPhone is useless when you are roaming internationally. My friend actually has some contacts at Apple and you can be sure that he will be letting them know how disappointed he was to discover that last night. At least the Remote Lock command worked because he got a confirmation of that. He didn’t tell me yet whether Remote Wipe worked.

So, when out drinking in Paris: don’t ever let a free taxi go to waste in the wee minutes before 2am and be damn sure that you keep your phone (and wallet) very carefully concealed – preferably with a hand on them – when in a crowd.

I found a nice guide here on wikitravel for you as well.

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About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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2 Responses to Travel Tips for Paris – or How to Avoid Ruining Your Weekend

  1. A Friend says:

    Actually, remote lock never worked as neither did remote wipe. With the screen locked and international data roaming disabled the Find my iPhone / iCloud solution will simply not work without an internet connection. I ultimately sent a text message to the phone using the carrier’s website. Their website indicated the time the message was received by the network and the time that the message was received by the phone. Apparently when the thief was taking inventory of his prizes for the night he powered them on at 11:30 AM and the text went through, a whole hour and a half after I sent it. Ultimately he must have tried calling the phones voice mail somehow because I have a very particular voice mail from a international number in my voice mail box!

    Also about the bump and run, I did feel the bump and the snatch but as I turned to see who it was you simply cannot distinguish the person in a sea of people. So of extra note, when walking up a street at 2 AM it’s probably best to not go through the crowds of people congregating on the sidewalk in front of their favorite watering hole. Against my better judgement I followed the leader when I should have gone streetside. As for hands in the pockets, I generally prefer having my hands free when going through a crowd in case anything happens. So the more mental note here, put your phone someplace that is much more difficult to get at, perhaps even for yourself. What’s an extra second or two if you need to grab that call anyway.

    There’s nothing more fun than changing all of your passwords that are stored in your phone for your various apps including Facebook, your email(s), etc. You never fully grasp how much personal stuff is politely placed into your phone that someone can potentially steal. Now, I do believe that the phone was likely stolen more for the phone than for its contents. Just keep in mind the safest setting to make on the iPhone (which is not the default) is to have it remote wipe after the default 10 failed password attempts. According to the cellular carrier I use the serial number of the phone is now blacklisted and can never be used again for more than a paperweight.

    • mfinocchiaro says:

      Thanks for the additional info. Perhaps after 16 years here, I have gotten used to the crowded sidewalks and just sort of skate through them. I think I kind of keep my hands in my pockets and hunch over so that I am a smaller target but that may just be unconscious. I do go the street route when the crowd is actually smaller and more seemingly menacing. I really feel awful about this incident 😦
      And yes, there is a boatload of personal info on these phones, so I am glad that we checked on the 10 strikes and the phone is dead setting!

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