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Barcelona Pickpockets - Safety tips
How to avoid being the victim of pickpockets in Barcelona. Is Barcelona safe? Yes. Safe from violent crime, but there are many pick-pockets and bag thieves in a few tourist areas, in the central metro stations and Sants train station. Follow our safety tips to avoid becoming a victim of Barcelona pickpockets. These simple safety tips will teach you how to avoid being robbed or mugged by pickpockets during your stay in Barcelona
10 quick tips - Barcelona Pickpocket safety tips:
1. Don't carry your wallet in your back pocket
2. Don't put phones, cameras on table at cafes
3. Wear your rucksack on your front
4. Keep bags on your lap at cafes/coffee bars
5. Be wary of any strangers approaching you or touching you
6. Don't play any street games
7. Be extra aware on beaches and in the metro
8. Be extra aware when watching street shows
9. Be extra aware on Las Ramblas, Sagrada Familia, Sants station and in metro
10. Be extra aware around airport buses and airport transport
Tips Barcelona Pickpockets
The biggest crime problem In Barcelona for tourists in some areas is being a victim of Barcelona pickpockets. Sadly there are many pickpockets in popular tourist areas. They target handbags, phones and wallets, which they try to steal without the owners noticing. We recommend you read the safety tips below to avoid pickpockets in Barcelona.
Long term foreign residents and local residents in Barcelona will tell you that that Barcelona is generally a very safe city. Agressive and violent behavior in the Barcelona nightlife is rare. You can walk alone at night out without feeling threatened and the Barcelona metro is completely safe from violent crime. You often see police patrolling on streets and in traffic both day and night. In the summer extra police patrols are on La Rambla, which is the street in Barcelona that has most pickpockets. Petty crime numbers are coming down, both on La Rambla and in the metro. However be aware of pickpockets at Sant station. The police station at Sants has been closed and this has led to an increase in bag snatchers at the station. The Spanish do not generally drink to excess, which generally keeps the nightlife peaceful and limits brawls and fights.
Smoking pot is more popular in Spain than binge drinking, so you are more likely to be hugged in Barcelona, than mugged. But like any big city, muggings in Barcelona can happen. They usually occur late at night after 01:00 in the morning and mostly around at the port end of La Rambla and in the lower part of the Raval neighbourhood, but as mentioned muggings with violence are rare. People who walk alone in the areas mentioned above, and who are quite drunk are at most at risk of being mugged.
If you found this article because you have already been robbed, then scroll down to the bottom of this page to find Barcelona emergency numbers and a link to the Barcelona police station where you can report the theft online. From July 2011 a new system means that tourists can report petty crime and pickpocket theft directly from their hotel. So talk to your hotel reception if you have been the victim of theft in Barcelona
Pickpockets in Barcelona
¡ALTO ladrón! is how to say "Stop thief" in Spanish. Barcelona does have a very bad reputation when it comes to petty theft and pickpockets. The tourist areas are rife with pickpockets and petty thieves. This is probably because Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and this has attracted a permanent pickpocket population. If there were Olympic medals for pickpocket and bag-snatching schemes, then Barcelona would win the gold. But you can avoid being the victim of a pickpocket with a little common sense by using the safety tips below.
How to avoid Barcelona pickpockets
Tips for avoiding pickpockets. The areas where you need to be careful are the areas with many tourists, like the La Rambla, Sagrada Familia and generally anywhere near the top tourist attractions in Barcelona. If you use your common sense and take some simple precautions, you will be not be robbed. Also be vigilant when you are on or around Barcelona tour buses and be careful when you are in the Metro trains. In other areas of Barcelona pickpockets are not a problem. We do not want to scare visitors by posting many stories about robberies. Many people do get robbed every day in Barcelona. But the stories are always similar, so there is really no point in repeating them. You can find them in the links at the bottom of this page. We would rather tell you how you can avoid becoming the victim of theft in Barcelona. Just follow the safety tips below and the chances of you being robbed in Barcelona are really very small. The BarcelonaYellow team have lived in Barcelona for many years and we have walked on Las Ramblas a thousand times without being robbed.
1. Dress in normal clothes
Don't wear a "tourist uniform" on holiday. Just wear your normal clothes. Many of us have a hidden wardrobe of old and colourful vacation clothes bought on holiday many years ago. We recommend that you leave this collection at home because they probably are scary and they make you a easy target for pickpockets. Barcelona is very much a casual clothes city, so just wear what you would at home, T-shirts, jeans etc. A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t wear it at home, don’t wear it on holiday. Save the hawaii shirts for a Bad Taste Party or an ABBA fan club barbeque and dress more warmly in the winter from November to April. If you are the only person on the street in Bermuda shorts and flip-flops, then you are an easy target for pickpockets.
2. Wear winter clothes in winter
Spain does not have a tropical climate so it is too cold to wear shorts and short skirts in the winter months. Read about weather in Barcelona. The clothes worn in Barcelona are more of less the same style as in all European cities and the clothes tend to follow the seasons.
