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Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

Sydney, Australia
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Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

After a beautiful Baltic cruise, we landed in Marseille and headed for the hire car. Our troubles started with a receptionist who spoke little English and who provided us with the only map which got us out of the airport! Fortunately I am a google map fanatic and so we found the Hotel in Aix en Provence without too much hassle. After a wonderful breakfast we headed for the 'old town' to stroll before motoring on to Avignon. I locked and placed my cabin bag (the holiday nerve centre) and another beautiful 'Monet' bag bought from Monet's house in Giverny, in the boot /trunk along with my unlocked suitcase. We headed off relaxed and happy, thinking how lucky we were to get the parking spot on the main rd close to the old town!

Returning some 2 hrs later, we found the back side window broken and the bags gone from the boot /trunk. They had not touched the backpack or my husband's case! I lost ALL travel documents including passports, hotel bookings, air ticket, train tickets, frequent fyer cards, drivers licence, credit cards, 2 phones, brand new Asus epc laptop. Also camera / memory cards, ALL my pre-cruise and cruise videos, jewellery, medication and much, much more. The nightmare had begun and has continued even after returning home in trying to access receipts and documents for travel insurance.

worst in the experience was the French Police who shrugged their shoulders in 3 police stations and said "we don't speak English", the French Dr. in Avignon who just scoffed about my heart medication being the "British name" and then the all night pharmacy at 11 pm in the old town. It was then that I burst into tears and said "I want to go home"!!

Unfortunately we could not just go home without new passports from Paris, finding the booked hotels totally by memory and long phone calls to cancel cards and phones and get e-ticket back

Whilst I do not want to put off travellers, our only bad experience in 15 yrs of travelling, was a major one that left me feeling like I never want to travel agin. Be warned!

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

Thank you for taking the time to post. I'm sorry that you had such a terrible experience. However, I think this is an important reminder for everyone to never leave anything in the car (especially things that cannot be replaced) if possible.

If you absolutely have to put things in the trunk/boot, it's advisable to do it before you park the car. We do the same whenever we're out to avoid advertising, 'hey you, thief.. we're putting our valuables in the trunk. it's in here.. we'll show you where!'.

Remember that thieves are often 'pros' at this and can get in and out with your belongings in record time. Unfortunately they like to spend time in busier areas with more likelihood of tourists to 'prey' on.

I sincerely hope that this is your one and only bad experience.

Aubrey, Texas
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2. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

What an awful experience. You have my sympathies. Most people do some sightseeing on the way to the next lodging. This could happen to anyone driving. I hope it doesn't put you off traveling, particularly in France.

Hong Kong, China
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for Hong Kong, Osaka
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3. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

I am sorry to hear your horrible experience. I have been fortunate enough that none of this has happened to me (knock on wood) through my travels including renting cars in France, Italy, Japan and Australia.

I do advice others who see this post that they should not leave valuables or travel documents in your car. Credit cards, money, passports, plane tickets, and my travel plans are always with me on my body. If you are carrying a stash of cash, divide it between your travel partners and even place it at a couple of places on yourself to decrease your risk of loss. When I have a rental car, the thieves who want to take my luggage will only find clothes and at most, some shopping items and not much more.

San Francisco...
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4. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

This is precisely why, under the circumstances of having to leave things in the car, my husband carries the dreaded backpack (and passports in a money belt) with the important stuff we need--meds, itineraries, etc. The fashion police might not like it, but its our responsibility to keep our belongings safe, not to worry about what anybody thinks. And yes we are aware that a backpack is also vulnerable. But better within our eyesight than out of range.

However, when we have lodging where we can safely store the important stuff, the backpack carries only water, tour guides, my rescue inhaler (one of several), spare jackets, and an umbrella.

We're not paranoid, but we're not naive either. We grew up in what used to be called "the inner city" and have lived in cities off and on since. We know sh*t happens everywhere.

btw, great advice to put your luggage in your trunk/boot long before you park your car.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Kamloops, BC...
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5. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

Hi --

I'm sorry that you had such a dreadful experience.

I'm no longer going to apologize for being repetitive when I post the dreaded "the bad guys recognize the rental car number plates, so don't leave anything in the car when you park it. The paperwork can kill you if they break a window to get in", message.

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6. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

Very considerate of you to tell this sorry tale.The 2 preceding replies contain excellent advice.

I hired a car at Marseille Provence Airport and drove to our hotel in Aix so I have some of the same experience.This is what I did differently:-

Instead of relying on hire car company map I bought prior to the trip Michelin Road Map of Provence. Also took my GPS with pre-loaded Western Europe mapping (couldn't have managed the touring without it as my wife cannot read a map).

I removed the Hertz window sticker.Must confess I didn't know hire cars can be identified by their reg nos but I couldn't have done anything about that.

Every time we left the car we took the vital backpack with us.

Sadly yours is not an isolated incident. The excess charge for damage caused by break-in to the car is higher than for accidental damage! Says it all.

Paris, France
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for Paris, Loire Valley
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7. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

Sadly, rental cars are often targets because they are easy to spot.

Certain registration numbers do standout. For example, Europcar registers much of its fleet in Haute Normandy. If you're driving around Provence with a license plate ending in 76, would be thieves will notice. Add a visible sticker that any normal car owner would remove i.e., rental company logos or "diesel fuel only" stickers near the refuel point and a would be thief will look closer. If you leave maps, English speaking magazines or newspapers in full view, you are a confirmed tourist target.

If you lease a car, the red license plate (meaning normal taxes associated with title transfer have not been collected) is a good indication that you are a tourist and your trunk may contain cash and other valuable items.

grannysontour's unfortunate experience and her having taken the time to write about it gives us a chance to consider what we might do to avoid a similar fate:

1. Never leave valuables in view when leaving your car.

2. Pickup a local French newspaper (doesn't need to be today's) and leave it on the dash. Don't leave English language printed material visible.

3. Use monitored parking garages. Sure it costs extra and free parking is sometimes conveniently available but your car will be a lot safer. Some garages even have free restroom facilities. If the garage is underground, back your vehicle into parking. It makes breaking into the trunk more difficult. Here is a list of such garages:


4. Carrying valuables with you is a good idea. As others have done, make use of computer bags and backpacks and carry passports and other valuables.

5. Never leave a car full of valuables unattended when it's parked at a shopping center (Carrefour, Auchan, etc.). Always leave someone behind.

Common sense and good judgment alone will not guarantee you'll never be a victim, so it's worth taking a few extra steps to increase the odds against it.

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8. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

An unfortunate experience..........even following a lot of the advice given here just can't prevent the unexpected. I've had my trunk lock drilled in parking garages in France-a red plate gave me away- and been robbed on the famous Bus # 64 in Rome. Expert thieves will ply their trade...it's how they make a living.

Destination Expert
for Grasse
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9. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

Hindsight tells you the main rule of travel: never leave anything you value in the trunk. If you must park in an unattended lot, back the car in to make it difficult for anyone to get at the trunk from the rear.

Destination Expert
for Tokyo
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10. Re: Driving around Provence - be warned !!!!

- never leave anything you can't afford to lose in the car. Drop off your luggage at your next hotel, or pick it up from your previous hotel after your day trip

- keep important papers with you at all times

- medication...do either of the above. after all, they shouldn't be left sunning in the trunk all day anyway

- purchase premium travel insurance that provides immediate and good claim support

A little preparation and vigilance can prevent tragedy from happening.

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