3. Keep guidebooks and maps out of sight
Keep the guidebooks and maps well hidden untill you need them. Even if you don’t look Spanish, you can avoid pickpockets simply by looking as if you are a foreigner resident of in Barcelona. Many tourists walk around clutching their guide books and maps at all times. Why? The guide book or map is the single biggest clue for pickpockets. Why walk around holding a guide book or map all the time? Consult it and then put it away. When you want to consult it again, then go into a doorway or somewhere safe that is not in full view of everyone, then get the map out again. Use a small and light guidebook or a foldable map of Barcelona. You can get one free at hotels and tourist offices all over Barcelona.
4. Watch your bag at all times
In cafés and restaurants in Barcelona DO NOT put your bag over the back of a chair, or in an empty chair next to yours or even under the table. That is an easy target for a pickpocket. Put your bag in your lap and keep a hand on it. If you have it under the chair or table, then keep a hand on the strap if possible. Sometimes pickpockets will sneak up behind chairs and take bags. Look around and you will see that Barcelona residents often have their bag in their lap.
5. Don't show the pickpockets what you have
Or in other words – Don’t show off. The tourists who get robbed most often are the ones who display their possesions
Look at my expensive camera with a telephoto lens dangling at my side
Look at my new Iphone on the cafe table
Look at my wallet halfway out of my back pocket.
Look at my rucksack on my back with the flap open
The pickpockets are most attracted to tourist who obviously have something good to steal. If you are a walking department store, then you can expect shop-lifters. The less you have on display – the less interesting a target you become. So we recommend that you keep the expensive cameras and phones in your bags or pockets. When you get to a place of interest in Barcelona, then take out your camera and take some photos. When you have finished, put the camera away instead of leaving it dangling around your neck. If you have a big camera, then consider a neutral camera bag, that doesn’t say Nikon all over it. Or simply remove the labels.
6. Don't put cell phones on the table
Don’t put anything like wallets or mobile phones on the restaurant or café tables in Barcelona. Especially outdoors and on La Rambla. And be wary of kids or beggars trying to sell newspapers or magazines to you, purportedly donating profits to help the homeless. If you do forget and leave something in full view on the cafe table, these kids will quickly target you. Their trick is to put the paper down on the table pretending to let you see it, then as they leave they deftly scoop up your phone or wallet, when they pick up the paper again. It's a free magic show, but rather costly!
7. Wear your rucksack on your front
If you have a shoulder bag, then tuck it under your arm and grip it. Make sure all bags are closed and zipped and in your sight, especially when you are in the Metro. Try to avoid shoulder bags, money pouches and camera straps with thin straps. Pickpockets can slice through them in a second and slip away with the the bag without you even feeling it. Avoid big wallets in back pockets and don't take all your cards and cash with you. Leave some at the hotel. Leave your passport at the hotel safe, unless you need to change money in a bank.
8. Avoid all physical contact
Beware of anybody touching you at any time, or approaching you. This is a misdirection technique intended to distract, while they rob you. Scamsters often operate in teams and while you are talking or being distracted by one, you might be robbed by another. One of the typical metro tricks in Barcelona is on the escalators. Someone in front of you drops coins and keys on the steps. Total confusion. While you are helping pick things up, you are being robbed. Another common pickpocket trick is for one or two pickpockets to pretend to hug you and be your friend. They often try this when they can see that you are drunk late at night. So don't drink and hug! At least don't hug strangers under the influence. Another trick is to claim that you have pigeon droppings on your shoulderm, which they will help you brush off. There are many scam variants. Avoid physical contact. Push them away if necessary. Pickpockets will very rarely attack you. If they feel that they have been spotted, they just shrug their shoulders and wait for another victim. Be wary of offers of help and be very aware if you accept them. Also be wary of anyone who says that they are the police and ask for identification. Some pickpockets pretend to be police and ask to see your ID and try and get to your wallet in this way. Never hand your wallet to a stranger and if someone says they are a policeman then ask them to take you to the police station.
9. Don’t play street games and be aware when watching shows
Stay away from the street games. They are a scam run by gangs of criminals. You can lose your money playing the games, and at the same time because your attention is distracted, you can also have your pocket picked. The most typical street game scame is the three bottle tops where you have to find the ball underneath one of them. This is a well known street game called "trilo" and played by "trileros." It is a complete scam and from late 2011 has been classified as a criminal activity by the police in Barcelona. Four or five of the of the people watching the game, and encouraging you to play, are part of the "trilero" gang and some might be pickpockets too. So stay away from this game. There are other free shows and human statues on La Rambla which are often good fun but be aware while you are watching the show because you will be distracted which makes it easier for the pickpockets. Enjoy the show if you must, but keep a hand on your money and bags.
10. Don’t take all your money and credits cards on holiday, or when you leave your hotel
Leave some in your home country and leave some cash and cards at your hotel or apartment in a safe place. A good rule of thumb is not to take unnecessary plastic cards on holiday. You don’t need video cards, gym cards, library cards, and all the other loyalty cards you have at home in Barcelona. Take them out of your wallet before you leave home. If you are unlucky and have your wallet stolen, then at least you will not have to replace every card in your collection.
11. Tips about ID and passports
You will need often be asked for photo ID to make credit cards purchases and to change money at banks, so if you want to make a major purchase then of course you need to have them. But if you are just out for the day and don’t plan to spend too much, then leave them at the hotel. Most quality hotels are safe, but hostels are a different matter. Ask if they have a safe in the reception or another system for safeguarding valuable items. And it’s a good idea to have a few copies of your passport with you, just in case.
12. Keep some cash in a separate pocket
If you are unlucky and have your wallet or bag snatched then at least you will have a few euros for food and the bus home to your hotel in Barcelona. If you are a couple, then don't put both wallets, phones etc in the same bag!
13. Make a list of important phone numbers
Write down a few personal phone numbers and keep them separate from your wallet. Some people have their phone stolen and find that they cannot actually recall any numbers in their head. Remember you can always call the emergency numbers in Barcelona for help.
14. Safety on the beaches of Barcelona
Barcelona has super beaches, but there are many thieves on the beach, especially around Barceloneta. If the beach is very crowded, then try not to have anything of real value and keep it covered. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t leave your stuff on the beach, while everyone in your group goes for a swim. If someone lies next to you is alone and just has a towel and no books, sun lotion, etc then be extra careful. Of course if are asleep, then you won't notice, so don't fall asleep on the beach. The worst beach for being robbed is Barceloneta. The others further to the north are not that bad. If you have time then north of the city of Barcelona for nicer beaches, where you won't ever be robbed. By the way you can trust the drinks vendors on the beach. They often help catch the pickpockets and hand them over to the police. On the beach you could try the old safety precaution of putting your wallet in your shoe. But heed the words of comedian Jerry Seinfeld:
We go to the beach, go in the water, put your wallet in the sneaker, who's gonna know?
What criminal mind could penetrate this fortress of security?
"I put it down by the toe. They never look there."
"They check the heels, they move on."
15. Safety in the metro of Barcelona
There are pickpocket gangs operating in the Barcelona metro. We recommend that you choose a purse or bag with a secure clasp. Keep the purse or bag close to your body and in front or under your arm. Grip the bag, when you are in the Barcelona metro system The safest place for a wallet is in your front trouser pocket, or side pocket - with your hand round it! Never in your back trouser pocket. Another good tip is to put a thick rubber band around your wallet. The rubber band will create more friction and resistance than the smooth leather, if your wallet is being removed from your pocket. This means that there is a greater chance that you will notice it leaving your trousers! Be aware of loud arguments or commotions that may be staged in order to distract you, while an accomplice picks your pocket. If you have something stolen, yell out immediately to warn others. Don't be afraid to SHOUT! Tell the train or bus operator, and shout for someone to call the police. This creates a bigger chance of someone discarding your wallet then running. If a person finds your wallet, then ask them to wait until the police get there. This could be an accomplice! Often a friend of the pickpocket will pretend to find your wallet and return it, (without the cash) to stop you running after the pickpocket, who is his friend! Be extra careful if the Barcelona metro is crowded or if you are bumped or jostled.
16. Don’t drink too much
Sorry to spoil the party, but most pickpocket scams are particularly effective if you have had too much to drink
17. Report a theft
There is a good chance the money will be gone if your wallet is found, but perhaps a friendly Catalan will find your wallet and hand it to the police. It might have a lot of cards and photos intact. And you will be able to claim insurance with an official police report. At the moment you have to go to the police station called "una comisaría de Mossos d'Esquadra," but from 2012 you will be able to report a theft from any hotel in Barcelona. The most convenient police stations to report a theft in the centre of Barcelona are the police stations on Plaça Catalunya and on Nou de la Rambla. You can find the full list of police stations on the links below.
18. Beware of fake policemen.
If you are stopped by plain clothes policement who are not in uniform, then they might well be fake police. Real Spanish policemen are not corrupt. Real Spanish policemen do not fine people on the street. Real Spanish policemen never ask tourists for ID. So if you are stopped by plain clothes policement and they want to fine you or see your ID, then they might be fake police. Ask to see their ID, be very aware and tell them you prefer to go to the police station. Do not give them money or show them any ID. They will snatch your wallets.
Emergency numbers in Barcelona
List of police stations and Barcelona police website to report theft online.
Report theft to police online in Barcelona
Related pickpocket useful links
http://travel.howstuffworks.com/pickpocket.htm - Site about pickpocketing techniques and how to avoid them!
http://kovakspi.com/scams.html This is a link to an personal website by a Barceona resident called Terry Jones. This link is a mirror site of the old list of scams which has now been closed. It has a long list of street scams and pickpocket techniques that visitors to Barcelona have experienced. Please note that the list was started in 1996, so although the list is long and the stories are true, they are from a long period of time during which millions of visitors have been in Barcleona and were not robbed or scammed.
http://travel.guardian.co.uk/budget/story/0,,785420,00.html Article from the Observer in 2003 about 10 most common tourist scams for travellers. Many of them are still used.
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